2020 norco sight vlt c1 29
01 Jun 2020

Norco has introduced a new 29er version of its electric mountain bike; the Sight VLT. But while it may look similar to its 27.5in counterpart, this behemoth is a very different beast on the trail

The not-so-minor details

Product

Sight VLT C1 29

Contact

Advance Traders

http://advancetraders.com.au/

Price

$10,799 AUD

Weight

23.35kg

Positives

- Insane high-speed stability
- Traction-rich suspension & tyre package
- Long range with piggyback battery potential
- Eyeball-popping brake power

Negatives

- Quite the heffalump on less-steep terrain
- Cockpit is cramped when seated
- Rear shock lacks big-hit support

Wil Reviews The New Norco Sight VLT 29er

It seems like only yesterday that we were riding the (then) new Norco Sight VLT, which to this day remains as one of the best-handling e-MTBs we’ve ever tested. Indeed that bike has been on the market for barely two years, and yet here Norco is with an all-new version. Such is the blistering pace in the world of electric mountain bikes eh?

I should stipulate though that this isn’t a replacement. Instead, the Sight VLT 29 is an addition to Norco’s e-MTB range, and it’s meant to sit happily alongside the 27.5in version (now renamed the Sight VLT 27.5). It does feature exactly the same amount of suspension travel, with 160mm up front and 150mm out back. It’s also built around the dependable Shimano STEPS E8000 motor, along with a custom 630Wh lithium-ion battery that’s tucked away inside the downtube. That, my friends, is about where the similarities end though.


Watch the video review of the Sight VLT C1 29 below!

  • 0:26 – Intro
  • 0:54 – Wheelsize & Travel
  • 1:37 – Geometry
  • 2:33 – Build Kit
  • 2:44 – Frame Features & Piggyback Battery
  • 3:26 – The Lineup
  • 3:55 – Sizing
  • 4:37 – Suspension Setup
  • 5:32 – Weight
  • 5:41 – Strengths
  • 8:34 – Shimano STEPS E8000
  • 9:45 – Weaknesses
  • 11:07 – The Verdict

As with other new Norco models, the Sight VLT 29 has a strong gravity focus.

What Exactly Has Changed Over The 27.5in Version?

If you squinted from a distance, you might also assume that this new Sight VLT uses the same frame, just with 29in wheels squeezed in there. You would be incorrect however, because the Sight VLT 29 does have its own unique chassis. It also has unique geometry too, which is directly inspired by the naturally-aspirated Sight – a bike we recently tested.

As with other new Norco models, the Sight VLT 29 has a strong gravity focus. While it’s still labelled as an ‘All Mountain’ bike, its geometry is notably more aggressive. At 64° the head angle is slacker than the Sight VLT 27.5 by two whole degrees. The reach is longer on all four frame sizes, and in reverse of what we’ve seen from some other e-MTBs on the market (like the new Trek Rail), the chainstays have actually gotten longer. On our Medium test bike, the rear centre length is 458mm, which is nearly 20mm longer than the 27.5in version. With a vastly broader wheelbase, and a BB that hangs 10mm lower, the Sight VLT 29 is virtually a downhill bike in comparison.

2020 norco sight vlt c1 29 lyrik ultimate rc2
The Sight VLT 29 gets a 160mm travel reduced-offset fork up front.
2020 norco sight vlt c1 29
There’s 150mm of rear travel, and Norco has rotated the rear shock mount to provide clearance for a water bottle – hallelujah!

Smashable Spec

The build kit mirrors the gravity-oriented theme, with sticky Maxxis DoubleDown tyres, powerful four-pot brakes and big 200mm rotors on each model. There’s also a piggyback shock, which Norco has cleverly rotated by 90° using a neat alloy yoke to provide clearance for a water bottle. Yes, the Sight VLT 29 will take a water bottle cage! That was our biggest ‘What The?‘ with the 27.5in model, so it’s great to see bosses on the 29er frame.

Also new for the 29er Sight VLT is the option of running a Range Extender battery pack. The 360Wh battery sells separately for $699 AUD and weighs 2.3kg, but it does increase total capacity to a gargantuan 990Wh.

