Canadian company Norco showed two 650b-wheeled prototypes at the Sea Otter Classic: a 140mm trail model and a 160mm all-mountain machine. They’re just starting to field test the bikes, which may form part of their 2013 line.
Norco currently have 10 of these 27.5in-wheeled bikes in the field – five of each model and one in each theoretical size. They're being rotated through their development staff and team riders, with the intention of gathering feedback. Round two of prototyping is scheduled for early summer.
“We’re not going to release them until they’re right,” PJ Hunton, Norco’s engineering manager told BikeRadar. “That may be 2013, but they need to work. We’re not going to compromise to just get them out there.” Should the models make it for 2013 they'll likely fall into the Range line, though Hunton reiterated that they’re only prototypes for now.
PJ Hunton, Norco’s engineering manager, with one of the prototypes
So far the middle wheel size is living up to expectations, at least for trail and all-mountain use. “They roll faster and go farther with the same energy [input], and they smooth out all types of bumps,” said Hunton. “But they have the handling characteristics of 26in [wheeled] bikes.”
A sneak peek at Norco’s 2013 refinements
The new-for-2012 Aurum downhill bike has been making waves, both with regular ol’ park riders and Norco’s pros, including Bryn Atkinson and Jill Kintner. At Sea Otter, Norco showed a 2013 colorway for the top-end LE model and noted that the cable routing will be refined and the frame mounted fork bump-stops improved to allow 3° more rotation. The 2013 LE and the step-down Aurum 1 will both come with Cane Creek’s Double Barrel shock standard.
New cable routing, bump-stops and Cane Creek Double Barrel upgrade for the Aurum in 2013
The Fluid models will adopt Norco's ART (Advanced Ride Technology) four-bar suspension setup for 2013, bringing the design all the way down to the US$1,300-1,900 price range. This marks adoption of ART for Norco’s entire full-suspension line. It's essentially a tweaked version of their previous FSR design, which they licensed from Specialized, with a revised chainstay pivot placement.
Norco’s 2013 Fluid brings ART suspension down to the sub-$2,000 range
The Tactic is a new road chassis for 2013 that's currently being raced by the H+R Block outfit. It uses Norco’s ARC (Applied Road Compliance) frame design, which aims to combine stiffness and comfort. So, it has a tapered head tube, large diameter down tube and massive Press-Fit30 bottom bracket shell, juxtaposed with flattened and supposedly flex-promoting ARC seatstays and a narrow 27.2mm seatpost. Norco will offer four levels of Tactic ranging from US$3,000 to $7,000, with the highlight being the $5,500 Shimano Ultegra Di2 equipped model.
Norco’s new Tactic road racer has been designed to be stiff but comfy