Blister Brand Guide: Norco Mountain Bike Lineup, 2020

Intro

When considering a new mountain bike, there are so many similar-looking bikes on the market being made by so many different companies, it is virtually impossible to (1) know where to begin; (2) quickly figure out which one or two products from a given brand might work well for you; and (3) determine what products from other brands might be the most similar and also worth considering.

So in our new “Blister Brand Guide” series, we provide an overview of the entire product lineup of a brand; highlight how each product stands out from the rest of that brand’s lineup; and help you figure out quickly and easily which bike might work best for you.

In our individual product reviews, we go very deep into the details of particular products. With these Brand Guides, the goal is not Depth, but Breadth. Our Brand Guides and full reviews are designed to complement each other — provide a broad overview of entire company lineups, and then also very detailed reviews of individual products. 

Our mountain bike Brand Guides are presented by CBGTrails. Learn more and start planning your trip today at cbgtrails.com, then download the CBG Trails app for info on the 750+ miles of singletrack and 150+ trails in Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley, Colorado.

See our other MTB Brand Guides

About Norco

Norco was started in 1964 as “Northern Cycle Industries.” They are one of the oldest mountain bike companies, and began producing off-road bikes right as the market was emerging. Today they make road, gravel, and mountain bikes. They offer bikes in aluminum, carbon, and steel at a wide range of price points. 

Norco offers some of their bikes in women’s-specific build kits. These women’s bikes are produced in a different size range, feature narrower handlebars, and have different saddles and grips. Other than that, the women’s-specific kits have the same geometry and parts spec as their unisex counterparts.

Norco calls their approach to balanced geometry and suspension the “Ride Aligned™” system. This is basically their way of designing their bikes so that the geometry and suspension creates a functional fit with equalized weight and traction on the front and rear tires, with particular attention paid to making this consistent across all sizes. They offer a bike setup guide through an app that helps you get the best fit, suspension, and tire pressures for your Norco bike. 

In particular, Norco offers the Sight and Range in the “Build Your Ride, Ride Your Build” custom program, where you can customize which frame, suspension kit, and component kit you might want. Norco also offers  27.5″ and / or 29″ wheels for many sizes of many of their models, which we’ll note below.

Norco is currently based in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada.

Current Warranty (for the original owner, valid for 2018-2020 frames)

  • Lifetime on Search, Section, Threshold, Valence, Tactic, Fluid HT, Charger, Storm, XFR, VFR, Indie, Scene, Scene VLT, VLT, Yorkville, Sasquatch, Bigfoot, Revolver HT, and Torrent HT if bike was registered within 90 days of purchase
  • Five years on All Mountain / Trail / Fatbike / Trail Plus / XC / XC Race frames
  • Three years on Downhill / Enduro / Dirt / Street / BMX frames
  • For more information, visit Norco.

Norco’s suspension design:  Horst Hanging Link, Horst Rocker Link, High Single Pivot (HSP)

(For more on different suspension designs, see our Suspension 101 article)

Before we get into their specific models and build options, here are some things to keep in mind when deciding on which build level to go with, and why.

First, when looking at complete bikes, suspension and wheels are going to make the biggest difference in how a bike really rides. Spend money on those before other things like higher-end drivetrain parts, cockpit parts (e.g., stem, handlebars, etc.), cranks, etc.

Tires make an enormous difference in performance, but are cheaper and easier to upgrade, especially since they tend to wear down quicker than other components. Upgrading a lower-end front tire to something better — and saving the original for rear-tire use — can be a good way to improve a bike while still making use of the originals, since front tires are generally a lot more important than rear tires when it comes to traction.

Drivetrain parts can be upgraded piecemeal as they wear out, or if you just want to upgrade down the line. Higher-end cassettes are mostly just lighter, while higher-end shifters and derailleurs get lighter, smoother, and sometimes last a bit longer as you go up in price.

We’ll outline here the different models in Norco’s MTB lineup, organized from most cross-country-oriented (XC) to downhill-oriented (DH). In other words, the bikes at the top of the list are optimized to pedal and climb uphill very well, while the bikes at the bottom are optimized to handle very rough, steep, and challenging descents very well.

