Since 2016, our team riders have chosen to ride and race on Norco Revolver frames. We moved from Bianchi after 2015 as the Australian importer was no longer importing the high end mountain bikes. Choosing a new frame was both fun and difficult. What to pick? What’s available? What can we afford? What features are the most important? But hey, new bike day!
The Norco Revolver 29 FS won out, and after getting wind of a new Revolver as far back as September 2017, there has been some anticipation around getting onto the new bikes we have now.
I was lucky to get onto a 2020 Revolver for a pre-release ride in December 2018, and since we bought new frames in July, I took a closer look at some of the features of the new frames. As noted, they are longer, slacker, stiffer and can be setup as 120mm front and rear or 100mm at each end. So if you’re caught up on some back reading via those links, here’s a look at how we specced our bikes for late 2019 onwards.
Team spec Norco Revolvers
Firstly, we opted for a Shimano build. Our team his primarily used Shimano XT and XTR parts since 2012, and had sponsorship via Shimano Australia since 2017. While XTR M9000 was slick and super reliable, and the XTR M9050 Di2 variant was purely amazing, the gear range of XTR M9100 has been hard to ignore.
10-51 is there to grab headlines with a 510% gear range, with 10-45 billed as a great range for even faster shifting. But you know what, we are all loving the 10-51. Given the range you often need for marathons and stage races, or training for them in the hills, it’s a really versatile gear range and so far none of us would consider the smaller cassette, even thought the shorter rear derailleur offers more ground clearance and lower weight.
What’s interesting, is when swapping Imogen’s group set from her previous Revolver, I had to take not one, but two links out of the chain, to account for the shorter chain stay length on the new bike!
We have been riding with 34t chain rings (although the photo above has the 32t stock ring fitted to Justin’s bike) and the 34×10-51t range has found no limits… yet.
The Shimano XTR M9100 brakes are a different choice for Justin and I, as we opted for the XTR Trail brakes previously. The levers do away with the reach adjust and don’t have the ServoWave feature. The caliper is also lighter, and the pads are a smaller size than on the previous XTR brakes.
We have all recently upgraded the pads to finned metal pads due to the Swiss Epic and XCM World Championships coming up. To be frank they were a bit fussy once fitted as the pads didn’t retract as easily to run drag free without a little bit more finessing than expected. They have settled down after a couple of rides. We are also running 180mm front rotors, and while Imogen is likely to drop back to 160 once home, Justin and I might stay on 180mm front for the extra power.
Everything is stock Shimano XTR M9100 otherwise. Cranks are non-series MT900, and we all have different ceramic bottom brackets. Imogen has a lovely Ceramic Speed coated bearing unit, I have a c-Bear, and Justin has a trusty Kogel.
We are using Fox suspension. Again, it’s something we have exclusively used as a team since 2012, through sponsorship great support. There have been times where we have used other items. Imogen raced on a SID in 2016 when her Fox 32 got stuck in a courier logistics loop as the courier kept scanning an old delivery docket on the re-used fork box. And we have tended for KS Lev Ci dropper posts as they are light and we had already bought some – but overall Fox has been the suspension of choice, and the Fox 32 SC and 34 SC perfectly match what we need.
Although the Norco Revolver is built around a 51mm offset fork, we are using a 44mm offset fork. Imogen and I are using a push to unlock lever for the Fox DPS rear shock, while Justin uses push to lock. Imogen and I also have the longer stroke (190×45) shocks on hand to make our bikes 120mm, and to pair with the Fox 34 SC 120mm forks we bought for The Pioneer.
The lock out levers sit under the bar, and annoyingly the rear lock out needs to come into the frame on the same side, so it doesn’t wrap around the frame neatly. Each port behind the head tube can only take two outers. Without a dropper it would go on the right with the rear brake.
Justin and I are using the Shimano iSpec EV dropper lever which sits neatly behind the lock out. Imogen runs a KS carbon over the bar dropper remote and runs it closer to her grips, same with the lock out remote – it sits between the brake clamp and where it rests closer to the lever.
