Words by Flow | Images by Flowtographer

Last week, Flow was fortunate enough to spend the day up in the rolling hills of Old Hidden Vale, a serene oasis of singletrack to the west of Brisbane. We were there to take a closer look at the 2015 line up from Advance Traders, the Aussie distributors of Norco, Merida and Lapierre. Old Hidden Vale is a key location in the Brissy mountain bike scene, home to a suite of races, and the kind of place you could easily lose yourself for a weekend of riding – put it on the list!

Here we bring you our pick of the 2015 Norco bunch, the bikes that got us most excited and which we hope you’ll take a shining to too. We took advantage of Old Hidden Vale’s fast, swooping trails to get familiar with the Sight C 7.2 as well, and we’ve included our first ride impressions below.

Of all the bikes on display, it was the Sight, Range and Revolver series that really grabbed us. Norco’s year-on-year refinement over the past four or five years has been pretty incredible to watch, and the brand has certainly lifted in our esteem. Here are our favourite models.

Range
Norco Range C 7.2-1

Since Flow’s trip to the Norco 2015 launch, we’ve received a Range 7.2 for a long term test. Click here for our initial thoughts.

The Range series, now in its second season as a 650B-wheeled bike, is globally one of the brand’s biggest sellers. It’s the embodiment of an all-mountain machine; 160mm-travel at both ends, with geometry that blends balls-out descending with respectable climbing. There are both carbon and alloy models, and for 2015 they share the same geometry. In 2014, the alloy versions had more of a ‘trail’ focus with slightly steeper angles, but Norco have realised that riders on a budget (or just fans of aluminium) want to shred the descents too, so they’ve now given the alloy bikes the same ‘enduro’ geometry too.

The $5999 Range C 7.2, above, had riders clamouring all over it, and while we weren’t able to bag a test ride on it (mainly because we couldn’t stop ourselves from riding the Sight!), we we grabbed it for a closer look.

Combing a carbon mainframe and seat stay, with an alloy chain stay / linkage, the Range C 7.2 comes in at around 12kg. The construction and all black presentation is instantly appealing, and it’s specced to the eyeballs with some of the finest ‘enduro’ finery going. Geometry wise, the bike runs a 66-degree head angle, which is balanced enough to rail descents and still negotiate flatter trails or an uphill switchback without feeling like a barge.

As with most bikes in the Norco line up, the Range series employs Norco’s Gravity Tune concept, which essentially means the rear-centre measurement  of the bike is shorter for the smaller sized frames and longer in the larger frames. As opposed to traditional bike sizing (which simply lengthens the front-centre or top tube measurement in bigger sizes), the Gravity Tune concept is designed to keep the rider position consistent across the size range.

Norco Range C 7.2-9

Norco employ a true four-bar linkage system across their whole dual suspension range, though the precise configuration of the pivot locations is changed to suit the intended purpose of each model. Norco call this Advanced Ride Technology, and it’s a step beyond the one-design-fits-all approach some brands take. Note the neat chain stay protection and internal cable routing.

There is a sizeable Rockshox rear shock presence across the Norco line up, particularly in more gravity oriented bikes. This is mirrored up front too, with a lot of bikes running a Pike fork.

There is a sizeable Rockshox rear shock presence across the Norco line up, particularly in more gravity oriented bikes. This is mirrored up front too, with a lot of bikes running a Pike fork. The Range C 7.2 gets a Monarch Plus with the new Debonair air can. The keen-eyed will notice there’s no front derailleur mount on this bike either – it’s single ring only.

The front end of this bike is a monster! Couple this with the ultra-stiff Pike and you're not going to be worried about stiffness when you barrel into a rock garden. The internal cable routing is superbly done too, avoiding any cable rub around the head tube area.

The front end of this bike is a monster! Couple this with the ultra-stiff Pike and you’re not going to be worried about stiffness when you barrel into a rock garden. The internal cable routing is superbly done too, avoiding any cable rub around the head tube area.

Norco Range C 7.2-11

Protection for both the frame and chain ring is a wise call. With the bottom bracket of the Range sitting pretty darn low, you can bet that this bash guard and rubber down tube protector will come in handy!

Norco Range C 7.2-6

Neat cables once again. The frame also runs an internally-routed Reverb Stealth post.

While the C 7.2 was the show stopper, the Range series continues in fine form all the way down to a very attainable $2699 price point, maintaing the same geometry and travel throughout, with smart spec too.  We think it’s the $3699 Range A 7.1 that’s going to fit the bill for a lot of riders. For this money, we’re yet to see a more refined all-mountain bike than this one.

