2020 Norco Revolver FS 120 1 Bike

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Rethinking Cross-Country Capability - Norco Revolver FS 1 120 Bike Review

Don’t sleep on the Revolver FS 1 120 if you need a capable, hard-charging, endurance-ready cross-county mountain bike.

Rating: Vital Review
Rethinking Cross-Country Capability - Norco Revolver FS 1 120 Bike Review

Depending on the time of year, the orientation of celestial bodies or the status of soybean futures, I may or may not care how mountain bikes are labeled. I started riding in the mid-1990s, and every ride I went on was a “cross-country” ride. The only other kind of riding was downhill, and in the mid-90s downhill wasn’t an option fiscally or geographically for me. To this day, every ride that doesn’t involve a chairlift is a cross-country ride to me. “I’m gonna go ride XC,” I might tell my wife.

Whether it’s for the sake of marketing or real, actual clarity for consumers, various bike style classifications have sprouted up through the years, and until recently, it seemed like we were happy with Cross-Country (XC), Trail, Enduro (recently replacing all-mountain) and Downhill. I could throw in Freeride, but Enduro and Downhill bikes basically cover that now.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Cross-Country is now out there on the fringe, all by itself - a sinewy, Olympic-hunting version of the XC that I used to know. If I hear “XC bike” today, it must be a feather-weight, race-ready thoroughbred with a headtube angle that looks perpendicular to the ground. If the XC bike in question has rear suspension, the goal of that 60-100mm of travel is to act like it isn’t even there.

Semi-recently, in a move that was either for the sake of marketing or real, actual clarity for consumers, a new mountain bike category emerged*. This new bike-type moniker combines the only two mountain bike classifications that really need to exist - Downhill and Cross-Country. If you’re reading about a Norco Revolver FS 1 120, then you know the term I’m talking about. It’s a goofy term to unfairly pigeonhole a VERY small niche of bike and/or rider. I’m going to refrain from that term today as I go over my fun and interesting experiences aboard the Norco Revolver FS 1 120 which is, after all, a cross-country bike.

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • Balanced rider position
  • Versatile performance
  • Light weight
  • Climbing and pedaling efficiency
  • Overall spec
  • GX cassette seems low-level for price
  • Seat tube length is on the long side

I remember seeing the press release for the 2020 Norco Revolver line prior to Sea Otter. The Canadian brand was stoked on their refined, updated XC bike platform. The fresh, new Revolvers were, of course, stiffer and higher-performing, born and bred for their factory XC team, and with the Olympics on the horizon, the move made perfect sense. The Revolver FS 100 that headlined the press release meets all the criteria of a race-ready XC bike and won’t confuse anyone. Further down the press release, however, was the Revolver FS 120, which looked just like the FS 100 but with a dropper post and knobbier tires. The action photos around the 120 showcased riders hitting drops and rocks in aggressive, wooded B.C. terrain. The photo subjects were in riding gear that resembled what I’d wear (not lycra).

Norco Revolver FS 1 120 Highlights

  • Hi-Mod Carbon, 120mm Rear Travel
  • Rockshox Deluxe Select+ RL
  • RockShox SID Ultimate, 120mm Travel
  • SRAM GX Eagle Drivetrain
  • DT Swiss XR 1501 Spline Wheelset, 25mm ID
  • Maxxis Forekaster tires, F/R - 29 x 2.35-inch, MaxxSpeed, EXO
  • Weight: 26.5 pounds, Size Large, no pedals
  • Price: $5,399

Further investigation revealed that this Revolver FS 120 was a longer-travel version of its race-ready sibling. The name obviously implies 120mm of suspension travel, and it’s a fun fact that the Revolver FS 100 and 120 share the same carbon frame, but the 120 uses a longer-stroke shock, with the same eye-to-eye, to get that extra endurbro-bump-up of travel. The RockShox SID Ultimate squishes to 120mm also, the bottom bracket height is 341mm and the head angle is 67.4 degrees, 1.1 degrees slacker than the feed-station-familiar FS 100. The Revolver 120 is designed for longer rides, endurance races and multi-day trans-insert-name-here events. It’s labeled as a bike made to move when the rider tells it to move, while being friendlier in the fatigue department and willing to taking on rowdier trail challenges.

