Norco Optic – Test Ride

Norco Optic Details
  • 27.5″ or 29″ Wheels
  • Sizes:  S, M, L, XL
  • 120/110mm Front and Rear (29″)
  • 130/12omm Front and Rear(27.5)
  • MSRP: $5199.99

Norco was one of the first brands to begin producing bikes on the 650B wheel size, and therefore have perfected their platforms for it. Their refinement is obviously present on their new Optic trail bike. We rode the Optic in both wheel sizes on their C7.2 and C9.2 models. The bike features 110mm of rear travel and 120mm up front for 29er frames. The 27.5 frame gets an added 10mm cushion front and rear. Both models have identical spec otherwise and are well equipped with a Fox Float 34 fork, Fox Float EVOL rear shock, Shimano’s XT M8000 drivetrain and brakes, Rock Shox Reverb 150mm dropper post, Easton wheels, and Raceface cranks, wide bars, and a short stem, . The tires however, were questionable. Narrow, 2.25” lightweight casing Nobby Nic’s are not ideal for riding in Northern California’s rocky and technical Gold Country. Dane actually ended up swapped the wheels for some of his own. Norco has adopted the Horst Link suspension platform that they utilize on the Optic. The horst link allows brake forces to be isolated from the suspension. This keeps your suspension active even under heavy braking.

Norco Optic C9.2 (29inch wheels)

Norco Optic C7.2 (27.5 wheels)

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Riding the Optic

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We hit the trailhead right as the sun began peeking out from behind the walls of the canyon. The Auburn ravine was filled with fog and the roar of the American river could be heard as we climbed up the steep and rocky hillsides on our bikes. It was a perfect day to be testing a new bike on the trails at Auburn State Recreation Area.

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Yes, that is Culvert trail

The route we had planned for the day was filled with trails flat and steep, and covered with rocks, roots, drops, and jumps. Originally, we had anticipated the difficult route was going to be a little too aggressive for Norco’s new trail bike. Even though on paper the geometry of the bike does not inspire any confidence for descending, the bike proved us wrong when we dropped in on the first trail. The bike provided much more stability than your typical “trail” bike, yet still had the snappy handling that you would expect. Through rock gardens and rough terrain, the Optic had no problem holding a straight line. When the trails became flatter and smoother, the Optic’s quick acceleration and maneuverability really began to shine. The bike required minimal input when carrying speed through sweeping turns and undulating terrain. I found myself using much less effort while navigating Auburn’s Culvert trail. However, this isn’t to say we’re about to trade our all mountain rigs for these trail bikes. We did find ourselves feeling a little bit over the front of the bike, which isn’t typically the most comfortable position when blasting downhill. If we were to add one of these bikes to our own quiver a 140mm fork and riser bars would be added.

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No problems giving the back wheel some love

Working against gravity and going uphill was comfortable and easy. The light bike seems to jump with each pedal stroke. The steep 74.9 degree seat tube angle sets you up in a comfortable position to put power to the pedals and get back uphill. The test bikes came with a 2×11 drivetrains, but the extra cadence was basically negligible compared to the 1×11 set up on my personal bike. Nevertheless, the minimal effort needed to pedal the Optic back up hill means riders can climb higher, ride further, and stay in the saddle longer.

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Most people don’t attempt this gap on much more capable rigs. Not an issue for the Optic.

Overall

+

  • 27.5″ or 29″ Wheels
  • Wide bars and short stem
  • Versatile capability
  • Quick handling
  • Bike comes with a 1x chain ring to swap out the 2x system.

  • Lightweight tires unsuitable for rough terrain
  • Bars felt cluttered with shifter, brake and dropper on the left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Obviously, this bike is designed for trails of the more “tame” variety. However the Optic is still capable and a blast to ride on steeper and more technical terrain. It is sturdy enough to handle rough riding while still bringing entertainment to easier terrain.

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4 thoughts on “Norco Optic – Test Ride

  1. Thank you for verifying the capability of a 120mm trail bike. It helped me to decide between upgrading the fork and shock on my 120mm bike or replacing with a 140mm bike. I will replace my Revelation with a 120 or 130 Pike or Fox. I found the Revelation to be OK for climbing and descending fire roads, only.

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