Dan & Wil review the 2022 Norco Sight VLT
After a great deal of anticipation, the brand new Norco Sight VLT has finally arrived. Forming a key part of Norco’s three-pronged attack on the electric mountain bike market for 2022, the Sight VLT is flanked by the new Fluid VLT (the 130mm travel trail bike) and the Range VLT (the 170mm travel enduro bike).
The Sight VLT has been a popular bike here in Australia, and to ensure that remains the case, Norco has come out firing with this 3rd generation model. There’s an entirely new chassis, updated suspension, a Shimano EP8 motor and the ability to fit a humongous 900Wh battery. Having tested the last two iterations – the Norco Sight VLT 27.5 in 2019, and the Norco Sight VLT 29 in 2020 – we were intrigued to see how the Canadian brand would improve on its electric all-rounder. Has Norco hit its competitors for six in this very hot e-MTB segment? Time to find out!
Check out our video review of the Norco Sight VLT here:
Monster-trucking down gnarly, wide-open descents, the Sight VLT is totally in its element. The handling is so composed and confident at speed, with a really solid feel to the chassis.
Norco Sight VLT overview
Just like its predecessor, the 2022 Norco Sight VLT features 29in wheels, a 160mm travel fork and 150mm of rear wheel travel. Norco calls it an ‘All Mountain e-MTB’, and it sits in a similar space to the Trek Rail, Merida eOne-Sixty, Polygon Mt Bromo and Specialized Levo.
While the wheelsize and travel are unchanged, the Sight VLT’s chassis is entirely new. The four-bar suspension design flips the shock up to sit underneath the top tube, an angled piggyback reservoir maintaining bottle clearance. On the Large and XL frames, there’s actually enough room in there to fit two bottles – an uncommon feature for any big travel bike, let alone one carrying a motor and battery.
As expected, the Norco Sight VLT is equipped with the latest Shimano EP8 motor. Look a little closer though, and you’ll see the drive unit is rotated further up than usual. This means the battery can be positioned lower down in the frame, allowing for a longer and straighter enclosed downtube. The execution isn’t as dramatic as what we’ve seen from Whyte and Haibike, but it is enough for the Norco Sight VLT to accommodate an enormous battery.
Choose your own battery
Alongside the new VLT models, Norco has developed not one, but three new batteries. There are 540Wh, 720Wh and 900Wh options, with the latter being the single biggest battery on the market (and also one of the heaviest);
- 540Wh – 3.19kg
- 720Wh – 3.88kg
- 900Wh – 4.57kg
Why three options? It simply allows riders to choose the best battery for their needs. If weight and cost are more of a concern, pick the 540Wh battery. If you want maximum range, then go for the 900Wh whopper. Or choose the 720Wh battery if you want something in between.
The same batteries are used across the Fluid VLT and Range VLT models, and each battery is compatible with every frame regardless of size or material. Batteries can be purchased separately, so you can always upsize at a later date if you decide you want more range.
Geometry is long & slack
With the previous Norco Sight VLT already being on the progressive side in terms of its geometry, the new model doesn’t stray too far from the same recipe.
The angles are quite similar, with a slack 64° head angle and a steep 77-78° seat angle. Reach measurements are identical, with our size Large test bike clocking in at a vast 485mm (455mm on a Medium). The BB drop also remains at 25mm.
There is a bit of an eyebrow raise at the chainstay length however. The previous Norco Sight VLT already had a long rear centre measurement of 458mm, but the new bike goes even longer at 462mm. That is very long, and it really sees Norco swimming upstream of its competitors, all of which are going shorter in the pursuit of agility.
And this brings us to our next point – the fact that the Norco Sight VLT is 29er specific, with no option to fit a smaller 27.5in rear wheel. Well, technically you could, but there’s no geometry adjustment built into the frame to accommodate a mullet wheel setup, so it isn’t recommended. Given how hot the mullet trend is in the e-MTB world, this seems like a strange omission on Norco’s behalf.
