Long Term Test: Tweaking Our Norco Sight

The latest range of Norco suspension bikes have been so good. First, it was the short travel Optic, then the long travel Range and the Sight in the middle. Using a new frame, great spec and a very well received approach to geometry, they’ve been popular!

We sat down with one of Norco’s bike designers, Owen Pemberton, chatting about frame geometry, wheel size and suspension, it’s an excellent read. “I spent months working on a study, staring at excel spreadsheets trying to work out geometry and how we could make it work – on paper, could we get a 29er to handle as well as our 650b bikes?”

Have a read of that piece here – Talking geometry and wheel sizes with Owen Pemberton from Norco. 

Read our review of the short travel Optic here – Norco Optic C 9.2.

We put the Norco Range vs the Trek Slash in a big travel 29er faceoff, have a look at the outcome here – Norco Rance C 9.2 vs Trek Slash 9.8.

And the Sight before we began swapping parts for testing – Norco Sight C 9.2 review.


Norco’s mid-travel trail bike, the Sight comes in 29″ and 27.5″. We are very much a fan of the 29er. Currently as pictured here it is 13.84kg including the ShockWiz and Shimano XTR pedals.
One of the most engaging and lively 29ers we’ve ever ridden. Big love for the Sight.

What’s changed with our Sight then?

Wheels – Wheelworks Flite Wide Alloy Trail 29.

While the wheels from custom wheel builders Wheelworks use the similar rims to the stock spec Raceface ARC 30, these have 35mm internal width rims and have been handbuilt with bladed spokes, they also use high-end hubs with a very positive freehub engagement. There was quite a discernable difference in the ride quality with the wheel change, especially on loose surfaces where we could drop the tyres down a little further to give us more traction.

Going to wider rims are an absolute no-brainer for anyone looking to add composure and confidence to their bike, we’ve been super happy with these.

Wheelworks Flite Wide wheels, 35mm and tough.

Read our full review of the wheels here – Wheelworks Flite Wide Alloy Trail 29.

Drivetrain – BOX One 11-speed drivetrain.

This was an interesting one for us, our first ride of the BOX One drivetrain, a brand previously known mainly for BMX components. The drivetrain is 11-speed with an 11-46 tooth cassette, a black KMC chain and it uses a few unique approaches to the classic task of shifting; the most obvious one is how you shift with your thumb. Instead of two paddles that shift up, and the other shifts down, the BOX One uses one paddle that can be downshifted like normal, but to upshift you ‘poke’ the L-shaped thumb lever inwards towards the shifter. It took a few hours to get used to, but the shifting is actually very smooth and precise, the chain glides up and down the cassette quietly and with a fairly consistent jump in teeth size (unlike the Shimano 11-46 cassette it replaced) we liked its light and slick shifting feel.

We fitted a BOX One drivetrain to the Norco, we were very curious!

It only took a few hours of riding to get used to, the shifting is actually very smooth and precise, the chain glides up and down the cassette quietly and with a fairly consistent jump in teeth size (unlike the Shimano 11-46 cassette it replaced) we liked its light and slick shifting feel.

The rear derailleur not only looks vastly different from Shimano or SRAM, but it also uses a different approach to chain retention, too. While BOX does suggest using a chain guide with the system, we didn’t drop a chain despite the derailleur’s tension feeling significantly lighter than the Shimano it replaced.

The clutch tension feels very light, but the shifting is very smooth as a result.

Our biggest gripe with the shifter is how it meshed with the Shimano XT brake lever, the architecture of the mount didn’t allow us to roll the shifter upwards to our preference. Though we doubt that would pose an issue for everyone. Overall we were happily impressed with the drivetrain, though it may not stand forth as a stronger option to the other big guns, it’s nice to try something different.

Geeking out with the ShockWiz.

This is one very interesting little device, we’ve had this fitted to the fork and shock for quite some time now and are really beginning to understand how it works. Interestingly though, one thing we take away from deciphering the ShockWiz feedback is to back off the rear shock’s compression even when it’s in open mode and decrease its progresivity by removing volume spacers. This proves the point that the Sight’s suspension is quite supportive and firm, we’re going to delve into this a little deeper in our next long term test update.

The nifty little data collection device, helping us get the most out of the 130mm of travel.

Dropper post – FOX Transfer.

The best dropper post we have ridden, the Transfer is so reliable, consistent and the lever fits so well on the left-hand side of the bar. We’re open to suggestions as to what could trump the Transfer as the best dropper out there if the cost was no factor.

FOX Transfer dropper, our ultimate fave of the dropper segment.

Cockpit – ENVE stem, PRO Tharsis bar, Ergon GE1 grips.

To drop some weight from the front end, we went full carbon with the ENVE stem and PRO Tharsis bar, some of the lightest available. The Ergon grips are huge favourites of ours.

