Putting the latest Norco Optic through its paces!
Words: Mike Blewitt Photographer: Colin Levitch
It's been a busy few months for Norco Bicycles. They have unleashed the Range VLT eMTB monster truck, the all-new Sight all-mountain bike, including a kids' model, and the new Optic trail bike that is being reviewed here. And of course they released the new Revolver in both 100mm and 120mm models earlier this year, and anyone who pays attention to the World Cup XCO scene will have noticed that their Factory Team have been playing on a new hardtail all year long as well. For a company that isn't a behemoth in the bike game – they have been really busy.
The all-new Norco Optic shares many characteristics with the new Sight. It's longer, lower and use the Ride Aligned design principles to make sure any rider has the right fit on their bike. Given the Optic only comes in 29er options and only in the carbon frame – it will possibly have a narrower range of riders. But that's not to say the Optic has a narrow performance window.
The previous Norco Optic came in two wheel sizes with travel sitting at 110mm or 120mm depending on whether you were riding a 29” or 27.5” model. The bike was fun, way stiffer than their 100mm Revolver full-suspension bike at the time, and it was a remarkably versatile trail bike for those wanting something light and fast. With changing trails our expectations of what a trail bike can deliver are evolving – and bikes like the Optic show that designers are keeping up, and stepping ahead.
Longer, lower, slacker – that's all expected. But the genius is in the combination of geometry and suspension design. Norco outlined what they wanted the Optic to be as a progressive short travel trail bike, then figured out the kind of rear shock they needed to deliver the ride they wanted. It didn't exist, so they enlisted RockShox to build and tune custom DH shocks for them.
This means the bike is wholly reliant on the pedalling platform via the shock tune and the suspension design. If you're after a short travel trail bike to really firm up for long climbing slogs before epic descents back down... it's worth bearing this in mind. You might be more at home on the Revolver 120. Norco have matched the 125mm of suspension with 140mm travel suspension forks, with a RockShox Pike specced on each of the C1, C2 and C3 models.
Tester: Mike Blewitt
Riding Experience: Too much time faffing on bikes to develop employable skills doing anything else.
Generally Rides: Norco Revolver FS and HT
Bike Test Track: Iron Bark, Bunya
The long reach and 65 degree head angle is matched with a 42mm offset fork, balancing out the stability with agility at low speed. It's a much longer bike than before, but based on Norco's Ride Aligned concept you remain very centred on the bike thanks to the 76 degree seat angle, and rear centre length that is shorter on smaller sizes.
The build kit on the C2 on test is a mix of SRAM GX Eagle, Shimano MT520 4-pot brakes, alloy 35mm bar and stem, and some nice wheels using DT Swiss 350 hubs and Stans Flow S1 rims, wrapped in a great tyre combo from Schwalbe. There's no chainguide but there are full mountain options for one.
I got onto this bike before the Ride Aligned bike setup software was live. And I liked it. But it felt a little sluggish. Once the software was live I could enter my details and riding ability (now be honest) and the stock setup was really good, and delivered the ride I was expecting. This completely removed the set and check and re-set often involved in getting a setup dialled. Sure if it was my own bike I would have spent ages tuning to the nth degree – but I was having a blast so I didn't see the need.