Available in two models or a frame only for £575
Slender steel tubing gives the Norco Torrent S2 a distinctly retro look. But make no mistake; this is a thoroughly modern 29er trail hardtail.
Norco Torrent S2 review
With a slack 64.4° head angle and a rangy 476mm reach on the size L, it’s primed for going fast and having fun. And if you still have any doubts about its intentions, Norco’s Gravity Tuned geometry should reassure you. First developed for the Aurum downhill bike, the Gravity Tune tweaks the horizontal position of the BB so the rear end increases by 5mm on the L and XL frames to maintain balanced handling.
In fact, when we ran the tape measure over the Torrent only one measurement had us scratching our head, and that was the BB height. We know from testing hundreds of hardtails that 300mm is bob-on for most conditions, so at 325mm (and that’s 8mm lower than claimed), the Torrent’s BB height raised more than an eyebrow.
With the Specialized Fuse and Norco Torrent both rocking a non-series RockShox 35mm suspension fork, there’s nothing separating them in terms of small bump sensitivity or support. Yes, the Norco has 150mm travel, but the real advantage here is that you have slightly more sag, so the fork can extend into holes better and maintain traction. Set up was simple, and if you don’t now where to start, guide pressures on the fork lower will get you a good ball park set-up.
In SRAM’s drivetrain hierarchy the SRAM NX Eagle kit on the Specialized gives it a theoretical advantage over the SX 12-speed drivetrain fitted to the Norco. In practice however, we couldn’t distinguish any difference in performance.
TRP disc brakes are used by some of the fasted riders in the world, but it’s rare to see them on a stock bike. Once bedded in G-Spec Trail S brakes proved more than capable at keeping our speed in check, but the lever feel is wooden and the lever profile too square.
We had no complains about Norco’s choice of tyres though – 2.5in Maxxis Assegai with the tougher EXO+ casing aren’t the lightest for trail riding but the cornering confidence they provide is well worth the weight penalty, especially given that increased durability of the thicker casing.
It’s universally accepted that steeper seat tube angles improve climbing efficiency on full suspension bikes, so the same should be true for hardtails, right? Yes, the 74.9° seat tube angle on the Norco helps keep your weight forward on climbs and prevents the bike from looping out with the relatively short 425mm rear end. But the more upright design also gives the seat tube less opportunity to flex under loaded. The end result is that even though the steel tubing of the Norco frame offers a slightly more forgiving ride than the Specialized when stood up, it’s more punishing when seated. It doesn’t help that the Fizik Taiga saddle lacks padding and the gloss finish makes it slippery when wet.
So the Norco makes more sense when spinning leisurely up smooth fire road climbs followed by rowdy steep descents. In fact, due to its weight and slower rolling tyres, it feels almost pedestrian on anything other than the steepest most technical descents. Which make the elevated BB height even harder to comprehend. With the higher BB you need to raise the handle bar quite a bit to help clock your body position rearward and counteract the higher centre of gravity. The end result is a balance ride, albeit an elevated one.
That said, once gravity is working with you the Norco Torrent starts to gush. The extra weight and length make it very stable and planted at speed, so you can open up the taps and really let the bike fly. And even though there’s no chainstay protector it’s whisper silent too, which just encourages you to press ahead and go faster.
We loved the damped feel of the Norco’s butted steel tubing, but it not enough to stop the Torrent S2 from being something of a one trick pony. So while it's great at slowly grinding its way up smooth fire road climbs to bomb the best descents, on any trail with a less advantageous gradient its extra weight makes it feel sluggish and slow to respond. Also the elevated riding position that goes hand in hand with the lofty BB height makes you feel more detached from the bike, and we still can’t phantom why any hardtail needs this much ground clearance.