Wil Reviews The 2020 Norco Sight
In this third decade of the 21st century, bike designers are presented with an abundance of readily available technologies for constructing a contemporary long travel mountain bike. But when Norco decided to relaunch the Sight for 2020, the designers didn’t just cherrypick from the list though. Nope, those greedy Canucks grabbed the whole damn lot.
Watch the video review on the 2020 Norco Sight here:
Long-stroke dropper post? Check. Reduced-offset fork? You bet. Huge reach? Yup. Slack head angle? Oh, it’s slack. Steep seat angle? Quite. DH-spec damping control? Uh-huh. Both ends too.
While other mainstream brands are steadily tip-toeing forward with their All Mountain bikes, Norco has dropped a cannonball with the latest Sight. It’s equipped with about the most up-to-the-minute geometry we’ve seen from any of the big brands – Specialized’s Stumpjumper EVO being a notable exception.
As different as it is to the old version, the Sight’s recalibration hasn’t been a complete blindside. In fact, it would appear to be part of a more comprehensive plan for the Canadian brand, which over the past 12 months has released the new alt-country Revolver, the radically beefed up Optic trail bike, and the Torrent enduro hardtail. All bikes that have made a significant about-turn from the status quo, upping the rad-factor in the process.
Now entering its third generation for 2020, the Sight steps up as the newest model to be smashed with Norco’s Mighty Hammer Of Progression.
What Makes It Special?
Though Norco still refers to the Sight as an “All Mountain” bike, looking at its robust parts package, hefty suspension and slack geometry, it’s a mystery why the e-word is missing from any of the marketing material. Perhaps it’s just that there’s way more people out there who ride for fun as oppose to people who seriously race enduro? Whatever the case, the Sight certainly looks ready for the rowdy. It also makes the current Range look somewhat dated – we anticipate that’ll be the next model due for Norco’s operating table.
Compared to the outgoing Sight, the new model has had a notable bump up in travel and is now propped up with a 160mm fork and 150mm of squish out back. It still retains wheelsize options – all four frame sizes (S-XL) are available with 27.5in or 29in wheels. Suspension travel is identical between the two platforms, and geometry is almost identical. This has been achieved by using unique front triangles, but with shared back ends between the 27.5in and 29in frames.
Norco offers both carbon and alloy frame options, and each one is seriously overbuilt. Claimed weight for an alloy Sight frame is a substantial 4.6kg with a rear shock, while the carbon version drops down to 3.8kg with shock. This is no featherweight.
There are five models available in Australia ranging from $3,599 to $7,999. I’ve been testing the mid-level Sight A1 in a Medium size with 29in wheels. If your budget is tighter though, the base-level Sight A3 still comes with the same chassis, a RockShox Yari fork, chunky Maxxis Minion tyres, a SRAM Eagle 1×12 drivetrain and 4-piston Shimano brakes. It even gets the same long-travel dropper post. For well under $4K, it looks to be a seriously spec’d rig for money.
Geometry wise, Norco has properly pushed the boat out with the Sight. You’ve got a DH-worthy 64° head angle and a humungo wheelbase of 1222mm. The seat angle is nice and tight at 77.3°, and it’s even steeper on the bigger frame sizes. Speaking of, the rear centre length is also different for each of the four sizes, going up in 5mm increments from 430mm to 445mm. This is achieved by moving the BB location on the mainframe rather than increasing the physical chainstay length, so the suspension travel and behaviour isn’t affected. On our Medium test bike, the back end sits at a snuggish 435mm.
The geo is fresh, but the product managers have clearly had their ear to the ground too. The A1’s spec is totally on-trend for the most chic hard-hitting riders, with Norco electing for a Lyrik over the Pike, more powerful Code brakes over G2s, and heavier EXO+ tyre casings rather than the standard EXO models. There’s also an e*thirteen chainguide, and thanks to a very short and fat seat tube, long-stroke dropper posts come stock on every model, as do 800mm wide bars, a 40mm stem and big brake rotors. Ooph!
