This is a review of the 2012 Norco Sight 2. Click here for a review of the 2013 bike.
Ex-Rolls Royce engineer, Owen Pemberton, is part of the team shaking up Norco’s line-up, and the British rider is the brains behind both the 140mm Sight model here, and the stunning Norco Aurum DH race rig.
Owen’s vision delivers an extremely clean 6061 alloy chassis, with a swooping top tube and curvy seat and chainstays cutting a very contemporary shape. The Norco’s suspension pivot hardware sits directly in the drawn tubes without any post-welded mounts or clevis, which means the hydroformed lines can flow with minimal disruption. It looks great, and this technique also saves weight.
Norco licences the Horst link suspension technology from Specialized, and this incarnation has the rocker link driving a vertically mounted shock in front of the seat tube, which keeps the shock out of the way of muck and spray thrown up by the rear tyre. Also in keeping with Specialized, the wheelbase on the Norco is split into a short chainstay/longer front end, giving the Sight a distinct rear wheel weight bias.
As tested, our Sight 2 had a RockShox Revelation Dual Position Air fork, but from May 2012 Evans will be selling the bike in the UK with a 140mm Fox Float FIT fork for the same money. We can’t see any reason why this spec change will hurt the bike’s overall performance, but you will lose the option to reduce the fork travel for climbing.
All Mod Cons
Unsurprisingly, the completely new 26in Norco Sight range (replacing last year’s Fluid) comes with a host of modern features: zero-stack, tapered head tube for steering precision, rear brake post mount, dropper seat post routing and ISCG-05 mounts on the BB. (Despite the capacity, neither bike gets a chain guide or dropper post as standard).
Norco’s sleek design philosophy has the frame sporting such neat pivot hardware that, with no oversized housings, the main pivot bearings look smaller than their sizeable 24mm outside diameter suggests. The main pivot hardware did come undone a couple of times during the bedding in period, but a dab of Loctite fixed that problem.
Norco uses Syntace X-12 142mm dropouts (requiring a 5mm Allen key to remove the wheel) that are supremely flex-free and secure.
The Norco’s FSR suspension was incredibly easy to set up, and less sensitive to small changes in pressure or knob twisting. A stiff one-piece seam-welded Holloform rocker link drives a Fox RP2 shock with an on/off ProPedal lever. We set 30% sag, dialled in the rebound on the first ride and never touched the shock again.
Shimano XT dominates the Sight 2’s spec sheet. It’s excellent, lightweight gear too, delivering crisp shifting and positive power transfer through a 38/26 tooth 175mm chain set.
Wheels are 32 spoke XT hubs and SunRingle Inferno 25 rims, which accelerate fine and feel solid to boot.
Lever shape and feel on the latest XT brakes is superb but the Shimano anchors on the Norco seemed to lack a little power.
Thankfully, a wide bar and short stem comes as standard on the Sight.
Norco’s climbing method is simply to dart uphill by virtue of its positive pedalling and stiffness: each hard crank makes the bike surge forward, particularly on smoother trails.
With gravity on your side, it feels tight, poppy, and urgent. The bike rides taut and encourages you to sprint into every section with a grin on your face. Thankfully with geometry and balance so spot-on that you never come unstuck.
Railing corners, manualling or blasting through a rock garden, the Sight 2 stays well controlled throughout the travel and the wide 740mm handlebar encourage your inner hooligan to search for the limits of the bike. It doesn’t hurt that the frame is extremely stiff and solid.
The Norco suspension isn’t phenomenally supple, and we knew about it whilst coping with the roughest, rockiest DH trails. However, it does strike an excellent balance between enough to push against to ‘pop’ out of compressions or berms, with an initial suppleness that is great at providing wet weather grip and smoothing out the chatter of smaller roots and rocks. Perhaps most telling of all is that we constantly had to remind ourselves that the Sight 2 isn’t a downhill bike – it just makes you want to ride it like one.
Norco’s new design really delivered. For a brand new bike it’s remarkable just how close to perfect the Canadians have got it. Speed, power transfer, stiffness, balance and — most importantly — the grin factor are all present and correct on the Sight 2.
For the £2,500 asking price, it also gets a great spec, one that only the European mail order brands are currently matching. The bonus in Norco’s case is the Shimano XT gear is all bolted to a frame design that’s a match for anything on the market, which is something the Germans haven’t nailed yet. Another plus is that whatever your riding experience, you don’t need to be a suspension expert to get the most out of the Sight 2, as ballpark settings all feel pretty good.
None of our testers could fault the ‘no surprises’ attitude and poise of the Norco, but one trait is that it can be a tight, precise ride, and on the roughest trails some riders may want the rear suspension to cushion the blow a little more comfortably. We’re really nit-picking here though, and the Sight 2 generally goes about its business at Warp Factor 10 and you’ll need to spend a lot more money to find significantly better performance overall.
So there’s no doubting that the crowded 140mm trail bike category has just got a brand new contender with the Norco Sight 2. It’s a capable bike for anyone that loves to ride the fun stuff, but it’s also easy for less experienced riders to get their heads around. It actively encourages playful, aggressive riding, which directly equates to fun times. What more could you want?
MBR Rating: 10