I’ve spent most of the last decade riding Giant. 2013 and 2017 Reign 1 – both were the top specced aluminium models at the time (I was on an Anthem prior to the 2 Reigns). To keep things in perspective, I’ll make a lot of comparisons to the 2017 Reign as it subscribes to the modern “long, low & slack” design philosophy similar to the Sight. I know Giant’s Maestro link really well. I understand the kinematics, I understand the shock tunes, and I understand why Dave Weagle took them to court over it, so it’s a good foundation on which to base my opinion on the Sight and why it seems to work so well for me.
First up, let’s look at some geometry (yay!) numbers.
|HA||66.5 degrees||65 degrees|
|SA||74 degrees||73 degrees|
(Head angle, wheelbase, reach, top tube, stack, seat angle)
On-paper comparisons serve as a good place to start if you’re shopping for a new bike with a particular set of goals in mind like I was. They’re never going to reveal anything about how the bike feels, though most people understand that ultra slack head angles and seat tube angles are the domain of hardcore DH rigs with floppy steering at low speeds and impossible-to-climb seating position – with bikes becoming more and more nimble as those angles steepen up.
I was tired of my Reign. I knew where it shone, and where it struggled (admittedly, an enormous part of ‘the struggle’ is a reflection of my own lack of ability, fitness, or both). I knew that I wanted a more versatile bike that didn’t make trail rides with my friends feel like a chore. After all, for every 5 minutes of descending, there would be 20 minutes of climbing before it. I wanted a shorter wheel base and a steeper head/seat tube angles to improve agility and climbing characteristics. One of my biggest weaknesses is tight, twisty trail and I wanted to at least give myself a sporting chance of staying with the quick guys in my group with a more nimble bike. I also wanted more pedal clearance and a heap more stack height to help get me “in” the bike rather than perched “on” it.
Norco do things slightly differently with their reach and stack numbers as they include bar and stem height/length. Conversely, Giant don’t advertise that their seat tube angle is a static “on the bikeshop floor” angle, or the angle reached when the bike is at sag point. Norco promote their STA as “at sag” (or ‘effective seat tube angle”) Long story short, I was fairly certain that based only on this set of numbers, the Sight was definitely where I should be looking at spending money. Don’t get me wrong, I desperately wanted the Carbon Range with DVO suspension front and rear because quite frankly it’s just porn on wheels – but I had goals to meet, and the range was just too much bike. On a related note, I think that the ‘Gravity Tune’ employed by Norco, whereby the chainstays grow incrementally with bike size – is a masterstroke and something that proves how serious Norco is about having bikes that handle properly.
If I didn’t know that the Sight wasn’t Norco’s most hardcore bike outside of their Aurum line-up, I would assume it was their full on enduro model. It looks hardcore, especially with 27.5 wheels. Big, beefy 36mm fork, long-stroke rear shock driven by a HUGE 3 piece forged rocker, 30mm wide rims shod with aggressive Maxxis Minions (DHF/R). Not to mention the acid green, candy apple paint job that looks too damn good to be taken off road. I was very quick to apply frame skins to top tube, down tube and cable rub points!
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that although Norco’s website depicts external cabling, mine came with internal cabling, made tidy and watertight with their ‘Gizmo’ cable management grommets at all entry/exit points.
SRAM Gx Eagle 12 speed with a monstrous 50T bailout cog handles forward motion. Guide R brakes with 180mm rotors handle stopping duties. RaceFace join the party with their 150mm dropper, 60mm stem and 800mm Turbine bar (35mm clamp size). It’s all topped off with a colour coded SDG throne and some ugly, albeit comfortable and grippy….grips.
So…..onto the ride. My maiden voyage aboard the Sight was a trail ride in the Perth foothills. However, I managed to get out a couple days after building it to a local limestone walk trail right next to the coast with some sharp ups and downs and drainage humps built in. Verdict – Underwhelmed. First of all, I was already in a bad mood for some reason and secondly, the weather (well…the wind) was ferocious. No amount of pedalling input was going to produce any exciting speeds with a 45kmh gusty headwind.
I put the Sight back in the van, went back to work and pretended the ride never happened. I was waiting for a real trail ride, on terrain I was intimately familiar with and intimidated by before handing down a verdict.
