The Aurum has been widely acclaimed since its release a couple of years ago, and is another bike with World Cup pedigree. The Aurum 3 is simply a budget spec version of the top-dollar bike that the Norco team hit the big races on.
Same frame, different paintjob, budget build. If Ben Reid and Bryn Atkinson can shred these up, surely the cheap build option should be good enough for the likes of us?
Ride & handling: Well-behaved rear end but suffers elsewhere
Size-wise, the Norco feels spot on. The 605mm top tube length (on our medium bike) is perfectly matched to the 50mm Spank Director stem and 760mm width Spank Spoon bar.
Unfortunately, the Kenda Nevegal tyres aren’t great, because of their high volume, slow rolling speed and general unpredictability. Once we’d swapped those out, it was easier to get the Norco up to speed, even with its 18.1kg (40lb) weight.
The performance of the Domain R fork was uninspiring. It suffered spiking issues through high-speed compressions, and blew through the travel the rest of the time. The X-Fusion rear shock far outperformed the fork, working well and helping the rear end of the bike remain composed through everything we could throw it at.
Square-edged compressions were eaten up without a single ill effect, and the Aurum 3 remained composed when we thought we’d pushed too hard. It even arrived shod with the correct spring for our 12st tester.
The 63-degree head angle matched with the comfortable 760mm wide bar gave good, responsive steering at all times. The T-One grips were grippy in the dry, but soon filled with mud and became slippery and uncomfortable in wet, muddy conditions.
The 425mm chainstay made for a lively yet stable feel. Getting the front wheel in the air is easy, and the Norco remains stable when both wheels are airborne, although it is slightly more difficult to throw around than other entry-level downhill bikes. This is probably down to its weight as well as its length.
With a wheelbase of 1,194mm the Aurum was stable at speed, thanks to the well proportioned geometry and decent wheel base, courtesy of Norco’s Gravity Tune. It’s just as stable in tight turns – getting the Aurum exactly where you want poses no problems. The 605mm top tube gives plenty of room to move about, and you have a good window of opportunity for weight placement, which makes for a predictable ride.
The rear of the bike tracks well through pretty much any sort of terrain, regardless of any compressions that get under your wheels. The whole frame is stiff, despite its svelte appearance, with a flex-free rear end.
Frame & equipment: High-end chassis with cost-cutting spec
A custom hydroformed aluminium tubeset gives the Aurum 3 a super sleek racy look, but it’s backed up with enough technology to impress the bike boffins.
A tapered head tube keeps steering stiff and responsive, while an integrated seat collar is a well thought-out finishing touch, along with post-mount rear brake mounting and ISCG 05 chainguide mounts. There’s even a spare mech hanger fixing bolt in the frame, should the mech hangar need replacing.
The 83mm bottom bracket shell is downhill bike standard and the 12x157mm rear axle is a Syntace unit. The Aurum gives 200mm (7.9in) travel through Norco’s ART (advanced ride technology) four-bar suspension system.
Norco also employ a neat feature called Gravity Tune. This means the rear-centre (chainstay) length changes in proportion to the front-centre, changing throughout the size range of bikes giving riders of every size a better chance of staying stable.
Because the frame is high end, the build kit is where corners are cut in order to meet the budget. RockShox’ Domain R fork takes care of bumps up front, while an X-Fusion Vector RC coil shock takes care of the rear end. RaceFace supply their Chester crankset, which comes equipped with a 36T ring, and the chain is held in place admirably by an e*thirteen LS1 chainguide.
Shifting is done through a SRAM X7 short cage 9-speed mech and shifter, while braking is taken care of by Avid’s Elixir 3 brakes, equipped with 200mm rotors. The Sun Inferno 29 rims are wrapped in Kenda Nevegal Stick-E compound tyres. Spank’s Spoon bars and Director stem finish the cockpit.