Big travel, big tyres, big saddle; it's obvious the Norco Six is no shrinking violet. But even we were pleasantly surprised how far you can push this mayhem-loving machine, though.
It's often the case that you can feel the good times begin as soon as you get on a bike, and the Norco is firmly in that love at first sit category. Actually, that's not quite true, as we had to change to a lighter spring than the beefy 450lb Canadian original to get the right sag for our puny English bodies. That done though, and layout, weight distribution and fluidity of suspension is all just begging you to thrash the bike and trails into oblivion.
Every lip becomes a hip to jump, every big, previously avoided boulder a head-on challenge and every 'don't even think about it' starts to look possible. A relaxed head angle keeps steering stable but light, while the seat angle pushes weight forward enough to keep you gripping all through the turn. Lean back though and easy balance means every drop is an easy auto-pilot affair, with the DHX Boost Valve adding useful bottom-out control.
Uncork the telescopic seat post and there's plenty of stretch to pedal back up or between play areas, too. The smoothly neutral suspension also means it feels easier on the legs than you'd expect for its weight. It's obviously not a sprightly sprinter though, so be patient on the climbs.
The most important thing about this frame is that years of Canadian Freeride experience has made it feel absolutely 'right' in those mental moments you need all the confidence you can muster. It's long enough to be stable and not lose its cool, but mobile enough to be squished, lifted, squeezed or slid out of the sketchiest situations.
PLENTY OF CLEARANCE
In structural terms, this means masses of crotch and mud clearance, a thick set externally buttressed head tube and little cheek bulges hydroformed into the down tube. Out back, the licensed Specialized FSR rear end uses massive linkage plates and forged junction and bridge sections to keep everything straight and true, however sideways you fancy trying to land it. Twin shock mounts also give 5.7 or 6.5in of travel, and while there are definitely lighter frames with this much travel, very few of them approach the inherent confidence of the Six. The great news is that Norco have managed a full deck of no compromise kit to let you rip the Six straight from the box, too.
The Marzocchi Drop Off fork has a bit of top out thunk from new, but once you've fished around for the right rebound setting, it's just the succulent squelchy front end that this bike needs. Ditto the easily tuned Fox DHX shock, violently deccelerative Hayes 7in brakes and 'horse head' SDG saddle on a telescopic Titec Scoper seat post. Big Sun rims wrapped in Stick E Kenda rubber are ideal for pushing the boundaries too, and Truvativ's XR kit is hard as nails. Lock on grips are an obvious first upgrade step, while the inherently sorted Six has serious potential to decrease weight and increase potency as time goes on.
Big bikes on small budgets very rarely ring true. They're either too rattley, too cheap looking or too poorly equipped to be a confident ride. There's none of that with Norco's superb Six 2 though, which - spring change excepted - is ready for anything you are as soon as you leave the shop. Don't be surprised if you suddenly develop some really rabid riding habits, though.