In Issue #115 of Singletrack Magazine, Barney tested and reviewed three alloy iterations of popular carbon fibre mountain bikes
Norco is a company that has only made an impression in the past few years here in the UK – but this company from British Columbia has been a stalwart of the Canadian scene since 1964, and its first mountain bike was made way back in 1984. So it clearly has some pedigree and fingers in a great many cycling pies.
The carbon Sight was completely redesigned in 2017, and became lower, slacker and longer than its previous iteration, as is now pretty much the norm. On Norco’s website, there’s a lavish section on the carbon Sight, with a nice animated video background and all sorts of flash animated doohickies and wotsits. By contrast, the aluminium Sight – er – site is rather more sombre and much less flashy, if you can even find it. But, like its more conspicuous carbon sister, the alloy Sight is available in two wheel sizes (27.5 and 29, in case you had any doubts, but the largest model is 29in only and the two smallest are 27.5in only. This is obviously to minimise Clownbikeitis), and in a variety of trim levels.
The bike we have to test is the Norco Sight A2. It’s a size ‘L’, it’s a 29in bike, and it looks very tidy in a silvery-grey sort of way; the carbon Sight is a pretty bike indeed, and its metal cousin is similarly blessed in the looks department.
The frame sports a lot of up-to-date angles and so forth, with a 67° head angle and a 74.1° effective seat angle (on the L). It’s worth mentioning that Norco changes a lot of angles and dimensions on its different bike sizes to cater for riders of different heights and to try to maintain the same ‘feel’.
It’s a laudable aim, and it means that as well as different seat tube angles across the size range, there are different chainstay lengths too. This so-called ‘Gravity tune’ is intended to keep the front centre and rear centre ratios constant across the range, and so the chainstays range from 430mm on the smallest 29in bike (the M) up to 440mm for the XL. Our L sits happily in the middle at 435mm.
Reach on our L bike is a generous 460mm (it’s worth bearing in mind that this measurement is the same as the YT Jeffsy elsewhere in this test, which is an XL).
And what’s that gubbins at the back? Why yes, you eagle-eyed scamp, that’ll be the rear suspension. In this case we have a FOX Performance Float shock (complete with LV and EVOL – which means extra volume in positive and negative air chambers) on rearward boinging duty giving 130mm of rear travel thanks to Norco’s ART (Advanced Ride Technology) suspension system – essentially a modification of a tried and tested multi-pivot Horst linkage. It’s optimised for All Mountain riding apparently, and Norco claims it’s great at climbing, descending and all things in between.
“But what,” I hear you cry, “of spec? What amount of gloriousness is festooned upon this metallic beauty?” Well, dear reader, I was just coming to that. A RockShox Pike RC with 140mm of travel is attached to a WTB i29 rim via a Novatec Boost hub and some spokes. And there’s a lovely Maxxis Minion DHF EXO between that lot and the ground. The rear hub is a Shimano XT boost number (with a bolted axle; no tool-less removal here), with the same rim and a Maxxis Minion DHR instead. The drivetrain is XT where you can see – shifter, rear mech – SLX where you can’t (the cassette), and RaceFace Aeffect in the crankular region. This comes blessed with a 30T chainring. Stopping is courtesy of 180mm Deore brakes front and rear.
A TransX post with 150mm of drop is attached to a SDG Fly Mtn saddle at one end and the bike at the other. In the distance is a Norco alloy 50mm stem holding Norco 35mm bars of an impressive 800mm width. These couple with the SDG Stage 1 grips to give you almost 820mm of room to play with – positively cavernous cockpit dimensions.
And now to the riding. I admit I was looking forward to swinging a leg over the Sight in earnest, as kitchen fettling elicited considerable promise. The first impression when sitting astride the bike at home was how much room I had. The Sight has a long top tube (632mm) to go with those impressive reach and bar width numbers – while it’s not quite Kona or Mondraker territory, you’re certainly not short of room, and the bottom bracket has a substantial drop of 36mm. And the Sight didn’t disappoint when I finally managed to get it outside.
The suspension design keeps the chain growth to a minimum, so there’s little bob – it’s pretty static even with the shock wide open. The Fox Float shock seems to have more mid-stroke support than similar bikes I’ve ridden with Monarchs, and it sits slightly higher in its travel. I generally found that a hair under 30% sag was optimal for me.