Norco has four models in the 2020 Sight VLT 29er range; two with all-alloy (A) frames, and two with carbon/alloy (C) frames. Pricing starts $6,699 AUD, and goes up to to $10,799 AUD for the top-end VLT C1 29 that I’ve been testing for the past couple of months. For a closer look at the full range, including full specs, geometry and pricing, check out our first look story here.

2020 norco sight vlt c1 29
The C1 is the top-end model, shown here with the optional Range Extender battery pack and a 2021 RockShox Lyrik Ultimate we’ve been testing separately.

2020 Norco Sight VLT C1 29

  • Frame | Carbon Fibre Mainframe & Seatstays, Alloy Chainstays, Four-Bar Suspension Design, 150mm Travel
  • Fork | RockShox Lyrik Ultimate, Charger 2.1 RC2 Damper, 42mm Offset, 160mm Travel
  • Shock | RockShox Super Deluxe Select+, DebonAir, 185×55mm
  • Drive Unit | Shimano STEPS E8000, 70Nm
  • Battery | In-Tube 630Wh
  • Wheels | DT Swiss H 1700 Spline 30, 30mm Inner Rim Width
  • Tyres | Maxxis Minion DHF DoubleDown 3C MaxxGrip 2.5WT Front & DHR II DoubleDown 3C MaxxGrip 2.4WT Rear
  • Drivetrain | SRAM GX Eagle 1×12 w/Shimano XT 34T Crankset & NX Eagle 11-50T Cassette
  • Brakes | SRAM Code R 4-Piston w/200mm Rotors
  • Bar | Deity Ridgeline 35, 25mm Rise, 800mm Width
  • Stem | Norco Alloy, 40mm Length
  • Grips | Ergon GE10 EVO Lock-On
  • Seatpost | RockShox Reverb, 34.9mm Diameter, 175mm Travel
  • Saddle | Ergon SM-10 E-Mountain Sport
  • Confirmed Weight | 23.35kg
  • RRP | $10,799 AUD

The tyres are also of the heavy-duty variety, with 2-ply DoubleDown casings and Maxxis’ softest 3C MaxxGrip rubber compound.

Sizing & Fit

At 175cm tall, I’m on a Medium Sight VLT 29. This bike has exactly the same 455mm reach as the non-motorised Sight A1, but the cockpit is noticeably more compact when seated. This is due to a steeper seat tube angle (a very pert 78.3°), which shrinks the effective top tube length.

On the note of the seat tube, it’s also hella short at just 395mm on the Medium frame. That is 45mm shorter than an equivalent Merida eOne-Sixty. As a result, the Norco comes with a proper big-travel dropper post as standard – 175mm on our test bike, and 200mm on the L/XL sizes. To keep things stiff and strong, the post uses a fat 34.9mm diameter, a size that is rapidly gaining momentum across the industry.

2020 norco sight vlt c1 29
Up front the 800mm Deity handlebar is made even wider by the flared Ergon GE1 grips.
2020 norco sight vlt c1 29 reverb 175 dropper post
Norco specs a long-travel dropper post on the Sight VLT 29. On our medium frame, you get 175mm of drop.

This Ain’t No Featherweight

Norco has spec’d e-MTB specific wheels from DT Swiss, which feature wide alloy rims with thicker walls for added strength. The 350 straight-pull hubs are loaded with bigger bearings, heavy duty axles and steel clutch plates for the Star Ratchet freehub mechanism. At 2,227g confirmed, these aren’t light, but they are designed to survive an absolute beatdown.

The tyres are also of the heavy-duty variety, with 2-ply DoubleDown casings and Maxxis’ softest 3C MaxxGrip rubber compound. The Minion DHF weighs in at 1,228g and the DHR II is 1,174g – a good couple of hundred grams more per wheel compared to a lighter EXO tyre. The stiffer sidewalls do provide better pinch-flat protection while facilitating lower pressures though – I’m running 20psi in the front and 26psi in the rear.

I nearly did my back in every time I had to load it into the boot of our Corolla.

As for complete weight, our Sight VLT C1 29er test bike came in at 23.35kg (without pedals and setup tubeless), which is over 8kg more than the Sight A1 I recently tested – crikey! I nearly did my back in every time I had to load it into the boot of our Corolla. To put that weight into context alongside some of its motorised competitors, that’s about the same as a Specialized Kenevo Comp, a kilo heavier than the eOne-Sixty 9000 and Trek Rail 9.8, nearly 2kg heavier than a Santa Cruz Heckler CC R, and almost 6kg heavier than a Specialized Levo SL Expert.