We’ve included some notable information for each model:

Available build kits & their MSRP

  • Best Budget Build: These are the build kits that we think make the most sense for people trying to spend the least amount without ending up with a build that’s going to immediately break or need to be upgraded.
  • Most Performance for the Price: These are the build kits that we think make the most sense for people seeking the best balance of performance and cost. I.e., if you don’t need to get the cheapest bike, but you also don’t need the absolute lightest bike or all the newest bling, this is the build we think makes sense for you.
  • Suspension travel (e.g., 100 mm of travel, 130 mm of travel, etc.)
  • Wheel size (e.g., 27.5”, 27.5+, 29”)
  • Frame material options (e.g., alloy vs. carbon)
  • A brief description of what the bike was designed for and any notable design details.
  • Some of the bike’s most direct competitors from other brands
  • Which Norco bike it’s most similar to
  • Reasons why you should buy it
  • Reasons why you should not buy it

Norco Mountain Bikes

(Most Cross-Country-Oriented to Most Downhill-Oriented)

Note: bikes and build kits with an asterisk* are from model year 2019, and may not be available throughout the 2020 season.

Blister Brand Guide: Blister breaks down Norco's 2020 mountain bike lineup
  • Front: 100 mm
  • Rear: Hardtail
  • 27.5" or 29"
  • Alloy

Norco’s budget-friendly, entry-level hardtail. This bike can go where road, gravel, and hybrid bikes can’t and give you a taste of what mountain biking is about, without costing a fortune.

Consider If:

  • You are on a tight budget
  • The trails you ride are mostly smooth and flat
  • You are a beginner looking to get into the sport

Don’t Bother If:

  • You are looking to ride steep and bumpy trails
  • You are willing to spend more money for increased performance
  • 4: $519
  • 4 Women’s: $519
  • 3: $619
  • 3 Women’s: $619
  • 2: $729
  • 2 Women’s: $729
  • 1: $949 – Best Budget Build & Most Performance for the Price
  • 1 Women’s: $949 – Best Budget Build & Most Performance for the Price
  • Specialized Rockhopper
  • Trek X-Caliber
  • Giant Talon
  • Kona Hardtails
  • Scott Aspect
  • Rocky Mountain Fusion & Soul
Blister Brand Guide: Blister breaks down Norco's 2020 mountain bike lineup
  • Front: 100-120 mm
  • Rear: Hardtail
  • 29"
  • Carbon

Norco’s XC-race hardtail, designed for modern XC courses.

More like the Revolver FS 100 than the Storm.

Consider If:

  • You race or ride XC
  • You appreciate a lightweight hardtail that climbs well

Don’t Bother If:

  • You often ride or race steep, technical, and bumpy trails
  • You like a bike that is forgiving on descents
  • 2 120: $2,599 – Best Budget Build
  • 1 120: $3,599
  • XTR 100: $5,399 – Most Performance for the Price
  • AXS 100: $6,999
  • Frame: $1,399
  • Specialized Epic Hardtail
  • Santa Cruz Highball
  • Pivot Les
  • Trek Procaliber
  • Giant XTC Advanced
  • Scott Scale
  • Rocky Mountain Vertex
  • Ibis DV9
  • Cannondale F-SI
  • Canyon Exceed
  • Mondraker Chrono, Chrono Carbon, and Podium Carbon
Blister Brand Guide: Blister breaks down Norco's 2020 mountain bike lineup
  • Front: 100 mm
  • Rear: 100 mm
  • 29"
  • Carbon

Norco’s most race-oriented, full-suspension XC bike, the Revolver FS 100 is designed to be efficient on the uphill and capable on the descent, all while providing a functional fit.

More like the Revolver FS 120 than the Revolver HT.

Consider If:

  • You ride or race XC on trails that are somewhat bumpy, technical, and fast
  • You appreciate a lightweight full-suspension bike that climbs very well
  • You want a dual remote lockout on your bike

Don’t Bother If:

  • You often ride steep, fast, technical, bumpy trails
  • You like a bike that is more forgiving on descents than it is a good climber
  • 1: $5,299 – Best Budget Build & Most Performance for the Price
  • AXS: $8,699
  • Frame Kit: $2,799
  • Specialized Epic
  • Santa Cruz Blur
  • Pivot Mach SL World Cup
  • Giant Anthem 29
  • Scott Spark RC
  • Rocky Mountain Element XCO
  • Intense Sniper XC
  • Cannondale Scalpel-SI
  • Canyon Lux
  • Mondraker F-Podium
Blister Brand Guide: Blister breaks down Norco's 2020 mountain bike lineup
  • Front: 120 mm
  • Rear: 120 mm
  • 29"
  • Carbon

Based on the same XC-race platform as the Revolver FS 100, the Revolver FS 120 is a more capable and comfortable option on the descents, at the cost of some efficiency. 

