Review: Norco Shinobi 2
By Ryan LaBar
Norco’s Shinobi is designed for all-day all-mountain riding with big climbs and big descents. Its frame is packed with well-thought-out features including post-style disc brake mounts, Syntace’s 142×12 axle system, a spare derailleur hanger bolt (that threads into the frame by the bottom bracket for storage), and a headtube that is extra short in order to keep the front end from feeling a mile high with the long legged 140-millimeter fork and 29-inch wheels.
While having a bike frame that’s loaded with fancy, smart details is nice, the important thing is how it rides.
Climbing is a strong point for the Norco. It scoots up steep rough climbs without losing traction and pedals efficiently when settling in on longer grinders. However, while not a pig by any means, the bike’s ~30-pound heft could be felt a bit after a day full of climbs. Then again, at this build level and spec, you aren’t going to find a much lighter package.
On the descents, the Shinobi is both stable and predictable. The suspension gobbles up hits of all sizes, with the big wheels helping to smooth the trail out even further. The low standover and neutral geometry make the bike surprisingly and pleasantly nimble. The rear-end is remarkably stiff for a wagon wheeler, helping the bike hold hard lines and slash corners. This stiffness can be at least partially attributed to the bike’s one-piece rocker and bridged seatstays. Manualing and jumping the Shinobi takes a bit more effort and body English than on a 26-inch wheeled bike, but after a while it becomes second nature.
The faster the trail, the better the Shinobi’s manners. On slower, tight and punchy singletrack the advantages of the bigger wheels are diminished.
The pivots on the Shinobi seem to handle the elements well. A good bit of my rides on this bike have been in the mud, rain or snow, and they have yet to make a sound or even feel anything less than smooth.
The build of the Shinobi is quite solid. The stem and bar length are appropriate for the category (I’d personally like slightly wider bars, but these were acceptable), the suspension felt spot-on, the SRAM X7/X9 drivetrain preformed well and the Avid Elixir brakes offered plenty of stopping power, wet or dry.
There were a few details that I felt were small misses. The extra short headtube and internal headset can cause some clearance issues with the taper length of some forks’ steerer tubes—I ran into an issue with the White Brothers Loop fork where the Norco’s upper crown race would bottom out on the steerer tube’s taper, making it impossible to tighten the headset. I also didn’t really like how the rear brake hose is routed. It runs along the downtube—where rogue rocks can split hosing open (though I, admittedly didn’t encounter that issue with the Shinobi)—and every once in a while the housing would inch rearward, start bowing in and rubbing lightly against the spokes (tightening up the zip ties and adjusting the way the hose twists could remedy this).
At the end of the day, the Shinobi is a fun and capable trail shredder that will efficiently take you to the top of the climb and will charge all the way to the bottom. In the realm of 29er all-mountain bikes, the Norco certainly holds its own.
The model tested here is from Norco’s 2012 line. For 2013 the Shinobi sees a lower price (with some minor spec changes).
For more information go to norco.com.