23 Norco Fluid FS A1 Long-Term Review
I have a confession to make. I’ve lost interest in new mountain bike tech. All the big problems have been solved already. Anything new that’s been introduced in the last 2 or 3 years feels to me like it’s either a marginal improvement or simply a way to raise the price ceiling of the mountain bike market. One day we’ll look back and argue when exactly the bike industry peaked. Was it 2020? I took delivery of a new trail bike that summer and it certainly feels to me like there isn’t much left to improve. So little does the bike leave to be desired that it more or less disappears while riding, allowing me instead to FOCUS on the riding itself.
Meanwhile, much of the mountain bike world continues to FOCUS on bikes that want to stand out rather than disappear. It’s often either about high-end (read: expensive) or niche (read: weird). It takes a certain Zen mindset to ignore the noise and appreciate the mountain bike purely as a tool that enables us to have great riding experiences. From this perspective, a middle-of-the-road, utilitarian trail bike with all the proven tech but without all the unnecessary distractions, could be seen as the pinnacle of mountain bike development.
This is where the new Norco Fluid FS comes in. Rather than trying to stand out with something new but unnecessary and expensive, Norco specifically intended the Fluid to combine the best of the previous Fluid and current Optic platforms, and make it available in an affordable, accessible package for a wide range of riders. The first impressions review has all the details on Norco’s approach to achieving that goal, as well as the Fluid’s geometry and model range. It also contains an extensive walk-around of the test bike and its components as well as my initial riding impressions.
In this long-term review I’ll describe how my setup and riding experience on the Fluid evolved as I got more time on it, how the bike and its components held up during the test period, and how it compares to the Canyon Spectral 125, a seemingly similar bike I reviewed earlier this year. Testing was done over the course of four months, split between Vancouver’s North Shore (Cypress, Fromme, Seymour) and Vancouver Island’s Comox Valley (Cumberland, Forbidden Plateau). Apart from one or two damp rides on the Shore, conditions were warm and dry for the duration of the test.
The Fluid may be the ultimate middle-of-the-road, utilitarian trail bike but that doesn’t mean it can’t look sexy. Photo: Deniz Merdano
In terms of setup, testing the Fluid was not without challenges. As described in the first impressions review, Norco’s recommended settings for my height and weight were a good starting point but I struggled a bit balancing my weight between the front and rear in some situations. Dropping the fork pressure helped mitigate that issue and I rode the test’s first month or so on the Shore with settings that were still very close to the starting point. They felt adequate on the Shore’s steep, chunky, and relatively slow descents, if not yet perfect.
Then I moved to the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island and was faced with very different and mostly new-to-me terrain. Compared to the Shore, there are more faster trails here and often they are not so steep and contain more chatter than chunk. The weight balance issue came back and the fork felt a bit over-damped in Shore mode, and the rear bucked. I noticed I was lacking confidence and holding back. Without a frame of reference for these trails, it took some experimentation but eventually I think I figured it out. I ended up completely opening up the fork’s low and high speed compression and dropping even more pressure. I also dropped the pressure in the rear shock a bit and dialled in a touch more rebound damping. Finally I rolled the bar backwards a bit. Combined, these changes made me feel much comfortable and in control and able to pick up much more speed.
The final settings were as follows:
- Bar width: 790 mm
- Stem length: 40 mm
- Spacers under stem: 15 mm
- Bar roll: rise in line with steerer / head tube
- Air spring: 70 psi (25% sag)
- LSC: fully open
- HSC: fully open
- LSR: 7 clicks from closed
- HSR: 7 clicks from closed
- Mazza 2.4 Trail front: 20 psi (tubeless, insertless)
- Martello 2.35 Trail rear: 25 psi (tubeless, insertless)
Finding speed in Cumberland Forest.
Climbing on the Fluid is quite pleasant, with the rear suspension feeling nicely balanced between being active and supportive. There is just enough anti-squat to give that encouraging feeling while pedalling but at the same time lots of traction is available and the Fluid motors up technical climbs. I never felt the need to firm up the rear shock using the climb switch. The initial weight balancing issue I had in some climbing situations was solved by the adjustments in fork setup and bar roll, as mentioned above.
Gravity’s pull on the Fluid’s 15.5 kg (34 lbs) weight was noticeable but not a real problem in practice. To be honest, the only situations where I was annoyed by the Fluid’s heft were lifting the bike on my car’s roof rack and carrying it up the stairs of my apartment building.