The dual remote lock out is a transformation to the Norco Revolver. It adds a completely different race feel to the bike, compared to using non-remote suspension like I have previously. I don’t like having so many cables, it’s cluttered even when done well – and I haven’t done it well yet, I think the routing can be improved maybe with some 3D printed hose guides for the frame.
The hoses and outers are secured in the frame, via a little plug. Basically you thread the plug onto a zip tie and have it as a big loop in the frame, and make sure everything passes through it when building the bike.
I’ve fed a different dropper outer through along the cable, forcing the older outer back with pressure. That will work for the shifter housing too but if we strip the brake out it will be a full strip to set it up again as far as I can tell. It runs quiet, but that’s a bit fussy in my mind.
The cables exit at the bottom of the down tube quite neatly, before entering the swing arm. There’s no full guiding in the swing arm but it didn’t take too long to get the hoses or outer in.
New carbon wheels
I do like carbon mountain bike wheels. Sure, they get damaged if you hit them against things without enough air. But so do light alloy rims. Understand the air pressure you need and you’re fine. We have been using a couple of different EIE carbon rims, including the set that Imogen has been riding and racing for 12 months now.
For our new wheels Imogen and I are using the A29C25D25S rims, which are 25.5mm internal, 25mm deep, and have a 4mm think rim wall. They’re about 340g each. Justin has the A29C25D25 model, which is the same but with a slightly heavier grade carbon so they are about 365g each. We all have Shimano XTR M9100 hubs (with Microspline for the cassette) and 32 holes.
Spokes are DT Revolution, nipples are DT Swiss Prolock. Alloy for Imogen and I, brass for Justin. Imogen’s and my set weigh about 1360g, Justin’s weigh about 100g more. Not bad.
We have ridden and raced Maxxis tyres since the 2011 Crocodile Trophy. The Maxxis Ikon was well-regarded so we ordered some for our team of 3, for the 10-day 1200km race. No flats in a wide range of conditions and terrain had us hooked. Since then we have tested out a lot of different Maxxis tyres – and there’s more to come when we get enough time on some of the 2.35″ options.
Right now Imogen and I are using 2.25″ EXO TR Rekons and Aspens, front and rear respectively. The 2.25″ inflate really nicely on a 25.5mm internal, as does the 2.35″ Rekon Race that I posted Justin’s bike south to Tasmania with. The Revolver can fit a 2.35″ tyre in the back now (and the Fox 32 SC handles it too) so as we all realise lower rolling resistance can come come from lower pressures, and traction can come from a bigger footprint not just big tread blocks – this might be the way we all end up going.
Cockpit and other details
Right now we all have KS Suspension Lev dropper posts in. Imogen has a 125mm drop Lev Ci, I have a 125mm drop Lev Integra (not carbon) and Justin is testing out Imogen’s 65mm drop Lev Ci to see if he finds a dropper useful or not.
We all use Mt Zoom 9 degree carbon bars, I have mine cut to 740, Imogen is about 690 and Justin runs the full 760mm. Imogen and I are using Syntace Liteforce stems as they are crazy light, at 60mm. Justin has a PRO Koryak 60mm trail stem.
Imogen uses a Tune Speedneedle, I have an older PRO saddle, and Justin uses an older model Prologo. It’s all just what we have become used to.
The frames only have one bottle placement, and you can mount it higher or lower (there are 3 bolts). The low position is a little far to reach so the higher position is a little better. However on a medium the bottle does sit against the front of the shock. It’s a bit frustrating that it wasn’t checked before production. The Fox shocks we use have a slightly smaller body than the stock RockShox units so I imagine it’s worse on those.
We use Mt Zoom side mount cages (35g) as always, and their carbon spacers as well. We used to use their through axles but the new Revolvers come with one. It threads into the large derailleur hanger which is stiff, but the spare is big. Let’s see how that goes. It’s certainly way more stout than the previous model.
All in, the new bikes are great. The frame is a lot stiffer, and the geometry is more balanced. Climbing steep switchbacks doesn’t involve lots of funny weight shifts, and it changes direction easily at speed. The reduced offset fork does make for twitchy handling at super low carpark test speeds, but it is awesome on the trail. Let’s see how it goes when racing when the Swiss Epic gets underway.