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2020 Norco Fluid FS 1 Bike

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Cheap but Capable

Rating: Featured Member Review
Cheap but Capable
The Good:

Fast, efficient, tons of pop, more capable than expected

The Bad:

Not the lightest

Overall Review:

Intro

I live in Bellingham, WA and am privileged to have some of the best riding in the world practically in my back yard. Generally, we have to earn our descents so I wanted something that pedals really well and could handle some fairly aggressive trails on the way back down. I've been riding an over built 150/160mm trail bike for the last number of years but I acquired an old DH bike that I overhauled for those days when it's appropriate and now I could justify a lighter duty trail bike as a compliment. I wanted a capable bike that feels nimble and not too big since I like to jump, manual, and play on my way down a trail. These factors along with my small stature lead me to decide on 27.5" wheels and to go with a size small on this specific bike. Over the past few years I have demoed and borrowed about 10 different bikes to suss out some of the new trends and get a feel for modern geometry and components. My only real brand preference was for a Shimano drivetrain but other than that my budget drove my decision more than anything.


Out of the Box Modifications

The stock 130mm fork was just a bit less travel than I felt comfortable going with since I was stepping down from 160mm. Due to this I swapped out the stock air spring and lengthened it to 140mm in order to give me a bit more forgiveness and slacken the bike a touch. In addition to the fork I also swapped out the organic brake pads for metallic and upsized the rotors to 203mm front/180mm rear. We have some long descents and often ride in wet conditions so I have a strong preference for metallic brake pads and I wanted to squeeze all the performance I could from these brakes with the larger rotors. In order to dial in my touch points I cut the bars down to 760mm in addition to swapping out the grips and pedals. Since this was the first new bike that I've purchased, I like tinkering so I've always bought used and customized, I wanted to do what I can to keep it looking pretty. I added a front fender and frame protection kit from Frame Keeper along with some extra pieces of mastic tape where I felt appropriate.


Frame/shock

According to manufacturer recommendations on shock air pressure my sag was initially sitting around 33%. I found this to be too soft and it was negatively affecting pedaling performance in addition to blowing through travel during compressions. After trying out a few different options I settled on 27% sag. This seemed to give me the best compromise of traction, support, and pedaling efficiency I was after. I did have to initially remind myself that I was coming off 150mm of coil suspension so the Fluid would never feel as supple but that's not why I got this bike. Sometimes you have to give up some comfort for efficiency, but I feel Norco did a good job balancing that with the Fluid. Even though it doesn't feel quite as supple as I was used to it tracks through ruff sections of trail surprisingly well and does a good job at taking the sting off of hard compressions or sharp edge impacts. You could easily think there is more like 140mm out back when descending but it pedals with the efficiency you would expect from a 120mm frame on the way up. Norco really seems to have found the sweet spot when it comes to the Fluids suspension. Another thing of note is how quiet the bike rides. The chain slap protection looks minimal, but I was pleasantly surprised as to how good of a job it actually does although I did still end up making my own with mastic tape.


Fork

For the price point the Pike Select was sufficient but I wouldn't say I was impressed by any means. The stiffness feels good for this bikes intentions and I eventually found a set up that works well enough. I will be swapping this out at some point and my reasoning comes down to the damper performance, or lack there of... it just feels harsh with repeated impacts from medium to large hits and it definitely fatigues my arms more than my old 2013 Lyrik.

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Brakes

I couldn't be more impressed with these brakes considering their price point. Granted I made some changes from how they come stock but the changes I made were cheap and can be easily justified at the time they need their first service. The 4-piston caliper offers plenty of power for just about anything you can throw at it. My only issue with them is with the lever blade due to how long it was. The length and location of the clamp made set up tricky with both the shifter and dropper lever since there was no option for a direct mount. Eventually I ended up swapping the levers for some SLX M7100 ones due to this set-up/ergonomic problem. In addition to the added comfort the SLX levers did add some extra power but I'd still argue that the stock brakes will be fine for the majority of people purchasing this bike.


