The uprated version of one of our Hardtail of the Year bikes
The Norco Fluid 1 HT strikes a great balance between performance and value. Low BB height makes you feel more in the bike and boosts stability.
Last year, Norco’s entry-level Fluid HT brought two firsts to our Hardtail of the Year test. It was first to grace the test with trail-taming 2.8in Plus tyres and it was also first bike to come with the convenience of a dropper seat post. With a whisper silent ride and standout handling, it was easily deserving of a perfect 10 rating.
One year on and it’s back. This time it’s the more expensive version and it’s in very different company, so can the Norco Fluid HT still cut it?
Norco Fluid 1 HT review
Moving up a price point means the specification has changed but the backbone of the Fluid HT remains the same. The double passed smooth welds give the 6061 alloy frame a seamless finish and even on the larger frames sizes there’s ample standover clearance, making the bike really easy to chuck around.
It’s the dropped drive-side chainstay that makes the biggest difference though, as it affords relatively short chainstays and ample tyre clearance even with the narrower quick release rear end. It positively impacts the ride quality in other ways too, as it reduces chain slap and the associated vibrations that go hand it hand with it.
Size wise, the Fluid HT 1 is only available in three options in the UK: M, L and XL. Sizing isn’t anything like as progressive as the Hardcore Hardtails we tested recently so it’s a good idea to go up a frame size, something that’s made easy by the low-slung top tube.
The Norco and Trek Roscoe both come with 120mm travel RockShox Recon forks, but that’s not say they are exactly the same. The fork on the Norco has alloy upper tubes make it lighter than the one on the Trek. It gets upgraded internals too, where the Gold level damper offers improved control on bigger hits.
Both forks have the wider 110mm Boost dropout spacing, that provides the necessary clearance for the chunky 2.8in tyres, but the fork on the Norco doesn’t have a 15mm QR, so you’ll need an Allen key to hand if you want to remove the front wheel. Something worth bearing in mind if you need to get your bike in and out of the car on a regular basis.
Norco mixes and matches a Shimano SLX 11-Speed shifter and rear derailleur with a Sunrace cassette to great affect, as the shifting is noticeably less pingy than with the Shimano cassette on the Trek.
We also like how the two-piece Somax chainset allows you to adjust the preload on the BB, much in the same way as headset. This should mean that the press-fit bearings last a little longer. We’re not so convince by the way it’s achieved its 170mm crankarm length though. Yes, tapping the pedal threads 5mm closer to the BB increases pedal clearance, but you still have 175mm arms to contend with. Given that the BB height on the Norco isn’t even that low, we’d much rather have the extra leverage of full length 175mm cranks. Also the Norco is the only bike here not to come with lock on grips, so much as we like the extra rubber between our hands and the handlebar, the grips will work loose after the first wet, muddy ride.
It would be easy to bunch the Norco and Trek together as that both have 120mm forks and quick release rear ends, but to do so would be a mistake, as the Norco feels much more like a trail bike than the Trek. And even though it’s not as progressive, either in its approach to geometry and sizing as the Sonder Transmitter, it’s still a really capable, fun bike that offers a commanding riding position.
The damping on the RockShox Recon fork is at the lighter of the spectrum so it can be run much faster than the Revelation on the Sonder, with could benefit lighter riders. In fact, if you run the rebound damping too slow you can hear it wheezing as it oil flows through the main piston, so it’s also an effective set-up aid.
You even get a dropper seat post, and the same WTB Ranger tyres found on the Sonder Transmitter, so it’s ready to shred straight out of the box. OK, so the spindly 32mm RockShox Recon fork is no match for the 35mm Revelation, but it’s still sensitive and composed even on the roughest trails and it certainly won’t hold you back.