2020 Norco Sight A1 Specifications
- Frame | 6061-T6 Aluminium, Four-Bar Suspension Design, 150mm Travel
- Fork | RockShox Lyrik Ultimate RC2, Charger 2 Damper, 42mm Offset, 160mm Travel
- Shock | RockShox Super Deluxe Select+, DebonAir Spring, 185×52.5mm
- Wheels | DT Swiss 350 Hubs & e*thirteen LG1 EN Rims, 30mm Inner Rim Width
- Tyres | Maxxis Minion DHF 3C MaxxTerra EXO+ 2.5in Front & Minion DHR II 3C MaxxTerra EXO+ 2.4in Rear
- Drivetrain | SRAM GX Eagle 1×12 w/Truvativ Descendent 7K 32T Crankset & 10-50T Cassette
- Chainguide | e*thirteen TRS Race
- Brakes | SRAM Code RSC 4-Piston, 200mm Front & 180mm Rear Rotors
- Handlebar | Deity Ridgeline 35, 25mm Rise, 800mm Wide
- Stem | Norco Alloy, 35mm Clamp, 40mm Long
- Seatpost | JD TransX YSP-39JL Dropper, 34.9mm Diameter, Travel: 150mm (S), 170mm (M/L), 200mm (XL)
- Saddle | Ergon SM10 Sport
- Size Tested | Medium
- Weight | 15.35kg (setup tubeless, without pedals)
- RRP | $5,799 AUD
The Ride Aligned App
When Norco released the Sight, the company made a big song and dance about something it called Ride Aligned. Hyped up with snazzy buzz words like “Geometric Connection!“, “Anthropometric Data!“, and “Science Of Send!“, I must admit I totally glazed over that part of the press release.
Once I received the A1 for testing though, I discovered the Ride Aligned setup page on the Norco website, which is also available as a mobile app. This is basically Norco’s setup assistant for its newly released models, including the Sight. After selecting your specific model, you input your height, riding weight and gender.
What comes next is perhaps the most comprehensive setup guides I have ever come across;
As well as recommended air pressures and volume spacers for your fork and shock, you’re also given recommended settings for rebound and compression damping. There are suggested tyre pressures, and even a guide on how best to setup your cockpit.
Of course all of the recommendations are based on a few assumptions, though you’ve also got a Rider Skill Setting that you can shift up or down the scale depending on how rad you think you are. After a bit of experimentation on my first few rides, I discovered I’m apparently of the ‘Advanced Skill’ variety, which is as much of a shock to me as it is to you.
Also of note is that Norco has also recently updated the app with an ‘Offset Type 1/2’ option. This refers to body positioning and whether you ride heavily over the front wheel, or hang off the back wheel. Flicking between those two options, you’ll find the fork and shock pressures are altered, which helps to compensate for your riding position to better balance weight distribution. This is a really interesting development that highlights the level of detail that Norco’s designers have gone to in developing this setup assistant.
In my experience, it’s also something you’ll want to revisit and fine-tune as you get used to the bike, and your riding style and position changes over time.
Let’s Talk About Setup
At 175cm tall, I elected to test a Medium size with a healthy 455mm reach. As you’ll see in the above recommendations, apparently I should be on a Large since I’m right on the border between the two. Given the very generous proportions of the Sight though, I’m very glad I went with the Medium. I would not want this bike to be any longer.
Even with my stubby legs and relatively short 69cm BB-to-saddle height, I’ve still got room for the 170mm stroke dropper post, which is not something I’ve typically been able to utilise on Medium frames. Big kudos to Norco for keeping the frame’s seat tube properly short. Take note, Canyon’s and Cube’s of the world.
You’ll have an idea of my bike setup based on the screengrab above, and the recommendations were pretty close to spot on. I ran a bit more pressure in both the fork and shock (80psi & 180psi respectively), and I also increased tyre pressure slightly on the rear to 23psi after I put a nasty ding in the rear wheel within the first few rides. This is a good reminder that Norco’s suggestions are exactly that – suggestions. You’ll need to fine-tune accordingly to suit your terrain and riding style (or lack thereof).
I also adapted the fork’s low-speed compression damping depending on the sort of riding I was doing. When conditions were muddy and the trail surface was traction-poor, I backed the LSC dial off nearly all the way to maximise sensitivity and front-end grip. For faster-paced trails in the dry, I upped the LSC dial to halfway (9/18 clicks) to better support the fork under braking.
What Does It Do Well?
I’ll admit that my experience with the 2020 Norco Sight has been something of a slow burn. It’s taken a while for the two of us to see eye-to-eye (ha!), partly because this new version is very different to the old Sight – a bike that we have thoroughly enjoyed riding over the past couple of years.
As well as having more travel, the new bike is just a lot bigger overall. For the equivalent Medium frame size, the reach is nearly 30mm longer, the head angle is 2.5° slacker and the wheelbase has grown by a massive 58mm. This gives the Sight a more substantial footprint on the trail, though it also means the front wheel sticks waaay further out ahead of you – even with the reduced offset fork. Because of this, the Sight really demands a more aggressive riding position to sufficiently weight the front tyre and keep it sticking.
To encourage me to do so, I dropped the stem down all the way and rolled the bars forward. The superb Ergon GE1 grips support a very defined hand position, which means rotating them on the bars can affect your upper body positioning significantly. They also help you to square off your elbows and broaden your stance over the front wheel, all of which helps to draw your chest further forward in the Sight’s cockpit.
