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First Look - 2023 Norco Fluid FS

Geometry is free. So the saying goes. For the most part, the basics of that statement are true so long as certain elements stay the same across size runs. For some years now, Norco has taken the more costly approach to geometry via its Ride Aligned philosophy. In essence, within a given model line, every size receives its own geometry that is optimized around a certain rider height. This level of customization adds cost and complexity to a line. Today, Norco has taken its Ride Aligned approach and applied it to a bike that is targeted at being more budget-friendly - the Fluid FS.

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Highlights

  • Aluminum frame
  • 29-inch wheels only
  • 130mm (5.1-inches) of rear wheel travel // 140mm (5.5-inches) fork travel
  • Four bar suspension design
  • Tapered headtube
  • Internal cable routing
  • Accessory mounts on the top tube
  • 4-piston brakes on all models
  • Threaded bottom bracket
  • Boost 148 rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • MSRP $4,449 USD

The Fluid FS line is still centered on saving mountain bikers’ hard-earned money but it does add a higher-end build spec to appease those riders that want an alloy frame with nicer parts. With four build kits in the line, all centered on the same platform, Norco is aiming to offer riders a foundation upon which they can build. Additionally, because each size now has its own set of angles and measurements, the performance of that foundation is said to be optimized.

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Geometry

The Fluid FS runs some middle-of-the-road geometry, targeted at giving most riders what they need. While the numbers will still satisfy some riders at the aggressive end of the spectrum, that is not the intent with the Fluid FS line. Norco makes the Optic to scratch that itch.

Our size large test bike has a 480mm reach with size-specific 435mm chainstays. A 65-degree head angle is paired with a size-specific 76.7-degree seat angle. The Fluid FS range is offered in sizes ranging from Small to XX-Large to accommodate riders from 5’1” to 6’7”.

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The Lineup

As mentioned, the Fluid FS line all shares the same frame and full Ride Aligned geometry. All four models come with size-specific SDG Tellis dropper posts as well.

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Though the nomenclature is a shuffle, Norco added a higher-end build kit to the new Fluid FS Line. As it just so happened, that’s the model that landed in Vital’s lap, the A1. For $4,449 riders will get FOX Factory suspension, Shimano XT drivetrain, TRP Trail EVO brakes, and Stan’s Flow S1 hoops wrapped in Vittoria tires.

Norco Fluid FS A2

$3,599 - The Fluid FS A2 has a FOX Float X Performance rear shock with a Marzocchi Z2 fork. Shimano serves up the drivetrain with a mix of SLX and XT. TRP Slate brakes make the Stan’s Flow D wheels stop.

Norco Fluid FS A3

$2,999 - Moving down the line, we get the Fluid FS 2 with a RockShox 35 Silver fork and X-Fusion 02 Pro rear shock. The drivetrain switches teams and is SRAM’s SX Eagle while the brakes are Tektro HD745. The A2 does retain the Stan’s Flow D wheels.

Norco Fluid FS A4

$2,699 - At the entry point to the Fluid FS line is the A4. The drivetrain is a blend of Shimano Deore (11-speed) and SunRace. Brakes are still Tektro but are the HD M535, still a 4-piston. Again, Stan’s Flow D wheels keep things moving along but the tires do switch from Vittoria to Goodyear.

 

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FAQ from Norco

WHAT ASPECTS OF THE FLUID FS GEOMETRIES DIFFER FROM ONE SIZE TO THE NEXT?

Stack and Reach numbers increase, as do seat tube lengths and standover heights – similar to other brands. Where Fluid FS delivers a more thoughtful, holistic take on frame design, however, is by increasing chainstay length from one size to the next, as well as steepening the effective seat tube angle between sizes.

HOW HAS THE NEW FLUID FS’S SUSPENSION EVOLVED FROM THE PREVIOUS GENERATION?

Suspension travel has increased by 10mm front and rear, 140mm and 130mm respectively, for greater capability and rider confidence. While the new Fluid FS shares very similar dynamic pedaling and handling characteristics to the previous Fluid and Optic, the method for achieving these ride characteristics has been reevaluated. Increased leverage curve progression provides support to the rider without depending on very progressive air springs and large volume spacers, improving rebound characteristics and providing greater levels of control. Anti-squat was defined in conjunction with this greater level of support from leverage curve progression to provide an efficient pedaling feel while ensuring consistent traction on technical climbs.

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Extensive time was also spent testing different shock tunes on all spec levels to define tunes well suited to the Fluid’s kinematics and meet Norco’s high ride quality standards. This is an area that many budget-aware suspension designs have overlooked in the past – and is a crucial detail that puts every new Fluid FS model way ahead of any other bike in this category.

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SO, IS THE NEW FLUID FS AN ALUMINUM OPTIC?

No. The 2019 Optic and the new Fluid FS both evolved from the same place, the previous generation Fluid. The two bikes were separated at birth and evolved in unique directions.

The Optic’s sharp focus on confident high-speed descending capabilities and component spec focused on speed management over fast, challenging terrain were hard-wired in from the beginning. The new Fluid FS, however, focuses on a more complete, well-rounded performance Trail character.

IS THAT AN XXL I SEE ON THAT GEO CHART?!

Yes! With this new Fluid FS, we saw an opportunity to provide taller riders with a viable, incredibly capable full suspension Trail bike that actually fits with a ride tuned specifically to their height and center of gravity.

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Available in five sizes from S through XXL, the full range of new Fluid FS models fit anyone between 5’1” and 6’7” – all equipped with 29-inch wheels and components selected to offer peak performance and maximized rider potential in four distinct price ranges. Additionally, every size Fluid is designed for long travel 34.9mm dropper seatposts. (S – 150mm, M – 170mm, L, XL, XXL – 200mm), a spec reflected through all four models.

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What's The Bottom Line?

Vital is just getting started with testing the new Fluid FS A1. We do have some miles on it but aren’t ready to call it a review. Stay tuned as we fly all around the hills with this mean green machine and offer a full review.

In the meantime, head to norco.com to learn more about the Fluid FS line.


View key specs, compare bikes, and rate the new Norco Fluid FS in the Vital MTB Product Guide.

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