Norco has overhauled the Fluid FS trail bike, modernizing the frame design, boosting travel numbers, and increasing sizing options to fit a wider range of rider heights. It now boasts 130mm rear wheel travel paired with a 140mm fork, and all sizes from S-XXL roll on a complete 29″ wheelset. The brand tells us this is the first time they’re bringing their Ride Aligned design philosophy, incorporating proportional length chainstays, to a bike at this more accessible price point; there are four models available starting at just $2,699 USD.
2023 Norco Fluid FS
Wait. Don’t Norco already have a 29″ short travel full suspension bike? Yes, they do; it’s a 125mm travel 29er that goes by the name, Optic. There’s only 5mm of rear wheel travel that separates the two, but, indeed there is far more to a full suspension mountain bike than the squish delivered by its suspension. Norco tells us the Optic was designed with a “sharp focus on confident high-speed descending capabilities”, meanwhile the 2023 Fluid FS “focuses on more complete, well-rounded performance trail character”.
- Intention: Trail Riding for Experienced and Beginner Riders
- Fork Travel: 140mm
- Rear Wheel Travel: 130mm
- Frame Material: Aluminum
- Sizing: S-XXL – Heights of 5’1” to 6’7”
- Starting Price: $2,699 USD
Honestly, having compared the geometries of the new Fluid FS and the Optic, there isn’t a huge amount that sets them apart, but they are by no means, identical twins. In terms of reach, rear-center length, head, and seat tube angles, they are the same bike; in a size large, that’s a reach of 480mm, a rear-center length of 435mm, a 65° head tube angle, and a 76.7° seat tube angle.
Where they differ is in seat tube length, bottom bracket drop and stack height. Seat tubes on the Fluid FS are much, much shorter allowing for the fitment of longer travel dropper posts. For example, the Small has a 365mm seat tube length and can fit a 150mm dropper. The medium frames also get a 170mm dropper while the larger frames get a 200mm. The BB drop is 30mm, as compared to the Optic’s 38mm, giving the rider more ground clearance and thus forgiveness for ill-timed pedal strokes.
And, like we’ve seen Norco implement on their top-level models – the Range, Sight and Optic – the Fluid FS sees a proportional approach to frame geometry, with rear-center length and effective seat tube angle adjusted for each frame size, in addition to the usual seat tube length, reach and stack numbers. This means each frame size should deliver a closely matched ride feel, so riders of all heights can expect very similar ride characteristics. In particular, a steepening seat tube angle from S to XXL will help taller riders stay more centered in the seated pedaling position, and help resist front wheel lift on steeper climbs.
Norco’s marketing pitches the Fluid FS as a versatile trail bike that can accommodate the needs of the very experienced trail rider, as well as the needs of the emergent shredder looking to develop their skills and all-round riding ability. Their Ride Aligned design philosophy plays a big part in that, especially with the proportional chainstay lengths, but the custom shock tunes on all four models play their part, too.
The 2023 Norco Fluid FS gets the same linkage design as its previous iteration – a four-bar (or Horst-Link) layout. We aren’t privy to kinematic information but Norco says the 2023 Fluid FS has increased leverage curve progression over the 2019 Fluid FS and the Optic. The reasoning behind that is to provide natural support to the rear wheel suspension without having to rely on large volume spacers within the rear shock, with improved rebound characteristics and thus, control.
Unlike the Optic, the 2023 Fluid FS is available in four alloy models only. The frame is made from 6061 aluminum, no doubt helping to keep prices reasonable – the most expensive Fluid FS A1 model retails at $4,449 USD. That cash gets you some seriously decent spec, too; a Fox 34 with GRIP2 damper, Float X Performance Elite shock, Shimano XT 12 Speed Drivetrain and Shimano XT 4-Piston Brakes. In fact, all models get a 12 speed drivetrain and 4-piston brakes, the latter of which are pretty important for anyone wanting to push on with their descending.
180mm is the minimum rotor size for the Fluid FS, but it can take 200mm should you want to increase the brake’s heat management (and resistance to brake fade) for long flat-out descents. All models are spec’d with 2.35″-2.4″ tires from Vittoria or Goodyear but the rear-end is said to be able to accommodate a 29″ x 2.6″ tire should you feel the need for a higher volume tire.
For more information on specs, pricing, and availability, head to the Norco website.