The wheels and tyres are relatively weighty (it’d be a fair place to scrub a little weight if you were so inclined) and indeed the whole bike is no lightweight – a fact you can feel through the pedals when you’re setting off – but once you’re up to speed the bike keeps its pace nicely, and it responds to changes in direction like a much lighter bike. On some machines you feel your speed being scrubbed off when you encounter minor trail obstacles; no such issues here. I flipped the shock onto the pedalling platform when I remembered for longer climbs, but it’s sufficiently impressive at pedalling that I frequently forgot. In more technical uphill sections it’s a blast though; it breezed up a local technical climb that has left lesser (and occasionally allegedly greater) bikes struggling.
The Sight similarly excels when things get fast and swoopy – that assurance when changing direction on the climbs also translates similarly when the Sight is coursing through singletrack. It’s well balanced enough that it can change direction intuitively, and it dispatches bike-park style berms and corners with aplomb. When things get rougher it seems to cling to the ground impressively; there’s little noticeable flex laterally and the back wheel just tracks round. Although if you do fancy getting a little lairy that balance means it’s not a problem to lift the back wheel if you need to.
Technical descending is also a hoot, although like the other bikes in the test it’s not exactly one for brainless blasting through – you’d need a chunk more travel for that.
But drop the saddle (the KS post was a quiet, capable performer), show it a little finesse, and the Sight will happily power its way down disconcertingly technical features faster than you’d expect. The confidence-inspiring width of the bars does much in this regard to prompt the cautious rider to just have a go, and those Deore brakes – while admittedly not being the sexiest of stoppers – were perfectly good at getting me out of trouble if things went not quite according to plan. That’s the thing with Deore stuff, and particularly the brakes – it’s difficult to justify anything spendier; it just works.
Any downsides? Well, it’s certainly not as light as its carbon counterpart, but then it’s certainly not the same price either.
The Sight is unquestionably an exceedingly well-designed frame, with a good selection of functional and sturdy kit, at a good price. In terms of intended use, it seems to flow along the same channels as bikes such as the YT Jeffsy on these pages, the Intense Primer or the Santa Cruz Hightower – 29ers with a medium amount of travel, that are sensibly proportioned in a sort of modern-neutral style – although this would nevertheless be seen as radical five short years ago.
But 67(ish) degree head angles and long reaches aren’t nearly the unwieldy behemoths that the nay-sayers of 2012 were wildly proclaiming they were, when they’re designed right. Bikes such as these are possibly as close to a do-it-all bike as it’s possible to get these days. The Sight climbs beautifully, descends with surprising finesse and poise, and – if you’ve got a mind – it can go bloody quickly in whichever direction you point it.
2018 Norco Sight A9.2 Specifications
- Frame // Hydroformed Alloy Tubing, 130mm Travel
- Fork // RockShox Pike RC, 140mm Travel
- Shock // Fox Float DPS EVOL Performance Series
- Hubs // Novatec Sealed Bearing, 110x15mm Front & 148x12mm Rear
- Rims // WTB STP i29 Rim, Tubeless Compatible, 29mm Internal Rim Width
- Tyres // Maxxis Minion DHF EXO 2.3in Front & Minion DHR II EXO 2.3in Rear
- Chainset // Race Face Aeffect, 30T Steel Narrow-Wide Direct Mount Chainring
- Front Mech // N/A
- Rear Mech // Shimano Deore XT Shadow Plus 11-Speed
- Shifters // Shimano Deore XT 11-Speed
- Cassette // Shimano SLX 11-Speed, 11-46t
- Brakes // Shimano Deore 180mm Front & Rear
- Stem // Alloy 6061 35mm, 50mm Long
- Bars // Norco 6061 35mm, 800mm Wide, 20mm Rise
- Grips // SDG Stage Lock-On
- Seatpost // Tranz X, 125mm Travel (Medium), 150mm Travel (Large & X-Large)
- Saddle // SDG Fly Mtn
- Size Tested // Large
- Sizes available // Medium, Large, X-Large
- Weight // 14.7kg / 32.4lbs
|From:||Evans Cycles, evanscycles.com|
|Tested:||by Barney Marsh for 3 months|