That opportunity was to be the very next Saturday. The pedal to the top revealed some positives: Pedal strikes were basically non-existent, efficiency was vastly improved and the climb switch on the Fox DPX2 rear shock was very, very effective. All good things.
As soon as we rolled in to our first descent though, the Sight came to life. It’s really difficult to pin down any single attribute but I’ll do my best to list the sensations I got from the bike as I remember them. First of all, the trail chatter was really, really muted. Almost like an unseen helper was rolling out thick rubber matting ahead of me to smooth out the terrain. I’ve read countless reviews where people praise the virtues of good old coil shocks for their inimitable on-trail feel…well…the DPX2 on the Sight feels like a coil. Seriously. The silence of the bike was also noticeable. Usually on a new build there are a couple sources of cable rattle that haven’t yet been addressed, but not here. Just a quiet buzz from the SRAM rear hub, and utter silence everywhere else (I later noted once I got up to speed on some gnarlier sections that the Fox 36 GRIP damper has a distinct ‘whoosh’ on rebound, but that’s about it)
There are some rutted chutes at the trail that I used to enjoy on the Reign, purely because it was a rare opportunity to just let the bike really plough through some serious chunder without any horrific consequence if I stepped off-line. I felt like they were some of the only sections where the design of a true ‘enduro’ spec bike shone, and that surely the Sight would have to suffer in the more hardcore terrain. Boy – was I wrong. Off the brakes and hanging off the back of the Sight, it ploughed the rough stuff even better than the Reign ever did (once again, to clarify, a lack of talent might be the bigger factor at play here – but clearly the Sight plays to my personal skillset)
This rocky, rutted chute is a ‘go as fast as you dare’ piece of track that drops you into the finishing area where if you’ve pinned the chute, is a real test of braking unless you want to end up in the Avon River. The SRAM braking system modulates well, with extreme braking power available at the end of the lever arc (though at that point, you’re well into locked-wheel territory so might as well ease off)
Worth mentioning is the fact that the weather on the day of riding was wet, windy and generally wintery. The trails are a combination of gravel, granite rock and hard soil that gets blacker and slicker the closer you get to the valley floor and riverbed. At no point did I exercise any additional ‘wet weather’ caution – even on the off-camber sections of granite rockface. I think a large chunk of this confidence was owed to the 3C compound Maxxis Minions DHF/DHR that came specced. Some people think rubber compounds are a gimmick to sell people more expensive tyres – I promise you, there is a difference. They hooked up everywhere, and on every type of surface.
At no point on these descents did I feel like I came close to the limits of ‘trail bike’ geometry, and I was feeling extremely pleased with my cycling investment.
It’s no secret I’ve been (still am) an enormous fan of SRAM suspension. I bought a Pike and Monarch Plus for my original Reign back in 2015 and they transformed that bike. Then my next Reign came equipped with the newer Monarch (debonair) and the new Lyrik. Both amazing pieces of suspension, and proven at the highest level of the sport (Sam Hill, anyone?) I’ve been riding very, very good suspension, on a very good bike, that has always had good reviews (the UK based mtb-mags have always praised the Reign highly). So….I was hesitant to buy a bike that came with Fox technology front and rear. In the end, I gave in to common sense and ignored my personal preference for SRAM. After all, Fox participate, innovate and win at the highest level of every off-road competition on 2, 4 or more wheels. Fairly certain they’ve earned the right to fit their suspension to my bike!!!
Let’s start at the front – Fox 36 FIT GRIP with 150mm of travel. This is the performance version in black, not the Factory version with Kashima gold stanchions (I prefer black). Initially I was dismayed at the lack of twiddly dials. Just low speed compression up top and rebound underneath. However, the internals of this new generation GRIP damper have been reviewed (and approved!) by Steve Matthews of Vorsprung Suspension fame (google him). A handy setup guide on the fork leg put me in a really good position with not only pressure, but rebound parameters as well. I’m 100kg fully loaded with helmet, shoes, water and tools, so I put in 93PSI for 25% sag and set rebound 4 clicks out from fully closed. I didn’t change this setup during or after my first ride, which for me is unheard of. Normally, I leave no dial un-twiddled in the relentless search for the magical setting that makes up for my astonishing lack of talent.
