Words: Sebastian Jayne                                                                                  Photos: Matt Rousu

Norco make mountain bikes. For mountains that have rocks, roots, mud, dust and squiggly lines of singletrack. Some trails are tranquil and take you places; other trails are raw pieces of mess that smash bikes and bodies if riders don’t come prepared. Some trails are a mix of the two with flow sections leading to steep chutes of roots with drops that plunge riders down into a jump then a berm. There are so many options in mountain biking for each rider to get their own individual fix that there needs to be an equally large selection of bikes, the right tool for the job as it were. Or does there? That’s where the ‘trail’ category of bikes comes in.

Most companies have the trail category that aims to do it all. Bikes that can climb comfortably while still having the exuberance to smash down the other side, whether the rider wants to take on a flow trail or a double black diamond descent. Enter Norco’s new Fluid FS 1. It’s a trail bike that Norco designed to have ‘confidence inspiring handling’ and be ‘playful with and unmatched fun factor’ and to be there for you on any trail you decide to explore. And better yet, it does so with killer value.


 
Initial Impression
 
At first thought I considered the Fluid to be the sibling that wants to jump off the roof while you want to jump off the balcony. It’s that little bit rowdier than its family and I did wonder just how rowdy it would want to get while out on the trail. These first thoughts came from the spec sheet that shows the Fluid has characteristics that are a tad different than what you would usually expect from a ‘trail’ bike.

 


In the model tested, the first thing that jumped out was the 2.6” tyres draped over 29” wheels that showed Norco expects this bike to run into some bigger pieces of trail art than your usual trail bike. While wide is the new trend, making the jump up to 2.6” on a 29” wheels, other trail bikes sit around 2.3 – 2.5”, shows Norco’s intent and you do feel the size of the tyre when you hold it in your hand. The Fluid ships with a WTB rim with a 29mm internal width, which does hold the 2.6” well and shows Norco went from the ground up when thinking of the Fluid and not simply adding bigger tyres to a normal bike.
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Tyres are one area that the Fluid sat just off the trend and the same goes with the geometry. Each geometry metric from head angle to chainstay length and around to wheelbase are all that little bit different to its competition, which Norco hopes will keep the Fluid balanced while extending its capabilities. Norco have opted for a 66.5 degree head angle, which is slightly slacker than the trail models of other brands and continues the trend for the Fluid to be that little bit rowdier.

 

The wheelbase is a touch longer than others, as is the reach, both of which help keep things stable. Conversely, the seat angle is steeper to place the rider further towards the front of the Fluid and aids in a balanced feel especially when climbing. Offsetting the longer front end, created by the slack head angle and extended reach, is the nice and short chainstays at 429mm, which is good for a 29er.

 

A great option that the Fluid line features is the drop to 27.5” wheels in the smaller sizes (XS, S) while larger sizes get the 29er treatment (L, XL), and medium can choose between the two to tailor to the rider. Both wheel size versions of the Fluid FS-1 come with 130mm travel up front with the RockShox Revelation RC fork in Boost and 120mm rear with RockShox Deluxe R shock. One nice offering from Norco is a setup PDF guide on the website for the Fluid that lays out tire pressure options and suspension setup guides for each model. This, alongside some suspension tips for different terrain, makes setup easy without having to go to each suspension company’s website for a setup guide when you want to make changes. It’s the little things sometimes.


 
The aluminium frame of the Fluid is smooth and with internal cable routing creates a clean look. What appears to be a grey colourway comes out as blue in certain light which is cool. The model tested is the top FS-1 model, while there is a FS-2 and FS-3 at lower price points and a women’s specific colour line. Overall, the Fluid looks strong and capable standing still though looks are only half the story. Placing a bike off-trend can expose it if not done correctly. Different is fine, as long as all the differences speak the same language while out on the trail.

On the Trail
 
Out on the trail is where you can fully appreciate the capabilities and overall comfort that the balanced Fluid platform provides. The mix of angles and components complement each other to put you in a centred and comfortable position. You feel the benefits of the 2.6” tyres early on, especially on very rocky terrain as they really soak up the bigger hits. Though I would prefer a lower size, perhaps 2.4”, as I feel the bigger tyres on the big 29” wheels were holding back some of the agility that the geometry of the Fluid was offering. Agility being picking the bike up and transferring from the left to the right of the trail. This is a preference thing though and the added confidence, traction and stability of the bigger tyre will be to the liking of many riders, especially at the price point where the Fluid FS range lies.


 
Adding to the confidence is the slack head angle and long wheelbase, which both aid in enabling the Fluid to tackle steep terrain at speed and still be stable. A big plus for the Fluid is how balanced it feels. Good trail bikes feather the line between slack and steep angles, so the bike can perform admirably on the widest range of terrain from steep to flatter trails. I feel this is the Fluid’s strongest asset as your position on the bike is very stable and balanced whether you are climbing, rolling along flatter trails or tackling steep descents. The short chainstays are a big plus for forward trail agility as you can easily pick the Fluid up over trail furniture, which is pretty cool considering the Fluid’s long wheelbase.

 

In terms of spec, for $3199, there isn’t really anything to fault. The NX Eagle feels very ‘SRAM Eagle’ in a good way, the Guide brakes felt more than capable for most trails and both RockShox fork and shock perform well and aided in the balanced feel. I would prefer a hydraulic dropper over the cable actuated TranzX, but at this price point the little extra effort to drop a seat is well worth it.

Our take
 
Overall, the Fluid is an amazing package at this price point. It is a comfortable trail bike that allows you the confidence to tackle a wide range of trails with ease. The Fluid may sit off-trend in regard to some characteristics, but each piece of the Fluid is put together to create a total package and not simply be different for difference sake. So maybe it's on trend and just ahead? I thought the Fluid would be ‘rowdy’ being different but instead its characteristics make it capable and fun, just about everything you would want from a trail bike. If you are looking for a bike to have fun tackling a wide range of trails at a very good price you will be more than happy with the Fluid FS 1.

 

Brand - Norco

Model - Fluid FS 1         

RRP - $3199

From - Advanced Traders

Available Sizes - XS (27.5”), S(27.5”), M (27.5” or 29”)( 29”Tested), L 29”), XL (29”)

Frame Material - Aluminium

Fork - RockShox Revelation RC, 130mm Travel, Boost

Shock - RockShox Deluxe R, 190x45mm (29") | 190x42.5mm (27.5"), DebonAir

Shifters - SRAM NX Eagle, 12 Speed

Derailleur - SRAM NX Eagle, 12 Speed

Crank - SRAM NX Eagle, 170mm (XS/S) | 175mm (M/L/XL), 30T

Bottom bracket - SRAM DUB BB

Chain - SRAM NX Eagle, 12 Speed

Cassette - SRAM NX Eagle, 11-50T, 12 Speed

Hubs - Novatec Boost

Spokes - Stainless Steel 14g - Black

Rims - WTB STP i29 TCS, 32 Hole, 29mm Internal Width

Tyres - Maxxis Forekaster, 2.6”, 3C/EXO/TR, Folding

Brakes - Sram Guide T, 4 Piston Hydraulic Disc, 180mm Front, 160mm rear

Stem - TranzX 6061 Alloy 50mm/35mm

Handlebars - TranzX 6061 DB Alloy 780mm

Seatpost - TranzX Stealth Dropper, 100mm (XS) | 120mm (S), 130mm (M/L/XL) Travel, 1x Lever

Saddle - Norco XC Saddle