2022 Norco Sight VLT price & specs
There are four Norco Sight VLT models due to hit Australian shores later this year. Prices kick off at $8,599 AUD for the Norco Sight A2 VLT, and top out at $12,599 AUD for the Norco Sight C1 VLT. Each model features the Shimano EP8 motor and can be purchased with any of the three battery options.
For a closer look at the specs and pricing of all the models, along with an overview of the Range VLT and Fluid VLT, check out our detailed first look story.
Right now we’ll be diving into our experience of testing the second model from the top – the Norco Sight C2 VLT.
2022 Norco Sight C2 VLT
- Frame | Carbon Fibre Mainframe & Seatstays, Alloy Chainstays, Four-Bar Suspension Design, 150mm Travel
- Fork | RockShox Lyrik Select, Charger Damper, 44mm Offset, 1.8in Taper, 160mm Travel
- Shock | RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ RT, 210x55mm
- Drive Unit | Shimano EP8, 85Nm
- Battery | Integrated, 900Wh
- Wheels | DT Swiss 370 Hubs & e*13 LG1 DH Alloy Rims, 30mm Inner Width
- Tyres | Maxxis Assegai DoubleDown 3C MaxxGrip 2.5in Front & Dissector DoubleDown 3C MaxxTerra 2.4in Rear
- Drivetrain | SRAM NX/GX Eagle 1×12 w/Shimano EM600 34T Alloy Crankset & 11-50T Cassette
- Brakes | Shimano MT520 4-Piston w/203mm Rotors
- Bar | Alloy, 25mm Rise, 800mm Wide
- Stem | CNC Alloy, 35mm Diameter, 40mm Length
- Grips | DMR DeathGrip A20 Soft, Thick
- Seatpost | TranzX Dropper, 34.9mm Diameter, Travel: 170mm
- Saddle | Ergon SM-10 E-Mountain Sport
- Size Tested | Large
- Confirmed Weight | 25.32kg
- RRP | $10,599 AUD (900Wh)
It flutters over chunder comfortably, and there is excellent composure under heavy braking. Along with the tough tyre casings and sticky Assegai up front, this is a bike that really encourages you to charge into rough sections with reckless abandon.
Norco Sight VLT size & fit
To suit Dan’s height of 183cm, we elected for a size Large in the Norco Sight VLT. The reach is very long at 485mm, though the seated position is comfortable and nicely centralised thanks to the steep 77.7° seat angle. We found no need to shove the saddle forwards on the rails.
Each frame size gets a 40mm stem and 800mm wide riser bars, which we promptly cut down to our preferred width of 780mm. There’s also a generous 40mm worth of spacers to help dial in the bar height, and we set the stem smack-bang in the middle of that range.
The straight and uninterrupted seat tube means there’s a decent amount of insertion for the dropper post, and it uses the new-school 34.9mm diameter to increase strength and stiffness. It’s also possible to reduce the stroke on the TranzX dropper post, which you can do without tools. This meant Wil could also test out the Sight VLT, despite his 175cm height being better suited to a Medium. Indeed for shorter-legged riders who are on the border between two sizes, the adjustable dropper post is a nifty feature.
Suspension & tyre setup
Dialling in the Norco Sight VLT is made so much easier thanks to Norco’s Ride Aligned setup guide. Simply input your height, weight, skill level and riding position, and out spits the recommended air pressures and damper settings. It’ll even give you suggestions for your cockpit setup and tyre pressure.
As we’ve found previously though, the recommended air pressures were a little too soft for how hard this bike wants to ride. To suit Dan’s riding weight of 80kg, we ended up running 5psi more in the Lyrik (90psi with 2 Tokens) and 10psi more in the Super Deluxe shock (210psi with 3 Tokens). That got us to 20% seated sag for the fork, and 30% for the shock.
