Yet more proof that £1,000 is enough for decent full-sus.
The Norco Fluid 7.3 FS makes everything feel easy. So whether you’re a total beginner or and accomplished rider it’s impossible not to have a total blast.
Norco Fluid 7.3 FS review
Two years ago, the Norco Fluid 7.3 staved off stiff competition from the likes of Giant and Boardman only to get pipped to the post by the Calibre Bossnut in our sub £1,000 full suspension test.
This year, the price of the Fluid 7.3 has crept up by £100 but the specification has also improved dramatically. Gone is the cumbersome triple chainset, replaced instead by a chain stabilizing 1×10 set-up. De-cluttering the drivetrain hasn’t just made the Norco easier on your ears however, it’s now easier on the climbs too as it’s shed almost half a kilo in weight making it the lightest bike in this test.
It’s the cheapest bike on test too but it’s also killer value for money, even if it’s missing some of the finer details like a quick release seat collar and lock on grips. Those niggles don’t distract from the Fluid’s great frame shape though, where the steep seat angle keeps your weight forward on the climbs so you can easily navigate between roots and rocks without grovelling over the stem and straining your lower back.
Another big improvement that’s come with the price increase is that the 120mm RockShox XC30 suspension fork has been upgraded to a Recon. Travel remains unchanged, but with 32mm upper tubes and a 15mm axle, steering precision is now in keeping with the attitude of the bike. It’s the exact same fork you get on the Marin Hawk Hill, but for some reason it didn’t feel as plush.
The same can’t be said of the rear suspension however. With the RockShox Monarch R shock the rear end on the Norco is supple for superb grip, neutral under braking, while providing enough support to hold you up in corners. It may only have 120mm travel but the rear suspension on the Norco was active, incredibly capable and easily the best on test.
Given that the size L Norco has a reach measurement of 452mm, similar to say a Specialized Stumpjumper, the 60mm stem is a good length for providing control for regular trail riding. It also stops the cockpit feeling too cramped with the steeper seat angle. We’ve got no complaints about the 760mm bar either, and on some trails it even proved advantageous for darting between tightly spaced trees.
The drivetrain is nigh on identical to the Marin with one subtle difference, Norco has gone for a 30t chain ring instead of a 32t, sacrificing some top end speed to save your legs and lungs on the climbs.
Last time we tested the Fluid 7.3 it had WTB Beeline tyres front and rear. We suggest that a chunky 2.3in WTB Vigilante up front would really bolster confidence in the turns and allow you to push the bike to the next level. Thankfully our request didn’t fall on deaf ears.
The Norco Fluid has no aspirations to be big-hit trail bike and it’s so much better for it making it every bit as fast up hill as it is down. That’s largely due to the dialled geometry but the superb rear suspension can’t be ignored either.
Sure it offers a comfortable ride on typical trail centre tracks, the superior sensitivity of the suspension ironing out the bumps much more effectively than the Marin. But it’s not simply about improved comfort. Every bump that the suspension or tyres can’t respond to chips away at your speed and that slows you down, so the Norco felt more efficient too.
Granted, on steeper more natural descents where you really need to manhandle the bike to say on your chosen line, the Norco didn’t feel as capable as the Calibre Bossnut and Marin, the Recon fork struggling to keep up with the Norco’s rear suspension.
Confidence on the descents is undermined further by the distinct lack of stopping power with the Tektro HD M285 brakes. We started out with two finger braking where one finger on the lever would normally suffice thinking that the brakes just need time scrub in. They never did, and at times we hand three fingers covering the levers, just in case.
The Norco Fluid 7.3 FS makes everything feel easy. So whether you’re a total beginner or and accomplished rider it’s impossible not to have a total blast. Rocket up every climb, slash every turn, or simply lean back and hold on, the Fluid’s got it covered. It’s not without fault though. The Tektro brakes are seriously lacking in power and having to take an Allen key out every time you want to drop the saddle gets old, quickly. Still it’s hard to knock the ride quality of the Norco and for a penny shy of £1,100 it’s an absolute steal.