I haven’t added any volume reducers to the air spring, nor do I have reason to yet. I’ll check shortly to see if it came with any in stock form, but it feels great. Supportive and supple off the top of the stroke. Initial stiction seems slightly higher than my Lyrik but this is a brand new fork, and I have reason to believe that it will get better with use.
Stiffness wasn’t noticeable, in a good or a bad way. I imagine that not really noticing an abundance of, or lack of stiffness means it’s very similar to the Lyrik (it is a 36mm chassis after all, it’s burly!)
Once I’ve done repeat runs of some REALLY steep, hectic trails and assessed where the fork likes to sit in its travel I’ll have a better idea of whether or not to make it more or less supportive. My biggest gripe with the fork? The LSC dial is alarmingly easy to turn, though it didn’t prove to be an issue on the trail.
Onto the rear shock – the real star of the show here. The Float DPX2, trunnion mount in a metric size has won me over. One of my favourite things about my old Reign and Monarch was how incredibly sensitive the rear shock was – just a tiny amount of pressure on the saddle (literally a finger) was enough to create rotation in the Maestro links that drove the shock. I took this as a measure if how supple the shock was, and therefore an indicator of it’s overall function. Sounds dumb in hindsight, but hey, we all like different things 😊
Referring to my earlier comments about the underwhelming ride I had before my proper trail ride on the Sight – please note that in my opinion the Sight fails the carpark test miserably. You know where you go roll up and down square edged curbs and bounce on it a bit? Nothing impressive to see here folks. Suppleness off the top of the shock stroke didn’t seem all that impressive either. I basically had to sit on the bike to make it move. However….NONE of these are relevant points, they’re just that the silly system I’ve inadvertently created to ‘test’ bikes out is totally invalid. Once the bike hits the dirt, and gets a few cogs down from the monster 50T dinnerplate, it just comes alive. The DPX2, being of the new-school generation of metric shocks, requires less leverage from the frame and therefore can be run at lower air pressure for any given amount of sag. On my old Monarch Debonair, I jammed it full of volume bands and pumped it up to 280PSI to get 30% sag.
DPX2? 220 PSI to get 25% sag, with no volume spacers that I’m aware of. Being a recirculating design means the entire shock has less internal pressure to deal with from a damping perspective, and changing from compression to rebound is simply not noticeable on trail. Smooth, quiet, effective and honestly the only air shock I’ve ever experienced where I would agree that it has similar traits to a coil shock. Remembering that the DPX2 combines architecture from the X2 and DPS damping systems, it’s a good idea to brush up on those technologies by watching these videos:
Fox do a great job of explaining their X2 damping architecture in this video , and the DPS concept in this video.
The DPX2 has a 3 position LSC adjuster with Open, Mid and Firm settings. Firm is properly firm, and I found myself loving the pedal clearance and forward drive when it was time to head back up the hill. To be fair, even in the open setting it pedals remarkably well.
So……here’s about the only piece of tangible proof I can give you to help you understand just how transformative the Sight has been for my riding.
My favourite trail among the ones I used for the Sights maiden voyage is a 2km long descent that has yet to be ridden sub-5 minutes by any of the local Strava rippers (the KOM and 2nd place belong to two of my riding buddies who I desperately chase to figure out why they’re so fast)
I’ve ridden it dozens of times on the Reign and had a few “perfect” runs that I was happy with. My best time was 5m 54s. And I was stoked on that. On my first real ride aboard the Sight, in wet & slippery conditions……5m 36s. 18 seconds faster, the second time I’d ever piloted the sight down that trail (first one was a cruise to show a new group rider the route down). 354 seconds down to 336 seconds is an improvement of just over 5%. And in fact, we can’t say all other factors were equal because I’ve never ridden that trail in the rain before! A 5% improvement is vast. In the world of DH and Enduro racing, a 5% difference in the time sheet can span the top 10 or even the top 20 riders.
The sum of all the parts on the Sight – the fork, shock, brakes, wheels, tyres, frame and finishing kit, add up to something spectacular. I’m happy to have spent the money, and I am dreading the first scratch I put on it.
Can’t recommend the Sight highly enough to anyone who might have spent some time aboard an enduro rig and wants something more versatile, or for someone who wants to step up from a more basic bike to something that can handle far more than they’ll ever throw at it.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, if you’ll forgive my terrible photos – I’ve added a small gallery of some of the componentry.