First Ride | Norco Releases All-New Sight VLT 29er

That’s right folks, we’ve got big news out of Canada today with the arrival of a brand new electric mountain bike; the 2020 Norco Sight VLT 29. The good news? There are four models available, and not one of them costs over $10K. In fact, two of them are actually priced under $7K, which is pretty incredible given the specifications. The even better news? We’ve got the C1 model in for testing right now, and holy cow is this one beast of a bike! Here we’ll be taking a closer look at what’s new, how the Sight VLT 29er compares to its smaller-wheeled sibling, and what our first impressions are of riding this chunky-looking e-MTB.

2020 norco sight vlt e-mtb electric mountain bike
Norco has a brand new Sight VLT 29er joining its e-MTB range for 2020.

Wait A Minny Mate – Doesn’t The Sight VLT Already Exist?

Yes, yes it does! The current Norco Sight VLT (now known as the Sight VLT 27.5) has barely been on the market for a year, having arrived in late 2018. As you’ll read in our long term review it’s a bike that we didn’t take long to fall in love with thanks to its superb handling, lively suspension and generous battery range.

Thankfully the Sight VLT 27.5 isn’t going anywhere – it’s just being joined by a beefcake brother.

Surely Norco Has Just Thrown 29in Wheels Onto The Same Bike?

Nope. The Sight VLT 29 doesn’t just have bigger wheels, it features an entirely new chassis. As we’ll get onto shortly, the geometry is quite different between the two. The Sight VLT 29 takes a lot of inspiration from the naturally-aspirated Sight, building on Norco’s ‘Ride Aligned’ ethos.

2020 norco sight vlt e-mtb electric mountain bike
Like the 27.5in version, the Sight VLT 29 uses a 630Wh In-Tube battery.

Why Another Sight VLT Then?

There are a couple of reasons. For a start, riders are simply asking for 29er e-MTBs. While we have thoroughly enjoyed the easier handling of the 27.5in wheels on the Sight VLT (and more recently the 27.5in Santa Cruz Heckler), there’s no denying the climbing and rollover benefits of a bigger 29in wheel – something that becomes more obvious the more technical the terrain is.

Also, and in case you hadn’t noticed, Norco’s been on a bit of a blinder over the past 12 months. The Canucks have rolled out an all-new Optic, and they’ve also brought back the Torrent enduro hardtail in all its steel-framed glory. Then there was the release of the totally revamped Sight, as well as the arrival of Norco’s biggest and baddest e-MTB yet; the Range VLT.

With that last bike (an absolute monster of an e-MTB with 180/170mm of travel, coil suspension and DH-worthy geo), Norco created a pretty significant gap in its full suspension e-MTB lineup. And so to fill that gap between the Sight VLT 27.5 and the Range VLT, we now have this brand spanking new Sight VLT 29er. As you’ll see, it does share a few things in common with the 27.5in version, though there are some significant differences too.

The Norco Sight VLT 29er – Give Us The Lowdown

First, let’s start by covering off what carries over from the 27.5in version.

In terms of suspension travel, it’s exactly the same as the Sight VLT 27.5. So we’ve got a 160mm travel fork on the front, and 150mm of rear wheel travel courtesy of a four-bar suspension platform.

The motor and battery system are also the same. There’s a Shimano STEPS mid-drive motor integrated into the frame, and a non-Shimano battery that is stowed inside that huge downtube. As with the Sight VLT 27.5, Norco has gone for a big 630Wh rechargeable battery, though unlike a lot of other e-MTBs on the market, it isn’t designed to be easily removable. This does mean the frame can be built lighter and sleeker.

2020 norco sight vlt e-mtb electric mountain bike
There’s 150mm of rear wheel travel via a 4-bar suspension design. Because of the motor, the chainstay length is over 20mm longer than the regular Sight.
2020 norco sight vlt e-mtb electric mountain bike lyrik minion doubledown
Up front is a 160mm travel reduced-offset fork and a beefy 2.5WT Maxxis Minion DHF.

So What’s Different Then?