As I found with the Sight A1 though, the Super Deluxe shock doesn’t have a load of bottom-out support, something that’s more pronounced on the heavier VLT.

2020 norco sight vlt c1 29
With stability and traction in spades, Norco’s new Sight VLT 29 is perfectly suited for high-speed shenanigans. There are few e-MTBs we’ve ridden that are as capable and up-for-it as this.

Suspension Setup

The fork and shock are almost identical to the Sight A1, so that gave me a good starting point. For my 68kg riding weight, I setup the fork with 85psi inside the DebonAir spring and two Bottomless Tokens to give me 28% sag while standing up on the pedals. I’ve got rebound set eight clicks off the slowest setting (8/18), high-speed compression a single click from the softest setting (1/4), and low-speed compression anywhere from zero to halfway (0-9/18) depending on the terrain.

Of note here is that if you’re checking air pressure with the bike sat on the ground, the shock will actually sag under the bike’s own weight.

The rear shock has a slightly longer stroke than the non-motorised Sight, so the pressures don’t quite translate. As I found with the Sight A1 though, the Super Deluxe shock doesn’t have a load of bottom-out support, something that’s more pronounced on the heavier VLT. It comes with two Bottomless Tokens from the factory, though I fitted a third for a little more end-stroke progression, and set sag at 28% with 180psi inside the air spring and rebound positioned halfway (5/10 clicks). Of note here is that if you’re checking air pressure with the bike sat on the ground, the shock will actually sag under the bike’s own weight. To get an accurate reading with your shock pump, be sure to lift the rear wheel off the ground to extend the shock fully.

2020 norco sight vlt c1 29
The Super Deluxe shock comes with two Bottomless Tokens from the factory. After hitting full travel too many times, I fitted a third Token to increase ramp at the end of the travel.

What Does It Do Well?

With its limousine wheelbase, hefty weight and big Maxxis tyres, the Sight VLT 29er is (unsurprisingly) ridiculously stable. This bike just begs to be hammered downhill as fast as you possibly dare. I was kind of expecting that given my prior experience with the Sight A1, but the characteristic is even stronger with this heavier motorised version. It’s a pure-breed, red-blooded ploughmobile.

Having a big battery stowed up in the downtube helps to push more weight onto the front wheel, bringing a welcome boost to front-end traction. That means you don’t need to exaggerate your riding style quite so much. This is in contrast to the regular Sight, where on less-steep terrain it felt like I had to ride with my chin stuck out in front of the bars just to ensure the front wheel kept sticking. Not here. While you still need to be assertive with the Sight VLT, it doesn’t punish you so much for improper weight distribution.

Violent impacts are swallowed with ease and no spiking to speak of, the hefty fuselage remaining calm and steady while the wheels and suspension jackhammer away.

The sticky rubber and smooth suspension keep the Sight VLT resolutely glued to the ground, inspiring a tonne of confidence. On rough and blurry high-speed descents, it’s more than happy to barrel along with minimal input while you sit back, hang on and let off the brakes. For a light rider like me, the Sight VLT’s extra weight is particularly advantageous, as it means I end up getting knocked around a lot less. The fork and shock are well-tuned for this kind of white-knuckled drama, seemingly improving in sensitivity the faster you go. Violent impacts are swallowed with ease and no spiking to speak of, the hefty fuselage remaining calm and steady while the wheels and suspension jackhammer away.

While the Sight VLT 29’s descending and cornering proficiency was not totally unexpected, what did surprise me was its uphill efficiency.

Even at slower speeds on flatter off-camber corners, the Sight VLT offers up incredible traction. Crush the saddle out of the way, and the big bars help you to lean the bike hard to carve through the turn. It does need leaning pretty heavily, but there’s room to move about, and once you develop the knack it’ll rail confidently on the Minion’s pronounced edging blocks.

There was only one occasion where the tyres washed out, which was on a wet and slippery clay-based berm at high-speed. Even though I broke a couple of ribs from the impact, I was pleased that the Acros blocklock headset stopped the front wheel from rotating any further than it did. The rubber armour just behind the head tube also ensured the fork crown didn’t inflict any fatal damage.

