Norco Torrent HT S2 review

Norco’s no-nonsense hardcore hardtail promises to set the trails alight

  The products mentioned in this article are selected or reviewed independently by our journalists. When you buy through links on our site we may earn an affiliate commission, but this never influences our opinion.
Our rating 
3.5 out of 5 star rating 3.5
GBP £1,845.00 RRP
Norco Torrent HT S2 hardtail mountain bike

Our review

Impressive descent-focused performance but the spec isn't perfect
Pros: Downhill composure and speed is impressive; modern geometry and upgrade potential help futureproof the frame
Cons: Brakes lack power; freehub failed during the testing period; value for money isn't great
Skip to view product specifications

Norco’s Torrent HT S2 takes progressive geometry with reach-focused sizing and slaps it on a no-fuss 4130 Chromoly frame with externally routed cables and 29in wheels.

Advertisement

Designed to tackle a broad range of trails, the Torrent HT should be best-suited to gnarlier riding and, in particular, descending.

Norco Torrent HT S2 frame details

Norco Torrent HT S2 hardtail mountain bike
The purple paint job certainly pops.
Ian Linton

The frame has simple lines complemented by thin 4130 Chromoly steel tubing, with a triangular gusset between the top tube and seat tube. The frame’s other gussets are much smaller, keeping its lines fairly uninterrupted.

Cables are routed externally along the non-driveside of the down tube, but the seat tube has a small cable port for internally routed dropper posts. There’s an in-built chainstay protector to help reduce chainslap.

Norco Torrent HT S2 hardtail mountain bike
There’s a cable port for dropper post cables.
Ian Linton

The rear hub uses 12x148mm Boost spacing and there’s a threaded 73mm bottom bracket. The chainstays are asymmetrical; the driveside stay is shaped to create enough clearance for a 32-tooth chainring where it meets the bottom bracket.

There’s a single water bottle cage mount inside the front triangle on the down tube and the frame’s got clearance for up to 2.6in wide tyres.

Norco Torrent HT S2 geometry

Norco Torrent HT S2 hardtail mountain bike
There’s a single bottle cage mount inside the front triangle.
Ian Linton

The Torrent HT S2 has been given gravity-focused geometry and touts – for the size large I tested – a slack 64-degree head tube angle and a relatively steep 76-degree effective seat-tube angle.

Elsewhere there’s a generous 480mm reach, a 1,243mm wheelbase and short 425mm chainstays. It’s got a 646mm stack height but a fairly low 698mm standover figure.

The bottom bracket sits at a claimed 333mm (330mm measured) which is a little higher than you’d normally expect to see on a bike with similar figures.

Generally, though, the Torrent HT S2’s geometry all points in the right direction.

Norco Torrent HT S2 specifications

Norco Torrent HT S2 hardtail mountain bike
It’s nice to have 12 gears to help winch the bike’s 15kg weight to the top of the hills.
Ian Linton

The S2 is the cheaper of a two-model range, costing £1,845. Norco’s been clever with where it’s saved money and the Torrent is still adorned with a host of brand-name parts.

Up front, there’s a RockShox 35 Gold with 150mm of travel. The 35 fork has a Motion Control low-speed compression damping dial on the top of the right-hand leg which can be used to lock the forks out, and a low-speed rebound dial on the base of the same leg.

Norco Torrent HT S2 hardtail mountain bike
RockShox’ 35 Gold was a surprise performer.
Ian Linton

There’s an X-Fusion Manic dropper post with 170mm of travel and an X-Fusion remote lever. It has Ergon GA30 grips, a Fizik Tiaga saddle and e.thirteen LG1 EN rims but is specced with a Norco handlebar and stem, and Novatec hubs.

There are TRP G-Spec Trail S brakes with 180mm rotors front and rear, and a full SRAM SX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain with an 11-50t cassette and 30t chainring.

Norco Torrent HT S2 hardtail mountain bike
The rear hub’s freewheel broke during the testing period.
Ian Linton

Elsewhere, Norco’s specced the impressively grippy Maxxis Assegai 3C MaxxTerra EXO+ tyres front and rear, both 2.5in wide.

The full build Torrent HT S2 in size large without pedals weighs 15.81kg.

