We’re big fans of Norco’s approach – they encourage all their employees to ride and the result is a buzzing company staffed by people who really do live and breathe bikes. With a history of developing bikes especially for Vancouver’s infamous North Shore, it was only a matter of time before they designed a 29er and put their unique twist on it.
Ride & handling: Downhill demon that’s no slouch uphill either
Although a year old now, the Shinobi has been largely overlooked. The slack head angle reveals itself instantly as you climb on board and it’s obvious from the get-go that the Norco lacks the light-footed feel of a more cross-country orientated 29er.
It doesn’t feel sluggish, though. Far from it, in fact – it feels as if it’s gearing up for something. The Shinobi climbs admirably, with the extra momentum of the big wheels making long drags surprisingly easy and the extra traction making the slippery stuff a cinch to clear.
But it’s how the Norco rides downhill that’s really impressed us. With 120mm (4.7in) of smooth and controlled travel out back, a rear end that’s stiffer than all the 29ers we’ve tried by a long way and relaxed geometry, this thing gallops.
And then there’s the 140mm-travel (5.5in) Fox 34 up front, which lets you plough through stuff the bike should wince at. The Shinobi jumps well, loves the drops and you can throw it into turns with ease.
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Frame: Well thought out chassis with plenty of clearance
The Shinobi’s frame is hydroformed from 6061 aluminium, with a heavily curved down tube and dipped top tube that allow plenty of fork and undercarriage clearance. We measured the head angle at 68.6 degrees – substantially slacker than most 29ers. The seat tube is kinked to allow for the fairly short 453mm chainstays but positions the rider just behind the bottom bracket, which is perfect for climbing.
The 142 x 12mm Syntace bolt-through axle system at the rear is incredibly stiff and houses a neat replaceable derailleur hanger, held in place by a breakaway bolt. A nice touch is the spare bolt mounted below the lower shock mount. Bridging the front and rear ends is Norco’s low leverage ART suspension platform.
The ISCG 05 chain guide tabs and top tube dropper post cable mounts hint at the Shinobi’s all-mountain intentions. Our only niggle is the positioning of the bottle cage bosses; if they were an inch or so lower it would make grabbing your bottle much easier.
Equipment: Great kit selection, including Fox’s beefy 34 fork
There are two models available in the UK: the Shinobi 2 at £2,449.99 and the 1, tested here, at £3,799.99. Up front, the groundbreaking 34mm stanchion Fox 34 FIT fork with 140mm (5.5in) of travel means business and it’s complemented by SUNRingle Charger Pro wheels with dry-weather-friendly WTB Wolverine tyres.
Transmission is taken care of by SRAM’s X9 10-speed drivetrain with a Shimano Deore XT front mech. The burly yet lightweight SRAM S 2210 carbon crankset with a bashguard and 22/33t chainrings suits the big wheels.
Finishing kit includes a comfy WTB Silverado saddle and an excellent cockpit including an Easton Haven 70mm stem and Haven Carbon bar. Avid Elixir disc brakes take care of stopping duties.
This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine.