Norco is back in the UK after a five year hiatus, with a high pivot trail bike called the Optic

Product Overview

Norco Optic C1 29


  • • Great sizing and standover height, and perfect fore-aft balance with proportional chainstays
  • • Climbs like an absolute rocket, despite any extra potential drag and weight from the idler
  • • Suspension is super supportive, holds you flat and stable in the corners
  • • Fast as a missile down the trails, swallows big hits like a champ


  • • Rough tracks transfer vibration through your hands and feet


Norco’s new Optic is the bike I’ve been waiting for: gravity suspension and aggressive geometry meets some very short travel



It’s been more than four years since we’ve seen a Norco for sale in the UK, after distribution through Evans Cycles fell apart, but now in 2024 Norco is back with two new analogue bikes, the Sight and Optic. And what a change the US brand’s made, embracing a high pivot idler on its longer-travel Sight and on the 125mm travel Optic.

The new Norco Optic is a very different bike to its predecessor, with a high pivot suspension design more usually found on gravity machines

Need to know

  • Carbon frame trail bike with high pivot suspension and idler
  • High pivot suspension design with idler delivers 125mm travel
  • Idler gets around 19 teeth, narrow profile and coating to reduce drag
  • Size-specific chainstays and seat tube angles, that grow with the sizing
  • 29in wheels, or switch to mullet with the Missing Link Kit that swaps out rocker link and shock mount
  • Frame gets space for bottle on each size, gear hangar, sleeved internal routing
  • Meaty chainstay and seatstay protection to quiet the chain
  • C1 Fox Factory build with SRAM XO T-type drivetrain unavailable in the UK
  • C2 build is in the UK, at £6,999 with mix of Fox and RockShox suspension

That makes the Optic pretty unique, we’ve only seen the high pivot idler idea used on one other short-travel bike in modern times, aboard the 130mm Forbidden Druid. It took the Canadian brand two goes to deliver the right balance of small-bump sensitivity and support, but by the second generation we rated it as one of the best short travel trail bikes around. It’s a high bar for the Optic to clear then.

High pivot proposition

There’s a good reason why most brands don’t attempt the high pivot and idler design on the short travel bike, traditionally it’s added more noise, drag and weight. This is less of a problem on downhill or enduro bikes of course, where weight matters less, and which partly explains why there are a shed load of brands sporting the idea, with the Trek Slash the latest to the pile.

The other reason is suspension performance, of course. A high pivot design and its rearward axle path is said to make bikes better able to swallow big hits, more composed on rough terrain and generally feel like they’re delivering more travel than the numbers suggest.

The Optic wheel path will be more rearward than on conventional bikes, growing the geometry and hopefully improving the suspension feel

Norco’s Virtual Pivot Suspension | High Pivot suspension design

There’s plenty to talk about with both the new Sight and Optic, but I’ll dive straight into the most interesting feature, the suspension. Norco’s calling it Virtual Pivot Suspension | High Pivot, a design that sends the wheel more rearwards than a conventional low-pivot design… although by how much we don’t know as the brand hasn’t shared this information. 

The idler is mounted to the chainstay, it’s there to manage the chain growth and stop the pedal-kickback that would plague any high-pivot idler bike if left with a regular chainline. There’s no second idler pulley below the chainring, like on the Trek Slash, and this is because the Optic’s idler is positioned more rearward. In short, there’s enough contact with the chainring not to need one.

The narrow-tooth only idler has been designed for smooth running, likewise there is protection all over the stays to ward off chainslap

The Optic’s Idler is a biggun, there are around 19 teeth to the idler, which obviously makes sense in terms of reducing noise and improving pedalling efficiency. Norco says there’s a new coating and tooth pattern that further reduces noise, and certainly the teeth are all narrow rather than mirroring the traditional SRAM narrow-wide tooth profile… Norco must have designed its idler to fit this without slipping or – worse – dropping the chain.