While the Sight VLT 29’s descending and cornering proficiency was not totally unexpected, what did surprise me was its uphill efficiency. The steep seat angle comes into its own as soon as the front wheel lifts upwards, keeping your bodyweight over the BB and centred between the two wheels. The Ergon saddle also uses a kick-tail profile to better support your arse bones on the climbs, so you can stay seated comfortably to keep the pedals turning. Add in those sticky MaxxGrip tyres and the long chainstays, and the Sight VLT 29 is able to get up some seriously steep and technical ascents.

2020 norco sight vlt c1 29
There’s a steering limiter inside the Acros headset, and rubber armour underneath the downtube helps to protect the frame from the fork crown.

As an experiment, I tackled all of my local tech climbs with the motor set to the full-powered Boost setting. This is normally a death sentence for climbing on an e-MTB, and typically results in looping out as the front wheel tips over backwards. There was no such front wheel lift on the Sight VLT 29 however, which just stayed stuck to the terrain. Very impressive.

In the case of the Sight VLT 29 however, I found the shock’s lack of wallow under pedalling does help to maintain the steep effective seat tube angle.

The rear suspension itself does stay quite steady under pedalling, with very little bob even with the shock set fully open. Anti-squat may seem like less of a priority on a long travel e-MTB. After all, you’ve got a motor right? In the case of the Sight VLT 29 however, I found the shock’s lack of wallow under pedalling does help to maintain the steep effective seat tube angle. Along with the short 165mm crank arms, I also had very few pedal strikes. It does mean there’s less sensitivity under pedalling, though the big volume rear tyre goes some way to masking this on choppier ascents.

What Does It Struggle With?

If I’m being picky, the slightly clunky response from the Shimano E8000 motor is noticeable on the climbs. That’s exacerbated by the relatively slow 24pt rear hub engagement, so you’ll feel a few degrees of lag and then a ‘clunk’ as the motor engages. It’s something I’ve gotten used to with the E8000 motor, but it would be wonderful to see faster and smoother engagement between putting pressure on the pedals and having power delivered to the rear tyre.

On the note of the motor, I do like that it has a more natural Q-factor relative to the Specialized Levo, Levo SL & Kenevo models, which are quite a bit wider. For a smaller rider like me, that narrower stance is much more comfortable. You can always run pedal washers, or even different pedals to widen the effective Q-factor if you need, but it’s harder to go the other way.

2020 norco sight vlt c1 29
The Shimano E8000 motor is a reliable performer and a known quantity, but there’s room for improvement.
2020 norco sight vlt c1 29 sram nx eagle cassette
The heavy NX Eagle cassette seems a bit cheap on a $10K+ bike, but it shifts absolutely fine.

Being such a hefty bike, once you do go past the 25km/h motor cutoff, you’ll be working damn hard to keep those sticky tyres rolling. While conducting a range test to see how many laps I could get in at a local DH track, the battery ran out halfway up the final climb. The remainder of that climb, while short, was one of the hardest pedalling experiences I’ve ever encountered. You really don’t want to get caught out in the middle of the bush with a flat battery on this thing.

This means the Sight VLT 29 has a very strong self-correcting force to its steering, and it’s a big reason why it’s so stable.

I also found that the same geometrical attributes that make the Sight VLT 29 so good on steep climbs and gnarly descents do mean it’s a less comfortable ride on the flats. The short cockpit and steep seat angle put more weight onto your wrists and upper back, which is something I noticed during multi-hour rides on more intermediate terrain. If general trail riding is more your jam, then I wouldn’t recommend this bike – you’re better off with the Sight VLT 27.5 or checking out something like the Merida eOne-Sixty or Specialized Levo SL, which will be more comfortable, and more nimble too.

Got Any Slacker?

Certainly in tight ‘n’ fast corners, you’ll be made aware of the large gap between the front and rear wheels. I found myself clipping the rear tyre on the inside apex fairly regularly, since there’s so much bike to sling through the turns. Exacerbating this is the Sight VLT 29’s tendency to stand up when you hit the brakes.