The Cumberland trail network has quite a few relatively flat, meandering trails that I would qualify as cross country and the Fluid did OK on them. It wasn’t super exciting but it wasn’t boring either. Just pedal and go with the flow.
The Fluid proved to be both capable and forgiving going downhill. I really liked that it can accommodate a wide range of riding styles, from easy going to hard charging. My first rides on the Fluid were immediately fun and lively, despite still feeling out the unfamiliar brakes and tires and experimenting with setup.
Once I had nailed the suspension and cockpit setup and had become familiar with how the brakes and tires behaved, I started feeling comfortable letting go of the brakes, picking up some speed, and finding opportunities for a little air. The Cumberland and Forbidden Plateau networks have some very fast trails, mostly more chattery than chunky but there is some rougher terrain to be found as well. I was pleasantly surprised by how composed the Fluid stayed at speed.
Of course, 140 mm travel up front and 130 mm in the rear have their limits and if you keep pushing harder, at some point you’ll run out of travel. The Fluid is still a mid travel trail bike and feels most at home on mid travel trail bike terrain: moderately fast, moderately steep, moderately technical blue and single black trails. However I would not hesitate to ride it on all but the most extreme trails that I consider within my riding ability.
Overall the Fluid’s geometry and suspension felt very well balanced in most situations and a good match for the amount of travel available.
In Cumberland the Fluid felt right at home on the blue flow trails.
as well as on the light black tech trails.
Earlier this year I reviewed the Canyon Spectral 125 and, at least on paper, it appears to be after a similar riding experience as the Fluid with both travel and geometry very close between the two.
A closer look at the two bikes‘ specs however, reveals some details that hint at different intentions. The Spectral, with its 125 mm rear travel, 64° head tube angle, and Fox 36 fork up front, is just that little bit more aggressive than the Fluid’s more moderate 130 mm, 65°, and 34 fork. Those different intentions become apparent on the trail. The Spectral 125 always wanted me to go faster but also required me to be at the top of my game in order to keep the short travel under control. When the stars lined up, it was a very rewarding experience. When they didn’t, it was tiring at best, dangerous at worst. On the more mellow trails, the Spectral 125 could feel outright boring. In contrast, the Fluid showed a much more forgiving nature. Going fast on chunky trails, I still ran out of travel at some point but it felt less harsh. The Fluid was also more fun to ride at slower speeds or on mellower trails. While this is mostly positive, its friendly character makes the Fluid a little less engaging than the Spectral 125.
Interestingly, despite the Fluid carrying almost a kilogram (2.2 pounds) more heft, I found it a more pleasant climber than the Spectral. I attribute this to the Fluid having a touch more anti-squat; just enough to make it feel a bit more spritely. Both bikes offer plenty of traction when climbing technical terrain.
Summarizing, the Fluid is clearly the more balanced bike of the two, while the Spectral 125 is more niche. If the Fluid suits a wide range of riders, from less to more experienced, the Spectral’s range is narrower and partly overlaps that of the Fluid on the more experienced end but also extends a little further beyond it.
The Norco Fluid FS: balanced, well-rounded.
The Canyon Spectral 125: engaging but more niche.
Between not wanting to come off as biased or just being floored by how perfectly executed things are it can be surprisingly difficult. This is absolutely the case with the Norco Search XR carbon.
Let’s begin at the beginning. I built up one a few months ago to demo after spending the last couple seasons primarily on a Niner BSB (another carbon drop bar bike). On the surface they are similar bikes but, as they say, the devil is in the details. In this case, a few geometry tweaks, as well as some really Smart design, yields a bike that is markedly better in my opinion.
Let’s get the nerdery out of the way first. The Norco geometry has a few key differences from the Niner that should not be overlooked. While the overall wheelbase is almost the same, the Norco uses a tad shorter chainstay as well as slightly slacker head tube angle (and more fork rake) to put more weight on the rear wheel. This is paired with a significantly lower bottom bracket. Eight whole 8mm to be exact. While this doesn’t sound like a lot, it absolutely is. Mainly because how much bottom bracket height can play a role in bike handling, but it also speaks to how outside the box the thinking is on this bike. The measured “bottom bracket drop” is 73mm. This is actually lower than many traditional road bikes and up until recently, was very uncommon on drop bar bikes that are intended to see a good bit of dirt. I could ramble on about how cyclocross bikes have high bottom brackets, and why this is a pointless holdover from the days of toe-clips, but I won’t. What I will say is that, it’s important because it helps move the rider’s center of gravity down and back. on this later.
