Last year we crowned Norco’s Fluid FS ‘Bike of the Year’ due to the absurd performance it packed into such an economical package. Enter 2023 and Norco has created a carbon-front-triangle version of the Fluid FS that features a 600g weight savings in the frame. Suspension travel (130mm rear, 140mm front), suspension kinematics and geometry remain identical regardless of material, and one would be hard-pressed to visually tell the difference between the alloy and carbon frames if passing on the trail.
Is the Carbon Worth It? Time Will Tell.
The spec of the new carbon Fluids jumps into SRAM / RockShox builds with the GX-Transmission-and-Ultimate-equipped C1 model (which we received for testing) landing at $5,999 U.S. This seems to be the best bang for the buck for those craving carbon in their Fluid. The GX Eagle / Select+ C2 ($4,999) and NX Eagle / Select C3 ($4,099) models leave us a bit skeptical about saving that 600 grams in the frame for arguably lower spec parts (heavier?) and performance when compared to the $3,999 alloy Fluid FS A1 that we loved so much. Our $5,999 size large carbon C1 test bike with Shimano XT clipless pedals weighs 32.4 pounds. Our $3,999 size large alloy Fluid weighed 32 pounds without pedals when we tested it. Thankfully we have the carbon Fluid currently undergoing long-term testing with the same rider that tested the alloy Fluid. We'll report back at the end of summer to see if the juice is worth the squeeze.
You may also wonder how this new carbon Fluid slots in with the Norco Optic, as they are extremely similar. Norco answers that in the FAQ below, but has to leave us wondering what kind of future the Optic has based on rumblings in our tech forum.
Norco Fluid FS Carbon Highlights
- Carbon front triangle saves 600 grams
- Aluminum rear triangle
- Identitcal geometry and kinematics to aluminum model
- 130mm (5.1-inches) of rear wheel travel // 140mm (5.5-inches) fork travel
- Threaded bottom bracket
- Boost 148 rear spacing with 12mm through axle
- 29-inch wheels only
- Size-specific 34.9mm dropper posts up to 200mm
- 65-degree heat tube angle
- 4 size options - S, M, L, XL
- Size specific rear center lengths and effective seat tube angles
- Tubeless tape factory-installed with valves & sealant included stock
- MSRP: $4,099 - 5,999 USD
- Frame/shock only available in Canada ($3,299 CAD)
FAQ (provided by Norco)
WHAT KIND OF RIDER IS THE NEW FLUID FS CARBON DESIGNED FOR?
The Fluid FS Carbon features progressive geometry and a character that’s right inline with what we engineered into the Aluminum version that we introduced last year, and benefits from a 600 gram reduction in weight and refined ride characteristics thanks to its carbon front triangle.
The performance potential built-in is also perfect for Trail riders who are looking to step up to the light weight, strength and fine-tuned ride quality carbon fibre offers with a bike that’ll over-deliver as their skills and preferences evolve.
Thanks to the Ride AlignedTM Design System, riders of varying heights and proportions benefit from ideal weight distribution across all Fluid Carbon frame sizes, assuring everyone an ideal Trail experience.
WHAT INSPIRED NORCO TO INTRODUCE A CARBON FLUID?
After releasing the award winning Fluid FS Aluminum last year, one of the first questions we received for riders, dealers and the media was “Will we be seeing a Carbon Fluid?”
It was a totally legit question, and one we’d asked ourselves long before that.
After riding early test mules of the aluminum bike to refine the updated geometry, we noticed that the ride quality we were pushing for, which made the Fluid Aluminum so successful, transcended the Ever Rider, Every Trail focus, offering Intermediate to Advanced riders incredible capability across all types of terrain.
These are the same riders who, for a number of reasons, appreciate the benefits of a Carbon Fibre frame, so we began development of the Carbon Fluid.
WHAT ASPECTS OF THE FLUID FS CARBON GEOMETRIES DIFFER FROM ONE SIZE TO THE NEXT?
As sizes increase through the 4 available frame sizes, Stack and Reach numbers increase, as do seat tube lengths and standover heights – similar to other brands
Where Fluid FS geometry increases Rear Centre length as sizes increase, as well as steepening the effective seat tube angle.
While it may seem insignificant, these subtle changes are what set Norco Ride Aligned-equipped bikes apart from the competition in providing every rider the best possible performance no matter what their height or ability.
ARE THERE MAJOR DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE FLUID FS CARBON AND FLUID FS ALUMINUM?
The main differences between the Fluid Carbon and Aluminum lie in the front triangles’ material.
Carbon fibre provides significant weight savings over the aluminum model (600 grams savings) on a frame that endures the exact same testing parameters as the aluminum version.
Through precise layup schedules and a refined construction process, the carbon frames provide strength and stiffness tuned specifically for every rider on every frame size.
The Fluid Carbon shares its aluminum sibling’s leverage curve progression, providing support to the rider without depending on overly 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.
Additionally, just like with the Fluid Aluminum, each Carbon model features custom tuned shocks throughout the lineup, each perfectly matched to the Fluid’s kinematics to meet Norco’s ride performance standards.
SO, IS THE NEW FLUID FS CARBON JUST A RE-BADGED OPTIC? No.
The current Optic and the new Fluid FS Carbon both evolved from the same place, and have similar suspension travel, and share some geometry numbers, but the ride character engineered into each of the two platforms is entirely unique.
The Optic’s sharp focus has always been confident high-speed descending capability with geometry, suspension curves, anti-squat and component spec focused on absolute clarity at speed over challenging terrain.
The Fluid FS Carbon, however, focuses on more complete, well rounded performance Trail character with suspension and pedaling traits that ensure confidence and efficiency over a wide variety of terrain.
HOW DO TWO BIKES THAT LOOK SO SIMILAR ON PAPER RIDE SO DIFFERENTLY?
The Fluid FS Carbon and Optic were both designed with the Ride Aligned Design System, which allows Norco engineers to fine tune and optimize specific ride characteristics during the design phase of each bike.
At the beginning of Optic’s design phase, descending performance was prioritized, and the geometry and suspension performance was developed with that in mind.
With Fluid Carbon, suspension kinematics, anti-squat and unique rider centre of gravity were considered early-on to ensure a more balanced performance in Trail platform that climbs as well as it descends, while providing a nimble, yet confident ride over undulating terrain.
The 65-degree head angle and short fork offset combine with a slightly longer head tube than Optic to provide steering characteristics that balance responsiveness throughout the ride with a little added confidence at speed.
Effective seat tube angles that get steeper on larger sizes ensure consistent seated fit across all frame sizes and short seat tubes with long, size- specific travel dropper posts keep that seat out of the way on the descents.
Hit up www.norco.com for more information on the Fluid FS C trail bike line.
View key specs, compare bikes, and rate the new Norco Fluid FS in the Vital MTB Product Guide.