Aside from the obvious wheelsize difference, the biggest change with the Sight VLT 29er is the geometry. Much like the new Optic, Sight and Range VLT models, the new Sight VLT 29 shares Norco’s new-school geometry concept with a significantly slacker head tube angle, a longer top tube, a steeper seat tube angle and a lower BB. Consequently, the wheelbase has expanded. Big time.

For those wondering, here are some of the headline geometry figures of the Sight VLT 29 and how they compare to the Sight VLT 27.5;

2019 norco sight vlt e-mtb electric mountain bike
We love the current Sight VLT 27.5, and thankfully it isn’t going away – the two Sight VLTs will coexist. For now at least.

Given those differences, we can see why the Sight VLT 29 and Sight VLT 27.5 will coexist. For riders who want a more playful and easy-handling bike, the 27.5in version is likely going to remain the more logical option. For those who are chasing all-out speed and stability, the 29er appears to be the sled you’re looking for.

One other thing to note on the geometry is that while it is very similar to the naturally-aspirated Sight (a bike that we just finished reviewing), the rear centre length is the same between all four frame sizes (the regular Sight has a different RC length for each size). This is purely down to the mid-drive motor, which unfortunately makes it impossible to change the BB location to extend or shorten the RC length.

2020 norco sight vlt 29 geometry
2020 Norco Sight VLT 29 Geometry

Moar Battery! Moar Water! Moar Alloy!

Geometry aside, there are some other functional differences to be found on the Sight VLT 29.

Whereas the current Sight VLT 27.5 is only available in carbon fibre, the Sight VLT 29 comes in both alloy and carbon variants. The addition of two alloy models helps to bring the cost of entry down significantly, with the cheapest A2 model coming in at $6,699 AUD. We’ve got specs and pricing on all four models below.

One update that is likely to make many riders happy is the provision of a water bottle cage inside the mainframe – something that the current Sight VLT 27.5 misses out on. This has been achieved by twisting the rear shock by 90°, which helps to increase clearance for a bottle while still accommodating the shock’s piggyback reservoir.

Also good news is the option of running a range extender battery pack. Just like the Range VLT, this additional 360Wh battery is designed to sit on top of the downtube and plugs into the frame just above the Shimano motor. The battery sells separately for $699 and increases total capacity to 990Wh, which is an extraordinary amount of juice. If you do choose to run a range extender battery, you will have to forgo the water bottle though.

2020 norco sight vlt e-mtb electric mountain bike
Unlike the 27.5in version, the Sight VLT 29 comes with water bottle mounts, and it’s also compatible with Norco’s aftermarket range extender battery pack.

Which 2020 Norco Sight VLT 29 Models Are Coming To Oz?

There are four different Sight VLT 29 models available in Australia – two carbon (the C1 & C2) and two alloy (the A1 & A2). Norco also makes a cheaper C3 carbon bike, but we won’t be seeing that one locally. We suspect there’ll be a lot of demand for the A1 model in particular, given its super competitive $7,599 list price. For your monies, you’ll get the same Shimano E8000 motor as the carbon models, a proper RockShox Yari fork, a piggyback rear shock, 1×12 drivetrain, 4-piston Shimano brakes and high-end Maxxis tyres, complete with the heavy duty DoubleDown casing and sticky 3C MaxxGrip rubber compound. Ticks a lot of boxes hey?

Read on for a closer look at all four models that are hitting our shores over the coming months;

2020 norco sight vlt c1 e-mtb electric mountain bike
The top-end Norco Sight VLT C1 29er is decked out with a Lyrik Ultimate RC2 fork, DT Swiss wheels and a Reverb Stealth dropper post.

2020 Norco Sight VLT C1 29

2020 norco sight vlt c2 29 e-mtb electric mountain bike
The C2 utilises the same carbon chassis as the top-end C1, but specs a Shimano XT 1×12 drivetrain, a cheaper fork damper and a TranzX dropper post to lob a grand off the price.

2020 Norco Sight VLT C2 29

2020 norco sight vlt a1 29 e-mtb electric mountain bike
Prefer metal? The Sight VLT A1 is sure to become a best-seller given its $7,599 price tag and the fact that it comes with proper suspension, proper tyres and proper brakes. Plus it has the same motor and battery as the carbon models.