Because of the slack 64° head angle and reduced-offset fork, there’s a huge mount of trail on this bike (138mm). Unbelievably, that’s actually more than Norco’s HSP downhill bike (126mm). This means the Sight VLT 29 has a very strong self-correcting force to its steering, and it’s a big reason why it’s so stable. When you hit the brakes though, your weight is pushed onto the front wheel, increasing that stabilising force. This causes the whole bike to straighten and stand up, making it difficult to change direction. Consequently, you really need to stay off the brakes on swoopy descents as much as possible – something that you will get used to as you learn to trust the Sight VLT 29’s massive stability and traction. Still, it warrants a more skilled and assertive pilot to really get the most out of it.

That said, I still found I was able to bottom out the rear shock even with the extra Bottomless Token inside.

With all that stability the Sight VLT 29 is nowhere near as easy to get airborne as its smaller-wheeled sibling, and in general it’s happier staying glued to the trail rather than hopping and popping all over the place. When I did manage to coax it over a double, or sail it down a drop-off, it is very predictable in the air though, thanks to the extra rotational mass of those heavy wheels and DoubleDown tyres. It takes a steady trajectory, and that humongous wheelbase ensures the landing is similarly steady.

That said, it was still possible to bottom out the rear shock even with the extra Bottomless Token inside. Given I’m not the heaviest or most aggressive of riders, this may be a concern for those north of 90kg. The standard DebonAir can will take up to 3.5 Tokens, which doesn’t leave a lot of room to increase ramp-up. Sure, you can increase air pressure, but it comes at the expense of making the suspension feel harsher, particularly on technical climbs. With that in mind, heavier and huckier riders may want to consider a MegNeg upgrade, though that’s perhaps a little rude to expect on a bike that costs over ten G’s.

2020 norco sight vlt c1 29
With the additional piggyback battery, total capacity increases to a monstrous 990Wh.

How’s The Fuel Economy?

With its big 630Wh battery, the Sight VLT packs some usable reserves for properly big adventures. With that in mind, I undertook several range tests, both with the piggyback battery and without.

My first decent ride was pedalling up Lake Mountain and coming back down on the Cascade trail. That ride totalled 50km over three hours of ride time with 1,514m of elevation gain. Conscious that I might run out of juice, I rode in Eco mode the entire time, which meant I was putting in a fair amount of effort from my own two legs. I shouldn’t have worried though, as I finished that ride with two bars of battery left. Given that experience, I reckon it’d be possible to get close to 2,000m of climbing on Eco mode. Bear in mind that I’m quite light at 68kg – the heavier you are, the more power you’ll draw from the battery.

I then spent an afternoon shuttling some old downhill trails on Mt Tarrengower near Maldon. This time I set the motor to Boost and soft-pedalled the whole time to make the motor do as much work as possible, leaving me fresher to attack the rough and rowdy descents. For this test, I got 33.8km of riding in with 1,665m of elevation before the battery ran flat. I’d recommend this as a good exercise for anyone with an e-MTB to do, as it gives you a usable range baseline for a worst case scenario.

2020 norco sight vlt c1 29 wil maldon
The Range Extender plugs into the charge port on the seat tube. The fit is snug, and it’s also secured by a simple O-ring.

Piggyback Battery

The final test I conducted was with the Range Extender. The battery comes supplied with two mounting stubs that bolt onto the Sight VLT’s downtube, allowing the battery to clip on securely, before it’s then plugged into the frame charge port. You get an additional 360Wh of juice, which in theory should increase your total range by almost 60%. The 2.3kg battery pack does see bike weight swell to 25.65kg, exacerbating its willingness to stay glued to the ground.

With nearly 1000Wh up my sleeve, over the course of four hours I explored a tonne of old singletrack around Bendigo that I haven’t ridden for years. A classic e-MTB mission of vintage trail discovery. Along with some of my regular test loops, I notched up a total of 85km and 1,570m of elevation before the battery ran out. This was less than I was expecting, though when I got home I found that the Range Extender actually had one bar remaining. After some investigation, it turns out this was due to the batteries not draining correctly.

When you have the Range Extender plugged in, the system is designed to drain it completely first, before switching to the primary In-Tube battery. Instead, both batteries on my test bike were draining simultaneously. And since the Shimano display only reads the level of the In-Tube battery (you have to press a button on the Range Extender, and five green LED’s will illustrate the remaining charge), that makes estimating your total range quite difficult. We’ve been assured this is a firmware problem with our test bike, and an update at a Norco dealership is all it needs to correctly recognise the battery. All production bikes already have this firmware update installed. Still, in comparison to Specialized’s Mission Control app, which offers you near-infinite control over power delivery, assistance levels, and parameters for estimating your total battery range, there’s definitely room for further innovation on Norco’s behalf here.