More like the Revolver FS 100 than the Fluid HT.

Consider If:

  • You want a dropper post on your XC bike
  • You ride or race XC for very long distances
  • The Revolver FS 100 is appealing to you, but you want more downhill capability

Don’t Bother If:

  • You want a pure-bred XC race bike
  • The trails you ride are very steep, fast, technical, and bumpy
  • You want a bike that is more forgiving on descents than it is a good climber
  • 2: $3,999 – Best Budget Build
  • 1: $5,399 – Most Performance for the Price
  • AXS: $8,699
  • Specialized Epic EVO
  • Santa Cruz Blur TR
  • Pivot Mach 4 SL
  • Yeti SB100
  • Trek Top Fuel
  • Kona Hei Hei
  • Scott Spark
  • Rocky Mountain Element
  • Intense Sniper Trail
  • Cannondale Scalpel-SI SE
  • Mondraker F-Podium DC
Blister Brand Guide: Blister breaks down Norco's 2020 mountain bike lineup
  • Front: 120 mm
  • Rear: Hardtail
  • 27.5” on XS, S, and M sizes; 29” on M, L, and XL sizes
  • Alloy

A budget-friendly Trail hardtail. 2 and 1 build kits feature a dropper post.

More like the Fluid FS than the Revolver FS 120.

Consider If:

  • You want a trail-capable hardtail
  • You are on a tight budget
  • You are a beginner looking to get in to the sport

Don’t Bother If:

  • You want a bike that is more forgiving on the descents than it is a good climber
  • The trails you ride are very steep, fast, technical, and bumpy
  • You are willing to spend a little more for increased performance
  • 3: $999
  • 3 Women’s: $999
  • 2: $1,399
  • 2 Women’s: $1,399
  • 1: $1,699 – Best Budget Build & Most Performance for the Price
  • Specialized Rockhopper & Chisel
  • Giant Fathom
  • Kona Hardtails
  • Scott Aspect
  • Rocky Mountain Growler, Fusion, & Soul
Blister Brand Guide: Blister breaks down Norco's 2020 mountain bike lineup
  • Front: 130 mm
  • Rear: 120 mm
  • 27.5” for XS, S, and M sizes; 29” for M, L, and XL sizes
  • Aluminum

A budget-friendly, full-suspension Trail bike designed to handle a bit of everything without breaking the bank.

More like the Optic than the Fluid HT.

Consider If:

  • The trails you ride are somewhat steep, fast, technical, and bumpy
  • You are on a tight budget

Don’t Bother If:

  • You want a bike with increased downhill capability and don’t mind giving up climbing performance
  • You are willing to spend a little more for increased performance
  • The trails you ride are mostly smooth and flat
  • 3: $1,799
  • 3 Women’s: $1,799
  • 2: $2,499
  • 2 Women’s: $2,499
  • 1: $2,799 – Best Budget Build & Most Performance for the Price
  • 1 Women’s: $2,799 – Best Budget Build & Most Performance for the Price
  • Specialized Stumpjumper ST
  • Pivot Trail 429
  • Giant Anthem & Trance 29
  • Cannondale Habit
  • Canyon Neuron
Blister Brand Guide: Blister breaks down Norco's 2020 mountain bike lineup
  • Front: 140 mm
  • Rear: 125 mm
  • 29"
  • Carbon

Norco’s best Quiver Killer. Overhauled for 2020, this Trail bike has very progressive geometry and downhill-focused components. The Optic is designed to descend like it has more travel while still being able to climb like a 125mm-travel Trail bike. Features a fully custom RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate DH shock on every model.

More like the Fluid FS than the Torrent HT.

