Best Hardtail of the Year under £1,000!
It’s been a few years coming, but the adoption of Plus size tyres on trail-focused hardtails has finally taken off and it’s a total game changer. The fatter tyre’s ability to take the edge off the roughest trails makes perfect sense when there’s an absence of rear suspension and the new Norco Fluid HT+ 7.2 offers a blissfully quite, smooth ride. Using the aggressive frame design found on the pricier Torrent, with adaptations to meet the more budget conscious buyer, you still get all the associated trimmings found on any top end trail bike.
Norco Fluid HT+ 7.2
The 120mm travel RockShox Recon suspension fork uses a Solo Air spring, and it’s a cinch to set up. It feels incredibly supple and controlled on all terrain and to top this off, its 15mm Boost dropouts offer stiff, precise steering.
This is where the Fluid really shines; it’s the only bike that features a dropper seat post. In fact, it’s the only hardtail we’ve ever had in this test to come with one. It’s one component that’s rapidly become a necessity on any mountain bike, and with the underbar remote you’ll never have to stop and adjust your saddle height.
SRAM’s 1x NX gearing eliminates any chain slap on the Norco’s dropped chainstay, making it easily the quietest bike in this test. The handlebar is a hair narrow for the bikes capabilities though, and the slip on grips would go straight in the bin. A simple tapered lock on grip such as the Santa Cruz Palmdale would solve both issues at once, with lock-on security and 20mm(ish) added to the bar width.
Naturally, the high volume WTB Ranger tyres take the sting out of the Norco’s tail, and after some fiddling with tyre pressures to find a balance of cushion and control, we were away. The benefits most pronounced on a steep gully that everybody dreaded riding but the Norco had us jumping in to it, trying to find the limit of speed.
The climb back out was a point and pedal affair; the steep seat angle and extra traction meant we could easily stay seated and ride through any obstacles in our path. Ultimately, it’s highly forgiving and begs to be ridden harder than the next normal tyred alternative.
The Norco Fluid 7.2 HT+ rewrites the book on what can be produced for a penny shy of £1,000. With a modern trail-focused frame design, choice components, Plus size tyres and a dropper seat post, Norco has produce a standout package that will flatter any rider. Yes, it’s one of the heavier bikes in this category, but it certainly doesn’t ride heavy and a quick tubeless conversion would instantly save 0.5kg of rotational weight. Best of all, the Plus size tyres make everything easier. They are a lot easier on the joints too making it a great choice for long days in the saddle.