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Killer B was all the buzz for the 2015 Norco Aurum launch. With big updates like a carbon front triangle and the Aurum now joining Norco's fleet of Killer B bikes (650B), we had the opportunity to spend two days on the new steed to see what it's all about.

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Norco's main goals in designing the 650B Aurum were pretty straightforward: faster, lighter and more efficient with similar handling and much of suspension feel the previous Aurum had. Prototyping began in late 2012 and by the 2014 World Cup season the team competed in every race on the 650B Aurum frame. After surviving the rigors of World Cup racing and even the Red Bull Rampage, Norco finally found the time right to bring you the all-new, 2015 Aurum.

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2015 Norco Aurum Highlights

  • Frame Material: Carbon front triangle and 6061 alloy rear (all models)
  • Travel: 200-mm via Norco's A.R.T. Suspension optimized for DH
  • Wheel-size: 650B
  • Head Angle: 63 degrees
  • 142x12 rear axle spacing optimized for 7-speed DH drivetrain
  • Bottom Bracket Height: 13.5-inches
  • Frame Weight: 7.28-lbs without shock
  • Three build kits available in addition to a limited ENVE edition and a frame only option
  • MSRP:
    • C7.1 ENVE: $9,700 USD
    • C7.1: $7,000 USD
    • C7.2: $5,800 USD
    • C7.3: $4,230 USD
    • Frame Only: $2,585 USD

Initial Impressions

Details, Norco paid attention. The new Aurum sports a lot of neat integrated features that are well thought-out and that every bike-nerd will appreciate - listen in as we chat to Norco's Owen Pemberton about the development process of the new bike:

An integrated shuttle guard on fork-bumper and cable guide double duty, an optional fender, built-in seatpost clamp and chainstay protectors; Norco killed it with the small things. Keeping it clean with a simple front triangle and functional integrated features, the Aurum looks like a bike to be reckoned with and we couldn't wait to get it out on the trail.

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On The Trail

Norco put us on the C7.1 Aurum with a Rockshox BoXXer World Cup and Cane Creek Double Barrel coil. The Double Barrel comes with a base tune for the Aurum and that's how we decided to run it. The trail we were riding was loose, fast and dry a featured a variety of terrain from fast wide-open bits to burly rock sections and a few jumps and drops; the perfect testing ground for a new DH bike.

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Right away it was clear the bike's sizing and geometry were just about spot on for our tester. At 6 feet tall we felt right at home on the size L and were quickly up to speed. It's worth pointing out that Norco has not joined the club of long reach, keeping it traditional at just 432-mm for the large. With the slack head angle and relatively long chain stays the bike was still very stable and confidence inspiring in the wide open sections of trail, but if you're a taller rider, you might struggle with the fit in the absence of an XL in the lineup. As for our initial experience, the Aurum centers you on the bike and gives you a feeling of  being in control. Bryn Atkinson, one of Norco's World Cup DH riders was also on hand to show us all just what the bike was really built for...

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Geometry is what makes or breaks a ride at the end of the day - check in with Bryn to hear his thoughts on the importance of adapting the chain stay length to each frame size, something that Norco with their "Gravity Tune" is one of only a very few companies to do:

Where the bike really shines was in the rough. Here, the suspension really opens up and helps keep up the bike's speed making the Aurum super controllable and predictable in rocky sections. With only a couple of days of riding time it was hard to tell which was the biggest contributing factor to this; the bigger wheels, the tuning of the shock, or the rear wheel-path. Whatever the reason(s), it was clear that the bike was fast in the rough, carrying great speed without getting hung-up on any of the bigger hits. One thing we do know is that Norco slightly increased the mid-stroke ratio specifically to improve handling in the rougher sections. Originally the plan was to increase the rearward path of the axle, but when coupled with the extra chain-growth due to the lower BB position associated with the 650B wheel, it was just too much and pedal-kick was becoming an issue. So the solution was to change the leverage curve slightly. Whatever the biggest factor may have been behind the improved handling in the rough, it's clear that Norco found a system that works very well and it was very apparent while riding.