The majority of the other design tweaks that set the Search XR apart have to do with how the rear triangle of the bike is laid out to take tire clearance and ride into account. On my last bike, I could BARELY fit 40mm tires. Like most cyclocross bikes it was originally intended for the traditional 33mm cross racing tire standard. However, like many cross bikes, I rode the Niner far more for fun on a variety of off-road surfaces than I did making laps of a race course. So the increase in tire clearance of the Search XR is much appreciated. I mounted up some 42mm wide WTB Resolute tires and still had gobs of clearance. This was not an easy task though on Norco’s end. They implemented a “dropped” chainstay as well as asymmetrical seat tube to open up space for the tire. This is more complex than it sounds and the end result looks a bit odd at first, but when it comes to bikes like this I vote function over form every time.
The rear triangle also has extremely curved seat stays and no “brake bridge” support. The theory behind this is to give the rear of the bike as much vertical compliance as possible by engineering some flex allowing the rear axle to move up a bit under impact. Without some sort of fancy measuring device to test things I can’t be sure if it works in that capacity, but I can say the rear of the bike does feel noticeably more supple over the rough stuff off road.
Lastly, some of the small details surrounding how the shift cables and brake lines are managed, as well as the really neat proprietary chain guide, really speaks to how well thought out this bike is. Everything seems to be taken into consideration and the end result is a sleek looking bike that seems extremely well suited for its task.
But enough about the boring stuff.
THIS BIKE RIPS.
I have been riding it on the same loop recently that would challenge any bike in this class. From the shop, I hit Pony Pasture, Larus Park, Powhite Park and some interesting bits of dirt and pavement in between. Single track, rutted out powerline climbs, fast and twisty paved descents though neighborhoods, punchy climbs, and rooty downhills, this bike handles every bit of it in a way that gives me confidence and puts a grin on my face.
Between the bike itself and the ability to run a truly great tire in the WTB Resolute, this machine is in a class by itself.
The only downside really is cost. It’s a carbon fiber bike with hydraulic brakes and all the latest tech. It’s not cheap. At 3199 for the base model in carbon, it’s going to be out of the price range of many riders. However, for 2019 Norco has added a much more affordable aluminum framed version that starts at about half the price. When these arrive I’ll be excited to see how well Norco is able to trickle down the tech of the XR carbon to a more reasonable price point. Stay tuned.
STYLE AND DESIGN
The first impression is half of the decision. If you don’t like how the e-bikes are designed it is doubtful that you would want to dig deeper into the technical part. It is not the case with ST and Scene VLT. Both of the e-bikes are stylish and gorgeous looking. They come in different colour options and frame sizes so that you can pick the best one for you.
Design is not just about appearance; it also shows the practical part. For example, ST from ENVO comes with a bunch of accessories: fenders, a rear rack and suspension seat posts. The bike is ready to go and designed to provide you with all the necessary stuff you’ll need; from there, you can decide how to customize it and what else to add to make the best out of each ride. Scene VLT is a bare bike with a sleek-looking frame. Consider that if you want to add accessories already included in ST, you need to be ready to spend more money on the upgrade.
Both of the bikes have upright positions. Great for commuting or just cruising around the town. They come in three frame sizes so that everyone can find a perfect fit. With ENVO, you can also customize the frame itself, as the ST has an adjustable stem. With this option, you can pull the handlebar higher or lower it, depending on your height. Scene VLD doesn’t have this option but offers a cool feature with a button-controlled deposit so you can easily change the height.
ST belongs to the 2nd class of e-bikes and comes with a 500W geared hub motor, while the maximum power of Scene is lower. 250W and it is considered the 1st class. The torque is the same. 60Nm. The difference is that with ST, you can use a throttle on demand; it is an excellent feature if you want some extra help to quickly start going from a complete stop or just looking for a more relaxing ride. The maximum speed is 32 km/h for both bikes.
RANGE AND EFFICIENCY
The ENVO bike is more efficient in a hilly area due to the bigger motor power, riding Scene you will need to put more effort into pedalling, but at the same time: less wattage in the motor. more range. Having a mid-drive motorized bike, you need to keep in mind that maintenance is everything. Using the drivetrain as a powerful force requires it to always be in perfect condition. With the geared hub, you will have extra support in case something goes wrong with the chain or freewheel. Both of the bikes will go for around a similar range. up to 100 km per single charge. Batteries are removable in both of them, and you can quickly dismount them off the bikes and charge them at home.
