Bike test: Norco Sight A2
IT’S often said that Canadians share a lot of traits with Aussies; they’re humble and laid back, they’re reasonably partial to a beer, and they aren’t afraid of hard work. Maybe that’s why we respond so well to Norco’s wide and widening range of mid- to high-end trail bikes?
The British Columbian brand has been around for more than 50 years now, and it’s remained true to its original ideal of getting more people on bikes. The team who design their bikes are riders through and through, which is a great asset when it come to building up more affordable bikes, in particular.
The Sight sits above the more trail-orientated Optic and beneath the bigger-mountain, longer travel Range, and it’s been tweaked, pulled, poked and prodded for this year. What’s really caught our eye, though, is the proliferation of alloy-framed versions of the bike. Norco Australia is offering it in four versions, including a female-geometry specific version, ranging in price from $3699 through to $4999, which really helps to bring the Sight into the shopping crosshairs of a lot more people. By way of comparison, the carbon version of the Sight starts at $3799… just for the frame.
This is a very hard-fought retail space, with just about every other manufacturer offering bikes in and around the $3600-$4000 mark, the Sight has its work cut out to make its mark.
In the stand
Based around a hydroformed 6061 T6 alloy front and rear triangle, the $4399 Sight A2 eschews flouro paint and bright stickers for a subtle grey-on-black theme that really appeals to me. Graphics and paint jobs are pretty cyclical, and it’s nice to see a bit of subtlety and restraint every once in a while.
The ground-back welds are large and even, the bike’s proportions are well executed and the beautifully designed multi-piece rocker adds a bit of tech punch to the aesthetics. Massive props for the traditional 73mm wide threaded bottom bracket shell, while a full sized water bottle fits nicely in the frame. ISCG tabs are in place, but there’s no ability to bolt a front derailleur to the frame. An ISCG adapter is included in the box to mount one if you really want to, though.
Speaking of the proportions, Norco is proud of the fact that it changes frame numbers for each size of bike it produces, in order to make sure a rider’s weight is located as ideally as possible between the two wheels. Basically, it means that the Sight not only grows in height when you go into bigger frame sizes, it grows in front-centre and rear-centre length as well as head-tube height.
Our size Large tester comes in both 27.5-inch and 29-inch wheel sizes, and the frame obviously changes between the two – though Norco claims the overall fit is still identical. Our 29er tester runs a reasonably conventional set of numbers for a 130mm travel do-everything rig, with a 470mm seat tube centre to top, a 1191mm wheelbase (just 2mm longer than the 27.5 version, impressively), short 435mm chainstays, a 337mm bottom bracket height that reduces to 301mm at full compression ( a 5mm drop from the previous bike) and a reasonably average 689mm reach.
When it comes to angles, the Sight offers up a set of numbers that fall nicely between gravity sled and short-course racer. It’s a solid degree or more slacker in the head angle than the outgoing bike at 67 degrees, with a more upright 74-degree seat angle which, combined with the not-unreasonably low bottom bracket, means it shouldn’t be too shabby going up or down.
The rear end is a pretty elementary four-bar set-up, with big, simple steel hardware and Enduro bearings throughout, while cartridge bearings holding the top of the Fox shock in the bike. Norco moves the rearmost chainstay pivot around a bit depending on each bike’s intended use, and the Sight’s has been moved upwards a wee bit compared to something like its Optic to keep chain growth to a minimum.
Out of the box, the Norco goes together quite easily, though I’m not totally sold on the cable routing or guide solution – it used rubber/plastic guides along the bottom of the downtube, which do look a bit untidy. On the upside, the rear derailleur cable outer runs full length until the chainstay, where it ducks inside to reappear at the derailleur. The 150mm-drop TranzX post also uses internal routing, which can be a little fiddly to run past the bend in the seat tube but is golden once it’s done.
Suspension duties fall to the ever-capable Rock Shox Pike RC up front with 140mm of Charger-damped travel, while a trunnion-mounted Fox Performance Float air shock holds up the rear.
The Sight A9.2 runs 11-speed Shimano gearing via an XT rear mech, an 11-46t SLX cassette and an SLX shifter, with Race Face’s OE-level Aeffect cranks running a steel 30t double-wide ring up front. Brakes – cleverly - are Shimano Deore, clamping 180mm Centrelock rotors front and rear. Spec-wise, they are identical to SLX units, yet they will save Norco a few bucks per bike.
The Boost-sized alloy wheelset uses a Shimano XT rear hub – haven’t seen one of those on a new bike for a while! – and a Novatec front, laced via 32 spokes to WTB i29 rims with (wait for it) 29mm internal width. Maxxis’s chunky Minion DHRs in 2.3 get the rubber to the road, but there’s room front and rear for more – and you’ll need to bring your own tubeless solution.
