It sounds daft attributing human emotions to a collection of tubes. But whenever we rode Norco's Fluid 7.2 we got the unmistakeable feeling that it was every bit as glad to be out riding as we were and determined to deliver the maximum fun from every trail.
Breaking that down into the detailed ride dynamic, the handling is the most obvious and influential part. A 740mm wide bar immediately adds purpose and power assisted authority to the steering, and for some reason it seems to be the sweet spot that just scrapes between the tightest tree squeezes of most wooded trails.
The 70mm stem is still short enough to finesse and feather traction without disturbing inherent confidence and stability. Meanwhile the RockShox TK32 fork, with a 15mm thru-axle, takes the control all the way to the tips.
The supple suspension and inherent flex make for a lively, flowing ride
The narrow rims and fast rather than grippy Beeline treads mean that things can go a bit haywire in the last part of the rider-to-trail connection, particularly in damp conditions, but at least you get early and accurate information when things start to slip. A grippier front tyre would noticeably reduce the cornering and off camber fail rate in wet conditions though.
Lively frame that keeps you on your toes
The same lively rather than dull vibe flows through the frame too. Relatively narrow curved frame tubes and skinny linkages mean there’s definite distortion along its length when you’re pushing it hard. A bit of spring and compliance can sometimes really suit a bike though and that’s certainly the case with the Norco.
The 120mm of travel isn’t enough to suck you into really sketchy sections too fast. But if you do find yourself in dicey circumstances, having a frame that can swerve the biggest slams can be a useful get out of jail card.
The suspension is equally lively and active too. It’s tight enough to put your effort into the trail without wallowing and bobbing with every pedal push, yet supple enough to stop you getting knocked off your stride.
If you’re a really hard rider then you’ll want to ramp up pressure for solid support, but that’s likely to make the frame flex more obvious so you’re better off cutting it some slack and letting it make the most of the travel it’s got. If you really want to get your grunt on there are lockout levers at both ends anyway.
The impressive value, slick-shifting and highly durable Shimano Deore/SLX/XT mix 10spd transmission is great value on a full-sus bike in this price bracket – and it’s light enough to gain speed easily so you don’t need gravity on your side to have a really good time.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.