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