Drivetrain

Like I stated earlier, my only real brand preference on this bike was for a Shimano drivetrain and I could not be happier about my decision. I have not been impressed with Srams lower end drivetrains since they got rid of X9/X7 but this mixed SLX/XT drivetrain has been performing perfectly. Shifts are smooth and it stays nice and quiet. If you haven't tried Shimano's new Hyperglide+ system you are missing out! I've never had a drivetrain that can shift so smoothly under load. At times I even have to take a look to double check that it actually shifted since you can barely discern audible noises as it bails you out up a steep grade.


Wheels

The wheels were good enough for the price point but not impressive. They have an appropriately wide rim at 30mm but the spoke tension was terrible out of the box and the engagement on the hub is also lack luster. That said, other than a few dings these have been spinning trouble free for 7 months after truing and tensioning them initially.


Tires

I've never ridden 2.6" tires before so I played around with pressures quite a bit and settled on 22psi front and 25psi in the rear for dry to moist conditions. Tire choice can be a very personal thing and I tend to be picky about tires but I feel the tire choice that Norco went with is a great option for the target customer of this bike. The Maxxis Forecaster rolls very efficiently and has substantially more braking bite than you would ever expect something labeled cross-country to have. When it comes to the Minion DHF there isn't much to be said since it is probably the most well known and loved MTB tire ever made. Eventually I swapped out both tires and went with 2.4" Minion DHRII up front and a 2.4" Dissector out back; both are EXO and Maxx Terra. I feel that this combo helped make the bike a bit more playful and gave me the side wall support I prefer. You also just can't beat the all around grip and braking traction on a DHRII and the Dissector sheds mud really well so I'm looking forward to this combo coming into the winter months.

Dropper Post

I have absolutely no complaints about the performance of the X-Fusion Manic dropper. It has a smooth action and a solid enough top out clunk to let you know it has reached full extension. The lever isn't the best on the market, but it most certainly gets the job done. My only real issue is with the fact that a 125mm travel option was spec'd. This frame has a really short seat tube, and I know that I'm a bit of an outlier on sizing for a small frame, but I feel a 150mm post would have been a better spec choice. I ended up swapping this post for a 180mm OneUp dropper and shimmed it down to 170mm. Lucky for me there was just enough seat tube length to pull this off.

 

Seat

My underside did not get along with the Fizik Taiga saddle. In addition to it just simply being too wide for my anatomy I found the plastic and rather sharp outer edges to be irritating during descents due to it rubbing on my inner thighs. I quickly swapped it out for my saddle of choice, the WTB Volt in a 135mm width.

 

Cockpit

The Norco branded cockpit is nothing fancy but looks nice enough and isn't anything to really complain about. It's nice to see a full width 800mm bar spec'd even on the size small to give riders the option to cut them down to their preferred width. The rise and sweep felt familiar although I do like a rather tall cockpit and the feel of 31.8 diameter bars so I ended up swapping them out for my preferred set up. The grips were rather thin and uncomfortable but due to how personal grip preference can be and how cheap they are to change I can't really fault Norco even though I couldn't stand them.

 

Overall Impression

The Norco Fluid is exactly what I was looking for in a trail bike. From the first ride on, it just seemed to fit like an old glove with handling that was very intuitive. With only 120mm of travel out back it pedals as efficiently as you would expect but it can still rip a descent once the trail points back down. No, it's not an enduro race bike but that doesn't mean it can't hold its own with your buddies on their Sentinels. I found the geometry to be slack and low enough to be plenty stable at speed and under the right rider it can handle just about any trail you want to point it down short of a proper DH track. Fortunately though, the handling is still snappy enough for those tight trees or technical maneuvers and it never feels like too much bike. As someone who grew up riding BMX bikes I love the occasional flow trail and jumping on this bike is a blast! It holds and generates speed like no other bike I've been on, so that in combination with all of the pop it has lets you go to the moon off of any lip you see on the trail. 