That’s what most Vital readers do, right? We mentally dissect a stock bike build, over-fork it, add big meats and think our problems are solved with a new quiver-killer.

Immediately, I thought that this bike with a 130 or 140mm fork and beefier tires would be a killer trail bike. That’s what most Vital readers do, right? We mentally dissect a stock bike build, over-fork it, add big meats and think our problems are solved with a new quiver-killer. I’ve ridden a Norco Fluid FS 1, which is an affordable, portlier, alloy 120mm 29er from Norco. The Fluid could be described as a mini enduro bike. Surely the Revolver could be the same, but way lighter with the proper aggro-upgrades. I slowed my roll, looked the Revolver over some more and realized, “this is an XC bike. Trying to rowdy it up would be stupid.”

Initial Impressions

Eventually I saw the bike in the flesh at Sea Otter and definitely came to grips with the Revolver FS 120 being a cross country bike. Having recently moved to Boise, Idaho, a land filled with miles of buff, undulating ribbons of singletrack (which is not to be taken as a bad thing), I asked the Norco peeps if I could get a Revolver 120 to ride. I wanted to see what would happen; to see how a modern, fun-looking XC bike rides in terrain made for a modern, fun-looking XC bike. I also wanted to see how it compares to the budget-friendly and differently genre'd Norco Fluid.

The Fluid I’ve ridden is a size large with a 470mm reach, fitting me nicely with a 50mm stem and really nicely with a 35mm stem. I went brave in the name of XC and chose the size large Revolver in accordance with Norco’s sizing chart. 478mm reach with a 60mm stem - uphill life, here I come.

By the end of summer, a $5,399 size large Revolver FS 1 120 arrived. The red paint was sparkling, the grey paint was stealthy, and the lines of the sleek carbon frame looked fast.

What’s the first thing you do after building a new bike? You weigh it. 26.5 pounds without pedals. Not bad. Speaking of pedals, I felt a little awkward and the Revolver was rightfully suspicious about where it ended up. I only ride flat pedals. XC bikes with flat pedals look funny and flat pedals defeat a lot of the purpose of riding a cross-country bike because of the loss of pedaling power. Oh well. Dare to be different. You’re stuck with me, Revolver.

SRAM X1 carbon cranks looked the part while the GX Eagle drivetrain (primarily the cassette) seemed a little chunky for the application. I understand pricepoints have to be hit, but over $5k without an X0-level cassette was a bit of a bummer. The pressfit BB may not be everyone's cup of tea either, but I've never been too fussed by them. If you want Kardashian-level baller, the Revolver AXS wireless version runs $8,699 or there’s the Revolver FS 2 120 at $3,999 with NX-level build. The 780mm-wide aluminum house-brand bar was nice enough, and that 60mm stem stared me in the face as if it was a 120mm quill stem from when I first started riding 25 years. The Ergon grips were a personal hit with me, and the Crankbros Highline dropper post, something I was eager to try, having never ridden one.

The Maxxis Forekaster tires seemed like an interesting spec choice at first glance. I’d never ridden them, and despite being labeled by Maxxis as an aggressive XC tire, they sure didn’t look like they’d roll as fast as an XC rider may want. The knob spacing on the Forekaster is gracious because it’s generally considered a wet-conditions tire. Norco is in western Canada, so the tire choice makes sense there, but what would the 2.35-inch Forekasters do in sandy, gravely, hard-packed, post-summer southwestern Idaho? The tire profile was nice and round thanks to the 25mm internal-width DT Swiss XR 1501 Spline wheelset, and before I forget, the EXO casing logo on the sidewall provided a bit of comfort about some damping character and support to the tires.

