Norco introduced four new full suspension mountain bike platforms for 2012. All carry the same flowing hydroformed tube shapes and graphic design, which gives them a nice family resemblance. Up top is the all-new Aurum, which replaces the Team DH as Norco’s pro-level downhill mountain bike. Before we dive into the details, we’ll cover some of the sweeping changes that affect the entire lineup.
All of Norco’s full sussers now use their ART suspension that was introduced on last year’s bikes. It’s their proprietary version of an FSR design. The main difference versus what they’ve used in the past are the pivot placements, particularly the rear Horst pivot – the one just below and in front of the dropout. By dropping it lower, it creates a more rearward axle path and gives the new bikes a more progressive leverage curve. At the beginning of the stroke, the rear wheel has a lot of leverage over the shock, which gives it a supple feel over the little stuff for good traction. Hit something a little bigger and Norco says the design allows the suspension to move with and around square edge bumps like rocks, logs and curbs. Go even bigger and the ART suspension ramps up toward the end of the stroke to provide a “bottomless” feel. In addition to all that, ART claims to keep the suspension very active under braking.
Lots more to cover…
Pedaling Efficiency – The other side of the ART story is pedaling efficiency. As we all know, forward acceleration wants to make the suspension squat, and pedaling creates uneven acceleration, which creates pedal bob. Norco’s solution was to introduce chain growth into the system. During compression, the design can increase the chainstay length anywhere from 5mm to 30mm depending on the model (XC to DH), which they say counters pedal-induced squat. The claimed result is a bike that won’t bob as you hammer.
Feature Integration – Their aim for the 2012 line was to simplify the assembly and manufacturing process by taking advantage of modern tech and standards and designing frame pieces that handle multiple chores. For example, the new Aurum’s bottom bracket shell incorporates the pivot locations, ISCG mounts and BB hole. They use a specific forging process that gets the shape very close to the final form (shown above), which reduces the total amount of CNC machining, which saves time and money but also reduces the risk of creating stress risers. They also use more hydroforming in the tube shaping to reduce the amount of additional work needed on the metal before construction. Lastly, they’ve started using Smooth Welding (aka Double Pass Welding), which creates a wider bead, better penetration and reduces the risk of stress risers. The result is a stronger, better looking frame.
Hollo Form Link – Their new Hollo Form link arm carries over to their new models, visible in several photos throughout this post. Two halves of the link arm are forged then welded together to form a single piece that’s far more shaped, stiffer and lighter. The design is svelte yet beefy, and it helps isolate lateral loads from the shock so it can work as intended. With all of the pivots, they use stainless steel tophats and inserts for the bolts. This means there are no threaded parts on the frame, and every pivot piece is easily serviceable and replaceable.
Syntace X-12 – By using the Syntace X12 rear axle, they could integrate the derailleur hanger to create a much stiffer design. It’s also designed to breakaway in an impact, and all of their frames have an extra hanger bolt in front of the BB. This should let you keep rolling even if you do bust hard.
Front Derailler Mounts – The front derailleurs are mounted to the chainstay, which pivots with the suspension and rotates in sync around the chainrings. The rear of the chainstays use a clevisless pivot that’s hydroformed directly into the tube. This makes for fewer parts and a stronger frame.
Gravity Tune – Gravity Tune is their new suspension geometry format for DH bikes that scales the geometry and frame tune for different sized riders. It takes into consideration leg and torso length, both of which affect the rider’s COG and the rider/bike “system” COG. The result are different chainstay lengths and top tube lengths on all three bike sizes to better accommodate the different riders. But wait, isn’t Norco trying to simplify their manufacturing process? Yes. The heart of Gravity Tune is the bottom bracket piece. The front end and chainstays of the three bike sizes are actually exactly the same, only the BB piece had to be changed to shift the BB and pivot placements, which changes the entire feel for each size bike. For now, it’s only on the Aurum.