Finishing gear comprises in-house stuff including an 820mm wide shallow riser bar and 50mm stem, along with a Norco-badged SDG saddle and a 150mm Tranz X dropper. In short… the Sight is no frills, but the right bits are in the right spots.
On the trail
Disclaimer time – I recently bought a Norco Optic 29er dually, with 110mm of rear travel, as a bit of a long-haul adventure bike with a fun side. And within ten minutes of riding the Sight, I got that sinking feeling that maybe I’d bought the wrong Norco 29er…
Despite a fairly hefty 13kg weight figure, the Sight is instantly peppy and playful, with the short rear end combining perfectly with the mid-high bottom bracket and low front end to provide a bike that feels like it’s up for a bit of everything.
I didn’t expect a lot from it in the climbing stakes, to be honest; the extra weight and the slack angles pointed towards something more gravity oriented. How wrong I was. The Sight simply motors up and over the lumpiest, loosest inclines you can show it, with the Fox shock allowing the big rear Minion to push into the terrain. The front end, meanwhile, is low enough – just – to keep the nose planted as you grunt upwards, and the 30t chainring does its part with the 46t rear end to enable you to head for the hills.
On longer, flatter sections, the Sight is still playful, but it doesn’t trip over into being nervous, and the big wheels help to gobble up the distance. Sure, Minions aren’t the last word in getting big distances covered, but the flatter profile afforded by the wider rims give them a nice stability, while the centre block spacing isn’t too wide that it inhibits forward motion.
Point back down the hill, and the Norco’s big playful puppy side really comes up to play – yet it’s tempered by a feeling of solidity and security from front to rear that encourages you to push on a bit. The frame feels bombproof beneath my 110kg as do the wheels, while the wider bars and low stack height allow me to get more weight over the front and centre over the bike.
The Fox rear offers the ability to change between three settings, and my preferred setting is actually the middle one. It offers me a bit more platform early in the stroke, but doesn’t lose its bottomless feel as it ramps up. The 140mm travel Pike come with two air chamber tokens as standard, which worked well for my girthier girth. Lighter riders will get more suppleness and feel by losing one or both, but they’ll still get that terrific stiffness through the front end that sometimes feels lacking in a Fox 34 in the same situation.
It’s not all sunshine and roses, though. For such a big bike, a 203mm front brake rotor might be a better bet given the Sight’s gravity ability, while Centrelock rotors are definitely more of a pain to change. We had no end of drama with our TranzX dropper post spitting off its internal cable clamp, stranding us on three occasions with a post in various poses. We’ve had pretty good luck with them as a rule, so hopefully it’s an isolated issue – though we did kill one on our Polygon Siskiu tester, too....
The Sight really is the all-day sweet spot in Norco’s trail bike range, and the commitment to a line of alloy-framed versions brings that versatility to a wider range of users.
A clever well though-out spec, clean and unfussy lines, tunable suspension components and a commitment to bike fit across two wheel sizes and five frames sizes gives the Sight a real advantage.
You may need to upgrade the dropper post, and a tubeless tyre conversion should be on your list, too, but out of the box, the Norco A9.2 is a lot of bike for not a lot of bucks.
In the stand – 7/10
On the trail – 8/10
NAME Tim Robson
WEIGHT 100kg. Okay, 110kg.
RIDING STYLE slow but stylish, loves a bit of tech
HOME TRAIL Northern Illawarra
SIZE TESTED L
Front - 105PSI (full open rebound, Trail setting, 3 tokens on Pike RC)
Rear - 165PSI (full open rebound, Trail setting on Fox Evol)
TYRE PRESSURES 28psi/28psi (f/r, tubes)
It’s amazing value, to be honest
Really dig the subtle looks
Impressively accurate fit to indicated size
That external cabling under the downtube can snag
TranzX dropper issues were a pain
XT rear hub bearings were rough, but can be regreased
Frame Alloy four-bar
Shock Fox Float Performance 140mm Travel
Fork Rock Shox Pike RC 130mm Travel
Headset FSA tapered internal
Handlebars Norco alloy 800mm wide, 35.0mm clamp
Stem Norco 35.0mm ID, 50mm
Shifter Shimano SLX
Rear Derailleur Shimano XT
Cassette Shimano SLX 11-speed, 11-46
Cranks Race Face Aeffect
Bottom Bracket Race Face
Brakes Shimano Deore, 180mm/180mm f/r rotor
Wheels Shimano XT/Novatec hubs, WTB i29 rims (29mm ID)
Tyres Maxxis Minion DHF 2.3
Seatpost TranzX, 150mm drop (31.6mm post)
Weight 14.97kg no pedals
Wheel Size 29
Available Sizes XS, S, M, L (tested), XL