If this is not your first time interacting with us here at TLS, you might remember me singing the praises of my previous generation Norco Sight – you can read that review here.
5 years have passed, and during that time the Sight, and indeed the rest of Norco’s lineup, has been revised and updated. Incremental though the updates may be, the sum of those changes results in an incredibly capable All-Mountain machine. The fact that so many Norco employees choose to ride the Sight on their home trails in British Columbia is telling. It absolutely rips, and looks pretty damn good while doing it. A burlier descender than the Optic, and a happier climber than the hard-hitting Range, it seems to occupy that elusive ‘sweet spot’ that allows it to be most things, to most people, most of the time.
Those 5 years that passed have also given me more experience as a mechanic, running the business here at The Local Spokesman and also, crucially, becoming a fully equipped MTB suspension service centre here in Perth, Western Australia. 5 more years of wrenching and riding pretty much every make, model and variant you can think of – they all roll through our workshop door. Not a single one of those bikes (besides the Norco) have made me want to hand over my hard earned cash. So…..why is it so good?
I evaluated the geometry of the new Sight, comparing it directly to my previous version to confirm my size, HOWEVER, I have to admit with some slight annoyance that I didn’t bother to play with Norco’s Ride Aligned size and setup tool until the bike was bought and built. Alas, I confirmed it was a ‘bigger’ bike than the previous generation in every dimension I cared about, mostly reach and wheelbase numbers, so I went with a size Large. Norcos setup tool insists that at 6’2″ and 95kg I am deep into XL territory, but I’m happy with my choice especially after recently riding some tighter trails that had me chasing my front wheel quite a bit.
Geometry figures that matter to me for the 29″ size Large:
- REACH 485MM
- STACK 621MM
- WHEELBASE 1262MM
- REAR CENTRE 440MM
- HEAD ANGLE 64 DEGS
- FORK OFFSET 42MM
This ticked all the boxes for me. A bit longer, slacker and roomier than what I previously thought was the most perfect bike I’ve ever ridden. Contrary to other reviews I’ve read or watched on YouTube, the Sight pulls wheelies and manuals on the trail with almost telepathic ease. The slack head angle makes for a long wheelbase and lots of trail built into the steering geometry, but the short fork offset achieves that magical compromise between agility and stability on the front wheel. They have really, really put some thought into this….
Norco are obsessed with geometry and bike-rider fit. Before I’d put any pedal strokes into the bike I dismissed the marketing efforts around Ride Aligned as just that….marketing. I would advise you, dear reader and potential Norco owner, to do this at your peril. I can only wonder just how more amazing my ownership experience might have been if I’d got the XL….
Speaking of numbers, price is certainly a factor, but we are living in strange times here in Australia as far as bicycle retail is concerned. Absolutely nothing is being sold at full RRP, there is deep discounting happening across all brands, in all stores, from the national corporate chains to the family owned bike shops. “30-45% off” is splashed across online graphics and ads for shops and Rider-Direct brands. The Norco Sight A1, retails at $7,399 AUD. Last time I checked, a national corporate retailer was running them out for $4,999.
On a personal note, wholly unrelated to the review of the bike, my initial thought that these are amazing times to be a buyer were quickly overruled by my suspicions that prices are simply returning to where they would have been had COVID not wreaked havoc on global supply chains.
However, all other things being equal, this is SO much bike for the money. Both the literal ‘sum of it’s parts’ and the actual ownership experience transcend the sticker price. If you like the Sight, and you end up buying one somewhere between crazy sale prices and full RRP, you’re getting an awesome deal.
Good lord. The spec. Lyrik and Super Deluxe, both in their ULTIMATE variants. The Lyrik gets the Charger 2.1 damper, something I am very happy with despite the existence of the Charger 3. The rear shock is the DH tuned version of the Super Deluxe with LSC and Rebound adjust but no climb switch (LSC is easily accessible to firm things up). Brakes are CODE RSC by SRAM, and are now properly bedded in on my bike, offering incredible stopping power on 200/180mm sized rotors. Stans FLOW rims laced to DT Swiss 350 hubs make for rock solid rolling stock, even more so when paired with the 3C MaxTerra Assegai and DHR rubber by Maxxis.
(Side note: Bikes come straight out of the box with AWESOME tyres these days. No more wire bead, non folding, non tubeless tyres even on the entry level models)
GX Eagle handles drivetrain duties and dishes out 12 speeds with 520% of range. OneUp supplies the 170mm dropper paired to their own shifter style lever. Deity handle hanging-on duties with their bar and grips, clamped by an in-house stem from Norco that is actually a beautiful thing to look at – all elegantly machined curves and cutaways.
The Fizik saddle is a nice choice, and another example of Norco choosing to spec premium components in places where other brands usually choose to save money (saddles, bars, grips, tyres, hubs….)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again……the vast majority of ultra capable mountain bikes fail “The Carpark Test” miserably (this is a joke, hang in there….) Perhaps it’s more appropriate to say that the carpark fails the bike test…?
Either way, the Sight begs to be ridden hard on real trails, not the carpark. The very first time I really let it run over some real rough stuff was actually moments after all these photos were taken, heading back down the steep, rough and rutted powerline track.
The valving in the fork and shock suddenly start to flow properly. The bikes geometry puts your body weight right between the wheels. The brakes respond to single finger inputs. The tyres shrug off potential pinch flats and rim strikes……all done in total silence except for the sound of the DT hub and the gravel under the tyres.
