Over the years I’ve taken to the trails with a range of bikes. At 12 years old my first “real” bike was a hardtail cross-country bike I purchased from a friend for $20. Having been such a young buck full of energy it wasn’t uncommon to find me headfirst in a batch of thorns. Simply put, I crashed a LOT because I would push my limit. Zach can verify that I still ride at 110% but crash somewhat less often. Developing bike handling skills may be the biggest reason I crash less often, but my equipment upgrades can also play a part. Natural confidence is one thing, but the additional confidence provided by a bike is always welcome.
Hang with me now, this past winter Norco sent us their Sight C 9.2. It’s their most recent attempt at a carbon 29″ all mountain bike. In the past I was skeptical that 29ers had a place at the all mountain table. I use to think that they were heavier and all around more sluggish (in this category). The Norco Sight illustrated just how wrong I was about 29″ wheels as it offered an incredible amount of confidence which allowed me to push myself as a rider…
The Sight C 9.2 that arrived for testing was equipped with a Shimano XT 1 x 11 drivetrain and 180 mm brakes. Suspension included a RockShox 140 mm Pike fork, and 130 mm trunnion mounted Deluxe RT3 shock. It also had a 31.6 mm RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post, a Race Face 50 mm Aeffect stem, and 800 mm Atlas bar complete the cockpit. The $5,000 carbon Sight rolled tubeless ready on 29″ Race Face AR 30 rims, with 2.35 Schwalbe Magic Mary [F] and Nobby Nic [R] tires. All said and done, with a large frame it weighed in at 30.49 lbs (~13.8 kg).
Being late winter / early spring there was a good mix of wet and dry days. The wider tires with their open knob profile held up well through loose turns and kept mud buildup to a minimum. They handled dry conditions equally well, though it’s worth noting that Schwalbe tires seem to hold up much better in the Midwest than in more rocky terrains. The 2.35 base was great over shifting river rocks in creeks, and the improved rollover 29ers offer added to the confidence.
Though the 29″ wheels and active suspension proved to be a bit harder to take airborne, the momentum retained made hitting doubles fun and relatively easy. At 6′,3″ I felt at home on the large with plenty of room up front, even with the stem buried under spacers. I made a few tweaks to the shock pressure and increased the rebound rates over time. Being 180 lbs, I found dropping pressures about 5-7 psi in the front and 5-10 in the back improved its small bump reaction. After some practice the large wheels and tires became easier to bunny hop logs, and maneuver over large off-camber trunks, rocks, and roots. Plus, the lower bottom bracket seemed to increase stability through technical sections and fast downhills.
I’m normally on something narrower, but the 800mm wide bars didn’t take much getting used to. They felt great and added to the precise handling, but did call for some jimmying through tight tree gaps. Obviously, you can cut them down if you prefer some thing a little more tree-gap friendly. The geometry felt tailor fit for downhills and pumpy sections, but took a bit more getting used to on climbs that required more effort. Staying seated while ascending larger climbs often included some wheelies here and there unless you really sat forward on the nose of the saddle. Out of the saddle it wasn’t so much a problem, but pulling a 30 lb bike up a long climb merits taking a seat.
Some of the smaller features that stood out to me as testing went on are the built-in accessories & technologies. The GIZMO ports were a nice solution for cable and housing management. They kept dirt and grime out of the frame during its almost weekly shower, and provided a set-and-forget solution to cable positioning thanks to the snug fit. Also, the integrated frame guard by the bottom bracket did its job through rock gardens, plus it was easy to remove during said cleanups. The way the bike is set up out of the box, with the aggressive 67° head-angle, 800 mm bars, 140 mm [F] & 130 mm [R] suspension, Boost wheel & frame spacing, and 30lb weight, I’d recommend the Sight for the big boy trails. It’s a lot of bike that is capable of bigger hit trails, yet it’s still manageable and fun on flowy flat sections.
I tried not to overuse it, but confidence is key to my riding and that’s exactly what Norco’s Sight 9.2 delivered.