For the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of soaking up some (much needed) Vitamin D during a holiday Down Under in Australia. Aside from the obligatory family and local pub catch-ups, it was also an opportunity to take a smug, momentary pause from the grimness of the UK winter.
But having left nearly two years ago when my wife and I sold our car, our furniture and donated the vast majority of our material possessions, I now no longer own any mountain bikes in Oz. Which is just a weird feeling in general, but also wholly inconvenient when I go back to visit. Given there was absolutely zero chance I’d be passing up the opportunity to put tyres onto dusty trails during our holiday, I was in need of some wheels for this trip.
Prior to boarding a big jumbo jet, I got in touch with Advance Traders (the Australian distributor for BMC, Merida and Norco), who very kindly offered up a 2018 Norco Sight Carbon for me to razz about on during my stay. Though because my holidays are never really only a holiday, I decided I wasn’t just going to ride this bike, but that I’d have a good ol’ go at testing it too.
Line Of Sight
For those unfamiliar with the name, the Sight is Norco’s 140mm travel trail bike. It sits between the shorter-travel Optic and the longer-travel Range, and it plays in the same class as the Orange Five, Giant Trance, Cannondale Trigger and Specialized Stumpjumper.
Thanks to its robust construction and value-oriented build kits, the Sight has been a well-loved model in the Norco range since it was debuted in 2011. It first featured 26in wheels, before being rejigged for a 650B option in 2013. Aside from the addition of a carbon model though, the Sight has largely been left untouched since then.
That is, until now.
A couple of years ago, in a land far, far away (Canada eh?) Norco’s designers opened up a fresh CAD document and got rolling on a redesign. The goal was to bring the bike up to date with things like Boost spacing, internal cable routing and metric shock sizing. But there was more to it than that. Norco wanted to better separate the Sight from the Range, which had previously been treading a little on each other’s toes.
The plan? To keep the Sight as the versatile, pedal-able, do-it-all trail bike, while repurposing the Range for flat-out enduro racing.
Released last year, the all-new Sight is available in both alloy and carbon frame options. Depending on where you are in the world, there’s about four different spec levels with each frame material, starting at £2300 GBP ($3600 AUD) for the Sight A3, and going up to £4200 ($6799 AUD) for the Sight C2 here. If you’re reading this from Australia however, there’s an even higher-spec’d Sight C1, which goes for a cool $8999 AUD.
Just like the new Optic and Range, the Sight is also available in two wheelsize options. If you fit a medium or bigger, you can choose between 27.5in or 29in wheels. If you’re a Small or X-Small size though, it’s 27.5in wheels only. Suspension travel differs slightly between wheelsizes; the 29er Sight has 10mm less travel at either end, with a 140mm travel fork, and 130mm out back.
As Barney had already tested a 29in alloy Sight for Issue 115 of Singletrack Magazine, I figured it would be a good opportunity to test out the carbon version with the smaller 27.5in wheels.
And so here we are.
If you squint from a distance, the new Sight really doesn’t look too far different from the old one. Get closer though, and you’ll start to spot the differences.
In terms of geometry, the numbers have been massaged ever-so-slightly to bring things up to date. The head angle kicks back half a degree to 66.5°, the seat angle has pushed forward a full degree to 74.5°, and the bottom bracket now sits 5mm lower to the ground. Reach has grown around 10mm per frame size, and that means the overall wheelbase has stretched out a bit.
The smooth carbon frame is both lighter and sleeker than the old one. The integrated seat clamp is gorgeous, and the Gizmo internal cable ports tidy up the routing, while keeping the cables tight and rattle-free in the frame when you tighten down the port covers. There’s plenty of space inside the mainframe for a water bottle and potentially a small frame bag, while the lightly dropped top tube helps to increase standover clearance.
Compared to the alloy Sight, the carbon frame is claimed to have dropped 530g of mass, which is nothing to be sneezed at. Norco has retained the alloy chainstays though, which use a complex forged chainstay yoke that proved difficult (and expensive) enough to reproduce in carbon that the minor weight savings were simply not worth it. Chainstays tend to get hammered over the life of a mountain bike though, so I’m happy to see metal there.
I love the look of the expansive carbon dropouts though, which are equipped with a flush bolt-up rear axle. Boost spacing has helped Norco’s engineers increase clearance for up to 2.5in wide tyres, and potentially a 2.6in tyre depending on the specific tyre and rim combo. For those living in moister climates, there’s adequate mud room surrounding the stock 2.3in Minion DHR II rear tyre.
