Norco Fluid VLT

Norco Fluid VLT

Wheel Size: 29’’ front / 27.5’’ rear

Travel: 130 or 140 mm rear / 140 or 150 mm Front

Geometry Highlights:

  • Sizes offered: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
  • Headtube angle: 65° (VLT 130) / 64.5° (VLT 140)
  • Seat tube angle (Size S3): 77º (VLT 130) / 76.5º (VLT 140)
  • Reach (Size S3): 477 (VLT 130) / 472.5 (VLT 140)
  • Chainstay length: 436 mm (Size S3)

Drive System Highlights

  • Motor: Bosch Performance Line SX
  • Torque: 55 Nm
  • Power: 600 W
  • Battery: 400 Wh
  • Display: Bosch System Controller
  • Remote: Bosch Mini Remote

Material: Carbon fiber front triangle; aluminum and carbon fiber rear triangle options

Price: Complete bikes $5,999 to $11,499

Simon Stewart reviews the Norco Fluid VLT for Blister
Norco Fluid VLT
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The new Fluid VLT is a much needed addition to Norco’s eMTB line, and their first foray into the lightweight eMTB category. Designed around the Bosch Performance Line SX drive system, the Fluid VLT looks well equipped to take on this hot segment.

At first glance the Fluid VLT appears to take a fairly safe and straightforward approach — take the existing non-powered Fluid Carbon and add a lightweight motor. But dig a little deeper and there is an easter egg in there. The Fluid VLT C1 130 is claimed to come in under 40 lbs / 18.1 kg — eMTBs under 40 lbs aren’t exactly common, which puts it in pretty rare company. Not to mention none of the eMTBs I can think of in the sub 40 lb club are packing a motor capable of 600 watts either.

We have a Fluid VLT on the way for review and I can’t wait to report back on how it rides, but in the meantime here are the details on what looks to be another compelling option in the lightweight eMTB category.

Simon Stewart reviews the Norco Fluid VLT for Blister
Norco Fluid VLT

The Frame

Norco’s new Fluid VLT carbon frames have adopted a very similar design language to their non-powered Fluid mountain bikes. Gone is the horizontal shock placement used in the rest of their full suspension eMTB line in favor of vertical placement. With the exception of their new high pivot bikes, the Fluid VLT looks a lot more like a traditional Norco.

The frame features either 130 or 140 mm of rear suspension travel, which is achieved via a 50 or 55 mm stroke shock (in a 185 mm Trunnion mount for both). The Fluid VLT retains Norco’s Horst Link four-bar suspension layout, but since Norco hasn’t published suspension graphs we can’t comment on the kinematics. The rear triangle on the C1 builds is carbon, and aluminum on the C2 and C3 builds; the front triangle is offered in carbon fiber only. Living in an extremely rocky place, I don’t mind an alloy swingarm one bit since it is an area of the bike that routinely gets punished on my local trails.

All the Fluid VLT builds are mixed wheel size, with no geometry adjustability for other configurations. The chainstays are size specific on all sizes except sizes 1 and 2 which share the same length. The seat tube angle also varies for each size, steepening incrementally from size 1 through size 5.

Simon Stewart reviews the Norco Fluid VLT for Blister
Norco Fluid VLT

Internal cable routing, UDH compatibility, integrated chainguide, tool storage mounts, and room for a water bottle on all sizes round out the frame details. The Fluid VLT is covered by Norco’s No Other Way Limited Lifetime Warranty.

The Fluid VLT is included in Norco’s Ride Align setup guide, which is a web based setup app that offers tons of setup recommendations with the aim of taking the guesswork out. For a more detailed overview of the Ride Align app, check out our Norco Sight and Optic First Look.

Drive System

Bosch launched the Performance Line SX (PLSX) drive system back in June of last year. We mentioned in our Santa Cruz Heckler SL review that we were expecting to see lightweight eMTBs with this drive system to start surfacing (and to be clear, there already have been a couple in Europe). The Norco Fluid VLT is one of the first to come to market in the US, and will be the first one we are getting in for review. Bosch’s full-power drive systems top my list of favorite motors, so I’m eager to spend some time on the new lightweight version.