My very first ride aboard the Sight taught me two things inside the first 500 metres. First, this bike is SILENT. Not even any drivetrain noise. Second, the aggressive tyres do add considerable rolling resistance (this is all part of failing the carpark test, so not really a big deal!) – out on trail though the chunky tread and tough casing add a layer of damping to the chassis that only makes the magic carpet ride even sweeter.
We have to earn our turns here in the west – so after a few outings I can definitely vouch for the Sights ability to climb. I’m a strong climber, but I’m also nudging 100kg with my gear and a backpack on, so I’m never going to beat XC whippets up a hill – but I can produce steady power for long intervals, over hours and hours of riding. I found myself making a deliberate effort to stay at least one cog down from the 52T, saving the winch gear only for the steepest climbs. The rear suspension, even without a climb switch, seems immune to pedal bob. This is a remarkable feat of suspension design by Norco, even more so considering the DH tune of the shock. I found this to be the case whether running LSC wide open or closed – closed being my preference but only to keep the bike riding a bit higher up a steep climb, not necessarily to combat pedal bob.
Norco pitch the Sight as an All Mountain bike – this thing is MEANT to be pedalled all day and is MEANT to be an aggressive, capable descender…..those traits are usually mutually exclusive, and other brands bridge the gap by spec’ing shocks with lockout levers/climb switches. The general consensus being that all that plush suspension goodness is great until it’s time to pedal uphill – therefore a lockout is necessary. The Sight manages to run the Super Deluxe Ultimate air shock, with a super plush DH valving tune, WITHOUT a lockout, and yet it winches up hills no problem.
How confident must Norco be in the kinematics of their rear linkage, that they can choose NOT to have a lockout? That’s an incredible achievement in my books, and reminds me of an interview with Dave Weagle from about 10 years ago – he was asked about the future of rear shocks and he was very quick to predict that better shocks and frames would have FEWER adjustments, not more – he was right. At least in this particular instance.
The steep seat angle, combined with my preference/requirement to have the seat slammed forward on it’s rails, puts me in a very comfortable position to sit and spin. My leg length requires a very high saddle, and of course the higher the saddle the further rearward I end up sitting – hence, slammed forward.
On flowy singletrack, it really does move along at a good pace. I’m eager to burn off the original rear tyre and replace it with a much faster rolling model. Nothing really works on gravel, so giving up the aggressive knobs of the DHR won’t cost me any performance on the trails I ride the most, but it will likely pedal and climb with a little bit more zest.
Now. The downhills. Oh boy. The Sight eggs you on. No need to ‘get used to it’ – it’s what you should have been riding all along. The geometry is perfect. The front tyre has weight on it. Your centre of mass is safe and snug between the contact patches. The suspension is supple and supportive but also just gets out of the way when it has to. I followed the Ride Aligned setup suggestions pretty closely for the suspension, ending up with 295PSI in the shock and 97 PSI in the fork.
Using these settings I found that the Sight leans more towards plough than pop, which is actually my preference. But as I got more and more repeat runs in on the same trail I started looking for gaps and opportunities to leave the ground or clear some trail obstacles that I previously had avoided or just run over. That’s not to say it doesn’t or cant’ jump. I suspect that with higher pressures, more volume spacers and faster rebound, it would become very poppy indeed.
The rear shock seems very eager to use every millimetre of its travel – I definitely felt the bottom out bumper at least once. On trails that I’m familiar with and pushing hard on, this is definitely ok. If I was finding the limits of the shock whilst carefully sighting a new trail or just ‘cruising’ I’d have to reconsider the setup.
As with every bike I’ve ever ridden in anger, the rebound is the ever-changing variable. Norco’s suggested settings seem better suited to soil, roots and steeps. A trip to some more bike-park like trails here in Perth exposed me to much higher speeds on very hard, rocky terrain and some pretty savage braking bumps and other high speed chatter. Rebound front and rear had to be sped up significantly to help the suspension recover between bumps. My hands and feet were getting beaten up. I don’t treat my wheels like throwaway consumables, a ding in an alloy rim hurts my soul worse than a scratch on a frame does – so I was running tyre pressures about 20% harder than Ride Aligned suggested – and still managed some rim strikes but thankfully no damage. The rear wheel is visibly out of true now which is a mild inconvenience at worst.
I’ve got plenty of workshop experience with tyre inserts, and I choose not to use them. Maybe if I ever find myself riding carbon wheels I’ll change my tune but tough tyre casing + sensible pressures suits me just fine for protecting alloy rims…
The Sight remains a bike that is more than the sum of its parts. There really is dirt in it’s DNA. Everything on the bike is there for a reason. The frame might have a much simpler silhouette than its competitors but that is ONLY a good thing in my opinion. The Horst Link setup (4 bar suspension setup) is the Porsche 911 of frame designs. It’s been around for so long that Norco have refined it to perfection – despite many other linkage patent-holders claiming it’s been ‘wrong’ since day one.
Besides a couple of offerings from the Rider Direct brands (you know who they are….) nothing else comes close to the Sight A1 for value, performance, ride feel and capability.
I spent my own money on this bike. I’m a guy who can get out and ride every OTHER weekend, amongst a long list of other interests and commitments. Therefore, I want every ride to be an occasion. I want to turn back and look at the bike resting on the tailgate pad of the ute when I park up and go get a coffee afterwards.
I just want to ride it. After 4 years of not owning a dual suspension MTB…..and not wanting to make the drive out to the trails….and telling everyone how much I love my hardtail……while still getting to ride all my customers excellent bikes….I think the Sight has brought back the joy of mountain biking for me. That’s a pretty big deal, and I’m very happy about it.