Once I adapted to the Sight’s preferred riding position, I was rewarded with a monstrous amount of stability. This bike is seriously planted on the descents, with near DH-like tracking provided by its supple suspension package and sure-footed geometry. And the steeper the terrain, the more of your weight ends up on the front wheel, and the better it gets. With the 170mm dropper post slammed down all the way, the riding position feels safe and secure, with your bodyweight positioned low down behind the Lyrik and in between those chunky Maxxis tyres. Just watch your arse on the rear tyre on the really steep stuff, as I had a few close encounters. Shorter riders may want to consider the 27.5in version specifically for more tyre-to-arse clearance.
The result of the Sight’s slack head angle and reduced-offset fork is a huge amount of trail (135mm), which means it takes a lot to knock the front wheel off line. The 800mm wide bars and short 40mm stem ensure you have decent leverage over the front wheel, but there’s still an immense amount of self-correction to the steering assembly that keeps the front wheel pointing straight ahead during the most hectic of descents. Which is good, because the big wheels and overall mass mean it doesn’t take a lot for the Sight to pick up some serious speed. If you like descending as fast as you possibly can, the 29in Sight is definitely the right choice out of the two wheelsize options.
While not overly poppy, the active and composed four-bar suspension keeps the rear tyre glued to the terrain with good sensitivity throughout the travel. Traction and control are excellent, with the high volume Minion tyre combo providing competent and reliable grip on a wide variety of trail surfaces.
I had a particularly muddy day of riding on some really steep, loamy hand-cut trails, where the Sight was totally in its element despite the very slick conditions. The big wheelbase gives you plenty of room to move about, and combined with the supple suspension, the bike remains steady and well connected to the trail surface. Even when the tyres do break traction, the huge wheelbase requires a lot of force to spin the whole bike off its chosen trajectory, that it ends up holding its line in situations where shorter bikes would be skipping and sliding out more readily.
Still, I do think I’d wang an Assegai up front if I was racing enduro and riding in steeper, looser terrain more often.
The Lyrik Ultimate is also a stupendously good performer and complements the Sight’s high-speed thirst well. It has a beautifully supple action that manages to remain active even when you’re deep in the travel, something I appreciated during some particularly high-consequence scenarios. The chassis is heavier and substantially stiffer than a Pike, and combined with the RC2 damper, it is simply more controlled on faster and more violent impacts. Because of the confidence-inspiring front end and reactive suspension, I found myself more inclined to boost the whole bike and land into the sorts of rock gardens that I’d normally pick my way through.
The Code RSC brakes also deserve mention for their immense stopping power, which imparts plenty of confidence for braking as late as possible, should you bite off more than you can chow down on. Despite the anchor-dropping power, modulation and slow-speed control are excellent, even in those aforementioned slick and steep conditions. I also love the adjustable pad contact point, which allows you to control how much free stroke there is in the lever throw, something Shimano is still yet to master.
What’s Not So Good?
With the Sight having gone up a notch on the Scale Of Gnar™, it has given up some of the all-rounder persona of the old bike. That position has largely been taken over by the new Optic though, which I suspect will end up luring a lot of previous Sight owners.
In comparison, the new Sight has morphed into a much more aggro beast, which is primarily built to winch & plummet steep terrain. As such, it can feel lethargic and a bit uninspiring to ride on flatter and more mundane singletrack. It can even feel sketchy too if you’re not properly weighting that huge front centre. Without a steep descent to pitch your body mass forward, the front tyre can easily unweight and lose traction if you’re not on your game. I had to pay particular attention while riding at pace through flat turns, since it only takes one front wheel washout to unravel all of the confidence the Sight will have amassed up until that point.
As for the ups? Well, I wouldn’t say the Sight is a particularly enthusiastic climber. The complete bike weighs in at 15.35kg, which is not far off a fully-fledged DH bike. Then again, it isn’t far off a DH bike in terms of its ability and its spec, and really, you can’t expect all those big-hitting components to come for free. In particular, the wheels are weighty (1950g confirmed), as are the tyres (1093g front & 1044g rear), and that means there’s quite a lot of rotational mass to get rolling. There were more than a few climbs where I was wishing for a 30T chainring.
The steep seat angle radically improves the riding position though, and in terms of overall efficiency I found the Sight to be easier to ride uphill than the Canyon Spectral I recently reviewed. Of course the overall weight means it is still sluggish uphills, and the big footprint means that tight switchbacks are without doubt the Sight’s number one weakness. Still, it does climb better than expected, and it also deals with technical features on steeper ascents surprisingly well. The long wheelbase minimises unwanted pitching, and while I did chew the stem plenty of times, the front wheel doesn’t wander too badly. There’s also useful ground clearance here thanks to the conservative 25mm BB drop, which keeps the pedals spinning freely over rocks and roots.
