Bike Test: Norco Shore One

Calling a bike "The Shore" might seem a bit pretentious, but Vancouver-based Norco was on the scene before the first ladder bridge was ever built on the city's infamous North Shore, and it cooked up this bike specifically for the technical terrain of its namesake.

As one would expect, the Shore One is truly at home when pointed downhill on tight, demanding trails. The bike's 66-degree headtube angle is relaxed enough to allow riders to ease off the brakes and let it run, but doesn't sacrifice their ability to attack sharp turns when needed.

These quick-and-nimble handling traits were aided by a RockShox Totem coil fork, and its totem-pole-thick 1.5-inch steerer. Apart from a blown seal on the right fork leg that required some time in the shop, the fork provided stiff, accurate handling, and proved a good match for the bike. The heavily gusseted front end is complemented by a burly chassis in the rear—the Fox DH 5.0 travels through 7 inches of smooth, coil-sprung, Horst-Link travel, and is a nice match for the 150-millimeter-wide rear end. It all adds up to a bike that tracks through rough steeps and chutes without flinching.

The most unique feature on this bike is its HammerSchmidt Freeride crank. This was my first experience using the new system extensively, and over the course of several months it never skipped a beat. The benefits are undeniable, and I found myself using the front shifter more than ever. The instant, lag-free shifting was a huge advantage when negotiating the North Shore's legendary woodwork. Roll into a steep, fast descent followed by a short uphill burst, and the HammerSchmidt leaves single-ringers in the dust.

The one part of riding the Shore (on the Shore) that didn't live up to expectations was getting back up the hill—because of the bike's interrupted seat tube, saddle height adjustment range is negligible, which is unfortunate given the benefit of the flawless "dual-ring" setup in front.

Upgrading to an adjustable-height seatpost made climbing more manageable, but weighing in at 40 pounds with some pretty relaxed angles, there's no doubt that this is a gravity machine. Regardless, the Shore saw its share of grinding climbs to reach some epic freeride trails not accessible by shuttle—and in the end that's what the North Shore's all about.

The build kit proved particularly durable, and is well suited to the bike's intended terrain. The Shore Three retails for about half the cost of the high-end Shore One, and it comes with the same stellar chassis and a respectable parts pick. Still, the Shore One delivers a great value of its own, and there's not a stock component that I'd choose to upgrade.