Testing the latest Norco Sight C2 29er All-Mountain mountain bike!
Words: Bradley Babel Photographer: Gerard Lagana
Norco need little introduction to most, hailing from BC Canada, just like a lot of other brands from that area, trail and all mountain riding is a big part of their DNA. Sure they make race bikes too, but hitting the trails and riding hard is at the heart of who they are.
Norco’s All Mountain offering has always been the Sight, and with the new models just released for 2020, Norco look like they have shifted the goal posts big time in what they want this bike to be capable of now. Pretty much all of their mountain bikes have had a redesign through 2019-2020, and with the shuffling Norco went back to the drawing board with what they wanted to achieve in this platform. They wanted to build a bike that would boost rider confidence, have improved descending capability, sure-footed climbing, and efficient pedalling. They also used data and proprietary kinematic software to try matching each rider to their bike no matter their size. Each size is tuned to make sure the riders position and grip is optimised. They have done this by customising the geometry of each size, not happy with just making the seat tubes and top tubes longer and maintaining the status quo geo.
Norco are bringing 5 models into Australia, the C1, C2, A1, A2, A3, and also offering a women’s specific build A1 and A2. They haven’t left the hard charging grommets out either with a new Sight Youth 27.5” designed for riders 4’9”-5’2”.
We’ve had the all-new Sight C2 on test, in a canary yellow with black trim, its simple but striking looking. The lines on the bike are straighter and cleaner looking than previous, with the tube profile flattened out and certainly wider in profile across the top tube and down tube. Norco have stuck with the same rocker driven suspension system as previously, but with all new frame geo and suspension kinematics. The C2 has a carbon front end paired with alloy chain stays, and a carbon seat stay. The C2 gets a Shimano 12-speed drive train and brakes throughout, utilising mostly XT with a sprinkling of SLX, and Fox suspension providing the squish. With a nice selection of parts on the rest of the bike, its $6499 price tag while not cheap offers good value for what you are getting.
Norco have really tried to maximise rider confidence by focusing on providing a sure-footed great handling bike, and have gone to great length to make sure each rider no matter their size has the bike tuned so that hey each get that same ride quality and feel. So not only do they increase reach and seat tube size for each size, but chain stay length is tuned, each size gaining another 5mm to help maintain the rear centre balance, and the larger bikes get steeper seat tube angles to keep the riders center of gravity in the right spot so that grip and balance is maintained both descending and climbing.
So taking a little more of a look into the new Sight, the frame that has been totally redesigned. Apart from the slight increase in travel over the previous generation, the geo has been totally reborn. It wasn’t just a case of longer and slacker. Compared to the outgoing model the head angle has been slackened 2.5-3 degrees, in the large the reach has increased by 33mm, the seat angle in the large has been brought forward by 4.2 degrees to make sure the rider is sitting in a position that is still going to give you grip and handling whether you are climbing some steep jank, or jamming through the singletrack while seated. The wheel base is now 71mm longer than the outgoing model with a 140mm fork. That longer wheel base is a big part of the stability at speed and over the rough stuff. Paired with a reduced offset fork to help with handling at low speeds the numbers all point towards a very stable confident ride. Especially when you let off the brakes and get it moving.
Norco also wanted to get everyone on longer dropper posts, so the seat tube length is now 35mm shorter, allowing them to spec 150mm dropper posts on the small, 170mm on the Med/large, and huge 200mm droppers on the XL. They have also specced 4 pot brakes on all models with 200m front rotors and 180mm rear rotors on all models.
There is increased capacity to carry a full size bottle too, and ample clearance for large modern rubber, there is enough space for up to 2.6” tires. Frame protection has been beefed up too, with the lower rock guard now a little larger, and added shuttle guard now added to the down tube, as well as a new cable management system to eliminate cable rattle. No one likes rattles or squeaks coming from their bike. You might also notice what looks like an extra bottle mount under the top tube. This is for an aftermarket frame bag that should be available soon.
Leverage ratios for the rear suspension have been totally updated along with spring rate on the new platform. Norco also paired this with custom tuned Fox and RockShox suspension. The new platform has a much higher leverage ratio through the start of the travel, giving you supple first ½ of the travel, with a more progressive spring rate now providing the resistance needed on the bigger hits and a custom high speed compression tune on the shocks. Not too linear and not too progressive. The goldilocks of suspension tunes you might say!
The build on the Sight C2 model is great, I feel like each area has been considered and the parts spec is on point. Personally looking at the C1 and C2, for another $1500 premium to upgrade to the C1 I would be totally happy with the C2 and using that spare cash for something else down the line. It has been a while since I have ridden on Shimano hubs and the new XT have an excellent fast engagement and sweet sound to them. The new 4 pot SLX brakes with the 200mm rotor up front really pull you up when you need to through the anchor out. Spinning around those XT hubs are Stans Flow D alloy rims, with Maxxis Minion rubber with EXO+ side wall, stronger than standard but lighter than DH sidewall options.
Rounding out the build they have got Ergon grips and saddle, TransX Dropper, Deity Ridgeline 800m wide bars, mounted to a 40mm long 35mm clamp stem. It's great to see quality parts used. I am digging the new colourways on the 2020 range of models. The Sight gets a gloss finish, and I am sure there will be a few that the yellow won’t appeal to but I quite like it.
Norco’s Ride Aligned online set up guide was a breeze to use and gave me a really good baseline to start from. Just plug in things like weight, height, model of bike you are on, skill level and it gives you things like shock and tyre pressures as well as damper settings, but also recommends shock spacers to suit your ride set up, not that everyone has the ability or tools required to change these at home, at least on the rear suspension. They also recommend bar width and number of spacers below your stem.
