Norco’s full-suspension Fluid comes in both 650b and 29in wheel sizes, with ‘modern geometry’ that gives generous reaches, long, stable wheelbase numbers and steeper seat angles for a good climbing position.
The 650b bike is only available in small and medium, while the 29in bike comes in medium, large (tested here) and XL.
Norco Fluid FS 3 frame
The Canadian brand is known for thoughtful details, such as increasing effective chainstay length with frame size. While you don’t get that on the budget Fluid FS, its double-butted tubing is ‘size-scaled’ to ensure that ride feel and stiffness levels remain consistent for all riders. It’s a neat detail for the price.
The alloy frame is also smooth-welded, which means it’s seen a double pass of the welder’s gun.
At the rear, you get a ‘proper’ four-bar linkage with a chainstay pivot, offering more suspension-tuning potential than some other designs.
The 120mm of rear wheel travel is controlled by an X-Fusion shock, orientated upside-down. There’s room for a full-size water bottle on the down tube. The frame is very low-slung, without impeding full insertion of the 125mm-stroke dropper post.
Cables run internally and are held in place by plastic grommets to keep the bike silent and rattle-free, even on really rough trails.
The Fluid FS’s frame is bang-up-to-date, with a progressive shape and good sizing. Mick KIrkman
Norco Fluid FS 3 kit
At 2.6in, the chunky Goodyear Escape tyres were the fattest on test, up against the Marin Hawk Hill 1, Vitus Mythique 29 VRS and Calibre Triple B. They’re made from the brand’s ‘Premium’ rubber blend, which is a little hard and plasticky, so grip isn’t the best in the wet or mud.
They’re pretty planted in the dry though, and roll fast too. The WTB i29 rims are nice and tough, and mated to own-brand hubs, but the wheel package feels heavy and slow to get rolling from a standstill or to push uphill.
The suspension is a mix of Suntour (front) and X-Fusion (rear) kit. While the 02 Pro R shock has a rebound dial and just about enough damping headroom to open up for some fluidity, the 130mm-travel, 34mm-legged XCR fork feels sticky, overdamped and slow to return after hits, even when run fully open.
While the 180mm front and 160mm rear brake rotors are on the small side for a 29er, the Tektro stoppers actually provide decent power and the big lever blades are a comfortable shape in the hand.
Norco Fluid FS 3 ride impressions
While the Suntour XCR fork looks the part, it’s lacking in sophistication and control. Mick KIrkman
Norco has got the seated climbing position dialled, with feet and hips over the cranks. Having a massive 11-50t, 12-speed SRAM Eagle cassette means there’s enough gearing range to get up most things and, along with the supportive rear suspension, ensures the Fluid FS is comfortable tackling big climbs.
The chunky wheels and tyres are hard to get rolling though, and feel dull when accelerating, which demands more effort uphill and can make things feel like a bit of a slog, especially up steep pitches or when continually changing speed over knobbly ground.
The long, stable chassis puts you in a good position for the descents and there are no handling quirks to panic you or deflect the wheels at higher speeds. Point it down and the Norco builds up a real head of steam, holding its pace well on smoother, flowy, trail-centre-type tracks.
This energy sometimes builds to the extent that it’s a bit of a runaway train though, making it harder to manoeuvre though tighter sections at speed, unless you give it some body English. It can also be tricky to get the Fluid FS working well over rough repeated hits or on steep off-piste trails.
While the rear end feels composed, the fork isn’t very smooth or comfortable, and its slow damping means you get jiggled about on bumps and rocks when it can’t keep up.
Overall, while the Norco’s shape is good, as a whole package it feels a bit dull compared to the competition. The fork was easily the worst on test, which has a big influence on the overall ride experience and reduces comfort, vision and concentration over bumpy terrain.
Norco Fluid FS 3 geometry
Sizes (* tested): M, L*, XL (29in wheel) / XS, S, M (650b wheels)
Seat angle: 76 degrees
Head angle: 66.5 degrees
Chainstay: 42.9cm / 16.89in
Seat tube: 45cm / 17.72in
Top tube: 62.3cm / 24.53in
Head tube: 11cm / 4.33in
Fork offset: 5.1cm / 2.01in
Trail: 10.9cm / 4.29in
Bottom bracket drop: 3.6cm / 1.42in
Bottom bracket height: 34.2cm / 13.46in
Wheelbase: 1,204mm / 47.4in
Stack: 61.2cm / 24.09in
Reach: 47cm / 18.5in
How we tested
This bike was tested as part of a four bike wallet-friendly full suspension grouptest.
With a £1,500 price point, these full-suspension bikes were tested to see which one packs the most punch for the cash.
Bikes also on test: