Norco Fluid LT6.1 £3699

Hammerschmidt-equipped ride

BikeRadar score 2.5/5

Norco’s Fluid LT all-mountain bike is already an established all-rounder, and this 2010 version adds contemporary frame improvements and some of the latest kit. Unfortunately the finished article is confused and compromised, rather than the versatile all-rounder it should be.

Ride & handling: Decent, if weighty, ride let down by inconsistent, chokey fork

Thanks to the burly RockShox Lyrik 2-Step fork, Truvativ Hammerschmidt cranks and Norco’s over-generosity on frame material, the Fluid LT is no lightweight. At over 14.5kg (32lb) with pedals it requires power and patience to get it moving, and you only reach proper speed when gravity is on your side.

On the bright side, the immediate downshift of the cranks is a useful bail out when its momentum dies at the first sniff of vertical gain. The drag of the internal sun-and-planet gears in the middle ring ratio makes shallower climbs even more demoralising though.

Unfortunately, there’s less reward than you’d hope when you get to the top. As well as inconsistent damping, the Lyrik fork seized to near immobility over small stuff after just a couple of hours. External lubing and air pressure juggling didn’t help either, leaving the front end either rigid or racing through its travel for the rest of the test.

Further undermining any chance of seeing what the new Norco frame could do were the tyres. We double flatted the Schwalbe treads immediately on the first rocky step-down and the Fluid snacked on fresh tubes regularly through the rest of the test. Narrow rims made the tyres feel nervous even when they were inflated and the agility of the light and fast wheelset was sadly lost in the weighty overall build.

While it’s hard to recommend the 6.1 given the kit issues, the good news is that the basic performance of the Fluid LT frame is fine. The angles are relatively steep and trail-focused for a bike that’s always going to be more fun pointed downhill, but its relatively long wheelbase and rear end keeps it stable.

Even with the slightly narrow bar it holds a line well enough and the stiff 35mm stanchion and Maxle axle fork structure turns in obediently. The tapered head tube makes a difference to front end accuracy, though the inconsistent fork and nervous tyres made us reluctant to lean on it. But the Fox shock and FSR rear end is a proven and predictably smooth setup.

Frame: New Fluid chassis is stronger and stiffer than ever, if somewhat overbuilt

The first major change for 2010 is the addition of – you guessed it – a tapered 1.5/1.125in head tube. The curved top and down tubes are separated, rather than bonding behind the head. Hydroformed shaping should boost stiffness yields compared to round tubes, though.

The seat tube has increased in diameter to increase stiffness and make it compatible with CrankBrothers' Joplin seatposts. ISCG tabs on the bottom bracket make it Hammerschmidt/chainguide compatible too.

A new upper yoke improves tyre fit, while the square seatstays are shaped for ankle clearance. Curved rocker linkages drive the long stroke Fox shock, while FSR pivots (licensed from Specialized) ahead of the CNC dropouts make a four-bar suspension layout.

Detailing is a mixed bag. There’s a standard down tube bottle mount, forward-facing seatpost slot and eye-catching white headbadge. Gear cables routed under the down tube get protection from flying rocks, but the rear brake cable on our bike was just zip-tied to the top tube.

Equipment: Hammerschmidt is a talking point, but fragile tyres don't inspire confidence

The kit selection really causes confusion, thanks to a spread of characters ranging from lightweight cross-country to heavy-duty freeride. Most obvious is the use of Truvativ’s new twin-speed Hammerschmidt internal chainset. This gives super-fast shifts but it’s hefty and there’s noticable drag in the middle ring equivalent.

The SRAM X-9 rear mech and shifters feel good though and the Elixir CR brakes are brilliant. The cockpit is a mix of short chunky stem and mid-width cross-country/trail handlebar.

Mavic XM317 rims are a trusty mid-price cross-country option, but not wide enough for clattering through rocks without worry. The problem’s accentuated by thin walled Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.25in tyres.

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