Weight is a major consideration for drive systems in this category, and the claimed combined weight of 8.8 lbs / 4 kg for the motor and battery of the Bosch PLSX is competitive. Notice I didn’t say total system weight because that number doesn’t include the remote, or the system controller, since Bosch doesn’t publish the weight for those bits. Fazua claims a total system weight including remote and display of 9.2 lbs / 4.2 kg, so when factoring in the Bosch system’s remote and display, I bet they end up being very close. The TQ drive system, on the other hand, is still the lightest at 8.6 lbs (including display and remote), but it also has the lowest power and smallest battery.

Bosch states the weight savings (over the full-power motor) are the result of a more compact design, optimized crankshaft, fewer slots (not sure what that means), and a magnesium housing.

Simon Stewart reviews the Norco Fluid VLT for Blister
Norco Fluid VLT — Display

What really stands out for the PLSX motor is its max power number of 600 watts. This is the same max power as their full-power motors and is honestly a little nutty (and awesome) to think about. There is a caveat though — because the motor produces less torque (55 Nm vs 85 Nm), and since power is a result of torque and cadence, then that 600 watts comes at a significantly higher cadence than the full-power motor.

Both the Fazua and TQ drive systems claim to have no mechanical resistance when ridden unpowered, which having spent time on both systems they do feel like it. The Bosch PLSX motor claims a 50% reduction in drag over their full-powered motors, but this means it will still have some mechanical resistance — this is an area I’ll be paying close attention to since pedaling past the motor cut-off point on lightweight eMTBs is definitely something I do often.

The Mini Remote and System Controller are the same as what you get on other Bosch Performance Line drive systems. I go into them, as well as the eBike Flow app, in more detail in the Orbea Wild review.

Fit & Geometry

The Fluid VLT is available in five sizes, labeled Size 1 through Size 5. I think the sizing roughly aligns with Small through XXL, although the Size 1 is pretty small and looks closer to an XS — with that said, it is nice to see an eMTB with sizing to fit riders down to 5’1’’ or so (155 cm). On the other end of the spectrum the Size 5 looks fairly typical of what we see in XXLs.

I nearly always ride a size Large in most bikes, but Norco’s recommended sizing puts me (6’ / 183 cm) squarely in the Size 4. We’ll see how that pans out — the reach on the Size 3 (472 mm for the Fluid VLT 140) is on the shorter side of my preferred range, and the stack height of 628 mm is on the low side. But moving up to a Size 4 would take the reach (497.5 mm) out of my typical comfort zone.

On the geometry side I would say the Fluid VLT is in line with bikes in this travel range, nothing stands out as category pushing nor conservative. I like the size specific chainstay lengths and seat tube angles. The 64.5º head angle (VLT 140) almost seems on the steep side today (thanks to some widely slack eMTBs I’ve recently written about), but the reality is, 64.5º with a 150 mm travel fork is very much in the normal range.

While the frame is the same between the VLT 130 and VLT 140, there are expected changes in geometry that comes from having a longer travel fork. The VLT 130’s angles are half a degree steeper, the reach a little longer, and bottom bracket a little lower — all the typical changes you see with a 10 mm change in fork length.

Simon Stewart reviews the Norco Fluid VLT for Blister
Norco Fluid VLT Geometry

The Builds

Norco offers the Fluid VLT in four builds ranging in price from $5,999 to $11,499 — an attractive starting price for a carbon eMTB. Both the C3 140 and C2 140 builds save a bit of money with aluminum rear triangles; the C1 builds go full carbon.

The C2 build is a $2,000 upgrade over the C3, but I think it is money well spent. First off, it has a SRAM GX Eagle AXS Transmission, which is one of my preferred drivetrains on eMTBs. The rest of the build isn’t too shabby either: RockShox Lyrik fork, Fox Float X2 Performance Elite rear shock, and TRP Trail EVO brakes. I have plenty of time on all these components and can attest to their performance and durability. The spec’d Bear Pawls hubs, on the other hand, I have no experience with. Both the C1 and C2 builds have Bear Pawls hubs, but the C2 builds get an upgraded Impel driver body — which looks a lot like a DT Swiss star ratchet system, and I’m going to go out on a limb and say that’s a good thing.

Moving up the range, the C1 140 is very much a high end build. The C1 140 is another $2,000 upgrade over the C2, and it looks that money is spread out over upgrades to all the components rather than focusing on one area. One thing worth calling out is the upgrade to a OneUp seatpost — another component on my preferred list.