As for the tyres, we set those up with 25psi in the front and 27psi in the rear. A big thumbs up to Norco for spec’ing tough DoubleDown casings. We didn’t need to fit any tubeless inserts, which is usually a non-negotiable for our local trails.
Norco Sight VLT weight
Confirmed weight for our Norco Sight C1 VLT test bike is a substantial 25.32kg (without pedals). That is quite heavy, even for an e-MTB.
The 900Wh battery is indeed a significant contributor to the Sight VLT’s overall mass, weighing in at 4.57kg on its own. However, a smaller battery would still only see the complete bike weight drop to 24.63kg (720Wh) or 23.94kg (540Wh).
Here’s how the weight stacks up against some of the other e-MTBs we’ve tested over the past year or so;
- Orbea Rise M10 – 18.34kg
- Specialized Kenevo SL Expert – 19.12kg
- Specialized Levo Pro – 22.06kg
- Canyon Spectral:ON CF 8 – 22.4kg
- Merida eOne-Sixty 9000 – 22.94kg
- Cube Stereo 160 Hybrid – 23.27kg
- Trek Rail 9 – 23.92kg
- Polygon Mt Bromo – 24.38kg
- Giant Trance X E+ Pro 29 1 – 24.44kg
- Norco Sight C2 VLT – 25.32kg
What does the Norco Sight VLT do well?
Given its substantial bulk and raked-out geometry, it’ll come as no surprise that the Norco Sight VLT offers a ridiculous amount of stability. In fact, it’s the most stable 160/150mm travel e-MTB we’ve tested.
The wheelbase on the Large measures 1,292mm, which is over 20mm longer than Norco’s downhill bike, the Aurum HSP. That is a huge footprint, and it sees the Sight VLT well suited to riding brakes-off and flat-out on really rough and demanding terrain.
It holds its line assuredly through off-camber corners, and even when plummeting down the most brutal rock-filled gullies, we never felt like we were being pushed off-course.
Monster-trucking down gnarly, wide-open descents, the Sight VLT is totally in its element. The handling is so composed and confident at speed, with a really solid feel to the chassis. The massive downtube, 1.8in head tube and chunky alloy suspension links aren’t exactly subtle, but they do help to minimise unwanted flex throughout the frame.
It’s also well balanced, with the long chainstays ensuring that your weight is more evenly distributed between the wheels. Much of your bodyweight is naturally placed onto the front wheel, helping to drive it into the trail surface for consistent grip, even on sketchy flat turns.
Along with the robust frame and slack head angle, the Sight VLT is as sure-footed as they come. It holds its line assuredly through off-camber corners, and even when plummeting down the most brutal rock-filled gullies, we never felt like we were being pushed off-course.
The suspension has also improved markedly over the previous model. The back end delivers a smooth and active feel, though it’s now much more resistant to bottoming out, in part thanks to the addition of the MegNeg air can. There’s notably more big-hit support, and while we found the stock setup to work beautifully, you do have options to tune the volume of both the positive and negative air chambers if needed.
Paired to the proven Lyrik up front, the Sight VLT delivers fantastic suspension performance all-round. It flutters over chunder comfortably, and there is excellent composure under heavy braking. Along with the tough tyre casings and sticky Assegai up front, this is a bike that really encourages you to charge into rough sections with reckless abandon.
As well as being more stable on the descents, the Norco Sight VLT is also a better climber than its predecessor. The longer chainstays keep it throughly planted as the gradient kicks up, and the steep seat angle puts you into a terrific pedalling position with no saddle-shuffling necessary.
The additional torque from the Shimano EP8 motor is welcome over the older E8000 drive unit when attempting to solve tech-climb puzzles. It’s still not as powerful as the Bosch equivalent, and you also get less overrun from the EP8 motor when you have to pause pedalling momentarily to avoid a crank strike. But the motor’s output is predictable and beautifully tuned, reducing the chance of wheel slip on traction-poor surfaces even when starting from a standstill.