I would say that this bike is perfect for anyone on a budget that is looking for a do everything bike that likes to spend some time in the saddle but also get a bit rowdy on the way down. In my opinion Norco did a great job on this bike for the price and I'm really looking forward to ripping it for years to come!

Specifications

Product Norco Fluid FS 1 Bike
Model Year 2020
Riding Type Trail
Rider Unisex
Sizes and Geometry
XS (27.5"), S (27.5"), M (27.5"), M (29"), L (29"), XL (29") View Geometry
Size XS (27.5") S (27.5") M (27.5") M (29") L (29") XL (29")
Top Tube Length 522mm 554mm 586mm 590mm 623mm 655mm
Head Tube Angle 66.0° 66.0° 66.0° 66.5° 66.5° 66.5°
Head Tube Length 100mm 110mm 120mm 100mm 110mm 120mm
Seat Tube Angle 76.0° 76.0° 76.0° 76.0° 76.0° 76.0°
Seat Tube Length 370mm 390mm 420mm 420mm 450mm 490mm
Bottom Bracket Height 342mm (18mm drop) 342mm (18mm drop) 342mm (18mm drop) 342mm (36mm drop) 342mm (36mm drop) 342mm (36mm drop)
Chainstay Length 431mm 431mm 431mm 429mm 429mm 429mm
Wheelbase 1101mm 1135mm 1169mm 1169mm 1204mm 1237mm
Standover 640mm 654mm 664mm 682mm 694mm 704mm
Reach 380mm 410mm 440mm 440mm 470mm 500mm
Stack 568mm 577mm 587mm 603mm 612mm 621mm
Wheel Size 27.5" (650b), 29"
Frame Material Aluminum
Frame Material Details 6061 X6 double-butted aluminum frame, size-scaled tubing, smooth welding
Rear Travel 120mm
Rear Shock RockShox Deluxe Select
Fork RockShox Pike Select, Maxle Stealth axle, 42mm offset (27.5"), 51mm offset (29"), 15x110mm Boost
Fork Travel 130mm
Head Tube Diameter Tapered, 1.125" top, 1.5" bottom
Headset Sealed cartridge bearing
Handlebar TranzX 6061 DB, 780mm width
Stem 6061 alloy, 35mm bore
Grips VP, lock-on
Brakes Shimano BR-M420 hydraulic disc, 180mm front rotor, 160mm rear rotor
Brake Levers Shimano BR-M420 hydraulic
Drivetrain 1x
Shifters Shimano SLX, 12-speed
Front Derailleur N/A
Rear Derailleur Shimano XT, RD-M8100, 12-speed
ISCG Tabs
Chainguide N/A
Cranks Shimano FC-M610, 170mm length (XS, S), 175mm length (all other sizes)
Chainrings Shimano FC-M610, 30 tooth
Bottom Bracket Shimano SM-BB52
Pedals VP Flat Nylon
Chain Shimano CNM7100
Cassette Shimano SLX, 12-speed, 10-51 tooth
Rims Stan's NoTubes Flow D, 32 hole
Hubs Front: Shimano HB-MT400, 15x110mm Boost
Rear: Shimano FH-MT510-B, MICRO SPLINE driver, 12x148mm Boost
Spokes Stainless steel, black, 14g
Tires Front: Maxxis Minion DHF, 3C/EXO/TR, 2.6"
Rear: Maxxis Forekaster, 3C/EXO/TR, 2.6"
Saddle fi'zi:k Taiga
Seatpost X-Fusion Manic dropper
Seatpost Diameter
Seatpost Clamp Alloy, standard single bolt
Rear Dropout / Hub Dimensions 12x148mm Boost
Max. Tire Size 2.6"
Bottle Cage Mounts Yes (single)
Colors Brown/Copper
Warranty 5 year limited on frame
Weight N/A
Miscellaneous Internal cable routing
Price $2,799
More Info

norco.com

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