A new hard-riding design team have taken Norco’s bikes to another level, and nothing shows it better than the 140mm-travel Sight 2.
By sweating the structural, spec and suspension tune details they've managed to create a ride with outstanding performance in pretty much every aspect of mountain biking, but still keep it extremely friendly, natural feeling and hugely enjoyable.
That's why it won the What Mountain Bike Surprise Package award for 2012, as well as their Trail Bike of the Year crown.
Here's what the judges had to say...
"To class Canadian builder Norco as an underdog is a little unfair, but we admit it wasn’t on the rostrum radar when we began this year’s epic trail bike testing stint – 20 all-rounder rigs at £2000-£2500, all vying for our Trail Bike of the Year prize. Due to various complications, the Norco was the last of the 20 bikes to arrive. And until it did, it looked like a repeat of 2011’s very close-run showdown between the Lapierre Zesty, Trek Fuel and Canyon Nerve.
From the first surprisingly stable and responsive pedal stroke of the lighter-than-we-expected Sight – through several epic moorland rides, countless head-to-head singletrack combat sessions and days and days of flat-out, bouldery berm-slinging at Stainburn – the Norco went from surprise contender to clear winner.
An absolute blast to ride, it flattered fitness and skills while regularly saving our arses wherever we rode. While the chassis’s not revolutionary there are some really neat touches, such as the spare gear hanger bolt threaded into the downtube, the easy-adjust rear brake post mounts, the Syntace thru-axle and the cable guides for the one upgrade it’s begging for – a dropper post.
The stumpy little stem and wide bars feel good straight away, giving you dictatorial and fastreacting control of the confidently relaxed steering. While the four-bar suspension doesn’t look massively different to most, the subtle tweaking of the ART (Advanced Ride Technology) linkage produces a remarkably batter-proof yet neutral suspension system that lets the Sight pedal as well as it plummets.
Kenda’s snake-with-eczema Slant Six tyres underline the idea that this is not a one-trick downhill pony (yes, they exist) – the Sight 2 offers a great balance of easy speed, cushioned survivability and good traction, at least on rock and hardpacked dirt; mud requires a change.
Nevertheless, in a test where tyres, bars, shock tunes and other aspects still needed sorting on rival bikes, it was the Sight’s ‘straight from the box and onto the black run’ readiness that made it the clear winner."
Read on for out full review of the Norco Sight 2:
Ride & handling: Super-confident, accurate and controlled descender and an efficient pedaller too
The complete coherence of the overall ride lifts the Sight above the other bikes we’ve been riding this year. While the 67.5-degree head angle is slack, the handlebar and stem are perfectly sized to keep it feeling balanced. RockShox's Dual Position Air system gives the option to drop the fork down and steepen the angles for climbing, although we rarely did.
The ProPedal lever on the Fox RP2 shock was largely ignored too thanks to the excellent pedalling characteristics of the ART (Advanced Ride Technology) suspension. In fact the feel of the whole bike – in terms of ride position, weight placement and suspension behaviour – disappears off your ride radar quickly. Instead you notice that trail sections that had you fretting now don’t seem daunting.
The balanced suspension lets you carry more speed through rocky sections while the easy agility lets you hop and float over sections, while smooth progression of the rear end means it’ll take what you can’t avoid in its stride. While the Sight rides higher than the most radical bikes, outstanding frame stiffness and the wide handlebar give precise, hard-edged cornering accuracy for ripping around turns.
A screw-through 142x12mm rear axle completes an excellently stiff chassis
Most of all you’ll realise that you’re having a blast, riding out of your skin and pushing well beyond your usual limits without it ever feeling like you’re taking massively increased risks. With an overall weight of 12.6kg (27.8lb) and a really keen pedalling feel the Norco is more than happy to push the pace on climbs or flat, fast singletrack and it’s perfectly happy running with the pack on a midwinter night time epic.
There are a lot of superficially similar bikes to the Norco and several that run it very close in some aspects. What’s remarkable about the Sight though is how strong it is in every area of trail riding that you throw it at. It descends with the arrogant composure, control and accuracy of a 30lb-plus downill-oriented rig. It climbs with the purpose and efficiency of a short-travel race bike and isn’t that much heavier than most of them either.
Most of all though, it takes whatever skill and fitness you have and immediately starts to multiply that ability into an upward spiral of insatiably playful, infectiously confident radical trail riot. It manages to balance efficiently low weight with a totally weak-link-free, enhanced toughness and control kit package that’s a superb match for the bike from the tips of the extra wide bar to the impressively capable, fat but fast Kenda tyres.
Frame & equipment: Superbly balanced chassis and quality kit
Looking at the frame you’d be forgiven for not realising you were looking at anything outstanding. Well, the screw-through 142x12mm rear axle with webbed post style rear brake mount is a beautiful piece of design. Otherwise the curving, heavily hydroformed maintubes are nicely executed but nothing we haven't seen before. Look closer and you realise design team leader Owen Pemberton has sweated the details.
They’re practical details too, as this English ex-Rolls Royce engineer got his job at Norco after working at the mechanical carnage coalface that is Norco’s hire bike base at the Whistler mountain bike mecca. Double-sided pivot joints on chainstays and seatstays are formed from the tube tips rather than welded on terminals. The compact rocker linkage is two welded halves.
Tweaked ART suspension meant we didn’t have to bother the ProPedal lever on the Fox shock
Neat cable routing includes bolt-on guides for a dropper seatpost remote control and there’s space for mud. A recessed section on the driveside of the curving seat tube gives clearance for a chainstay direct-mounted front mech. It’s also one of the only bikes in its travel category that comes with ISCG bottom bracket tabs. These give you a full range of chain devices to choose from, whether you want a full roller, guide and skid plate or a lighter trail guide for a 1x10 setup.
The component mix shows Norco means business. You’re connecting to the relaxed steering angles via a 740mm bar and stubby stem. Wheels match broad 25mm Sun All Mountain rims to durable, adjustable bearing Shimano Deore XT hubs with Kenda’s new Slant Six tyres delivering a fat but fast rubber wrap.
Shimano’s XT group is also responsible for driving the bike via a double ring chainset while the controlled short lever XT brakes get the distinctive heat dissipating Ice Technologies finned rotors. A Norco double-bolt post keeps a firm grip on the WTB saddle, leaving the fat grips as the only part some testers grumbled about.
Excellent Shimano XT kit drives the bike via a double ring chainset
The Revelation Dual Position Air fork has a tapered steerer and 15mm through-axle. If you’re a fan of Fox rather than RockShox – or just fixed rather than adjustable travel – then the second batch of Sight 2 bikes due into the UK in May will come equipped with 140mm Fox 32 Float RLs.
This bike was tested as part of What Mountain Bike magazine's Bike of the Year shootout. You can read the full feature in this month's mag, in shops now, and available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.
Norco Sight 2
Trail Bike of the Year preview
The testers reflect on this year's crop of bikes