I found the rebound setting recommended a little on the quick side so slowed that down a few more clicks to my liking. The set up guide recommended 780mm wide bars but we trimmed them to 760mm, this does make the effective reach a little shorter, but I prefer them a little less wide. Changing the “Skill Level” setting made it either a little softer more compliant ride for those wanting to be a bit more of a passenger, to a firmer setting for those wanting to push the bike and load it up into the corners.
I got the bike before the set up guide went live online, so had to go by feel on my first couple of rides, and got the forks pretty spot on, but started out way too underinflated on the rear shock. It definitely didn’t feel like it pedalled as good as was claimed by Norco, but once I got the pressures sorted and more dialed in, its pedaling position was much more efficient. We weighted this beast in at 15.5Kg with pedals and sealant installed in the tyres. So the Sight has gained a little girth compared to the outgoing version, but considering the focus on descending prowess and that it is now certainly a bigger bike, that weight has to go somewhere.
On The Trail
On the trails the Norco Sight C2 feels very stable with a noticeable level of extra grip and more progressive shock tune out back. The pedalling position feels centered and comfortable, with the steeper seat tube angle positioning the rider so that even with that longer top tube and reach numbers you don’t feel stretched. I think that is all part of what gives you that feeling of added grip too. Pedalling up the hills was improved once I set the shock up better, and pedal bob was all but eliminated apart from aggressive out of the saddle efforts. It is no whippet up the hills though due to a little extra weight, but efficient and comfortable to get you to the top, where all those new changes allow you to better exploit gravity pulling you back down.
If you are a rider that likes to be more animated on the bike and really move it around then the increase in the progressive spring rate will be to your liking, as you won’t have to work as hard to pick up the bike and move it around. It also means that when really pushing through the corners it doesn’t sit in too deep on the travel either and will give you plenty of pop out of it. I’ve got a high speed chute on one of my local trails where I can get 50+Km/h and my first time descending on this bike, without feeling like I was pushing it, I set a new PR through the segment and a new high speed. The bike felt planted and stable the whole way down. I do find that when you tune the suspension spring rate to be more progressive, you get a little more feedback on those high speed mid-size hits, like water bars at 50+Km/h, than you would with a more linear tune. So you just have to be ready for that, or upgrade to a shock with HSC adjustment and do a little more tweaking.
I didn’t just set a few new PRs on the high speed sections either. That added grip and improved handling worked amazingly whipping through switchbacks at more technical slower sections too. Get thrown offline a little and the stability and extra squish should let you get away with most mistakes. Push it a little too much into the corner, and when it does break away, I felt like I could reign it back in pretty comfortably most times.
Overall I would definitely say that Norco’s goal to make this descend even better and have improved handling and confidence, has been met. It is for sure more capable than the outgoing model, and is the main area it really performed well and to hop on a new bike and go out and improve your descending time without too much effort is proof in that.
The Norco Sight is still an efficient pedaller as claimed, but certainly doesn’t climb as well as the outgoing previous model, and if you are planning on going out on big 4+ hour rides you are going to work for it on the climbs. Just as a comparison I took the NEW Optic C2 out for a quick spin also, and this right away feels way zippier! If the type of riding you do is more on the longer adventure side, or it isn’t as rocky or with big hits as, perhaps the new Optic is right up you street.
As with most longer, slacker bikes, they do require you to ride them a little harder to get them through the slow stuff well. Back off and become more of a passenger and you might find the added length and size a little more ungainly. You do need to keep your foot more on the gas and attack to make the most of its design characteristics.
The new 2020 Norco Sight definitely achieves what Norco set out for. The outgoing model was a little under gunned in bigger terrain, and the massive improvement in the geometry really lets you make the most of the extra travel on the new Norco Sight. The parts spec is on point and won’t hold you back riding it the way they intend you to either. his new model is totally down for hitting the races at your local Enduro event, through to cutting laps at our local bike park. Offering it in a range of Carbon and Alloy platforms and both 29 and 27.5” wheel sizes if you like to schralp turns and press send on the jumps then Norco have something that should meet most people’s preferences in wheel size and budget.
I did get the chance to ride the New Optic C2 and if you were a lover of the previous Sight and not so sure on how big the new one has become then I would totally look at that. The pedalling had a way zippier feeling and a much lighter and poppier feel to it than the Sight. But if you want to really attack the trails and also dip your toes or whole leg into Enduro racing, then the Sight is your ticket for that.
Model Sight C2 29er
Available Sizes S-XL in both 27.5” and 29”
Frame Material Carbon main frame and seat stays, alloy chain stays
Fork Fox 36 Performance Elite, HSC, LSC, HSR, LSR short offset, 160mm
Shock Fox Float X2 Performance, LSC, LSR travel 150mm
Shifter Shimano XT M8100 12sp
Derailleur Shimano XT M8100 12sp
Crank Shimano XT M8100 12sp XT or Race Face Turbine 32t
Bottom bracket Shimano XT
Chain Shimano SLX M7100 12sp
Cassette Shimano SLX M7100 12sp 10-51T
Chain guide e*thirteen TRS Race w/direct mount bash guard
Hubs Shimano XT M8100, Boost
Spokes DT Competition Stainless butted 15g/16g
Rims Stans Flow D
Tyres Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5” WT 3C EXO+ TR, Minion DHR II 2.4” WT 3C EXO+ TR
Brakes Shimano SLX M7100 4 Piston, 200/180mm
Stem Norco CNC 35mm clamp, 40 mm
Handlebars Deity Ridgeline 35, 800mm 25mm rise
Seatpost TransX YSP-39JL Dropper 170mm
Saddle Ergon SM10 Sport
Grips Ergon GE10 EVO Lock on