Norco Torrent HT S2 ride impressions

Norco Torrent HT S2 hardtail mountain bike
I found the overall package to feel very composed on most trails.
Ian Linton

I tested the Norco Torrent HT S2 on a host of different trails ranging from flat-out trail centre blasts through to technical off-piste singletrack descents with enduro-bike worthy gradients, as well as chunky rocky chunder and drops and jumps.

I set it up with 110psi in the fork air spring, and although the RockShox 35 is compatible with volume spacer tokens, I decided to keep them in the stock setup with zero tokens. Rebound was set to taste. I put 23psi in the front tyre and 25psi in the rear. For reference, I weigh 73kg.

Norco Torrent HT S2 climbing performance

The Torrent’s chunky 15.81kg weight and slow-rolling but ultra-grippy Maxxis Assegai tyres meant it wasn’t the nippiest bike on the ascents, and while that weight meant it held speed well on the flatter sections, it took more effort to get it up to speed than lighter, more trail-focused bikes.

Norco Torrent HT S2 hardtail mountain bike
Norco is a Canadian brand.
Ian Linton

But none of that was a problem when the Torrent’s intended use is considered, being best suited to winch and plummet riding where the climbs are taken at an energy-conserving pace and the descents attacked with speed.

Luckily, the Torrent’s geometry matched its relatively lethargic uphill demeanour, and it put me in a rather upright and relaxed ascending position that was well suited to fireroad uphill plodding.

Once the trails got twisty or more difficult, there was enough space afforded by the generous 641mm top tube and 480mm reach figure to move around the bike without upsetting its general balance.

Norco Torrent HT S2 hardtail mountain bike
SRAM’s SX drivetrain has plenty of gears but doesn’t feel as crisp as the more expensive versions.
Ian Linton

The calm climbing demeanour, helped by the grippy MaxxTerra Assegais sticking to the trail, was also complemented by the 76-degree effective seat-tube angle that kept my hips more central over the bottom bracket.

I did have to angle the saddle’s nose down and push it as far forward in the seatpost rails as possible, hinting that the seat-tube angle could be steeper still.

Norco Torrent HT S2 hardtail mountain bike
The unbranded stem is chunky and has been specced to help reduce the price of the bike.
Ian Linton

Although the SRAM SX Eagle drivetrain offered plenty of gears for the climbs, even considering the bike’s weight, the shifter’s actuation felt mushy and vague.

Matchmaker systems aren’t available on SX-level SRAM kit and I couldn’t position the shifter so that I didn’t have to move my hand on the grips to change gear. This limited my ability to change gear quickly.

Although TRP brakes are Matchmaker compatible (with a Tektro HD 3.5 adaptor), this couldn’t be used because of the SX-level kit.

Both the brake and shifter bar clamps are wide, further limiting my ability to position the shifter where I wanted it.

Norco Torrent HT S2 hardtail mountain bike
The X-Fusion Manic dropper performed well.
Ian Linton

The dropper post had plenty of travel to extend high enough for the ascents and got low enough to be out of the way on the descents.

Unsurprisingly, I didn’t suffer from any pedal strike issues, although the 175mm cranks were longer than I was used to.

Generally, the Torrent climbs well, but don’t expect to be breaking any personal records on the climbs – it isn’t the quickest bike to motor up hill.

Norco Torrent HT S2 descending performance

Norco Torrent HT S2 hardtail mountain bike
The Torrent was most at home when heading downhill.
Ian Linton

First impressions revealed a low-feeling front end, despite the relatively high 646mm stack height. I ended up putting all of the supplied stem stackers underneath the stem to get the bars to my preferred height. Once set up like this, the bike instantly rode better, coming alive the steeper the trails were.

With gravity on my side, the Torrent was a pleasure to ride and it took a lot of rough terrain to really upset its composure. This calmness meant that choosing lines ­– and hitting them – was a fun-filled affair and I didn’t feel like I was hanging on for dear life trying to control the bike.

Norco Torrent HT S2 hardtail mountain bike
TRP’s G-Spec Trail brakes bite well but feel wooden when the trails hot up.
Ian Linton

Most impressively, really rough sections were dispatched with total confidence and the slack head angle and long wheelbase helped reduce forward pivoting on steep descents that bikes with less progressive head angles can experience.

