The Kokanee comes equipped with mechanical rather than hydraulic disc brakes and unknown tyres of the sort we’d usually expect to discover on a cheaper bike.
But the fork is better than most at this pricepoint, overall trail performance is pretty good and the upright front end may well suit riders who are put off by the more aggressive ride stance of other bikes.
Ride & handling: Fine machine for less ambitious off-road jaunts
The inline seatpost, short stem and high front end of the Kokanee conspire to create a fairly compact, upright trail stance that some riders will love, though others might feel that it’s not aggressive enough.
Despite its 100mm-travel fork, the Norco is far better suited to casual cruising than to high-speed trail antics. That said, it handles well on rough twisty singletrack, with only an ocassional pedal strike caused by the low bottom bracket (11.75in), detracting from the confidence that comes from the bike’s easy riding mannerisms.
The tyres roll fast, and that’s a slight boost when climbing, but their low profile means you need to take care on rocky terrain or you’ll quickly end up with a pinch puncture.
As a complete package, the Kokanee will probably appeal more to casual riders than to those looking for serious off-road thrills. Its cable discs are an obvious downgrade compared to most other bikes around this price, but it’s well equipped elsewhere and the frame would certainly warrant one or two componentry upgrades if you felt the urge.
Frame: Nicely put together chassis with good attention to detail
It seems that white is the new black in 2010. Norco keep things plain and simple with an all-white chassis and black everything else, with fresh minty green for the graphics and grips.
The frame tubes are mainly round, in contrast to the radically hydroformed shapes found on many of the Norco's price rivals. But that’s no bad thing – there are times when fancy hydroforming seems more like show technology than strictly necessary, and we often find that thinner round tubes produce a slightly less punishing trail feel.
There’s enough butting and gusset reinforcements on the Kokanee to add durability confidence and there are practical utilitarian add-ons as well, such as rack mounts and two sets of bottle bosses.
The seat tube clamp slot faces forward, out of the spray, and the long head tube and stem stack offers loads of bar height adjustment potential for those who prefer a higher front end.
Equipment: Well controlled fork, but cable discs and low-profile tyres disappoint
The 100mm-travel (3.9in) SR Suntour XCR fork is fairly plush and well controlled, with easy compression and soft rebound, but the lockout lever introduced a harsh rebound clunk as the fork shifted a little on every tiny bump.
A Shimano Deore rear mech is the only part of the drivetrain that points to the Norco’s price. You still get eight sprockets rather than the nine that we’ve sometimes seen as prices rise over the £500 mark. Still, the FSA DynaDrive crankset performed well enough with its Shimano Acera front mech and rear shifts stayed reliably accurate all the way through the test period.
Braking performance was consistently good too; cable-pull disc brakes aren't as powerful as hydraulics but the Hayes units specced here did have a nicely modulated lever feel. Full outer cable to the rear brake will keep the wet and crud out, and therefore cut down on the extra maintenance that comes with mechanical discs.
The wheels are nicely built, but unfortunately the tyres are a bit of a disappointment. A low profile does no favours for comfort because you need to keep them inflated hard to prevent pinch punctures on hard edges and, although the Kenda Nevegal-style tread grips well in dry conditions, the hard compound is slippery on rocks in the wet.
The rest of the finishing kit is generally good though. A few riders said they’d have preferred a wider bar than the 24in one fitted, but the grips and WTB saddle make for comfortable contact points, just not quite making up for the hard-inflated tyres.