Reviewed by Steve Wentz and Brandon Turman // Photos by Shawn Spomer and Lear Miller
New for 2014, the 140mm travel Norco Sight makes the leap from aluminum to carbon. In doing so they’ve reduced the frame weight by a whopping 25% and improved the ride characteristics. While the geometry remains the same, Norco did take the time to make a handful of minor updates. Combining the smooth lines of carbon, a dialed paint job and a little color coordination in the component spec, this bike truly is a sight to behold. In fact, we’d wager that it’s the best looking Norco ever.
Curious to see how the new carbon version rides, we invited the Vancouver based brand to ship over the Sight Carbon 7.1 for our 2014 Vital MTB Test Sessions in Sedona, Arizona. Retailing at $5,252 with a pretty impressive build and an almost full-carbon frameset, could this bike be one of the best values going?
Sight Carbon 7.1 Highlights
- Carbon main frame and seatstay, aluminum chainstay
- 27.5-inch wheels
- 140mm (5.5-inches) of rear wheel travel
- A.R.T. suspension platform
- Tapered headtube
- 67.5-degree head angle
- 74.2-degree seat tube angle (size medium)
- 338mm (13.3-inch) bottom bracket height
- 427mm (16.8-inch) chainstay length (size medium)
- ISCG05 tabs
- Press Fit BB
- 142mm x 12mm thru-axle
- Measured weight (size medium, no pedals): 27-pounds 7-ounces (12.44kg)
- $5,252 MSRP
Like many of the bikes in Norco’s lineup, the Sight uses “Gravity Tune” - a unique way of sizing frames where the front and rear end grow proportionally with each size. This is said to give the bike a similar feel across the entire size range because it takes into account rider height in relation to frame dimensions. They do this by using a slightly modified front triangle for each size. The result is varying top tube lengths for each size, like normal, but also chainstays that vary from 423 to 435mm as you progress from Small to XL. Another important feature is the low standover height, which we believe to be among the best available.
Part of the clean look can be attributed to the lack of a front derailleur mount on the higher-end carbon models. Because the Sight Carbon 7.1 and LE use a single chainring up front, there really isn’t a need for one. This also reduces the weight a bit. With SRAM’s two 1x11 drivetrains widely available and more on the horizon, we don’t see this decision coming back to haunt them in terms of compatibility.
Rear suspension duties are handled by Norco's “Advanced Ride Technology,” or A.R.T. for short. Depending on the type of bike, Norco tweaks pivot placement to optimize the suspension and ride characteristics for the intended use. In the case of the Sight, the bike benefits from a rearward axle path for square-edge bump compliance and a progressive leverage curve. The shock is very easy access making on the trail adjustments quick and easy.
The bike's 140mm of rear travel is actuated by a one-piece “Holloform” link. Combined with a Syntace X-12 rear axle, asymmetrical stays, tapered headtube, and carbon front triangle and seat stays, the bike is stiff in all the right places. “360-Lock” hardware located in the two main pivots uses a conical clamp to distribute forces on the bearings, extending bearing life over traditional designs.
Additional details include post mounts for the rear disc brake, rubber chainstay and downtube protectors, a bottle mount inside the front triangle, gorgeous anodized hardware, a spare Syntace derailleur hanger bolt near the BB area, and integrated ISCG05 tabs with a removable inner chainguide. Mud clearance is adequate with about 1 to 1.25cm of room for build up with the stock 2.25-inch Maxxis tires.
The 2014 Sight also sees improvements to the cable routing. On 2013 models the cables were routed over the top of the Holloform link, which sometimes lead to premature wear because the cables would bow when the suspension was compressed. Instead, cables now route internally through the down tube before reaching the chainstay. Stealth routing is also included for the RockShox Reverb dropper seatpost. Rubber plugs at the headtube allow you to remove cable slack and prevent rattling inside the frame, though they did pop out quite often.
The Sight Carbon is available in four models priced at $3,545, $4,165, $5,252, and $6,850. It also comes in two builds based around the original aluminum frame. Frame-only options can be had in both carbon and aluminum.
On The Trail
Our time on the Sight was spent in Sedona, Arizona, home to a huge variety of trails and terrain. Loops consisted of a good mix of fast, rough, slow, steep and techy stuff. The dirt was great for traction during the week we played on the Sight, with some snow and mud thrown in as well. For those familiar with the area, trails included Broken Arrow, Little Horse, HT, Slim Shady, Hi-Line, Carroll Canyon, Old Post, and Ridge.
Looking at the geometry numbers, our size Medium Sight is on the short side of things with a 588mm top tube. Even so, it felt comfortable to our 5’8” and 5’10” testers. The seat angle is steep-ish at 74.2-degrees, making for great body position relative to the bottom bracket when climbing. When standing, the 421mm of reach makes it feel longer than you’d think looking at the top tube length. Norco wisely specs the bike with a 760mm wide handlebar, which is plenty of width for just about anyone. We swapped the stock 70mm stem for a 50mm due to personal preference.
Headed out on the trail we felt immediately comfortable on the bike. The bike’s playful, light feel quickly showed through while winding up the climbs at the beginning of our rides. After cresting over the hill, what really surprised us was how stable it was at higher speeds while also responding to every input very well. Thanks to the geometry we were naturally forward when climbing and could get off the back when moving around.
The superbly balanced feel of the Sight is very confidence inspiring. We never once felt out of control, and would go into new sections blind at speed believing that the Sight would take it. Granted, that is a really dangerous way to ride, but it was REALLY fun on the Sight. The bike remains well-composed at all times making it very predictable, which encourages you to just let it rip. Even with 67.5-degree head angle it felt as though we could get away with just about anything. We could jump, turn, float, and skim with ease… boy it was good. The frame felt plenty stiff with no issues in the wheels or rear end when pushing hard. Casually riding the bike is perfectly fine, too, though you’ll quickly find yourself naturally trying new things and clearing technical sections aboard the Sight.