While all Sight models come spec’d with 1x drivetrains, the frame is (perhaps surprisingly) 2x compatible. An anodized alloy plate bolts onto ISCG 05 tabs, and allows you to mount an S3 direct-mount front derailleur. Or in the case of this test bike, a very neat (and lightweight) One Up chainguide. The 92mm wide bottom bracket shell relies on press-fit bearing cups, though thankfully this area remained creak free throughout testing, even with all the dust the bike copped.
As for the suspension, the general look of the A.R.T four-bar layout remains, but it’s actually quite different. According to Norco’s Marketing Manger, Chris Cook; “the goal for the new Sight was to improve suspension performance while pedaling, slightly reduce pedal kick-back, as well as separate our Sight and Range kinematics, as earlier versions were quite close.”
Norco has gone about this by lifting up the rear chainstay pivot, so there’s less chain growth as the suspension compresses. With reduced interference between chain tension and suspension movement, the shock is more freely able to absorb bumps whether you’re pedalling or coasting. Speaking of the shock, it’s now of the Metric-sized variety, and uses a trunnion bearing mount at the rocker linkage. It’s more compact overall for the 55mm stroke length, while also offering better small-bump sensitivity. Oh, and if you want to upgrade to a bigger piggyback shock in the future, there’s now clearance to do so.
Norco has clearly been to SRAM’s One Stop Component Shop, as the Sight C2 is dressed head to toe with RockShox suspension, a SRAM Eagle 1×12 drivetrain, Guide RS brakes, and a Reverb dropper post. Personally I would have preferred to see a 150mm travel Reverb (you only get that on the L and XL frame sizes), and the old plunger remote feels like a backwards step now that I’ve gotten used to the dedicated Reverb 1x remote.
All-up the Medium Sight C2 test bike weighed in at 13.54kg (29.78lb) without pedals and with inner tubes fitted. As I was away from my usual workshop I didn’t have the option to go tubeless, but all you need is valves and sealant, since the Race Face ARC 30 rims come pre-taped for tubeless setup. Expect the bike weight to get closer to 13kg once the tubes have been removed.
The wheelset itself gets two thumbs up from me. The ARC 30 rims can be a bit dint-able if you’re indecorous on rocky terrain, but they’re smooth to ride and the 30mm inner width gives good tyre sidewall support. Norco has used high quality DT Swiss 350 hubs with a 36t Star Ratchet freehub mechanism, and easily replaceable J-bend spokes and external brass nipples for the build. High quality 3C triple compound rubber tyres from Maxxis complete the excellent rolling package.
For the few weeks I was in Victoria, I packed in a load of riding with just shy of 200km clocked up by the time I had to hand the bike back (that’s 124 miles for ye olde imperial types). I spent most of my time riding trails around Melbourne, Harcourt, Bendigo and up in the high country in Bright. Conditions throughout were hot, dry, dusty and rocky, with not a shred of moisture to be seen anywhere. I was 100% ok with this.
While I didn’t have the resources to make any alterations to the bike such as swapping tyres or messing around with suspension internals, to be honest I never really felt the need to change anything – this bike fits and rides superbly straight out of the box.
The reach on the medium size is conservative at 427mm, but it fitted my 175cm height well with a near-perfect cockpit setup. I did have to remind myself on several occasions I was hanging onto 800mm wide bars though, as they fit into your hands so naturally that it never feels like you’re actually running what is essentially a downhill-width handlebar. Until you smash them into a tree…
While rough on the delicate skin of my bare hands (wear gloves – problem solved), the high-traction and subtly tapered SDG grips deserve a shout-out for being comfortable without being too fat or feeling overtly ‘ergonomic’.
The steepish seat angle provides a good pedalling position without too much weight shifting required, though I did tilt the saddle nose down in order to help stabilise my pelvis and straighten out my lower back for seated climbing on steeper gradients.
Unlike more downhill-focussed trail bikes, the Sight climbs remarkably well. The efficient A.R.T suspension design keeps energy loss to a minimum, and I never felt the need to flick the shock’s compression switch, instead preferring to leave it wide open the entire time.
I found the Sight to be just as happy cruising up long fireroad stretches as it is darting up and around 180° switchbacks. And if things get techy, the stiff frame and steady suspension assist quick power moves when you need to punch up and over something craggy and steep.
Pedal clearance in these situations is great, and along with that sticky Minion DHR II rear tyre, I found I could make it up some pretty difficult sections where other riders around me on slacker trail and enduro bikes were having to bail out and walk.
Much like the cockpit, suspension setup on the Sight is a doddle – particularly with RockShox’ anodized sag gradients. 155psi got me to 30% sag on the rear shock, and while setting the rebound damping halfway felt pretty good to begin with, I gradually slowed it down a few clicks and settled on three clicks off full slow. Inside the shock, Norco has selected a medium rebound tune and a light compression tune from RockShox, with three Bottomless Tokens inside.
