RRP: $5,599

“The Norco Fluid FS A1 was something of a revelation.”

I was looking forward to getting on the bike. Some mates in Australia had almost convinced me to get a Norco a few years back and, while I didn’t follow their advice, I was curious to find out what they were on about – and what I was missing out on.

I spent a month and a half on it – riding every other day, trying to figure out what made it feel so good.

As a representative of today’s mid-price mountain bike, it is a great example. Whether you think a hair over five and a half grand is mid-priced depends on a lot of things, but in a world of five figure builds, some of which start with a two, it seems pretty economical.

The first thing that needs saying is how good the bike looks. Obviously subjective, but a sparkly green paint job with chrome stickers does it for me.

It’s a very nice piece of design and execution. Subtly formed tubes, seamless junctions, and that lustrous paint job look really great.

The rear end finish is industrial by contrast – no effort has been made to smooth out the welds. Again, personal opinion, but I like that.

The Norco fitout has quality where it counts. Suspension is handled by Fox FLOAT components at both ends. The Factory 34 GRIP2 fork gives 140mm travel up front, and the X Performance Elite shock provides 130mm at the back end – pretty much the perfect setup for most trail riding.

The ultra-reliable Shimano XT drivetrain pairs up with a Praxis G2 crankset, with a 30 tooth chainring driving a 10-51 XT cassette. They even spec’d an XT chain.

The less critical parts are not from the big guys, or flashy boutique brands. As you might expect, they are from the more budget oriented end of things.

But that doesn’t mean they are not up to the job.

TRP supplied the brakes and the seat dropper. The brakes are Trail EVO, a four piston design hauling on a 203mm rotor up front and a 180 at the back. They worked really well while I was on the bike. The seat dropper was also well-behaved, and generous in both width at 34.9mm and travel, a handy 170mm on the Medium and Large size bikes.

While we are on that subject, the bike comes in five sizes, S to XXL, with a few tweaks along the size range. The S comes with 170mm cranks, the rest of the line-up have 175s. The seat dropper moves 150mm on the S, and 200mm on the XL and XXL.

The wheel set has Stan’s Flow S1 rims on boost hubs, and come fitted with Vittoria tyres.

So, that is the basic stuff you could find online out of the way. A bit more of a web- crawl would reveal some very positive information from the bike media – the machine is Pinkbike’s Value Bike of the Year, Vital MTB’s Bike of the Year, and Bicycling Magazine’s Best Value Trail Bike.

All good.

The stuff you can’t find online is what I thought of it.

My first ride was out the door and onto a fairly long singletrack climb. The bike is not particularly light, mid 15s in kilograms. It feels light, though. The suspension design and shock combine to make a solid pedalling platform, and the bike goes uphill as well as any bike with the handicap of having me on top of it.

A steep 76.6 degree seat tube put me in the ideal position for climbing a trail that has a lot of little obstacles and tight turns.

Turning directly into a downhill trail at the top of the first climb was a snap decision – this particular trail is a favourite, because it is at the top end of what I consider to be within my comfort zone. Normally I would go somewhere else until I felt at home on a strange new bike, but the Norco felt very familiar from the first few pedal strokes.

As much as climbing on the bike felt better than the weight would have you expect, going downhill was better than the mid-travel suspension promised.

Going down the trail, the bike was surefooted, relaxed, and felt quietly capable. The rear suspension is a very solid feeling platform and the long 480mm reach, (in size large), combined with a fairly slack 65 degree head tube, made everything I came across on the trails I like easy to ride with confidence.

The tyres were new to me, although Vittoria and I go way back – like, almost fifty years – to a couple of pairs of track tubulars I liked in a previous life. I have been very happy with a couple of sets of road tyres from the bicycle-only tyre company, but I had never tried their mountain bike rubber before.

The bike came with a 2.4 Mazza on the front and a 2.35 Martello on the rear. I think part of the sprightly feeling the bike had on the climbs and rolling along cross country trails may be down to them. Like the bike, they are not particularly light, and they are not the fastest rolling tyres around, but they were reliable on the fairly wet trails we encountered during my time aboard the Fluid.

I found the more I rode it, the more I liked it.

The Fluid is a bike that straddles the divide between a cross-country style bike and a more enduro oriented rig. For an all-day ride with a bit of everything, it’s hard to imagine what it could do better.

This article is taken from:NZ Mountain Biker, Issue #111

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