ENVO ST and Scene VLT have excellent displays which are easy to operate. Using ST’s colour display, you have access to parameter settings, monitoring, visualization, and self-diagnostics; it is more user-friendly and customizable. With the Scene VLT bike, you will have a black-and-white screen with just all the necessary parameters for your ride.
Both of the bikes have a decent set of quality components. ST comes with branded hydraulic brakes, a suspension fork with load adjustment and lock, an alloy crank with a single chainring cover, puncture resistant 27.5″x1.95 tires and 8-speed Shimano gears. Scene ST has a bit more fancy 9-speed Shimano cassette, silent Shimano STEPS E6100 drive unit, Tektro hydraulic brakes and 27.5×2.2 tires.
T system on the e-bike guarantee of a safe and smooth ride. Both of the bikes have top-line hydraulic disc brakes that keep everything under control with effortless fingertip braking.
Back on the bike! 2023 Norco Sight Ride Impressions
Norco (Roller) Samurai and Mirage Review
Well-made, lighter weight and dual hand brakes make the Norco Samuari and Mirage a bike-shop bike standout. Check out our comparison review!
The Norco Samurai and Mirage is now known as the Norco Roller
Norco Samurai and Mirage Overview
RATING: Highly Recommended
BEST FOR: Aggressive riders wanting a fast bike for use mainly on flat areas or on mild hills.
SEAT HEIGHT: 20.25″ – 22″WEIGHT: 17.9 lb.FRAME: Aluminum AlloyGAIN RATIO: 3.9WHEELBASE: 710 mm
- No coaster brake
- Available in four fun colors
- Narrow q-factor
- Responsive brakes
- Higher-gain ratio allows for greater top-speed
Kelly from Haven Outdoors authored this review for Two Wheeling Tots. Kelly is an avid mountain biker and a father of four and certainly knows his way around bikes and kids.
As a certified grown-up old guy with four kids of my own, I thought it would be pretty easy to write up a simple review on a couple of bikes for 4 to 6-year old kids. However getting feedback on how a bike rides from your 5-year-old can be like asking your great-grandma to explain how to restart her computer or getting a cat to learn how to sit, stay or beg.
As I’ve watched my 5-year-old son ride these two bikes I’ve figured out how to pick out certain things just by watching him ride. Fairly quickly I have seen him start to play favorites of the two bikes. I’m not sure if some of that has to do with the fact that his cousin, uncle, brother and I all own Commencal bikes if he actually feels better on it, or maybe he just likes the neon red color?
From looking at the numbers, I think I am beginning to see why he is more comfortable on the Commencal over the Norco. First off the Commencal is a bit lighter, at a weighed 17.3 lbs. vs. the Norco’s weight of 17.8 according to my scale at home.
Also, the chain stays are shorter, the stand over height is lower, the reach is a bit longer, the bottom bracket sits lower and it has a wider stance (q-Factor). These are all ingredients that are being put into a lot of the modern trail bikes these days. Having ridden bikes with these features I can say for myself that all of these things add up to a bike that fits great, very confidence inspiring, stable, snappy and overall easier to ride.
Cruising the streets around the neighborhood this is not as apparent, but once he hits the single track this all becomes more apparent. The dirt trails he is riding are beginner to very intermediate level with rollers, small berms, and small rocks and roots. The shorter chainstays keep the bike snappy and aid in cornering and keeping the little 16-inch bike quite maneuverable. With a lower standover, low bottom bracket and wider stance he has more confidence in keeping his center of gravity lower. I have noticed him open up with more speed on the downhill sections on the Commencal.
Commencal Ramones 16″ vs. Norco Samurai
I have been able to get some feedback directly from my son as he has spent a bit more time on the bikes. I asked him why he likes the Commencal the best, and he said, “The seat is more comfortafuller” on the Commencal and “the brakes stop too good on the Norco.” This may be true as it looks like the saddle on the Norco is a bit longer. And as for the brakes on the Norco, they do feel like they have a bit more stopping power and the levers pull in a bit smoother. For tiny little hands, this is a plus. My opinion of the brakes on the Norco was that they had a better overall feel to them over the Commencal, but perhaps when you are five you don’t want to stop “too good.”