Norco Range A 7.1-9

With 160mm-travel, a FOX / Rockshox Pike suspension package, dropper post, and proven components all over, the Range A 7.1 is a great option.

The geometry and suspension design is proven, but it’s the clever spec that makes this bike a winner; putting a Pike on a bike at this price is just about unheard of, the FOX CTD shock is reliable and smooth, the tyres are excellent, the cockpit suited to task… there just aren’t any real holes in the bike at all. We’re certain that a lot of riders will ditch the front derailleur and go single ring, which will just make this bike lighter and lower fuss once again.

Less than $2700 will get you Norco's entry-level Range, the A 7.2.

Less than $2700 will get you Norco’s entry-level Range, the A 7.2.

The $2699 Range A 7.2 hits a very tasty price point. Lower cost suspension (X-Fusion and Marzocchi) and the absence of a dropper post help keep the price down, but the frame is identical to the Range A 7.1 and all the key elements are there: stiff fork, excellent tyres, clutch derailleur, wide handlebar…. it’s all sorted.

Sight

One step down in terms of travel, you’ll find the Sight series. This 140mm-travel platform has had accolades heaped upon it by the cycling media, and we tested one last year in Rotorua. For 2015, Norco have continued to refine the Sight, and the carbon Sight C 7.2 is one of the nicest trail bikes we’ve seen for the new season. We spent more time on this bike than any other out at Old Hidden Vale and the improvements offered (particularly in terms of the suspension) represent a big leap in performance.

Bloody awesome. The Sight C 7.2 attracts a healthy price tag of $5999, but it backs it up on the trail.

Bloody awesome. The Sight C 7.2 attracts a healthy price tag of $5999, but it backs it up on the trail. NB – this frame is early release, and production frames will not have a front derailleur mount.

There is an awful lot that we liked about this bike, but nothing more so than the way it encouraged us to sprint flat out at every corner, just to see how fast we could get around it! It grips like a go-kart, accelerates like a much shorter travel bike, and has geometry that made us look for things to launch off everywhere – it’s just fun. We’ll definitely be looking to secure a full review on this bike in the coming months.

With 650B wheels, we feel that 140mm of travel is a real sweet spot for technical trail riding, as is the Sight’s geometry with a 67.5 degree head angle. The geometry is actually unchanged from last year, but the bike now comes with a shorter stem and a wider bar, and the better part of a kilo has been shed with a far more suitable tyre choice. On top of all this, the Sight C 7.2 gets a ridiculously good suspension package, with Cane Creek’s new DB InLine shock and a Pike RC fork.

Killer this bike most certainly is!

Killer this bike most certainly is!

Norco Sight C 7.2-12

There’s a lot of performance lurking in this shock, but it requires some knowledge to get the most out of it. The DB InLine now comes with a Climb Switch too, and we found it worked superbly.

Sight 7.1-4

$3599 for the very yellow Sight A 7.1.

Just as with the Range series, the Sight series trickles down to some pretty competitive price points with alloy-framed variants that share the same geometry. In the Sight series, it’s the $3599 Sight A 7.1 that we feel is going to be a favourite. The Shimano blend for the drivetrain and brakes is perfect, and the tasty Rockshox Revelation and KS dropper post just sweeten the deal.

Revolver

One bike that had a perpetual cloud of admirers was the Formula 1-esque Revolver 9 SL, and it’s not hard to see why – it has the vibe of some kind of ‘concept bike’, but this is a full-blown production model. Sleek construction, complemented by the new inverted Rockshox RS1, lets you know this bike lives for the racetrack. The $5999 price tag seems a lot, till you consider the fork alone will set you back almost two and a half grand at retail.

As Norco’s cross country race series, there are both 650B and 29er Revolvers available – they haven’t committed to a single wheel size for this genre of riding just yet. We recently reviewed the 2014 Revolver 7.1, so we’re eager to review the 2015 29er equivalent.

Ridiculous!

Ridiculous!

Please keep the gate shut - if this one bolts, you're not going to catch it!

Please keep the gate shut – if this one bolts, you’re not going to catch it!

Gorgeous lines. Goat not included.

Gorgeous lines. Goat not included.

The RS1 just looks amazing. We've got one on test at present, so stay tuned for a full review.

The RS1 just looks amazing. We’ve got one on test at present, so stay tuned for a full review.

Hold tight for all the highlights from the 2015 Merida range too, in the coming days, including their all-new 120mm platform.