Norco Optic frame

You can get the bike with an alloy or full carbon frame, and either material gets all the features listed here. That was complemented by a bottle mount on all sizes, tool mount bosses under the top tube, and internal cable tubes for silent running. 

The Optic can handle a 240mm dropper post in S5, while the S4 I rode used a One Up Dropper with 210mm

Norco was an early pioneer for proportional geometry, and it’s rolled it out onto the new Optic, which impressively features different swingarms for each of the five sizes. The bike gets some of the best standover height I’ve ever seen too, with enough space for a 240mm dropper on the biggest S5 size. And the seat tubes get steeper too as you head up the sizing, meaning tall riders will have decent climbing performance on steep climbs, without the shock sinking too far into its travel. 

I can’t stress enough how much I like these design features because it means I can ride an S4 or S5 and get the right saddle height for pedalling. More importantly you don’t end up with an out of proportion front end on the biggest size because the chainstays grow enough to keep up.

The bronze rocker link and lower shock mounts can be swapped out, letting you switch to a smaller 27.5in rear wheel

The Optic comes as a 29er, which makes total sense to me as a 125mm travel speed machine, but you can also switch it up for a mullet setup with a new rocker link and lower shock mounts called the Missing Link Kit. This seems like a really convoluted way to ensure the same geometry across both wheel sizes when a simple flip chip does the job too, but hey, it works all the same.

Geometry and sizing

The Optic comes in five sizes, Norco doesn’t bother with the small-XL nomenclature here though, opting instead for S1-S5. The sizing is definitely on the large size, which is great when there are so many options to pick from, with the S4 here perfect for my 185cm height. I measured the bike at bang on 500mm in reach and a 755mm downtube, which puts it on the more progressive end of the market. 

The head angle is slack for the short travel trail bike, and while the bottom bracket height is actually pretty high at 341 that matters less in a bike designed to sit deeper into its travel, which we’ll get to in a minute. The 435mm chainstay length is also misleading on a bike with a rearward axle path because it naturally grows when you’re actually riding the bike.

Industry Nine rear hub has an incredibly fast pickup thats ideal for the Norco Optic… it sounds posh too

Norco Optic Components

The Otic C1 is top of the range, with Fox Factory suspension, a SRAM XO Eagle T-type drivetrain, posh We Are One carbon wheels on Industry Nine hubs, and a Deity carbon bar. The really bad news though is that the new distributors Silverfish aren’t bringing this bike into the UK, probably because the price would be over £8,000 by our estimates.

I like pretty much everything about the parts list then, the controls are perfect in terms of feel and sweep (although I’d cut the 800mm bars down by 20mm), the dropper post is the right size for an S4, and the trail bike tyre choice of Maxxis Minnion and Dissector is ideal for a short travel bike. I didn’t even miss a 200mm rotor on the rear brake (my usual gripe) because the braking grip is all there.

The Fox Float X doesnt budge on the climbs, leading to a bike that flies up the hills

How it rides: Climbing

There’s a climb switch on the Float X shock, but it’s there for show because this bike really doesn’t need more support on the climbs. It hardly budges a millimetre when you’re sat down and pedalling, and I found myself looking down on every climb to check I hadn’t flipped it by mistake. 

My guess is that the combination of anti-squat and the shock tune holds the bike steady when you’re grinding away on top. Are you really grinding though? Yes you can hear the idler crunching slightly when it’s covered in mud but it doesn’t scrap the sides of the guide and the noise tended to disappear after a minute or so of dry pedalling. 

I really don’t think there’s much in the way of wattage being lost because through the idler then, the Optic feels almost XC like up the climbs and nothing like I was expecting from the design. The idler also seems to be a natural fit for SRAM’s T-type drivetrain too, something about the slightly slower gear engagement and ability to shift under load gave me more confidence that the chain would stay put, and wouldn’t suck or drop off. 

