Norco’s 2008 Six Two is a totally new, far more radical freeride-style beast, but unfortunately Norco seem to have forgotten that with some of the speccing.
For an air shock bike, the new Six Two exhibits incredible impact collection and control. Its superb handling balance helps you survive the most brainless of moves. However, it’s horribly squishy under pedalling and has limited seat adjustment. The spec is a worry too: we’re not sure it won’t eat its own equipment.
Ride & handling: slopestyle perfection, but a slow climber
We have absolutely no problems with the ride. In fact, our chief Shore and slope lunatic Cal declared it the “embodiment of slopestyle perfection” after whipping it around the most radical lines in his woods.
Rather than building a frame and then going shock shopping, Norco have worked directly with Fox to build the bike around exactly what they wanted the DHX shock to do. Using a massively rising rate created by the long linkage, they’ve achieved some astonishing results for an air shock. Even when you drop the back wheel down with the bike stationary, there’s not a hint of rebound bounce or quiver. The rear wheel just hits the ground with a splat and sticks – normally a trick only the best set up coils can achieve.
You get the same astonishing impact absorption when you’re riding. Whatever height you drop in from, onto whatever surface, the Six sucks it up and instantly regains control. This bike breeds freeride flow in even the most flightless riders.
The neutral behaviour of the four-bar back end under braking means this flawless composure remains unaffected, even in the steepest run-ins or shortest turn around sections.
Like the Specialized SX Trail I, the super short stem and slack angles give it a totally insolent attitude to danger. It never feels hurried or pressured, and even when you’re pushing your limits it never shares your nervousness – it just sticks to the trail whatever lean or descent angles you’re pulling, popping cleanly and accurately into the air whenever you need it to. The way it rushes through the first part of travel also makes it a dream to manual, or just move around on the shock.
There are some downsides to the radical shock set-up, though. This is glaringly obvious as soon as you stand up on the pedals and feel the whole back end start to sag like a wounded wildebeest.
Even with plenty of ProPedal wound on, it’s still obvious that you’re trying to skim over the top of a suspension swamp. Combine that with the low seat height and awkward ‘handlebars in your lap’ riding position and, despite the relatively low overall weight of the bike, you’ll soon give up any hope of winning sprints and learn to spin patiently back up instead.
Frame: radical curves
With its new frame shape for 2008 the Six is certainly a radical-looking bike now – it’s probably the most ‘melted’ shape we’ve ever seen. The top tube and down tube are both super drooped ‘S’ shapes, the split seat tube is a big backswept arc, and even the chainstays are curved to reduce chainslap.
But while previous Norcos have had an extremely industrial quality to their build and bridgework, the brace pieces and reinforcing sections on the new Six are much more refined. Judging from what we’ve done on it already, impact strength is not an issue.
While it’s a much lighter frame overall, slacker angles and the limited saddle height adjustment from the short seat tube stub mean it’s more of a freerider than a long rider.
Some bikes are designed to work with whatever shock unit the manufacturer decides to fit, but the Six has a much more intimate relationship with its Fox Piggyback can. Earlier versions were criticised for rushing through their mid-stroke too easily, so Norco have engineered the linkage so that it’s much more progressive than usual, moving the ramp up the mid-stroke and offsetting the natural shock action. Simple, but effective for swallowing the big stuff.
Equipment: is it up to the job?
You can take a guess about its freeride nature before you’ve even ridden it though, thanks to the stumpy little jump saddle. But we’re worried about the rest of the kit – it seems a little ‘lite’.
Granted, the Marzocchi Air forks are noticeably smoother over big stuff than the other two sets. Air forks always have more failure potential than coils, though, and it really doesn’t need the extra complexity of travel adjust.
While the hubs are WTB’s toughest, the Syncros rims are tough all-mountain hoops rather than superwide slammers, and the Kenda tyres are fairly lightweight Kevlar-beaded versions.
While you get a Black Spire chain guide and bashguard, the cranks at the centre are Stylo XC units rather than anything more freefall-proof. The Syncros bars are relatively narrow too.
All this helps make the Six the lightest of the bikes we tested alongside it, and despite a proper hammering we didn’t have any problems with stuff snapping.