This was the same when the trails were rough; the rear refused to bounce up and get bucked about.

I didn’t feel the short chainstays impacted on the ride negatively, but I also didn’t feel they improved performance. Longer chainstays could make the bike even more stable without sacrificing corning ability.

Norco Torrent HT S2 hardtail mountain bike
There are few interruptions in the Torrent’s smooth lines.
Ian Linton

Despite being sceptical about the 35 Gold’s performance, the RockShox fork impressed me even though it didn’t have the critically acclaimed Charger damper. I found it performed best with the rebound set fully open to help keep it higher in its travel.

The 35 chassis – which shares stanchion diameter with the Pike and Lyrik – proved to be stable even over chunky terrain and the front end didn’t twang around like some smaller stanchioned forks can.

Norco Torrent HT S2 hardtail mountain bike
TRP’s G-Spec Trail brakes bite well but feel wooden when the trails hot up.
Ian Linton

The TRP G-Spec Trail brakes had a solid bite point but they lacked power on long descents and began to feel ‘wooden’; harder squeezes of the lever didn’t correspond to increases in power. For me, the brakes took the shine off the bike’s descending prowess.

Maxxis’ Assegai tyres helped reinstate some of the confidence lost to the brakes underperforming. There’s little the Assegai doesn’t grip on and the EXO+ casing suited the Norco well, helping to further ‘damp’ the ride and improve composure, especially when the trail was steep or there were plenty of turns.

Norco Torrent HT S2 hardtail mountain bike
e.thirteen rims continue the theme of branded parts.
Ian Linton

The Torrent’s also impressively quiet over bumps despite there only being a sole chainstay protector rather than seat and chainstay protectors. The silence is good, but made it feel like I was going slower than I was!

During the testing period, the Novatec rear hub’s freewheel broke and refused to disengage, spinning the cranks when I wanted to freewheel. I contacted Evans Cycles – Norco’s UK importers – to find out what would happen if a consumer experienced the same issues.

Evans Cycles said it would “take the bike in for inspection and replace the faulty part free of charge under the warranty”, which is good news for consumers who might have the same problem. Evans also has an extensive network of retail shops, which means getting the bike fixed could be easier than if the bike was bought from a direct-sales brand.

Norco Torrent HT S2 bottom line

Norco Torrent HT S2 hardtail mountain bike
The grippy Maxxis Assegai rubber helped keep the bike in check.
Ian Linton

The Torrent HT S2 is a descent-focused hardtail with fantastic on-trail composure. Although it’s quite heavy, this doesn’t seem to affect general performance and I was happy plodding to the top of the climbs and speeding my way downhill.

It does have some faults, particularly the underperforming brakes, but the lower-specced S2 is rife for upgrades which will extend the frame’s lifespan.

Arguably, some of the kit isn’t worthy of its £1,850 price tag. SRAM’s SX-level kit is more commonly seen on lower-priced bikes and, for the money, it would have been nice to see a Charger-damper-equipped RockShox fork like the Pike or Lyrik. That said, the 35 didn’t hold me back on the descents too much.

Advertisement

It’s a shame the rear hub failed during the testing period, but Evans Cycles’ support and retail shop network should make good for a customer in need.

Product Specifications

Product

Price GBP £1845.00
Weight 15.81kg (Large) – Size large, without pedals
What we tested 2020 Norco Torrent HT S2, size large
Year 2020
Brand Norco

Features

Available sizes Small, medium, large, extra-large
Headset FSA
Tyres Maxxis Assegai 2.5x29in 3C EXO+ TR (front and rear)
Stem Norco
Shifter SRAM SX Eagle
Seatpost X-Fusion Manic
Saddle Fizik Tiaga
Rear derailleur SRAM SX Eagle
Handlebar Norco 6061 Alloy
Bottom bracket SRAM DUB, BSA 73mm
Grips/Tape Ergon GA30
Frame 4130 Chromoly
Fork RockShox 35 Gold RL
Cranks SRAM SX Eagle 30t chainring
Chain SRAM SX Eagle
Cassette SRAM SX Eagle
Brakes TRP G-Spec Trail S
Wheels E.Thirteen LG1 EN rims on Novatec Boost hubs