And in use, it is absolutely spot-on.
It’s smooth, and while I wouldn’t say it’s the butteriest bike I’ve ridden, it has great sensitivity that keeps the tyres stuck to the ground. The Sight takes bigger hits well, and while I certainly used full travel on plenty of occasions, it was never with a harsh bottom-out thanks to the gentle ramp-up towards the end of the travel. The steadily progressive spring curve also means the Sight holds onto its travel very well, so there’s no mushiness or feeling of getting lost in the mid-stroke.
You push into the pedals and the suspension pushes back. It’s poppy and lively – just as a good trail bike should be.
That playful feel extends throughout the Sight’s geometry, which has harnessed the inherent agility of 27.5in wheels to great effect. Part of this is due to the moderate reach measurement (some bikes in this travel bracket, like the popular Whyte T-130, can be up to 20mm longer than the Sight), which ensures that the front centre isn’t obscenely long. The stiff frame is also well-braced from front-to-back, so handling inputs reach their endpoints without lag.
The 430mm long chainstays on the medium frame are nice and compact, and when you’re seated on the bike with the suspension sagged, the BB hovers at just 29.5cm off the ground, which is quite low. Because the suspension is so efficient and stable though, only poor technique could be blamed for the occasional pedal strike. Otherwise the Sight’s grounded feel and tight back end encourages you to spring off of lips and kick out of berms.
The sticky Maxxis tyres encourage spirited lean angles, with the large shoulder blocks staying nice and supported even at sub-20psi pressures. The DHR II definitely isn’t the quickest tyre, but its traction levels on loose, rocky and soggy conditions makes it one of the best aggressive trail tyres going. If I was riding this bike back in the UK, I’d likely fit one up front too.
Although the Sight isn’t the uber-long and slack enduro bike that the Range is, thanks to the excellent spec and the stable suspension, it does pretty darn well to hold its composure on steeper and faster descents. The big 800mm wide bars and chunky 150mm travel fork lend an air of dependability over the front of the Sight’s cockpit, encouraging you to push your weight through the grips and into the front tyre. The Pike is supple like the rear suspension, but more importantly, it’s supportive thanks to the DebonAir spring design that has boosted mid-stroke support over the 2017 Pike. Even with the low-speed compression damping left wide open, the Pike avoids excessive diving into its travel, keeping the bars level and avoiding any sensation of ‘pitching’.
On some of the faster and steeper descents around Bright, I was wishing for a little more stability that I’m guessing would be present with the 29in version of the Sight. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to back up this test with a ride on a bigger-wheeled Sight, but given the geometry is near-identical between the two, I suspect that would be a ripper of a trail bike too, and perhaps one with a little more straight-line capability for tackling rougher and tougher trails again.
‘Durability’ is probably not the best way to describe the most unfortunate issue I encountered with the Sight C2 test bike. Extremely bad luck would be a much more apt way to describe it. Whilst propped up with a stick during the bog-standard photo shoot procedure (the one I’ve done a zillion times before), a light gust of wind caught the bike and tipped it off its perch, where it fell over onto a particularly craggy section of rock, with inconveniently pick-axe like protrusions. The fall left the non-drive side seatstay and downtube scratched up a bit, but it was the hefty gouge and a small hairline crack in the top tube that led to the “OH F**K” that came bellowing out of my gob.
This occurred early on during the test, and I ended up riding the Sight C2 without issue for the remainder of the test period (not that Norco or I would recommend any rider to do this). Any visual damage like this should immediately be inspected to identify the severity of the impact, and if the damage is fatal, either that part of the frame will need to be replaced, or potentially repaired by an authorised carbon repair service.
Though all Sight models come with a 5-year warranty that covers manufacturing defects, crash damage is obviously not covered by that. For crash damage like what our test bike encountered, Norco does have a crash replacement scheme that reads directly from the website as follows:
“Accidents can happen and you may need to replace your damaged frame. Norco provides a crash replacement program that is available only to the original registered owner or secondary owner from an authorized Norco Bicycles Resort or Rental Partner and within the frame warranty period, providing the bicycle was registered within 90 days of purchase. See above under Ownership – Register Your Bike. For a frame damaged due to an accident, at its discretion Norco will make a replacement available at a discount to the registered original owner – see your authorized Dealer for warranty requirements and complete details.”
So there you go.