2020 norco sight vlt battery range extender
The Range Extender battery adds an extra 360Wh of juice and 2.3kg to the Sight VLT. You have to check the remaining capacity manually though, since the Di2 display doesn’t recognise the Range Extender.

Component Highs & Lows

All-up though, I’ve been thoroughly impressed with the complete package. Norco’s product managers continue to show that they have their ears to the ground, with the Sight VLT C1 29 featuring an on-point spec list that strikes a sweet balance between functionality and durability.

As mentioned, the suspension and tyre package is well suited to the high-speed shenanigans this bike is gagging for. The wheels have been mostly solid, though there’s a nasty flat-spot in the rear wheel, which to be fair has copped an absolute hiding. I haven’t been able to puncture the DoubleDown tyres, but I recently had to fit a tube in the rear tyre since there are enough dings in the rim that it’s no longer sealing properly. For those who frequent rocky terrain, I’d recommend adding a tubeless insert of some description. The weight and high-speed thirst of this bike means you are going to hit stuff, and you’re going to hit it very fast and very hard.

Thankfully, baking power with the 4-pot callipers and 200mm rotors is huge. Lever feel on the Code R isn’t as nice as the Code RSCs, since you’ve got a bushing at the lever pivot instead of a silky smooth cartridge bearing. Otherwise they performed solidly throughout testing, and the use of sintered brake pads is an excellent choice for this bike.

In true Shimano style, I had to Google the error code with my phone on the side of the trail to find out what it meant and how to fix it.

The Ergon saddle and grips are a nice touch. I’m a big fan of the GE-1 grips, though if this were my bike I’d switch to the slim diameter version out of personal preference. I also dig the concept of the kick-tail saddle, which is absolutely superb for seated climbing on steep, technical ascents. The pronounced tail is less comfortable on the flats though.

And while the e*13 stem and Deity bars add street-cred, I’d much prefer to see a cockpit with internal routing to tidy up the messy Di2 wires. On that note, the external speed sensor on the chainstay looks like it’s from a budget trip computer. Along with the screw-on spoke magnet, the Sight VLT C1 29 doesn’t present the same level of refinement as some of its competitors. I’d much rather see the sensor tucked in at the rear dropout with a magnet on the disc rotor.

On that note, the external speed sensor on the chainstay looks like it’s from a budget trip computer.

I did have a weird error code pop up on the display mid-ride after the motor cut out, which was due to the speed sensor dropping out. The reason? The spoke that the magnet was attached to had de-tensioned slightly and rotated around enough that it was too far from the sensor to pick up. In true Shimano style, I had to Google the error code with my phone on the side of the trail to find out what it meant so I could attempt to fix it.

Otherwise shift performance was totally without drama from the SRAM 1×12 Eagle drivetrain. While the NX Eagle cassette is heavy (613g), it shifts absolutely fine, assisted by the one-click shifter that prevents you from dumping a whole load of gears in one throw and potentially damaging the chain or cassette sprockets.

2020 norco sight vlt c1 29
The Di2 wiring could be tidied up, and we’d love to see a more refined solution for the rear speed sensor.

The Day The Battery Died

The final problem we encountered with our Sight VLT test bike was kind of a big one. At the completion of testing, I gave the bike a thorough scrub down to get it all cleaned up before sending it back home. A few hours later I went to take it out for a quick pedal around the block to check everything was hunky dory. Except it wouldn’t turn on. This can occasionally happen with e-MTBs after washing – if water gets into where it shouldn’t, the system recognises there’s an issue and won’t boot up in order to protect the electrics. If this happens, your first port of call is to leave the bike to dry out for 24-hours, and providing that moisture has evaporated, it should hopefully turn on as normal.

Even after drying out for a day though, the Sight VLT still wouldn’t boot up. I took the bike to a local Norco dealer to drop the motor out to check all of the wires inside. We discovered a small amount of residue moisture and some corrosion on one of the connectors. The bike was then left to dry out again over the weekend, this time with the motor off. It still didn’t work though, and after running a diagnostic check, the battery wasn’t being recognised. The bike has since been revived with a replacement battery, and the original unit is on its way to Norco for a more detailed diagnostic to confirm if it is in fact dead, or has simply shutdown to protect the cells.