Because the chainstays are so long, it’s basically impossible to loop out, even when charging uphill in full Boost mode. On the sorts of climbs where we’d be looping out on the Specialized Levo and Merida eOne-Sixty, we were sitting comfortably on the Sight VLT, with minimal front wheel wandering.
Sure, the sticky tyres and hefty weight mean it’s not the speediest bike on smoother trails and fireroads, but the steeper and more technical the climb is, the better the Sight VLT gets.
How much range does the Norco Sight VLT get?
Thanks to that whopping 900Wh battery, the Norco Sight VLT has been able to achieve more range than any other e-MTB we’ve tested. And not by a small margin either.
To help us quantify the limit of its capabilities, we subjected the Sight VLT to our shuttle range test. With a full battery, we set out to rack up as many laps as possible before it went flat. Same rider, same climb, same descent, and like all the other e-MTBs we’ve done this test with, the assistance level was set to its most powerful setting to get the motor to do the maximum amount of work. Here’s how it panned out;
- 2022 Norco Sight VLT – 2,478m climbing (12.8 runs)
- Cube Stereo Hybrid 160 – 1,800m climbing (9.3 runs)
- 2021 Norco Sight VLT 29 – 1,665m climbing (8.4 runs)
- Canyon Spectral:ON – 1,570m climbing (8 runs)
- Merida eOne-Sixty – 1,407m climbing (7.3 runs)
- Orbea Rise – 1,388m climbing (7.2 runs)
- Specialized Kenevo SL – 1,053m climbing (5.5 runs)
No doubt about it, the Sight VLT absolutely crushed the competition with just shy of 2,500m of elevation gain. That’s massive! Bear in mind that the peak of Mt Kosciuszko (Australia’s highest mountain) stands at 2,228m above sea level. Yes folks, there is literally no mountain in this country that the Sight VLT couldn’t climb up. Ha!
So would we recommend the 900Wh battery for every Sight VLT owner? No, we wouldn’t. It’s more expensive and it’s also heavier, putting more weight higher up and closer to the head tube, which does affect handling – something we’ll get onto in a moment. Needless to say, it’s likely to be unnecessary for many riders out there. Aside from going out and deliberately trying to ride the battery flat, we generally found our body and brain wearing out long before the battery died.
Equipped with the 900Wh battery, the Sight VLT has outperformed every other e-MTB we’ve tested in terms of its range potential.
Still, the big battery is appealing in that it basically eliminates any range anxiety whatsoever. For everyday riding, it allows you to run Boost all the time, without need to toggle down the power just to meter out the battery life. And depending on the length of your rides, you also don’t need to remember to charge it before every single trip out, which may appeal to some riders.
What does the Norco Sight VLT struggle with?
No doubt about it, the Norco Sight VLT is one heavy bike. You’ll notice its heft anytime you have to lift it over a fallen log on the trail, or a gate, or into a workstand, or the back of your car. On the plus side, you’ll be able to save some cash on that now-unnecessary gym membership.
While the weight does contribute to the Sight VLT’s planted performance on high-speed descents, all of that stability of course doesn’t come for free.
The dual 29in wheels and enormous wheelbase means it’s a bit of a handful on really tight, slow and janky singletrack. The bike’s overall length and bulk is also noticeable on faster and flowier trails, where the Sight VLT requires significant upper body input to flip it over between alternating corners. It’s not impossible, it just requires a more active riding style compared to the lighter and more agile e-MTBs we’ve tested.
Indeed with such an expanse between the grips and rear axle, and the battery effectively playing the role of a 5kg kettlebell, you need a lot of torque on the bars to lift up the front wheel. It can be coaxed into leaving the ground, and once airborne it does follow a nice, steady trajectory. In general though, goofing off and getting jibby on rollicking flow trails is not the Sight VLT’s forté.
Put it onto the rough terrain it’s designed for, at the speeds it wants to travel, and it’s possible to acclimatise to the Sight VLT’s overall heft and length within a couple of rides. Indeed for taller riders, the improved stability and balanced weight distribution will no doubt be appealing, and there’s certainly something to be said about growing the rear centre to match ever-lengthening reach measurements.
