Based on a time-proven suspension design, the Norco Faze 2 boasts great handling, supported by top quality kit and with a nice bonus of adjustable suspension travel. There are more plush suspension designs out there, but it’s worth a long hard look if the versatility of adjustable travel appeals.
Norco is best known for its travel, big-tubed, lumberjack-leaping freeride bikes. But with its lean, pared-down looks, licensed Specialized FSR suspension system and Shimano Deore XT-based spec, the ‘cross-country enduro’ Faze 2 is about as far from its log-riding, cliff-hucking counterparts as it’s possible to get.
Chassis: belt-and-braces anti-bob technologies
Key to the Norco’s suspension design is the small ‘FSR’ decal tucked away on the rear triangle, indicating that Norco has licensed the use of Specialized’s patented Horst Link technology.
With a pivot just ahead of the rear dropout, this effectively decouples the seatstays from the suspension and reduces the impact of pedalling and braking forces on the shock.
These days, it’s all but impossible to spec a shock that doesn’t feature some form of anti-bob technology, though, and the Faze obliges with the Fox Float RP23. The combination of Horst Link and Fox ProPedal compression damping is a belt-and- braces approach that should satisfy even the most obsessive speed freak.
Two shock mounting positions on the rocker allow the travel to be switched between 97mm and 116mm, giving the Faze a small travel advantage over some rivals.
None of this clever suspension design would be worthwhile without a decent line of defence up front, so it’s good to see a RockShox Reba Race plugged into the Faze’s headset. With 100mm of travel and adjustable rebound and compression damping, it’s a good choice.
Ride & handling: neutral & in touch with the trail
With its mid-length stem, roomy cockpit and Horst rear end, the Faze 2 holds no nasty surprises. Front-to-rear weight distribution is spot-on, handling is pleasingly neutral and the rear end behaves for all the world like one of Specialized’s own Stumpjumper FSRs.
That’s no bad thing. Specialized was one of the ﬁrst to crack the pedal feedback problem with the Horst Link back in the mid-’90s. Three things have happened since then: the arrival of better shocks; the development of alternative systems that arguably work just as effectively; and the growing acceptance that an ‘active’ suspension isn’t necessarily a problem.
Compared with more recent designs – and particularly inherently plush set-ups like those of the Commençal and Iron Horse – the Norco’s FSR-derived set-up can feel a little constipated. Even with the shock’s ProPedal damping switched off, the Faze can’t keep the rear wheel glued to the ground over small undulations on technical climbs as effectively as the best of the rest.
Of course, the ﬂipside of this slight reticence is exactly the kind of performance beneﬁts that the FSR system promises – pedal and brake neutrality and a feeling of being ‘connected’ to the trail. You pays your money, you takes your choice…
Equipment: full Deore XT
It’s rare to see a full Shimano Deore XT groupset on a bike. Norco doesn’t quite go the whole hog, switching out the Shimano pedals for the lighter and thoroughly excellent Crank Brothers Eggbeaters, but the rest is pure XT.
It works sublimely well, and it’s complemented by Ritchey and WTB ﬁnishing kit.
Verdict: well executed FSR-type four-bar & the travel-adjustability is a plus
Licensing an existing suspension design may seem an unadventurous route to building a full-susser, but the Faze 2 makes a good case for itself. The FSR system works well, provided you’re not overly concerned about small bump response, and the cost of the license fee doesn’t seem to have compromised spec choices.
The Norco offers a tantalising alternative to anyone considering one of Specialized’s own Stumpjumpers, and the ability to switch between shorter and longer travel set-ups might just be enough to tip the balance.