ENVE stem, fancy stuff!
PRO Tharsis bar, seriously light, wide, low and subtle.
Massive fans of the Ergon grips, these are the Factory soft compound, extra tacky!

Saddle – Ergon SMA3-Comp.

Saddles are a personal thing, while the SDG saddle that came on the Norco was a good fit for our backsides, we wanted to lose some weight from the bike and try something new. The SMA3 Comp saddle comes in two widths – medium and small – we’ve got the medium on there now, and the saddle feels firm but not too hard, and the material and shape allow us to move around it as we ride in and out of the saddle.

The Ergon SME3 Comp saddle is quite flat and smooth, with a firm padding.

What’s next?

While we’re never going to set records for the lightest trail bike out there, the Sight makes it up in other areas. We’re going to try some 2018 FOX suspension, Bontrager carbon wheels, XTR brakes, TRP Quadiem brakes, Schwalbe Addix tyres, a SRAM Eagle drivetrain and try to find a water bottle cage and bottle that fits in the tight space.

Time to ride!

Flow’s First Bite: Cannondale Scalpel Si Hi-Mod Team

On review we have the cream of the crop, the top of the shelf race bike from prestigious brand Cannondale, the Scalpel Si Hi-Mod Team. The highest spec of all the Scalpel models available in Australia comes in at a mighty $11999, but is dressed accordingly in an absolute premium parts kit from SRAM, ENVE and FSA.

Our medium sized bike tipped the scales at 10.47kg after tubeless conversion and without pedals, top that!


UPDATED – Final review is now live, click through to that here.


Greener than a mossy log under a lush canopy deep in the Awaba MTB Park.
Greener than a mossy log under a lush canopy deep in the Awaba MTB Park.
Take a moment to admire the Scalpel's unique asymmetrical shape.
Take a moment to admire the Scalpel’s unique asymmetrical shape.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of the review, here is what we are looking at.

Who is the Cannondale Scalpel for?

The Scalpel has been around for many, many years and has always catered for the cross-country and marathon racing crowd with its lean and lightweight frame and minimal suspension travel. It rolls on 29″ wheels, but the size small frame uses 27.5″ wheels.

It’s not for the faint hearted though, this is a seriously fast handling race bike. There is the Cannondale Habit for anyone looking for a more fun and confident trail bike on a variety of terrain, read our review of that one here: Cannondale Habit review.

my17_geo_scalpelsi

Check out the numbers on this one.

It’s a new frame for 2017, what has been changed?

Lighter, stiffer, slacker, shorter, longer etc. The new Scalpel is ‘Built For XXC’ by adding another ‘x’ to ‘xc’ they want the message to be that this is an XC bike that can handle the rougher race courses out there. Shorter chain stays, slacker head angle, increased fork offset, and Cannondale’s new OutFront Geometry. We’ll have more to say on that in our final review.

There’s not a lot of symmetry going on here, aside from the obvious – single sided fork – the rear end and wheel is also wildly offset to help achieve shorter chain stays with good tyre clearance. It’s a trippy bike to look at!cannondale-scalpel-si-hi-mod-team-9735

There’s also a new internal cable routing and provisions for Shimano Di2, and the rear shock remote lockout cable is the neatest we’ve ever seen, travelling inside the top tube to the shock.

The upper shock mount sits inside the top tube, so neat!
The upper shock mount sits inside the top tube, so neat!

For more on the frame details head over to our feature on the release of the 2017 Scalpel here: CANNONDALE’S NEW SCALPEL SI


What is ‘Si’ that Cannondale harp on about?

Si stands for System Integration, where many of the components of the bike are closely integrated into the frame like the cranks, fork, stem etc. Cannondale take this a few steps further than most with their proprietary front suspension ‘fork’, the Lefty.

Si - System Integration.
Si – System Integration.

So what’s new about this new Lefty then?

We have ridden and rated dozens of Cannondale Leftys since 1998 when it was introduced to the world, but they’ve always polarised with their obvious appearance and performance when up against the likes of FOX and RockShox. While we’ve always had plenty of great things to say about the light weight and steering precision of the single sided fork we’ve had just as many unhappy opinions on the plushness and sensitivity of the air spring and damper. At a time where the suspension market is making huge improvements with air spring curves we wanted more from the Lefty, we wanted it to be more supple off the top of the stroke and lighter in the compression tune.

MASSIVE improvements to the Lefty with 2Spring.
MASSIVE improvements to the Lefty with a new 2Spring – the new two coil valve and top-out springs.

Enter 2Spring, a completely new part developed by the team at Cannondale that can be retrofitted to 2014-2017 model Lefty forks and fitted as standard going forward with 2017 bikes. After one short ride we can certainly say that this is the best Lefty we’ve ever felt, far more sensitive and supple over the small bumps and it remains that way when the impacts become faster and harder. So far we’re very, very impressed.

