Norco’s new, 650b wheeled Aurum should need no introduction if you’re a fan of downhill racing.
Fast-and-loose Kiwi Sam Blenkinsop and UK ripper Harry Heath have been piloting the carbon Norco on the World Cup scene with tons of steeze, and getting some tidy results too. We hopped on the cheapest of this year’s three complete bikes and headed straight for the gnar to find out whether this budget build is still race ready.
Frame and equipment: strong package for the price
The ‘C’ in the Aurum’s name refers to the chunky carbon front triangle, while the rear end is alloy. The 200mm (7.9in) travel frame has a 142x12mm rear axle – a size more often seen on trail bikes – and wide PF107 bottom bracket.
Neat touches include an integrated seat clamp, fork bumpers and down tube protector. The cable guides also deserve a shout for being some of the tidiest we’ve seen.
Finishing touches include a neat integrated seat clamp
With such a meticulously thought out frame, there’s no room for bling on the C7.3 given its price tag. But despite the limited budget, it’s obvious serious thought has gone into the build – the chassis is kitted out with a mix of solid, reliable parts.
Shimano provides the Zee brakes and shifting gear, including a custom seven-speed cassette that has a neat spacer to stop the chain dropping into the wheel. Suspension wise, the RockShox Boxxer RC up front and Kage RC out back complement each other well, and the 3C compound Maxxis rubber won’t need changing after one ride either.
Ride and handling: well-thought out all-rounder
Speaking of riding, the Aurum’s long wheelbase (1,210mm, size medium) and slack 63-degree head angle give piles of confidence, with the bike remaining stable through everything we could throw at it. It still turns well thanks to the central riding position and relatively short chainstays.
As an all-round DH performer, the Norco feels great and is an easy bike to hop on and ride fast, despite the relatively short effective top tube length (571mm, size medium) and reach (413mm). The Spank bar is a sensible width and comfortable shape, and although it took us a serious amount of time to get the Zee brakes working properly, they haven’t needed touching since.
The low-slung Aurum is an easy bike to hop on and ride fast
Comfort and confidence is ramped up even more by the feel of the rear shock. Despite being a budget contender, the Kage feels incredibly plush at the start of the travel and ramps up as the hits get bigger.
On steeper trails, the rear end felt perfect. On faster, harder hits we’d have liked a firmer compression tune though, even with the late-stroke progression built into the linkage.
The Boxxer RC’s simplicity makes it great for less experienced riders but the fork can’t match the sensitivity and support of the back end. We’re hard pushed to complain about the overall package for the price though.