Consider If:

  • You are looking for a relatively well-rounded bike in terms of climbing and descending
  • You want a downhill-capable, mid-travel 29er
  • You ride a mix of terrain and styles

Don’t Bother If:

  • You’re looking for an XC-race style bike that climbs very well
  • You’re willing to sacrifice some climbing ability for increased downhill capability and forgiveness
  • The trails you ride are mostly smooth and flat
  • C3: $3,749 – Best Budget Build
  • C3 Women’s: $3,749 – Best Budget Build
  • C2: $4,699
  • C2 Women’s: $4,699
  • C1: $6,299 – Most Performance for the Price
  • C AXS: $8,999
  • Frameset: $2,499
  • Santa Cruz Tallboy / Juliana Joplin
  • Trek Fuel EX
  • Yeti SB130
  • Giant Trance 29
  • Kona Process 134 29
  • Nukeproof Reactor 290
  • Ibis Ripley
  • YT Izzo
  • Transition Smuggler
  • Devinci Django 29
  • Evil The Following MB
Blister Brand Guide: Blister breaks down Norco's 2020 mountain bike lineup
  • Front: 150 mm
  • Rear: None / Hardtail
  • 29"
  • Steel

Norco’s most aggressive hardtail, built and designed for downhill-oriented all-mountain riding. Very progressive geometry for a hardtail.

More like the Optic than the Sight.

Consider If:

  • You want a downhill-capable hardtail with aggressive geometry
  • The trails you ride are fast, steep, technical, and somewhat bumpy

Don’t Bother If:

  • You want an XC-type hardtail
  • You want lots of forgiveness on very bumpy trails
  • The trails you ride are mostly smooth and flat
  • S2: $2,349 – Best Budget Build
  • S1: $3,149 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Frame: $799
  • Commencal Meta HT AM
  • Nukeproof Scout 290
  • Orange Crush
  • Chromag Surface
Blister Brand Guide: Blister breaks down Norco's 2020 mountain bike lineup
  • Front: 160 mm
  • Rear: 150 mm
  • 27.5” or 29"
  • Carbon or Aluminum

Overhauled for 2020, the Sight features modern, aggressive, all-mountain geometry. Designed to be capable and confidence-inspiring on the descent while maintaining good climbing ability. Available in both 27.5” and 29” versions.

More like the Range than the Torrent HT.

Consider If:

  • You enjoy a long descent and are willing to climb for it
  • You ride trails that are fast, steep, technical, and bumpy
  • You race Enduro and / or like to shuttle to the top of descents and / or ride lift-served terrain

Don’t Bother If:

  • The trails you ride are mostly smooth and flat
  • You want a trail bike that is extremely capable and forgiving and are willing to sacrifice some climbing ability
  • You want a freeride-style long-travel bike rather than an all-mountain charger
  • A3: $2,799
  • A3 Women’s: $2,799
  • A2: $3,749 – Best Budget Build
  • A2 Women’s: $3,749 – Best Budget Build
  • A1: $4,649
  • A1 Women’s: $4,649
  • C3: $4,449
  • C3 Women’s: $4,449
  • C2: $5,199 – Most Performance for the Price
  • C2 Women’s: $5,199 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Build Your Ride / Ride Your Build Custom Program: $4,997-$7,097
  • Carbon Frame: $3,049
  • Specialized Stumpjumper EVO
  • Santa Cruz Hightower / Juliana Maverick
  • Yeti SB130 LR
  • Giant Reign 29
  • Kona Process 153
  • Scott Gambler
  • Transition Sentinel
  • Rocky Mountain Altitude & Instinct BC Edition
  • Intense Carbine
  • Ibis Ripmo, Ripmo AF, & Mojo HD5
  • Evil The Insurgent LB
  • Cannondale Jekyll 29
  • Canyon Spectral & Strive
  • Mondraker Foxy & Foxy Carbon
Blister Brand Guide: Blister breaks down Norco's 2020 mountain bike lineup
  • Front: 170 mm (29"); 180 mm (27.5")
  • Rear: 150 mm (29"); 160 mm (27.5")
  • 27.5” for XS, S, M, L, XL sizes; 29” for M, L, XL sizes
  • Carbon or Aluminum

Norco’s Enduro bike, designed for Enduro racing and long, steep, technical descents. Slightly less progressive geometry than the 2020 Sight. Available in both 27.5” & 29” versions.

