Norco are as Canadian as maple syrup-covered Mounties. Starting out as a small family business in British Columbia in 1964, the company has been Canadian-owned and operated for over fifty years, and the people who work there these days maintain the family feel. Norco’s bikes are infused with passion for the mountains and lakes that Canada’s North Shore is famous for, and which are a few minutes’ ride from their offices just outside Vancouver.
While these days the brand is pretty well-known for its mountain bikes, it was on the road that Norco first made its name, sponsoring road racing teams through the ’60s and ’70s, before BMX took over as the brand’s bread and butter market throughout the ’80s. With the 1990s, though, came mountain biking, and Norco were right in the mix, experimenting with dual suspension in 1993, before releasing a Horst link duallie in 1995 and their first VPS model in 1998.
Full suspension mountain bikes are still a major part of their offering in 2016, and with all those years of practice, it’s little surprise that they’re tuned into the needs of the market, with a complete range of duallies available (including fantastic kids’ models down to 20” wheel sizes). At the dealer show MarathonMTB.com attended, bike shop owners from around Australia were wowed by the fabulous co-ordinated paintwork in the full suspension range. Bikes splashed with bright fuchsia, bottle green, cyan, and tangerine shades set off against matte black would certainly brighten up any shop floor – let alone your garage.
But it’s one bike in particular that MarathonMTB.com were interested in. The Norco Revolver 9.1 and 9.2 are the brand’s 100mm XC/trail duallies. Built around a nicely-shaped full carbon frame and weighing in at very competitive numbers, these machines are likely to interest marathon racers and XCO whippets around the world.
MarathonMTB.com tested the Norco 9.2 FS, which is the same carbon mainframe as the 9.1 FS but specced just that one step down from 9.1’s featherweight bling (which, we’re told, weighs in at around 9.5kg when fully built).
During an extensive design and testing phase the folks at Norco stiffened the back end of the Revolver FS, which uses the standard 142×12 spacing, while lengthening the top tube and incorporating their A.R.T (Advanced Ride Technology) Horst link pivot. With more progressive leverage ratio, this design, in a nutshell, increases the stiffness of the suspension the further you sink into your travel, giving a more tuneable setup and the illusion of more travel. The frame also features a press fit BB shell, and internal cable routing with custom ‘Gizmo’ guides to stop rattling and keep dirt and water out of your frame, and, of course, internal routing for a dropper post.
Also handy for XCM racers and those long training rides is a second water bottle cage mount on the bottom of the downtube. It’s a bit awkward to get to but arguably better than riding with a hydration pack, and a rare addition to this style of bike.
The Revolver FS is available in four sizes: small, medium, large, and extra-large, and for each model vital geometry, including head angle and chainstay length, grows proportionally with frame size. Norco’s ‘size-scaled tubing’ means that riders of different sizes don’t have to compromise on handling, which is adjusted to fit in with all-over frame size. The Norcos feature a tight back-end (although they don’t use the new Boost sizing, which can produce even shorter stays), a 330mm bottom bracket height, aggressive head angle, and a short stem (the medium comes specced with a 70mm stem) – all of which contribute to great agility and responsive steering. These are teamed with a reasonably long top tube and wheelbase, as well as wide handlebars (740mm for the medium – about what you’d expect on a trail bike), which contribute stability and high-speed control.
The overall effect is a bike that climbs like a rocket and descends like a relaxed trail bike – a smart and long-overdue ride feel given the increasingly technical nature of XCO and XCM events around the world, combined with their usual power-to-weight demands. The full-suspension Norco Revolvers caused a great stir of excitement when we tested them earlier this year and are sure to garner a lot of attention at their launch at Eurobike as well.
The Revolver FS frame has been really thoughtfully designed and Norco undertook a long prototyping period to produce incredibly contemporary geometry, whose fantastic handling and responsiveness in an 1880g package proves that the 29er dual-sus race bike has finally come of age.