Norco Atomik £1999

Ready-to-race ripper

BikeRadar score 5/5

Norco have traditionally appealed more to freeriders than downhill racers, but with the likes of Britain's Fionn Griffiths piloting their bikes to World Cup podiums, perhaps it's time that changed. There are three bikes in Norco’s downhill range, and the Atomik is the cheapest option. So, is it well suited to the speed chaser on a budget?

Ride & handling: Ready to race and fun to ride, with superbly balanced suspension

Sitting on the start line, the Atomik is easy to adjust to, feeling predictable and natural as soon as the wheels start to roll.

Good cohesion between front and rear dampers is hard to find on a bike of this price, but the fork and shock work together well.

Both are initially supple, tracking the ground well and dealing with the small bumps superbly. Belt the Atomik into rougher terrain and both ramp up smoothly in a controlled fashion, preventing any harsh bottom-out.

It’s this characteristic that makes the bike so much fun to ride. It can be launched into things at speed and come out the other end unscathed.

The well established suspension design may seem basic compared to the current market leaders, but it works well in rough conditions and helps to maintain activity out back when braking.

With a bottom bracket height of 363mm (14.3in) on the slackest setting, the bike corners well, yet it’s still high enough to avoid nasty crank bashes over rougher terrain. In fact, it’s hard to remember this bike costs just £2,000 – it feels comparable to more expensive downhill race rigs.

Frame: Fantastic entry-level downhill rig with old-fashioned but effective rear end

Complex tubing configuration boosts the frame’s strength and durability, while the Horst Link rear end resembles the classic Intense M1 and proves just as effective.

Rear travel is easily adjustable thanks to the holes located on the golden link plates and can be set to either 198mm (7.8in) or 225mm (8.9in).

Elsewhere, the Fox DHX 3 shock controls the incredibly laterally stiff rear end well and keeps pedal bob to a minimum when sprinting out of the saddle.

With a head angle of 64 degrees in the slack setting, the Atomik would feel totally at home on long, fast Alpine descents too.

Equipment: Great spec list makes the Atomik feel like a much more expensive machine

Norco have spent money in all the right places on the Atomik, providing plenty of bang for your buck. For starters, the RockShox Boxxer Race fork is superb – it’s easy to maintain and there’s massive scope for tuning, which is also true of the Fox DHX 3 shock.

The Juicy 3 brakes deliver great power in a reliable fashion and the spec list is nicely rounded off by the direct-mount Funn stem and soft compound Kenda Nevegal tyres, which are great all-rounders.

The e.thirteen LG1 guide keeps everything running reliably and the SRAM mech and shifter worked consistently throughout our test. All in all, it’s a triumph of smart kit selection.

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