I guess the two questions in your mind right now are; ‘would this have happened to another brand’s carbon frame?’, and ‘would it have happened to an alloy frame?‘. I honestly have no way of knowing the answer to either of those questions, but given the sharp, concentrated force of impact, it seems entirely likely. That aside, it does suck somewhat that just a simple fall has been enough to write-off a brand new multi-thousand pound/dollar carbon frame. At the end of the day though, shit happens, and it can happen pretty frequently if you ride mountain bikes. At the very least, consider this a timely reminder to pay attention to your bike, to register it with the brand/shop you bought it from, and consider a bicycle-specific insurance scheme if you think you’re particularly crash-prone.
Right then, embarrassing mishaps aside, onwards to the other bits on the bike…
While the action was nice and snappy, the Reverb developed a small amount of squish when at full extension, which was mildly annoying, if a somewhat occasional reality of some IFP-powered dropper posts. A full damper rebuild/bleed is usually what’s required to rectify this pseudo-suspension action, though it’s likely this issue would be covered under RockShox’ standard 2-year warranty.
As we’ve found with SRAM GX Eagle, it took some fiddling to get it all setup correctly. Though to be frank, the shifting was horrible to begin with. The chain was too long, so I removed a link to tighten it up, spent some time getting the limit screws and B-tension dialled in, and straightened out the slightly flexy alloy mech hanger. Once all that was done, the shifting returned to the level that we’ve come to expect from SRAM’s 1×12 drivetrains. GX Eagle still isn’t as crisp as X01 or XX1, which I think comes down to the derailleur cage being a little less stiff. But it worked absolutely fine and was reliable for the remainder of the test.
I did experience a bit of pulsing from the SRAM Guide RS disc brakes from the first ride, which was likely due to an improper bed-in procedure by whomever rode the bike before me. Also of note is that the Guide R and RS brakes seem to be quite sensitive to pad wear, so the lever blades can end up with a lot of throw if you run the reach in a lot like I do. Even with bleeding, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot you can do there to shorten the dead stroke, so it’s something I’ve just learned to put up with.
Three Things That Could Be Improved
- More colour! The all-black look is slick, but it’s kind of been done to death already. Let’s spice it up a bit eh Norco?
- Get rid of those heavy tubes and go tubeless. The tyres and rims are ready for it, and rolling speed will be improved with the drop in rotational mass
- Having gotten used to the new 1x remote, the old Reverb plunger feels dated and awkward to use
Three Things We Loved
- Playful and spirited handling that harnesses the best attributes of 27.5in wheels and makes this bike a cornering fetishist.
- Efficient pedalling makes the Sight a true ride-all-day trail bike that laughs at lazy shuttle-addicts
- The spec is absolutely dialed straight out of the box, and leaves very little need for upgrades
The Norco Sight C2 is a fast, nimble and spirited trail bike that fills the very broad range of requirements between a dedicated XC racer, and a full-blown enduro bike. It isn’t the most slacked-out trendsetter in this travel bracket, but what it lacks in outright descending speed it more than makes up for with efficient climbing and its handling capabilities on twisty, natural terrain.
It’s fun to ride, intuitive to corner, and it operates within a wide spectrum of riding speeds and trail types – you don’t need to be riding it at full tilt just to get it to wake up. And in my eyes, that it makes it a more versatile bike overall.
2018 Norco Sight C2 650B Specifications
- Frame // Carbon Fibre w/Hydroformed Alloy Chainstays, 140mm Travel
- Fork // RockShox Pike RCT3, 150mm Travel
- Shock // RockShox Deluxe RT DebonAir
- Hubs // DT Swiss 350, 110x15mm Front & 148x12mm Rear
- Rims // Race Face ARC 30, Tubeless Compatible, 30mm Internal Rim Width
- Tyres // Maxxis Minion DHF 3C EXO 2.3in Front & Minion DHR II 3C EXO 2.3in Rear
- Chainset // SRAM GX Eagle, 32T X-Sync 2 Chainring
- Rear Mech // SRAM GX Eagle, 12-Speed
- Shifter // SRAM GX Eagle, 12-Speed
- Cassette // SRAM GX Eagle, 12-Speed, 10-50t
- Brakes // SRAM Guide RS, 180mm Front & Rear
- Stem // Race Face Aeffect R 35, 60mm Long
- Bars // Race Face Turbine R 35, 20mm Rise, 800mm Wide
- Grips // SDG Stage 1 Lock-On
- Seatpost // RockShox Reverb Stealth, 31.6mm, 100mm Travel (XS/S), 125mm (M), 150mm (L/XL)
- Saddle // SDG Fly Mtn
- Size Tested // Medium
- Sizes available // X-Small, Small, Medium & Large
- RRP // £4200 GBP / $6799 AUD