More like the Sight than the Aurum.

Consider If:

  • You want a bike that is capable and forgiving on the descents
  • You race enduro and / or like to shuttle to the top of descents and / or ride lift-served terrain
  • You enjoy pushing your limits on fast, steep, chunky, and technical terrain

Don’t Bother If:

  • You ride mostly smooth and flat trails
  • You are looking for an cross-country-style bike that climbs very well
  • A2: $2,999
  • A1: $3,599 – Best Budget Build
  • C1: $4,499 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Build Your Ride / Ride Your Build Custom Program: $4,348-$8,074
  • Aluminum Framekit: $1,599
  • Carbon Framekit: $2,399
  • Santa Cruz Megatower & Nomad
  • Pivot Firebird & Firebird 29
  • Yeti SB150 & SB165
  • Trek Slash
  • Giant Reign 29 SX & Reign SX
  • Commencal Meta AM 29 & Clash
  • Scott Ransom
  • Transition Patrol
  • Rocky Mountain Slayer
  • Nukeproof Mega 290 & Mega 275
  • YT Capra 29 & Capra 27
  • Devinci Spartan 27 & Spartan 29
  • Evil The Wreckoning LB
  • Canyon Torque
Blister Brand Guide: Blister breaks down Norco's 2020 mountain bike lineup
  • Front: 200 mm
  • Rear: 200 mm
  • 27.5"
  • Aluminum

Norco’s downhill bike designed for lift-served bike park riding and the occasional DH race. More affordable and less racing-oriented than the “HSP” version of the Aurum.

More like the Aurum HSP than the Range.

Consider If:

  • You often ride lift-served bike parks and/or like to shuttle to the top of descents
  • The trails you ride are fast, steep, technical, rocky, rooty, and / or have large jumps
  • You like the advantage of agile 27.5” wheels
  • You participate in the occasional downhill race

Don’t Bother If:

  • You plan on climbing to the top of descents
  • You want the advantage of fast-rolling 29” wheels
  • The trails you ride aren’t very fast, steep, technical, and bumpy
  • A1: $3,749
  • Frameset: $1,649
  • Specialized Demo 8
  • Santa Cruz V10 27.5”
  • Pivot Phoenix
  • Trek Session 27.5
  • Commencal Furious
  • Kona Operator 27.5”
  • Transition TR11
  • Rocky Mountain Maiden
  • Intense M16
  • Nukeproof Dissent 275
  • YT Tues 27
  • Devinci Wilson 27
  • Canyon Sender
  • Mondraker Summum
Blister Brand Guide: Blister breaks down Norco's 2020 mountain bike lineup
  • Front: 200 mm
  • Rear: 200 mm
  • 27.5” for XS/S, S/M, M/L, and L/XL sizes; or 29” for M/L and L/XL sizes
  • Carbon

Norco’s more racing-focused downhill bike. Featuring a high-single-pivot suspension design with chain idler wheel to differentiate drivetrain and suspension forces. It also features an adjustable reach and is available in both 27.5” & 29” versions on several sizes.

Consider If:

  • You race downhill
  • You often ride lift-served bike parks or like to shuttle to the top of descents
  • The trails you ride are fast, steep, technical, rocky, rooty, and / or have large jumps

Don’t Bother If:

  • You plan on climbing to the top of descents
  • The trails you ride aren’t very fast, steep, technical, and bumpy
  • You want a more freeride-oriented DH bike rather than a race rig
  • C2: $5,299 – Best Budget Build & Most Performance for the Price
  • C1: $7,699
  • Carbon Framekit: $3,599
  • Specialized Demo 8 and Demo 29
  • Santa Cruz V10
  • Pivot Phoenix & Phoenix 29
  • Trek Session 27.5 & Session 29
  • Commencal Supreme DH 27 & Supreme DH 29
  • Kona Operator
  • Scott Gambler
  • Transition TR11
  • Rocky Mountain Maiden
  • Intense M16 & M29
  • Nukeproof Dissent 275 & Dissent 290
  • YT Tues 27 & Tues 29
  • Devinci Wilson 27 & Wilson 29
  • Canyon Sender
  • Mondraker Summum

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