When they started testing prototypes, they took current models to the bike park and attached accelerometers and strain gauges all over the frame. From there, the data went into FEA analysis to pinpoint areas of high stress. One particular area was the toptube/downtube junction directly behind the headtube, and in some stress testing, early prototypes failed exactly where they thought and earlier than anticipated. They reinforced that area, which is apparent in the massive junction of the two tubes behind the HT.
It’s a 200mm travel World Cup level DH bike. Compared to the 2011 DH, the Aurum has 150% more rearward axle travel and a 10% lower/more progressive shock ratio, which Owen Pemberton, design engineer, says provides a much plusher ride with far better traction. They also reduced brake feedback, which reduces the likelihood of locking up the rear tire, keeping traction for longer. Lastly, chain growth increased 115%.
Frame weight is 7.5lbs, and the center of gravity is low, placed around the bottom third of the shock. The headtube is a short, 110mm tall tapered design. Other features are a low standover height, Syntace X12 150 rear axle system and it’ll come with frame adapters to convert to a regular 150 axle.
The main pivot sits on a stainless steel top hat to reduce wear on the frame, and all pivots use full complement sealed bearings. The seatpost clamp is integrated into the frame, and the frame has integrated fork bumpers just behind the HT. 63.5º head angle, short rear/center and slightly longer reach.
Complete bikes should weigh in between 34.5lbs and 38lbs depending on model, with prices ranging from $3,550 to $7,350. The two top models get the new SRAM X0 DH cranks, chainguides and short cage derailleur. Brakes have 200mm rotors front and rear. Bikes come with several spacers for the headset to adjust stack height, and the stem has three position settings, too.
Introduced last year and shown at Sea Otter, this year sees the full release of the 180mm Truax freeride bike. It’s an evolution of their Shore bikes from the past, but weights come down into the mid-30 pounds.
The Truax has a 65.5º head angle, low BB height and all the updated standards like Syntace X12, postmount brakes, hydroformed tubing and tapered headtubes.
All models have coil shocks, and the Truax 1 and 2 get 2×10 cranksets with bash guards. The top end LE uses a single front chainring with guide for a more DH style build. Brakes are 200mm front, 180mm rear.
Another carryover from 2011’s intro is the Range, a 160mm all-mountain bike. The 2012 model pricing ranges from $2,700 all the way up to a new LE flagship model with Easton’s carbon wheels for $9,000. The HA is 66.5º, a bit steeper than the Truax, and all the same updated standards as the others, and the pricepoint Range 3 gets updated with ART suspension, postmount brakes and thru-axle rear. All models come with a two-position travel fork from either Fox or Rockshox. The air shocks on all models are large volume for a more linear feel. All three get small 2×10 “all mountain” gearing with a bash guard, and the LE / 1 both get a two-piece chainguide, too, as well as a Rockshox Reverb drop post. All models get tubeless ready wheels, either from Easton or Sun-Ringle, depending on model.
Introduced as a concept at Sea Otter, the new 140mm Sight gets official with a price range from $2,900 up to a totally blinged out $9,540 LE model. With the Sight, the ART design gets into some trickier tuning because of the mid-travel design.
Norco said they really had to balance chain growth and kickback with rearward axle travel to keep it pedaling efficiently without too much feedback while also keeping the suspension action supple. Predictably, Norco says they’ve nailed it…we’ll confirm if we can get a ride in on it. Check out the nicely integrated front derailleur cable stop built into the chainstay.
Spec-wise, the Sight line gets a variety of dual position forks from Fox’s TALAS or Rockshox’s 2-step air or dual position coils. The rear shock is a high volume air shock. Drivetrains get a bit bigger 2×10 gearing, but not so big that you can’t climb easily with them.
Above are some color options across the range. There’s also a women’s Sight Forma (not shown) with two models ranging from $2,900 to $3,885. The top model gets the Syntace thru-axle rear. Geometry changes give the headtube a bit steeper angle and a bit lower top tube.
