by Wil Barrett
November 9, 2016
Updated: We’ve spied some photos of Sam Blenkinsop racing a prototype Norco Range 29er – see added photos below!
If you’ve paid a visit to the Norco Bikes website over the past month or so, you will have noticed something. Or perhaps that is, you noticed that something was missing…
For the 2017 model year, Norco has introduced a couple of new models, including a full suspension version of the Torrent plus bike, and the Optic 120mm travel trail bike. In the longer travel All Mountain and Enduro arenas however, there’s a distinct lack of options to be found on the website. For both the Sight (140mm travel) and the Range (160mm travel), there are only alloy models listed for 2017. No carbon frame models are present anywhere on the Norco website.
On the homepage though, you’ll find two teaser videos. The first one is titled “Enduro – Coming February 2017”
Not a huge amount of clues in that video, but the hallowed words “game changer” are uttered, so perhaps there’s something big coming? Because no one’s ever exaggerated with that term right??
Regardless, it signals that Norco will have a new enduro bike due for February, and it’s pretty obvious this will be the new Range that Sam Blenkinsop and the Norco EWS team will be piloting for their racing endeavours. So what’s going to be different about it?
Obviously, there are two riders in the video, and the bikes are both different colours to the other. Sure, different spec models are always different colours right? Well, we pulled a crappy screen grab from Norco’s teaser video, and we’re going to take a stab in the dark; it looks like the leading bike may have bigger wheels than the trailing bike. Is Norco going to drop a Range 29er? Or is that just a trick of the video?
True or otherwise, it’s not too big of a stretch to imagine such an idea. With other brands including Trek, Specialized and Evil offering big-travel 29ers, and more EWS riders racing with the big wheels, Norco’s EWS team could indeed be doing the same. Bear in mind that the 2017 Norco Optic range is available in both 27.5in and 29in wheelsizes, so perhaps Norco will be rolling the dual-wheelsize choice through into the 160mm travel Range as well?
In addition to Norco’s teaser videos that have been kicking around for a few weeks, we spotted this snap on Bryn Atkinson’s Instagram feed from three weeks ago;
Look closely at the bike Bryn has posted, then look at the screen grab from the teaser video again. Same black and white colour scheme huh? Or is that just a ploy by Norco, and all it is, is a 2016 Norco Range that’s been painted up differently? It certainly looks similar, with a beefy carbon front end and that shapely tapered head tube. Norco’s four-bar A.R.T suspension linkage is clearly present, but we’re guessing it will receive updates such as Metric shock sizing and Boost 148x12mm dropouts.
Then there was this video of Bryn Atkinson and Jill Kitner that went live last week on the internet, and Bryn is aboard that black and white Range again. Is Norco teasing the new carbon Range under our noses? Or is this another dummy bike to get us all crossed up?
Digging further, we’ve just found some additional photos of Norco EWS team rider Sam Blenkinsop aboard a single crown enduro bike during a recent downhill race in Christchurch, New Zealand. The above photo is a front-on shot of Blenki, and from this snap we can tell that there’s a a long-looking Fox 36 up front and quite a large diameter wheel…
We’ve also got a better side-on photo courtesy of Studio Latawiec, who was shooting the race. It’s the same bike and the same course, just a better angle of Blenki’s prototype enduro bike.
Now look closely at the bike. Bear in mind that Blenki is 190cm tall and normally fits an XL bike, then have a closer look at the size of those disc rotors and cassette relative to the rest of the wheel. Looks pretty 29ish to us! As we’ve seen with Bryn Atkinson’s sled, the prototype Norco shown in the above photo uses the same four-bar A.R.T suspension design, with a horst-style chainstay pivot below the rear axle, and a carbon fibre seat stay. Blenki’s bike is also running Fox 36 forks and a Fox X2 rear shock, and the carbon fibre front triangle uses a large connection behind the head tube that offers the downtube sufficient clearance for the fork crown.
So we can say with a certain degree of confidence that Norco has both a 27.5in and a 29in Range that’ll be coming out in February. The fact that all the above bikes have been spotted in carbon fibre would suggest that we’re seeing bikes that are close to production, so who knows what’s being finalised between now and early 2017.
In addition to the new Range enduro bike, Norco will also be launching a new All Mountain bike a little sooner in January. This is likely to be the new Sight, which with 140mm of travel, sits underneath the Range. We have fewer clues for the new Sight, so we had to resort to another crummy screen grab to get a rough idea of what’s going on here;
Again, not a whole lot to give away. It does look like the new Sight retains the same general layout as the outgoing model, which has remained largely unchanged since 2013. There’s the four-bar A.R.T linkage, with a one-piece rocker link activating the rear shock. Like the Range, we’d expect this new bike will feature Metric shock sizing and an update to Boost 148x12mm dropouts.
That last point is important, because the Boost system has been an important technology for the progression of modern full suspension 29ers. The offset Boost drivetrain allows engineers to increase tyre clearance and shorten chain stays, allowing for a stiffer and more responsive back end. And by the looks of the above screen grab, that blue bike certainly looks like it has wagon wheels.
What do you reckon? Can you see anymore clues in the videos? What do you think might change with the new bikes? Or perhaps you’ve got a hot lead for us?