2020 Norco Sight VLT A1 29

2020 norco sight vlt a2 29 e-mtb electric mountain bike
As the entry-point into the Sight VLT lineup, the A2 may well be one of the most capable e-MTBs going at this price point.

2020 Norco Sight VLT A2 29

2020 norco sight vlt e-mtb electric mountain bike
The Sight VLT C1 comes with a SRAM GX Eagle 1×12 drivetrain, though a cheaper (and heavier) NX Eagle cassette.
2020 norco sight vlt e-mtb electric mountain bike
Compared to the 27.5in version, the Sight VLT 29 is considerably longer and slacker. It’s also lower in the BB too.

First Impressions

The model we’ve got our hot little hands on is the top-end C1. In terms of its overall shape and geometry, it shares a lot in common with the naturally aspirated Sight – a bike that I only just finished testing. The reach and head angle are identical between the two, but because the Sight VLT 29 has a slightly steeper seat angle, the cockpit does feel shorter and more upright in direct comparison.

With the same bars, grips and 160mm Lyrik fork, the front-end feels reassuringly familiar. The saddle is an e-MTB specific number from Ergon though, with a pronounced scoop at the tail that’s designed to provide a stronger platform for your sit-bones while seated on steep, technical climbs. It’s comfortable, though I’ll be playing around with saddle tilt and fore/aft positioning to get it dialled in properly, as right now it feels like I have too much weight on the grips.

One other key geometry difference is the rear centre length, which is over 20mm longer on the Sight VLT 29 (458mm vs 435mm). On the climbs, this helps to keep the front end from pitching, and it all feels very steady and calm. On the descents, the longer back end does give the electric version a bigger footprint on the trail, and it also helps to shift a little more weight distribution onto the front tyre. This is complemented by the extra weight of the battery and motor, giving the Sight VLT 29 an enormously planted feel at speed. Despite only having one solid ride on it so far, I’m already feeling very comfortable – something that took me a few rides on the regular Sight to achieve.

2020 norco sight vlt e-mtb electric mountain bike
800mm wide riser bars from Deity, along with Ergon GE1 grips and SRAM Code R brakes. It’s a tough-looking cockpit, if quite messy with all those Shimano Di2 wires.

For those wondering, our medium sized Sight VLT 29 weighs in at a not-feathery 23.43kg. Part of the weight comes down to the Maxxis Minion DoubleDown tyres, which tip the scales at 1.23kg for the DHF and 1.17kg for the DHR II. They also feature the mega-sticky 3C MaxxGrip rubber compound, which offers an insane amount of grip, albeit with a noticeably slower rolling speed. Not as big of a deal when you’ve got a 70Nm motor between the crank arms though.

We’ll be testing the Sight VLT 29 over the coming weeks, and I’ve got a few big rides planned to see how it’ll handle a variety of trail types and conditions. Norco also supplied us with a range extender battery pack. According to the workshop scales, this weighs in at 2.3kg, which brings the total bike weight close to 26kg. Yeesh! However, it does give you nearly 1000Wh of battery to indulge in, which opens up some pretty cool riding adventure opportunities. Your suggestions are welcome!

Stay tuned to the Flow website for the full review, though in the meantime, by all means shoot us through any questions you’ve got, and be sure to tell us your thoughts on the new 2020 Norco Sight VLT 29.

2020 norco sight vlt e-mtb electric mountain bike
The range extender battery pack sells separately for $699 and adds 2.3kg of mass to the bike. It does jack up capacity to 990Wh, which opens up some the possibility of bigger adventures.

Mo’ Flow Please!

Enjoyed that article? Then there’s plenty more to check out on Flow Mountain Bike, including all our latest news stories and product reviews. And if you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel, and sign up to our Facebook page and Instagram feed so you can keep up to date with all things Flow!

It appears you're using an old version of Internet Explorer which is no longer supported, for safer and optimum browsing experience please upgrade your browser.