The Norco Sight VLT has hit all the right numbers - but how does it stack up on the trail?
A company that needs no introduction when it comes to the world of mountain bikes, Norco have finally come to the eMTB party. Welcome everybody to the Sight VLT2, out of the box the first thing that hits you is that it still looks like a Norco Sight - just on steroids. The same clean lines coupled with the understated but bold decals make for a snazzy looking piece of kit and will no doubt have fans of the analogue Sight frothing to try the new offering.
In Australia we have 2 Norco Sight VLT models both being built around the same frame set. Offering 150mm travel on the back and 160mm up front these bikes are designed to shred the gnar! The $7999 VLT2 on test is the entry level model and the VLT1 with a premium build-kit has a $9499 price tag. You get upgraded suspension and drivetrain - but as mentioned the Shimano STEPS pedal-assist system and frame remain the same.
At the heart of the Norco Sight VLT is the carbon frame and it is a real head turner. The oversized carbon mainframe with the integrated battery is sleek and the Norco Sight VLT is upping the game with what an eMTB can look like. Doing away with messy battery covers this bike doesn’t look like a bike that has had a battery added as an after thought. The chainstay is still alloy, the same as on a normal Norco Sight Carbon.
In a sense the geometry has been kept inline with the pedal version of the Norco Sight, in terms of how it behaves on the trail. There is more weight and more travel, and some changes from the pedal version are needed to keep the all-mountain handling similar. These changes include a slightly raised bottom bracket anda slightly longer top tube, along with a slacker head angle. The most notable change is that Norco only do 3 sizes (S,M,L) which is bad news for all those taller riders out there. The reach is very long at 470mm on the large we tested and felt roomy for my 183cm height. The back end is tight at 440mm, and our only gripe is the lack of bottle mount which is a bit of a bummer.
Running the Shimano STEPS E8000 pedal-assist system coupled with the 630Wh battery is a solid spec with a majority of bikes coming with smaller 500Wh batteries and hence range. On the pedal side of things it is equipped with e-optimised parts like the SRAM NX Eagle 12 speed group set with single-click shifters, SRAM Guide T 4 pot brakes on 200mm rotors and e-tuned RockShox suspension to round out the package.
Wheels are a mix of DT and Novatec hubs lace to 30mm WTB hoops. It is worth noting that the rear hub is a DT Swiss 370 Hybrid model, meaning things like shell thickness, flange thickness, and material and even number of ratchets on the star ratchet system are designed for eMTB use. The frame features all the usual trimming with through axles, Boost spacing, internal routing, and room for a long 150mm dropper post. You might even be able to get a 170mm drop in there. Weighing in at a respectable 22.6kg it is certainly a good bike on paper.
On the trail
The Norco Sight VLT hums along through undulating singletrack smoothing out the bumps so you can churn through trail in a state of constant flow. Keeping the cadence high is easy with short 165mm cranks that allow for good leg speed and ample clearance to stay on the gas. The Norco Sight VLT eats the trail with the ups becoming just as engaging as the downs. Whilst this is fun it's when the terrain gets steeper and rougher that the Sight VLT's true colours shine through.
This bike is made to ridden fast in the rough. Pointed down a hill this thing is on another level, at speed it is so stable it gives you the confidence to go that bit faster and brake that bit later. The plus-sized Maxxis Minions have ample traction and there is power galore from the 4-pot brakes and big rotors, so you can really brake hard and late without too much of a chance of blowing traction into a skid. In the rougher stuff the extra weight of the bike makes it feel more planted and less jittery, find a place to throw in a couple of extra pedalstrokes on the exit of a corner and the boost to your momentum adds to fuel to this fire.
The RockShox Pike RC and Deluxe RT delivered no fuss reliability throughout test, the custom tuning for the extra rigours of a eMTB riding are duly noted thinking about all the additional forces generated from having a heavier and more powerful bike. The suspension felt supple whilst not diving excessively under heavy braking nor wallowing whilst the hammer is down.
The Shimano STEPS platform provided consistent and even power, without that surging feeling of other systems. In the top setting “Turbo” the power is totally controllable even in tight singletrack. This was definitely the most favoured setting throughout the test giving plenty of useful power and yet still economical enough to get 3-4 hours of hilly riding in at full noise with plenty of emergency gas still in the tank.
Lacking the pop of the higher setting we found “Trail” was a good way to prolong the battery life and allowed us to push the length of the rides out further though this was only used on the longer firetrail climbs still opting for “turbo” for the singletrack. Fast is fun.
“Eco” is good to have, and useful riding with friends on an analogue bike. But if that is your prefered setting you may as well just buy a normal mountain bike.
The SRAM 12-speed drivetrain was a real bonus as that extra range that the NX Eagle cassette gives allowed you to maintain a high cadence on the steeper climbs and hence get the full support of the battery power. The short cranks were a joy to be able to keep spinning through the rougher, rockier pedal clipping type terrain. The SRAM Guide brakes took a while to bed in making for some pretty comical departures from the track at high speed early on in the test, once bedded in the 4 pot design coupled with 200mm rotors though these brakes have oddles of power and good modulation.
The Maxxis Minions in the 2.6 matched up on 30mm rims were a treat, the smaller bag giving the tyre a definite edge, compared to the more recently popular 2.8" plus preference by many manufacturers. The feeling of the tread biting in the turns allowed the VLT to be ridden more aggressively and thrived on rider input to push it harder into the turns. The frame and fork will except up to 2.8 tyres if you are that way inclined.
Norco have done a great job on with this one, the Sight VLT2 is a great introduction to the world of performance e-trail bikes without the hefty price tag of others that are out there on the market. The parts kit is is spot on, allowing for all the speccing the latest 1x12 drivetrain but without the premium price tag of top bling. This is great for those that just want to hit the trails and experience how much fun this new genre of riding is. With the extended battery life it becoming the sort of bike that you can take take out into the backcountry and enjoy the longer loops that are available in our alpine national parks.
Tester: Matt Nauthe
Riding Experience: Over 15 years on mountain bikes, riding worldwide
Generally Rides: Specialized Stumpjumper Expert, Salsa El Mariachi, Curve GMX
Bike Test Track: Gap Creek, Ironbark and Bunya trails