Saddles and Brakes
Another small detail I like about the Norco is that they have a quick release on the seat post where the Commencal does not. Commencal opted to put a quick release on the front tire instead. I would like a quick release on the wheel and the seat post, but if you are going only to have one, I think the seat post is the better choice.
Another difference between these bikes are the tires. The Commencal has a wider tire with a bit more volume. If your kid is going to be taking to the dirt at all, I think this is going to give them an advantage over the Norco. Lower the tire pressure a bit and the Commencal will have some added grip and a slight feel of suspension coming from the squish of the tires. (Commencal – 16 x 2.125, Norco – 16 x 1.95) I have noticed the bigger tires help him keep better traction out on the trails.
Caro Gehrig’s 2022 Norco Range Enduro Bike | GMBN Tech Pro Bike Check
Both bikes are one-speed ponies, however, the gear ratios are slightly different. The Commencal has a 32t sprocket up front and 16t in the rear. The Norco is set up with a 36t in the front and 16t in the rear. This means the Norco will have a faster top speed, but the Commencal will be easier to get started from a stop and allow your little one to climb a bit steeper hills. I see this being a plus for the Commencal again if you plan on taking your kid to the dirt. On the Norco, he has had to get off and push his bike uphill several times, where he was able just to stand up out of the saddle and pedal up on the Commencal.
Norco Roller Bottom Line
Both bikes are going to give your child a much better experience than buying a bike from a department store. They are going to last through multiple children and will have a better resale value when your kids grow out of them.
If it came down to picking one over the other I would go with the Commencal because of the geometry, gearing and tires. This is because we do a lot our riding in the dirt. If your child is going to be doing most of their riding on pavement and flatter areas I think the Norco could be the winner due to the higher gear ratio and narrower tires. However, note the Norco will still outperform a department store bike on the street or out on the trail.
Natalie has basically been obsessed with kids’ bikes since 2010 when her oldest of three kids began riding a balance bike. After trying to convince everyone she knew about how amazing balance bikes are, she began Two Wheeling Tots. As a certified secondary science teacher, she loves digging deep into the why and how of kids biking. With her in-depth knowledge of the kids’ bike world, she has consulted with many top brands as well as contributed to articles at NY Strategist, the Today Show, and more.
Geometry and size of the Norco
Norco know that it takes more than long reach or a slack head angle to make a great bike. The Canadian brand are one of the few that haven’t spared the effort of adapting the length of the chain stays to suit the length of the front triangle on every frame size for a more balanced bike. On top of that, they’ve also kept the top tube low and the seat tube short and straight throughout. In combination with a long dropper post, this gives you as much freedom of movement as possible on the Sight and more fun and confidence on the trail.
The Norco Sight C1 29 on the trail
The moment you swing a leg over the Norco Sight, you’ll hear a voice in your head whispering “Ride it like you stole it”. The long front triangle combined with the low slung top tube gives you plenty of freedom to move around. This motivates you to stay loose on the bike and get it sideways as you hit turns, flicking it playfully through corners. Despite its length, the bike is well balanced and you’ll always have enough weight on the front wheel. On the descents, you feel well integrated between the wheels. With the Super Deluxe shock installed, the rear linkage is rather firm and direct, resulting in a poppy feel that gives you plenty of feedback from the trail. While this makes for very agile handling, a little more sensitivity would improve the traction on offer.
The Norco Sight C1 29 rewards an active riding style with tons of speed!
On fast, big hits the rear end also hardens noticeably, transmitting the impacts on to the rider. If you want to go fast and rough on the Sight C1, it’ll do so without flinching but you’ll simply have to hold on to the handlebar that much tighter. However, what is annoying is the loud rattling from the chain hitting the metal chainstay where the protector is way too short. Thanks to its steep seat tube angle and efficient suspension, the Norco will get you up the climbs without issue. The rider is positioned very centrally and upright on the bike, making easy work of climbs.
Steep seat tube angle meets efficient suspension – climbing couldn’t be more relaxed on the Sight.
How does the Norco Sight C1 compare?
Norco might not be labelling the Sight C1 an enduro bike, but it doesn’t have any problems keeping up with most of the bikes in the test field. The suspension feels very similar to that of the Trek Slash, but the longer geometry is more composed and makes it more capable on the climbs. In rougher terrain, it’s the lack of traction on the rear that has it falling behind bikes like the RAAW Madonna or the Specialized Enduro.
Tuning tip: properly fasten the cables | extend the chainstay protector