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!

Tested: Ergon GE1 Slim Grip

We’ve scored a set of the GE1 grips, available in a bunch of colours and two thicknesses, we went for the blue (to match our Trek Remedy of course) in the thinner version.

This new grip is aimed at the enduro crowd using wider handlebars that tend to hang their hands right towards the ends. With only one clamp, the rubber goes right to the outside of the grip, so you can really use all the length on offer, one of the design elements we like most.

Ergon Grip-1
Left and right specific, and contoured in every part.

There are two rubber compounds for cushioning and vibration dampening, that really help make use of the rubber without adding too much thickness or wearing out too quickly.

The texture is shaped and located where you need it most, a flat and smooth surface under the thumb for better access to the shifter is a nice touch, and where your finger tips rest there is a lot of texture to hold on to.

We’re not big on riding without gloves, but with these grips we loved it. The close feel from no gloves and the tacky texture go hand in hand…

Ergon Grip-6
The angled ends are to help save your skin when brushing against trees. Winner.

Like directional tyres, left and right socks, and saddles for different shapes have their benefits, we think these shaped grips do too. Sure they may be just grips, and while we fell in love during the first ride we certainly know that grips come with a very strong personal preference, so its best try them out in the bike shop first if you’re a traditional grip type of rider.

The GE1 grips let us ride with a more relaxed and looser grip without any less security. For more, let the guru Fabien Barel point out some features. Click for more.

Ergon GS2 Grips

The basic premise behind the padle shaped grip is pretty simple. A larger contact area spreads the pressure over more of the palm which should reduce fatigue and increase comfort, particularly over long hours in the saddle. They’ve been a stalwart of the endurance MTB scene for a while but for the most part have have failed to really make an impression on the general trail riding scene. [private]

There are definitely some positives; the bar ends, for example, were excellent. They are a very comfortable shape, just the right size and the anti-slip inserts add to the security and comfort. They made climbing a breeze and provided a good alternative hand position on the flats.

The main issue we found was with the shape of the grip and getting used to a different hand position.  Because of the way the paddle juts out towards you it puts more emphasis on your thumb to do the holding as the rest of the palm and fingers are more on top of the grip, rather than around it (as per normal grips). Not really a problem for most riding but was noticeable when pointed down really steep trails.  If not for the friction between grip and glove your hand could easily slip off if you lost that last bit of thumb grip. We had a couple of hairy moments trying to bomb a descent and wouldn’t recommend these grips for your downhill rig, or more aggressive riding.

At over 200g they wouldn’t be considered light either, especially compared to a set of foamies you could grab for $25. Its hard to see this being a true discriminator though. If they work for you then they’ll be worth any increase in weight.

We know that there are some riders who swear by their Ergons and if they work as advertised for you then its hard to see how they could be found wanting. [/private]

Ergon HX2 Glove

German company Ergon are new to the glove market and just like they have increased the comfort of the humble grip, they have also elevated the comfort of the less than humble glove.

The HX2 gloves are aimed at cross country riding and full-blown racing however even after the longest day in the saddle, these gloves were still comfortable. [private]

Aimed at the racing market, we found the HX2 perfect for any riding.

Technology is everywhere, both inside and outside the HX2, with the most obvious being the large silicon print on the back used to prevent “twisting” when holding the handlebars securely.  We found this single feature outstanding, and combined with the thinly padded palm and ingenious stitching placement on the fingers the HX2 was one of the most comfortable gloves we’ve worn.

The palms have it. Padding and stitching in all the right places to make a very, very comfortable glove.

However we felt the best feature is the one you won’t notice, and that’s the placement of the seams to construct the glove. You can’t feel any of them when riding.

Without a doubt, the HX2 glove from Ergon brings a new level in comfort – a glove you won’t even notice wearing.

Stylish lightweight cross country gloves that are comfortable for all day riding – or any riding….. or beer drinking.