Norco’s Torrent 7.1 is one of the best 27.5+ hardtails our test team has ridden recently. But can it still deliver the same mega-performance in its budget guise?
Fat rubber, fine details
It starts well, with exactly the same 67.5-angle head tube, heavily sloped but generously long 635mm top tube and low 310mm bottom bracket frame. Impressively the curved seat tube and downward kinked 425mm chainstays and extra wide 148x12mm Boost rear spacing bring the big 3in tyres closer to the frame than most normal bikes without compromising mud clearance.
The wide bar delivers plenty of wrestling power
While it comes with a standard seatpost there are mounts for an external or internal dropper post cable/hose too. Kit is generally impressive as well, especially the Race Face Aeffect, with an extra-small 28-tooth chainring to sync better with the 10-speed 11-36-tooth rear cassette.
The wide 780mm, 35mm diameter bar and 55mm stem give outrageous amounts of steering leverage for ripping the fat, stubborn steering contact patch of the tyre round into corners or holding massive sideways drifts.
The 28t Race Face Aeffect crankset helps easily winch the Torrent up the steepest slopes
The Shimano M395 brakes are lack the modulation of higher end stoppers and while the Boost-width thru-axle of the Suntour Raidon fork is a bonus in terms of tracking stiffness, the suspension performance is basic and it actually snapped its damper rod retaining bolt and rapidly rattled itself to a completely rigid state in just a few hours of riding.
Big plus points
Weirdly, the broken fork turned out to be the best possible demonstration of the potential advantages of using plus tyres at super low (10-15psi) pressures.
Their ability to float smoothly across roots and rocks still left the non-plus bikes we were testing at the same time standing on rougher trails. Climbing and braking grip was unbelievable too, with the Norco regularly winching up slippery, super techy slopes we couldn’t even walk up.
The Torrent was a gleeful companion when things headed downhill
It had no trouble tackling steep, sketchy rocky stepped descents or boulder fields with confidence, even with the basic brakes and dead fork either. While the plus tyres felt flaccid and draggy under power compared with conventional ones on smoother surfaces, rolling speed isn’t actually that bad in reality.
Significantly it also kept pace even more easily towards the end of longer rides where other riders were knackered from the bump and rattle that wasn’t even reaching whoever was on the Norco. That lack of tactile connection to the ground and the ability to carve through anything does threaten to make it an unrewarding ride, but when it comes to speed sustain on rough terrain there’s no ignoring their cost-effective improvement of performance.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.