The 29-inch-wheeled Sight was one of my favorite bikes of 2017, which is why the 130/140-millimeter-travel bike went on this year's list of Bible must-haves. It's also why we chose to include the 27.5 version of the bike in the comically small-wheeled mid-travel category, and why the Range made the cut as well. We went heavy on Norco this year because the Sight was that impressive.
It was the sleeper of the entire test, and not just because of its stealthy paint job. Time and time again, folks would roll up to us at the trailhead and ask, "Is that the new Following? Oh damn, is that an S-Works Stumpy? What's your favorite bike?" And time and time again, testers would point and say, "Probably that bike over there."
Testers felt at home on the bike from the first pedal stroke. It's not just the reasonable numbers, like the 458-millimeter reach and 435-millimeter chainstays on the Large, 67-degree head angle, or 337-millimeter bottom-bracket height. Not having outlandish numbers helps, but what really makes the Sight hit the bullseye is Norco's attention to detail.
Different frame sizes have different chainstay lengths in order to maintain the same front-to-rear-center ratio, plus smaller frames get smaller tube shapes to ensure they have a similar ride feel to larger sizes. Norco followed through on the Sight by dialing kinematics and shock tune. Testers enjoyed the active, yet supportive suspension, using words like, "snappy" and "excitable," one noting that the bike felt lighter on its feet than the tremendously playful Evil Calling. Riders experienced more pedal bob on the Sight than they did on the Ibis Ripley, but noticed gains in traction instead over a loss of efficiency.
As a descender, the bike is predictable and controlled. It uses its travel well, with a supple feel up top and an even ramp with plenty of bottom-out support. It's ideal for aggressive trail and all-mountain riders who love jump lines as much as natural tech and all-day epics. Smart spec, including top-level RockShox suspension, 800-millimeter-wide bars and Maxxis Minion tires added to the bike's appeal.
Its body double, the Trek Fuel EX, has a similar feel in its low geometry position, but feels decidedly more XC when run in the high setting, which some riders may prefer. The Sight doesn't have adjustable geometry, but the bike was so agreeable everywhere that nobody mentioned missing it. Mostly, people just came off the trail saying, "This is my favorite bike of the test so far!"
Q&A with David Cox, bicycle design engineer at Norco Bicycles
Norco's Gravity Tune is focused on maintaining the same front-center to-rear-center ratio between all sizes. Which means taller riders get longer chainstays than shorter ones. Since short stays are all the rage, we've received comments from taller riders saying that being forced into longer stays is the reason they won't purchase a Norco. How would you respond to this concern?
Gravity Tune was born from feedback from our athletes. Taller riders requested longer chainstays than shorter riders. Our intention is to create bikes which provide the same ride and handling characteristics regardless of size. Short stays can certainly be a benefit to riders who are looking to have a more playful feel. Taller riders create more leverage, so they will experience the same playfulness as shorter riders with the adjustment we make in our chainstay lengths. They will also realize the added benefit of balanced traction for their given height. We don't have the longest stays in the industry, not by a long shot.
The description on your website for the concept behind Size-Scaled Tubing, which adjusts the tube dimensions according to frame size says, "Norco engineers are able to calibrate frame stiffness to the weight of the prospective rider. This ensures that a heavier rider on an extra large frame will experience the same ride characteristics as a lighter rider on a small frame." Doesn't this assume that taller riders are always heavier than shorter ones? What about short stocky riders or tall beanpole types?
These differences can definitely occur. We do the best we can, better than competitors that don't tune the frame stiffness per frame size.
How does the Sight's suspension platform differ from the Range's? What sort of attributes were focused on in order for the Sight to deliver the ride characteristics Norco was after?
The Sight is a versatile all-mountain bike and the kinematics are optimized for inline and lower air volume piggyback shocks. The Sight has less rear travel, lower progression, and higher anti-squat than the Range. The Sight has a more playful ride characteristic too. The Range kinematics are optimized for piggyback air and coil shocks, to give the best performance for its intended use as an enduro bike.