Norco Optic A9.1 first ride review£2,099.00

Norco’s new 29er trailie is a sorted all-rounder

Norco’s new short travel Optic bikes come in both 27.5 and carbon framed versions as well as the more affordable alloy 29er format here.

There are plenty of sizes, too, with the 27.5 bike ranging from XS to XL, though the 29er only goes from S-XL because Norco wasn’t convinced about the handlebar height riders would end up with on an XS big-wheeler.

Norco Optic A9.1 spec overview

  • Frame: Optic aluminium
  • Fork: Fox 34 Float Perf 120mm
  • Shock: Fox Float Perf EVOL
  • Wheel size: 29”
  • Drivetrain: SRAM GX1
  • Brakes: SRAM DB3
  • Head angle: 68.5
  • Seat angle: 74.5
  • Reach: 646mm (L)

Norco Optic A9.1 ride impression

The Norco Optic A9.1 is not just decent value, it’s well matched to the ride too
The Norco Optic A9.1 is not just decent value, it’s well matched to the ride too

What seems a stiff start soon reveals a sorted all-rounder for the money. Norco’s basic Fluid 7.1 bike scored really well in our 2016 bargain bike of the year test, so it’s no surprise that the Optic is likewise sorted for the cash.

The bigger wheels definitely boost small bump smoothness and hold momentum

But it’s not just decent value, it’s well matched to the ride too. The Fox Performance 34 fork and shock feel firm and lacking in small bump sensitivity at first but it’s not the stiffest frame and, together with the 29er wheels, it skims across roots and rocks OK if you get some speed into it.

The firmness also removes any worry about bounce or wallowing when you’re putting the power through it, although with only 110mm of travel at the rear and 120mm in the front there’s not much excess movement anyway.

A Performance Fox Float shock at the rear is combined with a Performance 34 fork up front
A Performance Fox Float shock at the rear is combined with a Performance 34 fork up front

The Nobby Nic/Racing Ralph tyre combination suits the bike well and it’s certainly impressive to get SRAM GX 1x11 on a bike costing just over two grand.

However, the braking spec suffers as a result, with SRAM DB3s and the 160mm rear rotor definitely feeling underpowered but you get a KS dropper post included. That means you can use the 760mm bars and 55mm stem to really throw the bike around and the relatively fast but not twitchy 68.5-degree head angle, combined with a reasonable 632mm top tube length, means it feels on point and interested in the twisties in a way that older 29ers don’t.

Having tested Norco’s 27.5 and 29er versions of the Optic head to head previously, the bigger wheels definitely boost small bump smoothness and hold momentum more than the 27.5in bike.

While it weighs just under 14kg as it stands, the heavily hydroformed asymmetric, snaking seat tubed frame is worth a bit of upgrading too.

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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