However, it’s worth pointing out that the rear centre length is identical on all four frame sizes. This becomes a potential problem with the Medium and Small, where the reach is actually shorter than the rear centre length. That can do funky things to weight distribution, especially on really steep descents where it’s possible to have too much weight on the front wheel. Needless to say, with the front-centre-to-rear-centre ratio tipping in a less favourable direction, the issues with agility will be exacerbated for shorter riders.
What could be improved?
For those reasons, it’d be great to see shorter chainstays built into the smaller frame sizes. Or perhaps even a dropout flip-chip, with short and long settings, so that riders can choose between the two.
We’d also love to see the option of a mullet setup for the Norco Sight VLT. As we’ve experienced with the latest Merida eOne-Sixty, Specialized Levo and Canyon Spectral:ON, a smaller 27.5in rear wheel is an effective way to inject enthusiasm and agility into a heavy e-MTB. Those bikes are markedly more playful than the Sight VLT, and easier to ride across a wider range of trails. Of course a smaller rear wheel also gives shorter riders a little more arse clearance when hanging off the back of the bike on a really steep descent. It’s for those reasons that the Santa Cruz Bullit and the latest Giant Reign E+ have adopted a mullet setup, and we expect other brands will jump on the bandwagon.
A shorter rear end and/or a mullet setup would also help to better differentiate the Sight VLT from the Range VLT. As it stands, the geometry is very similar between the two bikes, which is understandable given they share the same mainframe and swingarm (a longer fork, shock and a different linkage is what gives the Range VLT its extra travel).
Component highs & lows
Given how adept the Sight VLT is at gobbling up rough and rowdy terrain, Norco has done a brilliant job of spec’ing it out with equally capable parts.
The Assegai/Dissector tyre combo is absolutely superb, and we’re thrilled to see DoubleDown casings. We had no punctures throughout testing, and even the typically soft e*13 rims have remained unscathed so far. While we would have preferred to see a Star Ratchet freehub at this price point, the DT Swiss 370 hubs haven’t skipped a beat.
The 4-piston Shimano brakes are powerful and positive, with excellent heat management thanks to the 203mm rotors and metallic brake pads. It was nice to ride some Shimano brakes without rattly finned pads, though any ambiance was interrupted by the EP8 clacking noise.
We’ve not had any issues with the drivetrain itself, though the SRAM NX shifter continues to be an ergonomic annoyance with its bulky clamp. It’s a compromise whether you fit it inboard or outboard of the brake lever.
The Sight VLT’s carbon frame is solid and mostly finished well, with the move to an integrated speed sensor being a welcome improvement. However, the plastic shrouds surrounding the motor are flimsy and seem unfinished. There are some decent gaps there for mud and water to get into, and the main bolt for securing the battery is also in prime position for getting packed full of dirt.
The charge port door is also awkward to grasp and open. And while there was no rattling or play from the battery, the snug fit means it is tricky to remove. We did have one occasion where the bike wouldn’t turn on before a ride, which was solved by removing and reinstalling the battery. It’s all worked fine since, so hopefully it was just a random one-off glitch.
Otherwise, aside from some creaky pivots that have needed greasing, we’ve not had anything break on our Norco Sight VLT. It’s all been solid, and there’s very little here that needs upgrading.
Norco Sight VLT vs The Competition
Trek Rail 9 ($10,999 AUD)
The Trek Rail is a logical competitor to the Norco Sight VLT, given it’s also built around 29in wheels and the same amount of travel. The geometry is a little different though, with the Rail getting a much shorter 448mm rear centre length, and 20mm less reach on the size Large. It’s a more manoeuvrable bike as a result, with less effort required to boss it about on twistier trails.