You should always ensure that the cover on the charge port is closed at all times, since the charge port on any e-MTB is the typical weak point for water getting into where it doesn’t belong.

Now I will point out that we’ve tested plenty of e-MTBs over the years, including Norco’s Sight VLT 27.5, and this is the first time we’ve killed a battery. The general advice with maintenance is the same as with any mountain bike – avoid using a pressure washer, and if you are using a hose, don’t blast the absolute bejeesus out of everything, especially hubs, bottom brackets, headsets, and in the case of an e-MTB – the motor casing. You should always ensure that the cover on the charge port is closed at all times, since the charge port on any e-MTB is the typical weak point for water getting into where it doesn’t belong. This goes for both washing and riding, since splashing through a river crossing could see water entering the charge port.

Given that I’ve always had that charge port closed up, and I washed our test bike in exactly the same manner that I would any test bike (without a pressure washer), I’m a little perplexed how water got into where it shouldn’t. I can only assume it was an unfortunate wayward splash of water that did the job.

2020 norco sight vlt e-mtb electric mountain bike
Unfortunately we encountered an issue with our test bike’s battery after its final wash.

Norco’s Response

In discussing this issue with Advance Traders (Norco’s Australian distributor), we’ve been assured that this is literally the first battery that’s been damaged from water contamination. Given the number of Sight VLT 27.5 & 29s that have been sold, that equates to a failure rate of less than half a percent. This would suggest that our experience was a freak accident, and I’m inclined to agree. Here’s the official response from our Canadian friends;

Regarding the battery, it is okay to get water into the downtube where the battery is located. Water can enter through the headset, water bottle mounts or cable guides and that should not be an issue. The battery is a sealed unit and can get wet from riding in the rain or water spray when cleaning. It is the same with the Shimano motor, it is also a sealed unit and water cannot enter inside it. However it is not recommended to power wash the bike with a pressure washer.

Regarding the charge port – we have had cases where riders have sprayed their bikes and water has entered the charge port (either the cover to the charge part was not installed or not fully installed (or if a rider has ridden through a large puddle or stream where water was able to enter this charge plug). In this situation there is a “shut down” to the system (or a protection mode) that the battery goes into until the charge port is completely dry. When dry the system will start up again.

To address dirt or water from entering the charge plug we have changed to an updated tighter fitting charge plug cover which should help to seal this plug better on future shipments of Sight VLT models.”

So there you go. It would seem we fell victim to a very unfortunate case of bad luck that just so happened on the final day before our test bike was due to head back. Doh! Could this have happened to any other e-MTB? Sure it could. Would it stop me recommending this bike? No, not at all, as it would appear to be an extremely isolated incident. However, it does make me more conscious about mixing electrics and water together. I’ll certainly be more cautious about washing an e-MTB with a hose in future.

2020 norco sight vlt c1 29
With traction and stability in spades, Norco’s new Sight VLT 29er is purpose built for high-speed shenanigans. There are few e-MTBs we’ve ridden that are as capable and up-for-it as this.

Flow’s Verdict

With its new-school geometry and stocky profile, Sight VLT 29 is a bike that is totally hellbent on going as fast as possible on steep and technical terrain. As stable and grounded as it is though, it definitely isn’t what I’d recommend for beginners. The more advanced handling requires a heavy-handed approach, and you’ll want to be comfortable piloting it at the warp-speeds it’s optimised for. My adrenaline spiked on every single ride with this bike, and I was regularly left wondering how I hadn’t wrapped myself around a tree.

Sure, it may have the same suspension travel, motor and battery as its 27.5in counterpart, but it is a very different beast on the trail. If you’re looking for attitude, agility and pop, then we’d suggest sticking to the smaller wheels. Likewise, there are lighter and more comfortable options out there for all-day riding.

But if the elevation profile on your typical ride looks like a series of shark teeth, then you’re in the right place. For those who want to pull big days with plenty of climbing before smashing the absolute bejeesus out of the roughest, steepest and fastest descents you can possibly seek out, there are few e-MTBs as up for it as the Sight VLT 29.


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