The C1 130 build is in another league altogether, and has an interesting mix of high end components we’re more used to seeing on XC bikes, not alone trail bikes, and definitely not eMTBs. I have to wonder if Norco was looking for bragging rights for getting it under 40 lbs. The reality is, it is still a heavy bike (by non-powered standards), with a 600 watt motor, so I don’t think it would be my first choice — I’m more likely to take the couple of pound weight hit of the C1 140 for beefier components more suitable to eMTBs.

Norco Fluid VLT, BLISTER
Norco Fluid VLT
  • Frame: Carbon Front Triangle / Alloy
  • Chainstays and Seatstays
  • Drivetrain: Shimano Deore 12 Speed
  • Motor: Bosch Performance Line SX
  • Battery: 400 Wh
  • Fork: RockShox (150 mm) – Model TBD
  • Shock: RockShox Deluxe Select+
  • Brakes: TRP Slate EVO with 203 mm front and 180 mm rear rotors
  • Wheels: Bear Pawls hubs with WTB ST Tough 32H rims
  • Dropper Post: TranzX YSI34 (Size 1: 125mm; 2: 150 mm; 3: 170 mm; 4 & 5: 200 mm)
  • Frame: Carbon Front Triangle / Alloy Chainstays and Seatstays
  • Drivetrain: SRAM GX Eagle AXS Transmission
  • Motor: Bosch Performance Line SX
  • Battery: 400 Wh
  • Fork: RockShox Lyrik (150 mm)
  • Shock: Fox Float X2 Performance Elite
  • Brakes: TRP Trail EVO with 203 mm front and 180 mm rear rotors
  • Wheels: Bear Pawls hubs with WTB KOM Trail 32H rims
  • Dropper Post: TranzX YSI08FL Rad+ (Size 1: 125mm; 2: 150 mm; 3: 170 mm; 4 & 5: 200 mm)
  • Frame: Carbon
  • Drivetrain: SRAM XO Eagle AXS Transmission
  • Motor: Bosch Performance Line SX
  • Battery: 400 Wh
  • Fork: Fox 36 Performance Elite (150 mm)
  • Shock: Fox Float X2 Performance Elite
  • Brakes: SRAM Code Silver Stealth with 200 mm front and 180 mm rear rotors
  • Wheels: Crankbrothers Synthesis Alloy
  • Dropper Post: OneUp (Size 1: 120mm; 2: 150 mm; 3: 180 mm; 4 & 5: 210 mm)
  • Frame: Carbon
  • Drivetrain: SRAM XX SL Eagle AXS Transmission
  • Motor: Bosch Performance Line SX
  • Battery: 400 Wh
  • Fork: RockShox Pike Ultimate (140 mm)
  • Shock: RockShox Deluxe Ultimate
  • Brakes: SRAM Level Ultimate Stealth with SRAM Centerline X 180 mm rotors
  • Wheels: Industry Nine 1/1 hubs with Crankbrothers Synthesis Carbon Enduro rims
  • Dropper Post: OneUp (Size 1: 120mm; 2: 150 mm; 3: 180 mm; 4 & 5: 210 mm)

Some Questions / Things We’re Curious About

(1) How does the Bosch Performance Line CX drive system perform? Bosch claims peak power to be the same as their full-power Performance Line CX motor (600 Watts), albeit with a higher necessary cadence — I can’t wait to find out it compares on the trail, but 600 watts will require some juice, so what will that do to the range?

(2) The C1 130 build has a very interesting parts spec for an eMTB. How will the lightweight parts fare when subjected to the rigorous nature of eMTBs?

(3) How will the Bosch Performance line SX compare to the Fazua Ride 60 and TQ HPR 50 lightweight drive systems?

(4) And how does the Fluid VLT compare to the Heckler SL and Trek Fuel EXe as a whole? And we may as well throw the new Cannondale Moterra SL into the mix too.

Bottom Line (For Now)

The lightweight eMTB category is starting to get crowded, but in a good way, and the Fluid VLT is a welcome addition. I’m genuinely excited to get on a new drive system and am especially interested in seeing how the Bosch Performance Line SX compares to the TQ and Fazua systems. On paper it looks like the Bosch PLSX will be stronger, but will that come at the expense of reduced range? We’ll just have to find out.

I’ve said this before, a good eMTB is more than just power and range numbers, and is the sum of all the components working together harmoniously — this can only be determined on the trail, so check back in for our upcoming Flash and Full Reviews soon.

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