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Everybody knows that to go fast, you need to be able to stop on a dime too. Our two days on the bike showed that in terms of braking, Norco's A.R.T. suspension (a Horst link adaptation) feels active even when grabbing a fist full of rear anchor. Incidentally, the Avid Guide brakes on our test bike had plenty of power and were easy to control. And when it came time to pedal, the A.R.T. responded well and the Aurum didn't bob excessively nor feel bogged down at all.

Despite the longer chainstays needed accommodate the 650B wheel and a suspension design featuring some chain-growth, we didn't experience any pedal feedback on the trail. Another side-effect of a 650B bike with a slack head angle is a longer wheel-base, which slows the handling down in tight corners. However, compared to some other 650B DH bikes we've ridden, the Aurum strikes a good balance between stability and maneuverability and the bike felt pretty snappy for a full-on downhill bike.

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Build Kit

As previously mentioned, Norco let us play with the Aurum C7.1 for a couple days. Equipped with a Rockshox BoXXer World Cup, a Cane Creek Double Barrel coil shock, the SRAM X01 DH 7-spd drivetrain and SRAM's new Guide RSC stoppers, Norco came up with the goods for their top of the line build and there wasn't much we'd change if the bike was our own. The Cane Creek Double Barrel is delivered with base settings for the Aurum's A.C.T. suspension already dialed in for you as a starting point to begin your own fine tuning. The Rockshox Vivid RC2C found on the C7.2 and the Rockshox Cage RC on the C7.3 are delivered custom-valved for the frame, since these shocks don't offer the same range of external adjustability as the Cane Creek.

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Since the Aurum was designed around a 7-spd specific drivetrain with its 142x12 rear-spacing, Norco designed a custom spacer to replace three cogs on the Shimano Zee cassette for the C7.3 version. Both the C7.1 and C7.2 versions feature SRAM's excellent X01 DH 7-spd drivetrain, as does the Limited ENVE edition.

The C7.1 we rode weighs in at only 34.4lbs, exactly one-third of a pound heavier than the ENVE edition (and $2,700 less). Featuring DT Swiss 350 hubs with the upgraded 36-point star ratchet, we found the 10-degree engagement of the rear hub easily sufficient for a DH bike.

All of the Aurum build options come with the same frame and for 2015 there has been no mention of an alloy option - and with the entry level bike selling for $4,230, we'd argue there is almost no point in making one anyway. With weight savings of 450-grams in the front triangle alone, the frame now weighs in at 3,300g, or 7.28lbs without the shock. While not the lightest DH frame out there (but also definitely not the heaviest), Norco claims the Aurum is the strongest bike they've ever built.

What's The Bottom Line?

The Norco Aurum is a great option for a wide range of riders with build kits available between $4,230 and $9,700, all featuring the same carbon frame. Built for speed first and foremost, the bike's aggressive geometry makes for a confidence inspiring ride that any level of rider will appreciate. Two days is of course not enough for us to deliver an in-depth verdict, but we found ourselves quickly rallying the bike like it was our own, which speaks loudly to Norco's attention to the overall feel and design of the Aurum. Longer term testing would be needed before we could weigh in on any longevity aspects, as well as on how the bike behaves on different terrain. At this point, given that at the center of every build is a well thought out and highly capable frame, no matter what you skill level demands in terms of componentry or how deep your pocketbook is, the 2015 Norco Aurum should definitely be on your list of DH bikes to consider. The bikes will be available from Norco dealers as of April 2015, and you can find more information at: www.norco.com.


2015 Norco Aurum Build Kits and Geometry

2015 Norco Aurum C7.1 ENVE Edition

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2015 Norco Aurum C7.1

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2015 Norco Aurum C7.2

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2015 Norco Aurum C7.3

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For more information, head on over to www.norco.com.

Feature by Fred Robinson // Photos by Fred Robinson and Michael Darter

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