The spec isn’t dissimilar between the two bikes. The Trek Rail 9 features an alloy frame, though it up-specs to a RockShox ZEB, which is a brilliant fork. Along with the custom Super Deluxe shock, it’s a terrifically plush and responsive package that can still monster-truck like the Sight VLT.
While we’d like to see a steeper seat angle on the Rail, the Bosch motor offers more grunt and a usable amount of overrun on technical climbs. Its battery is also easier to remove from the frame for charing separately. The Sight VLT has the Rail beat on battery capacity however, and we prefer the Shimano display and mode controller compared to the Bosch equivalent. Check out our Trek Rail review for more.
Merida eOne-Sixty 9000 ($10,999 AUD)
The Merida eOne-Sixty continues to be one of our benchmark e-MTBs because it’s such a fantastic all-rounder. It’s also well-priced with a desirable set of components for the cash.
Merida fully committed to the mullet setup when the latest eOne-Sixty platform launched in 2019, and it’s totally paid off. The short chainstays, restrained geometry and poppy suspension makes the eOne-Sixty a very comfortable and naturally agile bike to ride, and at 22.94kg it’s also a lot more willing to move around compared to the Sight VLT. It’s an easy bike to feel comfortable with across a broad range of trail types, and that makes it more appealing to a wider range of riders. Check out our Merida eOne-Sixty review for more.
That said, it doesn’t offer the same kind of brainless, warp-speed stability as the Sight VLT, which operates like a Sherman tank in comparison. The Sight VLT is also the better technical climber, with a better seated position and a more grounded performance on uber-steep inclines.
Specialized Levo Expert ($16,300 AUD)
Of course we can’t talk about the state of the e-MTB market without mentioning the Specialized Levo. As one of the most popular options out there, the Levo hits the same travel sweet spot as the Norco Sight VLT.
However, the latest iteration has moved to a trendy mullet wheel setup. That’s allowed Specialized to bring the rear centre length down to just 442mm – a whole 20mm shorter than the Sight VLT. The handling is outsandingly good, and along with the 6-way adjustable geometry and MasterMind TCU display, it’s easily the most refined e-MTB we’ve tested. The latest Brose-manufactured motor is also stupendously smooth, intuitive, and quiet.
All that being said, the price on the Levo is in a totally different league, with the ‘entry level’ Levo Expert selling for over $16K. The Specialized Levo Pro we reviewed comes in at almost double the price of the Norco Sight C2 VLT. Yikes! Norco has alloy Sight VLT models starting at $8,599 AUD, so it is hands-down a far more accessible e-MTB.
With this third generation Sight VLT, Norco has successfully elevated the capability of its popular all mountain e-MTB once again.
Compared to its predecessors, the new Sight VLT is a more capable bike on really rough and rowdy high-speed descents. Though thanks to the perky EP8 motor and long rear end, it’s also more capable on steep and technical climbs too. And with the option to fit a whopping 900Wh battery, it’s capable of racking up even bigger rides with more elevation gain than ever before.
In the process of adding all that extra capability however, the new Sight VLT has moved quite far away from the original 27.5in model that we loved so much back in 2019. This new iteration is not an inherently poppy or playful bike, and the long chainstays mean that shorter riders are likely to find the overall length a handful, especially since it’s so heavy.
Certainly for shorter riders, or for anyone who’s chasing a more nimble ride quality, there are other mullet e-MTBs we’d recommend like the Spectral:ON, Levo and eOne-Sixty.
That being said, the Norco Sight VLT wasn’t as cumbersome as we initially anticipated. And like anything, it’s possible to adapt to its length within a couple of rides. There’s also no denying the outrageous traction, stability and control that this bike delivers, allowing you to monster-truck through technical terrain.
Equipped with the 900Wh battery, the Sight VLT has also outperformed every other e-MTB we’ve tested in terms of its range potential. Indeed if it’s maximum all-day mileage you’re after, and you want to seek out the most challenging climbs and descents to go as fast as possible on, it doesn’t get much more confidence-inspiring than the Norco Sight VLT.