I read the set-up guide, prepped suspension accordingly and put on the out-of-place flat pedals. I think the Revolver shed a tear as I threaded on the Burgtecs, but I reassured it we would have fun, and I’d do my best to pedal a lot more than I might normally.

On the Trail

I’m fascinated by how well humans can adapt to new things. The first roll around the neighborhood on the Revolver gave me the impression I was riding on wet noodle. It wasn't an accurate first impression, the bike is plenty stiff where it counts, but it was a different experience compared to what I'm used to. A cross-country bike is so much more “compliant” than an enduro bike or even a trail bike. The RockShox SID fork and the DT Swiss wheels are made for a different kind of job than what I normally undertake on the trail. They’re made to be light, and they’re made to go fast, mostly in a straight line, under strong human power. They’re stiff enough, but we’ll use that “compliant” word again to describe their nature for someone used to a bigger, beefier bike.

Let’s get back to the topic of adaption. The first ride was an eye-opener on the climbs and pedally pieces of trails that I’m quite familiar with. The uphill was fast and easy, how I wished every climb was. Pedaling actually propelled me faster when hitting a flat section to connect corners or features. Momentum wasn’t just conserved, it was increased. When the time came to hit a trail with some rough sections, I was nervous. The first run through the short-but-rowdy fake rock garden was approached with skepticism. The bike survived the rocks (not that I really doubted otherwise), I survived, and after a few more laps, speeds through the rocks and pieces of technical trail got back to what felt like trail bike speed. I had adapted. My perception that the Revolver was noodly didn’t exist anymore. I was used to how this new-to-me style of bike felt. When hopping on other bikes with a more stout nature, they felt over-built and unnecessary when I was regularly riding the Revolver.

As I rode the Revolver more, my outlook toward familiar trails changed. Places I would normally coast to recover were now pedaled. Places I would normally pedal were now sprinted.

As I rode the Revolver more, my outlook toward familiar trails changed. Places I would normally coast to recover were now pedaled. Places I would normally pedal were now sprinted. There was significant reward for the effort I put forth without taxing me to the limit. Lighter tires and wheels, combined with a suspension platform design to squeeze out every watt of rider input was incredibly inspirational to a normally begrudging uphiller like myself.

The Revolver’s suspension wasn’t supple like a longer-travel bike. The bike was "more active" on rowdier bit than any of my other trail bikes, requiring more focus to reign it in, but without a stopwatch to prove it, I can’t believe that I lost any noticeable time in rough sections of trail aboard the Revolver. I made some minor compression and rebound tweaks to both fork and shock, but the setup chart a great starting point and nearly spot-on for the terrain I was riding. In bigger compressions, the bike would wince a little bit, but snapped back to life without complaint. It should be noted that even though I was on flat pedals, my feet never became disconnected and I never wished I was clipped in. The suspension, while not feeling like a pillow, was working to keep the wheels and the rider planted.

The Revolver didn’t provide the same thrill I’m used to in tighter, more slalomy corners. It’s a long XC bike, and I felt a bit cumbersome in short-radius turns or switchbacks. With that said, there were some unexpected benefits to the layout. The steeper head angle, the 60mm stem and longer reach worked together to put me in attack position through open, faster corners. I had more weight pulled forward, pressuring the front tire, increasing traction. In panic situations, I’ll gape-out and shift my weight to the back of the bike, but even when I would kook it up, the steering was responsive and traction held. When I wasn’t hesitating, the bike felt stable at speed and railed smooth corners. I actually appreciate the 67.4-degree head angle on this setup. If situations were steep or sketchy, the stem length, more than the head angle, felt like the initiator of fear. I do not believe slacking the bike out would improve its ability when things became steep.