I did notice a little chain-tug when hammering into slabby rocks while pedalling in the lower gears, which is the flip-side to the anti-squat that Norco has built into the Sight’s suspension kinematics. Providing you remain seated though, the rear doesn’t wallow a whole lot even in the open position.
The shock itself has been tuned with a usable amount of base-level compression damping from the factory, so there’s not a whole load of monkey motion under pedalling inputs. That’s good, because it’s quite awkward to flip the 2-position compression lever 180° into the firm setting. Typically it was only on the bitumen where I looked to flip the compression switch.
While I found Norco’s suspension recommendations to be close to spot-on, I did kiss full travel on the rear shock on a couple of harsher landings. That’s totally acceptable from time to time, though there is scope to reduce volume further inside the Super Deluxe shock if you’re looking for more support than the two Bottomless Tokens provide. That said, I did have a 90kg tester about the Sight A1, and he had no issues with the stock settings.
I asked Norco about fitting a coil shock to the Sight, and while the designers haven’t tested it, apparently the suspension design is sufficiently progressive to accommodate one for those who like their springs made out of metal rather than air. And if you’re feeling particularly sendy, it’s also worth noting that the Sight has been cleared for use with a 170mm travel fork. Not that I think it needs it, but hey, there you go.
Component Highs & Lows
For the large part, I’ve been nothing but impressed with the build kit on the Sight A1. The big ticket items like the Lyrik fork, Code brakes and Maxxis tyres are all guaranteed showroom floor pleasers, but it’s the smaller stuff that really highlights Norco’s attention to detail on this bike.
I like that you get standard 32h wheels built with J-bend spokes and DT Swiss 350 hubs, which come loaded with the faster-engaging 36T freehub mechanism. Then there are the excellent Ergon grips and saddle – items that Norco could have easily saved money on by spec’ing cheaper own-brand parts. Same goes for the handlebar, which is a street cred-worthy Deity piece.
The TranzX dropper post was the only main unknown on the Sight A1. But while I found the lever to be a bit big and awkward to position, the action of the post itself has been flawless. In my experience, it’s smoother and more wiggle-free than the own-brand posts out there from the likes of Giant and Trek.
The frame finish is equally as practical as the parts strapped to it. There’s a threaded BB, a new Universal Derailleur Hanger, and a clean direct mount for the rear brake calliper that means no adapter is required with the 180mm rotor. Big forged hunks of alloy are utilised at all the key stress points, and robust pivot hardware rolls on full complement Enduro Max sealed cartridge bearings. For added stiffness and durability, both of the rear chainstay pivots actually place two cartridge bearings together side-by-side.
Cable routing is also very tidy, particularly with the guides that integrate with the lower shock mount. The only mild annoyance I discovered was related to the tidy bolt-up axles, which I do like. What I don’t like though is that the front requires a 6mm hex key and the rear uses a 5mm. C’mon Norco!
I would recommend future owners keep an eye on the soft e*thirteen rims. If you’re particularly jumpy, the rear wheel would be a good candidate for a tubeless insert for further protection, given just how hard and fast this bike likes it. I’ve put some nasty dings into the rear wheel on our test bike, and the DHR II tyre currently has a couple of tubeless plugs trying to keep it airtight.
Flow’s Final Word
Having shifted up a category for 2020, the latest Sight is quite a different beast to its predecessor. Depending on how you approach it, that’ll either be a good or a bad thing.
With its newly emboldened geometry and combat-proven components, it’s a vastly more aggressive bike that is designed to excel going steep ‘n’ deep. It’s solid and sure-footed at speed, and it offers an incredible amount of descending prowess that’ll have you searching out the steepest and gnarliest lines you can find.
It isn’t the all-rounder that the old bike was though. It’s not a speedy climber, and the committed riding style it requires can make it hard work on flatter and lower-risk singletrack. Overall it’s much more enduro than it is trail. So if you’re less likely to race and/or frequent alpine terrain, then I’d suggest taking a closer look at the new Optic instead.
If you can deliver the terrain the Sight is designed to thrive on though, and you’re after a highly capable big travel bruiser for pushing your limits on, then it’d be hard to find anything else that’s as up for it or as well-spec’d as this for the money. There are no shortcuts to the Sight A1’s rider-centric build kit, and aside from the rims, which are kind of a perishable item on any 160/150mm travel bike anyway, there’s very little room for upgrades here.
Sure, you could spend more and go lighter with one of the carbon models, but personally, I find there to be something reassuring about smashing a burly alloy bike down the side of a mountain. Which is good, because that’s exactly what the Sight relishes in doing.
Mo’ Flow Please!
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