Norco are set to make a big return to the world circuit this year, with some high-profile new signings – Jill Kintner, Bryn Atkinson and Mike Hopkins – flying the flag alongside the established Dirt-Norco pairing of Ben Reid and Dan Stanbridge.
The downhillers will compete aboard the new 200mm-travel (8in) Aurum, which has been two years in development. It uses a tweaked version of Norco's ART (Advanced Ride Technology) suspension setup, which is based on Specialized's venerable four-bar FSR design.
One of the key design features of the bike is its 'Gravity Tune' geometry. Rather than just altering the length of the front triangle for different size frames, Norco also change the chainstay length and even the suspension kinematics, dialling in different amounts of chain growth and anti-squat to compensate for differences in rider height and weight. The fork bump stops behind the tapered head tube are a neat touch too, as is the integrated seatpost clamp.
Pictured here is the £2,499.99 (CAD$3,550/US$3,550) Aurum 2, which Mountain Biking UK's technical editor, Rob Weaver, has picked as his long-term test bike for the year. Component highlights on this base-level model include a RockShox Boxxer RC Race fork, X-Fusion Vector RC shock, Sun Inferno wheels shod with Kenda Nevegal tyres, SRAM X7 kit and Avid Elixir 5 disc brakes. Claimed weight is 39.7lb/18kg; we've yet to put it on our scales.
Two other complete builds are available. The Aurum 1 comes with a Boxxer R2C2 and RockShox Vivid R2C shock, the same wheels and SRAM X9 kit for £3,699.99 (CAD$5,350/US$5,325). The Aurum LE upgrades to a Boxxer World Cup and Cane Creek Double Barrel shock, Easton Havoc DH wheels and SRAM X0 kit, and costs £5,199.99 (US$7,350/CAD$7,450).
If you prefer, you can buy a frameset and fit it with the kit of your choice. In the UK, distributors Evans Cycles tell us they'll be offering a Dirt-Norco team replica frameset for £1,799.99 from early March. See our image gallery for an artist's impression.
In North America, the frameset will also be available with the same white and red paintjob as the top-end LE bike. Both colourways will cost CAD$2,600/US$2,600. Frames will come with a Cane Creek Double Barrel shock and Angleset headset, plus an own-brand seatpost and Syntace rear axle.