PHASER (not shown)
The 100mm travel Phaser series carries over from 2011 as their 26″ full suspension race bike. It still uses the ART suspension design, albeit in a very different looking layout with the focus on efficient pedaling. The small “micro link” and combined seatstay/lowershock pivot to save weight, which can be done since it’s a short stroke, short travel bike. The pivots use Norglide Composite Bearings, which use their composite plastic material laid over a small brass base. Norco was careful to point out that these are NOT the same “bushings” that were used in the past by several manufacturers that required a bit of clearance (read: slop) built into the frame. Using these new composite bearings saves a lot of weight versus traditional bearings.
Spec-wise, they all come with 100mm forks with lockout, and most will have a 15mm thru-axle. Rear shocks are Fox with Pro Pedal. Drivetrains are 2×10 and 3×10 depending on model, wheels are tubeless compatible with 2.2 width tires.
————– 29ers ————-
One of the main differences for the 29er full suspension bikes is the use of a one-piece seatstay yoke that wraps around the seatpost above the Hollo-Form linkage to further stiffen up the frame for the big wheels and longer stays. Norco puts removable drop seatpost cable guides along the top tube on all full suspension 29ers, too.
The Revolver is a totally new 100mm full suspension 29er for 2012. Norco’s Logan Johns raced it in this year’s BC Bike Race. Carries the same frame technologies and design cues as the others.
The forks are all 100mm with remote lockout and 15mm thru axle.
Drivetrains are all 3×10 standard, but the frame has ISCG tabs, so you could convert to 2×10 or 1×10 quickly and easily if you aren’t faced with mountains everyday. Note the front of the seatstays wraps around the front of the seat tube rather than have a brake bridge behind it. This keeps it stiff but provides plenty of tire clearance…up top. The chainstays are fairly close to the tire’s tread edge.
The top model comes spec’d with FSA’s carbon SL-K cranks, SID fork and Sun-Ringle Black Flag wheels (not the WTB Strykers shown here) and rings up at $5,375. The line is aimed at marathon style riding and should fit in at the local 6+ hour races quite well. The Revolver 2 and 3 come in at $3,350 and $2,425.
The all-mountain 120mm rear/140mm front Shinobi 29er was intro’d last year as Norco’s first full suspension 29er. For 2012, they add two more price points, giving them a range from $2,550 to $5,450. It keeps the same tech and design features as the others, with the X12 rear axle on the top two models. The top model gets the new Fox 34 29er fork, others get Rockshox forks. All models get “29er optimized” (read: small gearing) 2×10 drivetrains with bash guards, and the frames are compatible with dual chainguides on the stays if you want. They have ISCG mounts, letting you run it 1×10 if you want.
For the hardtail 29ers, Norco revised their naming scheme. All models have a corresponding 26″ model, indicated by a “6” at the end of the name, and 29er’s have a “9” in the name. From there, they put the spec level as a decimal point, the higher number being the lower spec. So a Team 9.1 is better than a Team 9.3. Above all of them is the LE spec.
There are four models:
- Team – carbon fiber frames, their best offering (above, bottom)
- Nitro – alloy frames, top of the heap for metal tubes (above, top)
- Charger – alloy frames, mid-level
- Storm – alloy frames, beginnner
The Nitro frames all use a custom double butted and hydroformed downtube to match the aesthetic of their full suspension frames, as does the top tube. On the 29ers, the top tube slopes down and has a reinforcement tube connecting the top of the seat tube. SRAM drivetrains and Rockshox tapered forks across the board. Handlebar widths vary a bit by frame size, from 660mm to 680mm.
The Chargers use the same tube shapes but aren’t double butted and they have straight 1-1/8″ headtubes. Shimano drivetrains and disc brakes across the board.
The Storm 9.1 is their entry level 29er and comes in at just $499. The tubeset is pretty basic, but still has a slightly formed tubeset, semi-integrated headset and disc brakes with Shimano drivetrain. There are two 26″ versions, the bottom one with v-brakes, and two 26″ Forma women’s versions with similar spec options.