Here’s the word from Cannondale on 2Spring:

“2Spring is named for its self-balancing positive and negative air springs, which are controlled by two coil valve and top-out springs that deliver significant improvements in performance and dependability.”

“First, the coil top-out spring reduces friction, allowing Lefty to move more freely at the top of the travel, which provides increased traction. Second, the simple design combines multiple parts into one and reduces part count by 17% which increases reliability. Third, softer material and reduced surface area at contact points create a soft touch, further removing feedback to the rider. Fourth, the air piston geometry was changed to hold more oil against the seal which keeps the fork moving more smoothly.”

“Finally, 2Spring’s valve and top-out springs have been designed to last the lifetime of the fork, unlike previous systems that required servicing every 100 hours.”

Pretty high spec, is it worth the cash?

It’d be hard to find a bike with such a high spec as this one, especially with SRAM Eagle and ENVE wheels. Then there’s the premium stuff from FSA with the bars and post, and Schwalbe tyres all ready for tubeless. So, yes it is mega bucks, but mega high-end too.

ENVE M50 rims, there's a lot of the dollars.
ENVE M50 rims, there’s a lot of the dollars.

We’ve already had one quick ride on this thing and holy moly it is quick. We were very well acquainted with the older Cannondale Scalpel Carbon 29er Ultimate after a few weeks testing and racing it at the Cape to Cape, and already this feels like a very different beast. Once we got the suspension setup and tyre pressures sorted we began to put huge confidence in this bike and really let it gallop on fast singletrack, we were absolutely flying. For such a rapid handling front end, there was also a lot of stability on the descents, not what we’d expect from a racey 100mm travel 29er.

As we gear up for a few more solid test rides we’re going to get to know the details behind the 2Spring part in the new Lefty, and investigate what tuning capabilities there are with the front and rear suspension. We’ll also look into stem configurations too, we may want to get those bars down a little lower and we also noticed our medium frame had us nearing the limit of the seat post maximum height out of the frame.

Stay tuned, we’re going to love sinking our teeth into this one!

Flow’s First Bite: ENVE M60 Forty Wheels

We know, we know, at times working at Flow really sucks. When a courier stands at your door holding a big black cardboard box with ENVE written on it, you just want to throw the towel in and go home and sulk.

But there are times when we force ourselves to look at the positives, and accept the reality that fitting these wheels to our test bike will make it look totally sizzling hot, to the envy of our mates, but most importantly the riding performance of the bike they adorn will shoot through the roof.

ENVE60Forty 8

ENVE60Forty 1
Oh dear, they do look good.

ENVE wheels are the cream of the crop, and also freaking expensive. The set we’ve got here are worth $3499, about as pricey as wheels come. BUT, we’ve had many stellar experiences with these carbon wheels and as we all know, wheels are one area of the bike that is always worth upgrading. So much of the bikes riding performance lies in its wheels.

ENVE60Forty 4

ENVE60Forty 3
Note the square profile of the inner walls? No more bead hook for the tyre to sit into. New technology for ENVE but we’ve seen it on wheels before, and it makes a lot of sense. It further increases the internal volume, plus it is a lighter and stronger section, all good things.

Recently ENVE expanded and remodelled their entire mountain bike lineup. Now you can spend mega bucks on four wheel types, in various diameters to suit four levels of riding. 50 Fifty for cross country, 60 Forty for trail, 70 Thirty for more gravity oriented trail riding, and the downhill specific 90 Ten wheel set.

Tape and valves, is all you need for the perfect tubeless conversion. Simple, and proven.
Tape and valves, is all you need for the perfect tubeless conversion. Simple, and proven.

We’ve just fitted the 60 Forty set in 27.5″ (650B) to our Lapierre Zesty long term test bike. We weighed our pair at 1540g with the tubeless strips and valves fitted, which is pretty damn amazing for a rim with 23mm internal width. The 1650g Easton Haven wheels (no valves) they replace had an internal width of 21mm, that may not sound like much, but the whole internal section of the big carbon rims is also larger in the ENVE wheels allowing for a greater air volume. A greater air volume maximises the benefit of the tyre, effectively giving the bike more cushion and dampening without adding the weight a larger tyre would. The tyres also look bigger.

Carbon wheels also aren’t just about weight though. These guys are known for taking a beating for far longer than a comparable weight set of aluminium wheels, and have a very direct and fast feel on the trail.

DT Swiss 240 hubs, top shelf stuff.
DT Swiss 240 hubs, top shelf stuff.

So, they are fitted to our already incredible bike, and we’ll be giving them hell, so stay tuned for more.

AQ5A7055-1

AQ5A6926-5
So dreamy…