Lively and engaging, the Optic is also fast as hell… just dont get too carried away with the pace of it all!

How it rides: Descending

Modest tyres, off camber trails and slick roots aren’t always a fun combination, but the Optic manages to do the impossible and cling to the high lines like a trapeze artist. I felt this again when threading the bike round tight berms, it has a tendency to keep its momentum longer than expected, and I had to back off how hard I was pushing to calm things down. Sure, 180s out of corners are cool, but only when you mean them to happen.

At first I put this down to stiffness, and with carbon wheels, a chunky downtube and solid cockpit the Opic really is a stiff trail bike. But what’s really happening is the suspension supports you so well, and the bike rides so flat you’re always in the right position for grip. Land a drop, hit a corner, overshoot a jump and the Optic will hold you steady without pitching you over the bars or have you hanging off the back.

The Optic rides like a hardtail on the jumps, and just like on the climbs I had to check I hadnt flicked the pedal lever by mistake

I deliberately took the Optic to a feature-packed trail to see if the high-pivot hype is real. The mantra here is that a rearward axle path is better able to get out of the way of square edges or big hits. On this bike the hype does seem to be real, the shock that proved so firm and unyielding on the climbs opens up to swallow drops a mere 125mm of travel has no right to. 

It does it all silently too, the chainstay and seatstay protection is so thorough there’s not a peep from the chain, while the cables are silent. Put some cranks in after a puddle and you’ll hear the idler for sure, but on a dry day the Optic would be whisper quiet. 

With great support comes great pop too, the Optic will send you skywards like a hardtail, the bike is fun and manoeuvrable and the geometry feels just right for an aggressive trail bike. Here’s the problem though, on fast and rough tracks I felt a lot of vibration through my hands and feet, and when I checked the O-ring on the shock afterwards I wasn’t getting full travel. I dropped some air from the shock and ran the bike at 32% sag, which helped soften things up, but the last smidge of travel on the shock still eluded me.

I had the Optic for a single ride, so this is by no means the last word on it. I’ll get some more riding time on it over the next few weeks, and the plan is to play around with the shock settings and optimise the ride feel. Check back in and watch the MBR Show on Youtube to hear how it goes.

The Optic is one of the fastest bikes of 2024


The Optic is a modern masterpiece, the sizing and frame details like proportional chainstays are stellar, and the geometry perfect for aggressive riding. It’s just about the fastest trail bike I’ve ridden this year too, it’ll devour the climbs on your local loop and let you scream down the descents with pinpoint accuracy. Just be careful not overcook things though, the flat and composed suspension and rock-swallowing poise are nerve shattering, and I came in too hot in plenty of places. You’ve got to be strong to make it work though, the bike isn’t exactly plush… but perhaps I’m expecting too much from the snippet of travel on offer.


Frame:Carbon fibre, 125mm travel
Shock:Fox Float X Factory, 185x50mm trunnion mount
Fork:Fox Factory 34, 44mm offset, 140mm travel
Wheels:ndustry 9 1/1 110/148mm hubs, We Are One Union Carbon rims, Maxxis Minion DHF/Dissector MaxxTerra 29x2.5/2.4in tyres
Drivetrain:SRAM X0 Eagle 32t, 170mm chainset, SRAM X0 AXS T-type derailleur and shifter pod, SRAM XS-1295 10-52t cassette
Brakes:SRAM Level Stealth Silver, 4-Piston brakes, 200/180mm rotors
Components:Deity Skywire Carbon 800mm, 25mm rise bar, Norco CNC Alloy 40mm stem, Fizik Alpaca Terra, Wingflex saddle
Sizes:S1, S2, S3, S4, S5
Size ridden:S4
Rider height:185cm
Head angle:64.6°
Seat angle:73.7°
Effective seat angle (@760cm):78.5°
Front centre:832mm
Bottom bracket height:341mm
Wheelbase :1,267mm