Vital MTB's Bike of the Year - $3,999 Norco Fluid FS A1 3

It all comes down to the little things.

Welcome mountain bikers! We hope you’ve had a fun year of shredding the trails! Vital MTB testers sure have, and in the process, they’ve run a big batch of mountain bikes through the wringer in 2022. Now it’s time for the impossible task of deciding which two-wheeled fun machine should be crowned mountain bike of the year.


There are so many well-performing mountain bikes across all price ranges these days. As suspension platforms and geometries become more refined and honed in, the difference between a great bike and a fantastic bike comes down to the little things. Without further ado, Vital chooses the $3,999 Norco Fluid FS A1 as the best mountain bike going into 2023. The reason? The little things.


We’ve had fun on previous iterations of the Fluid in the past, and the completely redesigned aluminum 29er trail bike that landed in our lap this year proved that Norco is focused on details that serious riders can appreciate. The Fluid FS A1 features 130mm of rear travel via FOX Float X Performance Elite Shock and 140mm of travel up front boasting a FOX Factory 34 Grip 2 fork. Aside from the Praxis cranks, the drivetrain is full 12-speed Shimano XT, including the chain, cassette and shifter, and there’s some bling reflected in the TRP Trail EVO four-piston brakes that worked phenomenally. Here’s a little thing that Norco considered - the Fluid comes with a 203mm front rotor. That may seem like a no-brainer, but there are many bikes in this category and beyond that only come with a 180mm front rotor. The inclusion of the big rotor opens up the Fluid’s capabilities for use on longer, steeper descents.


Another piece of spec that reflects Norco’s dedication to serious riders of all sizes is the dropper seat post. Size smalls get a 150mm dropper, M and L get 170mm drops while XL and XXL get a full 200mm dropper seat post. Norco could have easily stuck with 170s on the XL and double X, but they didn’t. They also could have easily refrained from including the accessory mount bolts beneath the top tube, but they didn’t.

Norco’s commitment to proper bike fit goes deeper than just seatpost spec. Their Ride Aligned geometry means Fluid frames have size-specific chainstay lengths and seat tube angles. On the trail, the Fluid was extremely balanced and well-composed thanks to the pairing of refined suspension kinematics with the size-specific fit of the bike.


Beneath our 205-pound tester, the Fluid stood firm for over 250 miles of trail and bike park abuse in 3 months. Regular maintenance kept the bike quiet and creak-free. Larger, more aggressive rides may push the stock Vittoria tires to their limits, but overall, there wasn’t a single complaint about the ride quality, build quality or spec of the bike.

If $3,999 is out of your budget, you can shave $850 by checking out the Norco Fluid FS A2. It features a build that, at least on paper, has all the right parts in all the right places. Fluid FS frames feature a 5-year warranty, and with Norco you get access to their local dealer network, online retailers, as well as live chat services on their website, should you have questions about the bike.


It’s a great time to be a mountain biker, especially with options like the Norco Fluid FS. It’s a bike that fits like a glove, can take you anywhere, survives what you throw at it and leaves some money in the bank account.

See Vital's in-depth review of the Norco Fluid FS A1

Stay safe and we’ll see you on the trails!




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