The tires, to my surprise, worked well in the loose and hard-packed conditions here in Idaho. I didn’t think I’d ever really be drifting turns on a cross-country bike, but I did on multiple occasions aboard the Revolver. We’re not talking Blenkinsop— or Bryn—level sliding, but I was never slowing down or tip-toeing the Revolver through corners. If things let loose a bit, the situation was predictable and fun.

I finally took the Revolver out of the Boise area into the “real” mountains a few hours away. Pine trees, bugling elk, real rock gardens and natural, less-developed singletrack were on the menu. If the Revolver had a home, it was in terrain like this. Long-radius turns, janky, unpredictable rock gardens, flat sections that rewarded pedaling and a couple of grunting climbs made it the perfect bike for this environment.

Remember how I adapted to the bike? With the Revolver, I would just ride straight into or over rocks like I would on any other trail bike I had. The bike maintained composure and, if anything, that “compliant” nature I mentioned earlier, kept me moving forward and through the trail instead of being deflected. I connected the trail sections more fluidly because the Revolver helped me keep energy in the tank for hard pedaling that made the trail really fun. On the short, steep, technical climbs, the bike stayed planted up front and traction was maintained well out back. Body position was poised, right inside the bike, for those uphill grunts. The Revolver rode this classic, before-there-were-bike-parks trail perfectly.

I did notice my neck would be more fatigued after a long ride. The stretched out position meant that I was having to hold my head up more than I’m used to. I slid the seat forward which helped, and if the bike was mine, I’d go down to a 50mm or maybe even 35mm stem. The seat tube length across sizes (425mm small, 440mm medium, 485mm large, 510, XL) seem a bit on the longer side these days, too. I realize this is an XC bike, but having some more wiggle room with dropper heights and lengths could make the descents even more fun for a wider range of riders. With my short legs, the seat was creeping up my hindside on some roll-ins.

A NICA Racer's Dream Bike?

Could you take the Revolver FS 1 120 XC racing? Of course. A swap to faster-rolling, lighter-casing XC race tires would make the bike even more competitive. In fact, I think Revolver would be great for the NICA grom who is really just using NICA as the excuse to ride more. They tell mom or dad they’re going to race for the high school MTB team, and they mow lawns and do enough chores to get a real mountain bike that’s capable on the race course. The Revolver, however, doesn’t leave them stuck with a carbon hardtail and 99-degree head angle. They can show up for practice, do what the coach says, post some results at the races, and still go rip and roost the local trails with their friends as they pretend to be Bryn Atkinson or Jill Kintner. It’s a win-win.

What's the Bottom Line?

Norco is on to something with the Revolver. This bike opened up ride options that I may not normally consider with my bulkier, squishier trail bikes. Piling up mileage and vertical seemed a lot less daunting with the Revolver. Surviving any gnar on the trail wasn’t a gamble as much as it was an exhilarating experience. Yeah, it wasn’t what you’d call buttery or plush, but the job was handled, and I was happy with the result.

If I had to choose between the Revolver or a long-travel enduro 29er for the typical trails and riding conditions near me, I would, no doubt, choose the Revolver. It’s a bike that makes sense where I live and where I ride.

If I had to choose between an equally spec’d and priced Norco Revolver or Norco Fluid (that fun, trail-oriented 120mm 29er), I would definitely lose sleep over the decision. I’ve been on both bikes enough to know that they have their places. They’re also able to handle riding outside of their places when necessary. To make things more complicated, the new Norco Optic just showed up and will make this decision even more difficult.

It could be age, it could be experience, but I know I every ride on the Revolver would be a fun ride and I wouldn't have to give up most of the fun that comes with a legit trail bike or “mini enduro” bike like a Fluid. If I chose the Revolver, I would most likely expand my riding horizons with longer adventures to new trails and new places, too. I may even use recovery drinks. I joked with friends that if I was 10 years older, I’d definitely ride the Revolver. I should probably shrink that timeline to 10 months. Don’t sleep on the Revolver FS 1 120 if you need a capable, hard-charging, endurance-ready cross-county mountain bike.

Visit www.norco.com for more details.

