Hannah checks out the 2019 Norco Fluid FS 1, a sub £2k full suspension bike.
Norco is sold exclusively in the UK by Evans cycles, and at this price point with that high street access, this is likely a bike that will catch the eye of many first time buyers. With a parade of bling coming through the door for test, it’s refreshing to have a bike that I might actually be able to afford. How would it compare to all the high end bikes I’d been riding?
The Fluid FS1 is an alloy framed bike with 120mm rear and 130mm front travel. Our test bike is a size Medium, with 29in wheels. If you’re going for a Large or XL, you’ll get 29in wheels, while a Small comes with 27.5in. At Medium, you can choose either wheel size. The seat tube is just 420mm meaning there is lots of room to size up if you wanted to go longer. Small and Medium-sized bikes get a 66° head angle, L to XL a 66.5°. All bikes have an effective seat tube angle of 76°.
It’s a really good looking frame which really outshines its price point – it’s tidy and subtle and really doesn’t look like any corners have been cut on the finish.
The build kit is great for the price too. A Revelation RC up front with a short stroke RockShox Deluxe Debonair at the back provide the bounce, while SRAM Guide T brakes keep things in control. A SRAM Eagle NX drivetrain provides as many gears as you’ll get on the blingiest of bikes, and WTB Trail Boss tyres adorn the WTB STP i29 and Novate hubs.
How does all that translate to performance on the trail?
With a reach of 440mm on the Medium, it’s not a super long aggressive bike, but fitted my 175cm height well enough. It’s got a pretty low standover, so sizing up would likely be an option if you wanted to go longer. As a trail bike, rather than an enduro bike, this reach felt fine.
The shock is quite a light tune, and it took a bit to get the shock set up right, with me eventually opting for more air than recommended for my (not that heavy 65kg) weight. The fork took a bit of faff too, and seemed to need some bedding in time. After a few test rides I found it sat rather low in the travel, sucking down by 1cm or more. I took it apart in an effort to see if there was a blocked transfer port, but even after this service it still sat lower than I’d have liked. Had this been a recent purchase, I’d have skipped the home dismantling job and taken it back to my bike shop for a full check. But that’s just my experience with this one fork on this one bike. Let’s move on.
Set up and ready to go, I took it on a range of mile munching XC rides, technical local descents, and even a big uplift day at Bike Park Wales. On the pedally stuff I was really impressed with how well it climbed, finding I was staying at the head of the pack even on group rides with gravel riders, despite the lack of lock out. The bike felt balanced and natural, with a comfortable ride position.
Heading to Bike Park Wales for a day of uplift, I was impressed at just how well the bike took to the fast trails. I started off with a blue run, but by the end of the day was leaping down red runs with drop offs and jumps all the way. With extra air in the shock than my weight would have suggested, the bike seemed to handle everything reasonably well, although I would bottom out the travel on bigger drops. I wouldn’t buy this bike if I was going to do this kind of stuff on a regular basis, but for occasional intense use like this or accommodating progression it did admirably well. The ride was pretty comfortable, not causing me undue fatigue on the arms even on a weekend of descending.
Where this bike sits more comfortably is with its wheels on the ground, or on smaller drops. It’s designed as a trail bike, and that’s where it is happiest. With the WTB Trail Boss tyres, it’s happier still on hard pack or dry trails – these tyres are practically allergic to mud, and indeed are designed as a rear tyre for dry conditions to be paired with the WTB Vigilante up front. Also rather sensitive to mud was the SRAM NX Eagle, which was inclined to change up but not down the block in grimy conditions. Regular cleaning should take care of the NX Eagle issue, but I think you’d do well to consider investing in alternative tyres – especially for the front – if you’re likely to encounter any mud at speed. You may also want to invest in switching to a tubeless set up – I experienced more punctures than usual on these tyres, probably a reflection that they were the ‘light’ casing model rather than the (heavier) ‘tough’ model.
The SRAM Guide T 4-pot brakes worked well and stood up to the rigours of repeated long and fast descents at Bike Park Wales, and I had no problems with the Trans X dropper post during the test – indeed the actuator is pleasingly large and ergonomic for a bike at this budget. A slight niggle is the shifter and front brake are on separate brackets rather than a Matchmaker, making it a touch hard for my thumb to reach the shifter and brake as I would ideally like.
The only real mechanical I encountered was the repeated loosening of the shock mount bolts. They didn’t appear to have been treated to any Loctite, and my multi-tool fix on the trail came free again. After a bit of attention with ‘proper’ tools in the workshop, things stayed put rather better, but I made sure to keep checking before every ride (which, you should be doing anyway, but still…).
This bike will likely better suit the lighter rider – both in weight and abuse terms. It would make a great bike for anyone looking to mix up XC with occasional bike park descents, offering a capability that will accommodate progression from green and blue graded trails through to red. It’s not going to get you out of trouble on a tricky red run like some full suspension bikes will, but if you gradually up what you ride as you get the skills, the bike will grow with you. That and the price might tempt you into buying it for a teenager, but I’d suggest that for rowdier riders with an eye on airtime you would do better to look for something with more robust tyres and a less light shock tune.
Three Things That Could Be Improved
- A slightly beefier tune to the shock would help broaden the appeal of this bike
- A front tyre with more grip and less of a mud allergy would improve confidence
- Loctite on the shock mounts would be good.
Three Things We Loved
- Pedalling! It has a stable platform that keeps the bike skipping along nicely.
- The neat and subtle finish of the frame belies the price.
- Well rounded spec for the money
With a finish this neat, expect plenty of ‘I thought it was carbon’ comments. This is a sound package of frame and parts that will reward the lighter rider with a decent all-rounder that will pedal for miles while tackling the occasional big descent.
- Frame // Fluid FS 6061 Alloy Frame 120mm
- Fork // Rock Shox Revelation RC 130mm
- Shock // Rockshox Deluxe R Debonair
- Wheels // WTB STP i29 TCS on Novatec hubs
- Tyres // WTB Trail Boss G2 2.6 TCS/Light/High Grip
- Cranks // SRAM NX Eagle
- Rear mech //SRAM NX Eagle 12spd
- Shifter // SRAM NX Eagle 12Spd MMX
- Cassette //SRAM PG 1230 Eagle 11/50 Cassette
- Brakes // SRAM Guide T 180mm
- Stem // TranzX 6061 Alloy 50mm
- Bar // TranzX 6061 DB Alloy 780mm
- Grips // VP Lock On Grip
- Seatpost // TranzX YSP18 Stealth Dropper Post 31.6mm
- Saddle // Norco XC Saddle
- Size Tested // Medium
- Sizes Available // S, M, L, XL
- Weight // 15.07kg/ 33lb, 3oz
- RRP // £1,950
|Product:||Fluid FS 1|
|Tested:||by Hannah for 4 months|