In the rear suspension department, the Sight honestly excelled everywhere except for drops and huge hits. Planted but playful, it offers good traction and precision. We could leap up ledgy climbs, push hard in corners, and jump into rocky areas without concern and have the bike move exactly how we wanted it to. It felt incredibly refined and was borderline fantastic at everything. The only area we see a need for improvement is the bottom-out feel. The bike felt like it wanted to cry under a few big hits, so we wish the frame or shock was a little more progressive at the very end of the stroke. It kept tracking straight and didn't feel sketchy, but there was a very noticeable bottom out. Additionally, we found ourselves maxing out the rebound adjustment to slow the shock down to a reasonable rate, leading us to believe that heavier riders may want a slower rebound tune on the shock.
Up front, the 140mm RockShox Revelation RLT fork surprised us. Even with 32mm stanchions it felt plenty stiff torsionally and aided our confidence when pushing the Sight in corners and through rocky sections. The damping performance was also excellent, offering smooth and controlled action that matched the rear end well.
Headed uphill the Norco doesn’t skip a beat. Because we could move around on the frame and get the right traction in the right areas, seated climbing was a relative breeze. The Sight would just keep moving uphill, not with a great sense of urgency mind you, but provided you’re putting effort into the pedals you’ll rarely get stopped. Norco did a good job managing the chain torque with no perceivable power loss when pedaling. This could also be a product of a relatively optimized pivot point around a single chainring. We were able to leave the FOX CTD rear shock wide open in “Descend” mode without concern. This offered good traction, a planted feel, and plenty of compliance to smooth out the bumps on techy climbs. Rolling speed was average for a 27.5-inch bike, and while not a rocket ship, it was always willing to accelerate without too much effort.
The Sight Carbon 7.1 comes equipped with a good mix of proven components from SRAM, RockShox, DT Swiss, Formula, Sun Ringle, and FOX. There are few components where we see room for improvement, however.
As previously mentioned, we preferred something shorter than the stock 70mm Race Face stem. Going shorter adds a lot of stability to the bike when descending. We'd also swap out the Ergon grips because they effectively chop a full inch off the bar width due to their design. Some people love them, we don’t.
WTB’s Volt Race saddle is comfy when you’re in the right spot, but if you’re active on the bike and like to move around, the pronounced rear wings on the saddle may catch your thighs. Something slightly narrower at the rear would be welcome.
While we were lucky to have great dirt conditions during the duration of our test, we know from previous experience that the 2.25-inch Maxxis Ardent tires leave a lot to be desired when cornering. We do applaud Norco for spec’ing the heavier duty EXO casings, but they forgot the knobs. We would be okay with an Ardent on the rear for rolling speed, but consider upgrading the front tire.
Norco chose to build custom wheels for the Sight 7.1 using Sun Ringle Inferno 25 rims, a 12x142mm DT Swiss 350 rear hub, 15mm Formula MTB hub, and straight gauge spokes. They were stiff, offered decent engagement, and did their job well, so we pretty much forgot about them. Unfortunately those looking to convert the bike to a tubeless setup will quickly learn that the Inferno 25 rims are not tubeless friendly, ghetto or otherwise.
Avid’s X7 Trail brakes were solid performers with good power, modulation and control. The use of a full Avid/SRAM/RockShox build kit allowed Norco to utilize SRAM’s Match Maker system which declutters the bars nicely by consolidating everything to just one bar clamp per side. We would like to see the Reverb remote lever moved under the bar in the future, though, because it’s easier to reach on the fly.
SRAM’s X01 drivetrain worked great throughout the test with almost no drag and plenty of gear range. It’s also very, very quiet which helped make the bike incredibly silent, even through the rough stuff.
Long Term Durability
While they certainly sound like an improvement from a bearing longevity standpoint, Norco's 360-Lock pivot hardware loosened during each of our rides. Be sure to keep an eye on it during the first few months of use. A dab of thread locker could also do the trick.
We also had a rear brake failure after just a handful of rides when the housing wore through near the back of the bike. To prevent the issue, ensure there is enough slack between the main frame and seatstay cable clamps by deflating the rear shock and pulling sufficient slack through the frame.
Other than that, the Sight Carbon was dialed and looks like it’d hold up for a long time.
What's The Bottom Line?
The Norco Sight Carbon 7.1 is a remarkable bike. It’s predictable yet fun and offers very impressive suspension characteristics without any big hang ups. It will change directions in a heartbeat and stay stable through the roughest lines - a great balance to have. It’s also refreshingly clean in its appearance and competitive in the weight game.
We tried hard to find fault with it, but the bike really is a solid performer across the board. Of the 25 bikes we tested in Sedona, the Sight Carbon was among the small handful of stand outs. Fix a few of the component quibbles while maintaining the price point and it’d be a five-star ride. Considering how well it rides at a cost thousands less than many others, this truly is a great value for your dollars.
For more details visit www.norco.com.
About The Reviewers
Steve Wentz - A man of many talents, Steve got his start in downhilling at a young age. He has been riding for over 17 years, 10 of which have been in the Pro ranks. Asked to describe his riding style he said, "I like to smooth out the trail myself." Today he builds some of the best trails in the world (and eats lots of M&M's).
Brandon Turman - Brandon likes to pop off the little bonus lines on the sides of the trail, get aggressive when he's in tune with a bike and talk tech. In 14 years of riding he worked his way through the Collegiate downhill ranks to the Pro level. Formerly a Mechanical Engineer, nowadays he's Vital MTB's resident product guy.