Vital MTB Rating

  • Climbing: 5 stars - Spectacular
  • Descending: 3.5 stars - Very Good
  • Fun Factor: 4 stars - Excellent
  • Value: 4 stars - Excellent
  • Overall: 4 stars - Excellent

*I’m sure there’s history or a copyright or a trademark about who decided to coin the term downcountry, but there’s no way I’m taking the time to research it.

_______________________________________________________________________

About The Reviewer

Shawn Spomer – Age: Don't Ask // Years Riding: 23 // Height: 5’9” // Weight: 189.234-pounds

Shawn is Content Director of Vital MTB. When he's not avoiding Instagram like the plague, he's trying to grill guests on The Inside Line podcast or get laps on the trails near Boise, Idaho. A former race videographer and photographer, he started Litter "Mega"zine in 2003 and has somehow stuck around to make a living in this industry.

Specifications

Product Norco Revolver FS 120 1 Bike
Model Year 2020
Riding Type Trail
Rider Unisex
Sizes and Geometry
S, M, L, XL View Geometry
Size S M L XL
Top Tube Length 577mm 607mm 640mm 672mm
Head Tube Angle 67.4° 67.4° 67.4° 67.4°
Head Tube Length 90mm 90mm 100mm 110mm
Seat Tube Angle 74.9° 74.9° 74.9° 74.9°
Seat Tube Length 425mm 440mm 485mm 510mm
Bottom Bracket Height 341mm (-32mm drop) 341mm (-32mm drop) 341mm (-32mm drop) 341mm (-32mm drop)
Chainstay Length 420mm 423.3mm 426.7mm 430mm
Wheelbase 1117mm 1150mm 1188mm 1225mm
Standover 709mm 716mm 717mm 726mm
Reach 418mm 448mm 478mm 509mm
Stack 587mm 588mm 597mm 607mm
Wheel Size 29"
Frame Material Carbon Fiber
Frame Material Details Hi-Mod Carbon
Rear Travel 120mm
Rear Shock RockShox Deluxe Select+ RL
Fork RockShox SID Ultimate, 51mm offset
Fork Travel 120mm
Head Tube Diameter Tapered
Headset FSA Internal
Handlebar Norco, 6061 DB aluminum, 780mm width, 20mm rise, 35mm bore
Stem Norco, 6061 aluminum, 60mm length
Grips Ergon GA30, lock-on
Brakes SRAM G2 RSC with SRAM 180mm front / 160mm rear rotors
Brake Levers SRAM G2 RSC
Drivetrain 1x
Shifters SRAM GX Eagle, 12-speed
Front Derailleur N/A
Rear Derailleur SRAM GX Eagle, 12-speed
ISCG Tabs N/A
Chainguide None
Cranks SRAM X1 Eagle, carbon, DUB, 175mm length
Chainrings SRAM 32 tooth, direct mount
Bottom Bracket SRAM DUB, press fit, 92mm
Pedals N/A
Chain SRAM GX Eagle, 12-speed
Cassette SRAM XG-1275 Eagle, 10-50 tooth, 12-speed
Rims DT Swiss XR 1501 Spline, 25mm inner width
Hubs DT Swiss XR 1501, front: 15mm x 110mm, rear: 12mm x 148mm
Spokes DT Swiss Competition, straight pull, spline nipples
Tires Maxxis Forekaster, 29"x2.35"
Saddle fi'zi:k Taiga
Seatpost Crankbrothers Highline 3
Seatpost Diameter 31.6mm
Seatpost Clamp Norco alloy, nutted
Rear Dropout / Hub Dimensions 148mm x 12mm
Max. Tire Size 2.35"
Bottle Cage Mounts Yes
Colors Grey/red
Warranty Complete bike: 1 year
Frame: 5 year
Weight N/A
Miscellaneous Rider-centered design
RockShox Maxle Stealth front axle
Price $5,399
More Info

​​Norco website 

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