This winter I had the opportunity to spend time on the 2020 Norco Sight. An all mountain trail bike designed around new school long, low, and slack geometry, the Sight platform is available in both 29″ and 27.5″ wheel iterations. Though the 29″ version gets the most attention, I was most intrigued by the Sight equipped with the “fun-sized” wheels. I took to the Sight right away, enjoying the progressive geometry Norco coins “Ride Aligned” on a range of black diamond trails.
Offering 160mm of front wheel travel paired with 150mm at the rear, the bike was designed for stability at speed on gnarly terrain, centered around Norco’s Ride Aligned philosophy.
A major aspect of the Ride Align philosophy centers around one of the unique approaches Norco took with the Sight — a size-specific approach to the frames, which adjusts the rear chainstay length throughout the size range, to offer riders of all heights a similar riding experience. Each bike is able to run a long stroke dropper post paired with a sloping top tube that offers plenty of stand-over clearance.
Based on the reach of my personal bike and preference for play over speed (at least for 27.5″ wheels) I initially elected to test the size medium over the large. Reporting initial impressions on the size medium Sight in January, I had a ton of fun on the bike, taking it on all sorts of rowdy trails all over Oregon. The Sight loves to descend but like any respectable all-mountain bike, is more than capable of pedaling up the hill without a fuss in order to ‘earn those turns’. You can read the post here.
The frame features a carbon front triangle and seat stays, while Norco uses alloy for the chainstays, with each size gaining 5mm of length. The length of the stays scale for each size to maintain the rider’s center of gravity between the wheels.
As Norco’s size chart puts me solidly in the large frame recommendation, I wanted to spend some time on the large to make sure I wasn’t missing out on the big picture, so I reached out to the Norco crew to try one on the trails for comparison.
As I was now on the recommended size, I elected to also try utilizing the Ride Aligned setup guide. Setting it up to a “T”, I headed out to my local test loop to rip some turns. It felt pretty good for the most part, but I generally run more pressure in my tires. Lower pressures make me nervous as I tend to have bad luck with rim strikes in rock gardens, so I upped the front to 25 psi and 30 psi in the rear. While that’s still a bit lower than what I typically run (without tire inserts or DH casings) it felt more reassuring.
The cockpit as recommended felt good for trail riding, but as I like riding steep technical trails, I moved a few spacers under the stem, as I felt more forward than I’ve grown accustomed to. I’ve been riding trail bikes with slack angles for a few seasons now and don’t have an issue keeping weight balanced on the front end. The size recommendations make sense though, as it does place weight pretty evenly without having to exaggerate or focus on keeping elbows bent to keep the front knobs loaded in turns.
The large frame features 440mm chainstays which add a ton of stability at speed (especially while drifting) and a ton of confidence in loose turns. The downside is that I had a really tough time pulling up the front end. And forget about parking lot manuals; I felt like I completely lost my manual skills altogether.
To address the difficulty I was experiencing pulling up the front end, I swapped out the cockpit and saddle for the setup I would run on a personal bike to get a better idea of what it would ride like should I build one up from a frame.
I’m accustomed to a shorter reach, and while the long reach actually felt great for trail riding, the reason I enjoy riding 27.5″ wheels is increased maneuverability and the “jib factor”. A 30mm stem went on to see how that would affect the overall ride.
On the trail
As expected, the Sight comes most alive at speed. The 27.5″ Sight reminds me of a 29er more than any 27.5″ bike has, gaining the stability that calm feel many 29ers exude. On chunky trails, I was reminded that I was indeed on a 27.5″ platform, as it lacks that roll-over confidence that comes from large diameter wheels with meaty treads. The longer wheelbase of the large was reminiscent of the ride quality I’m accustomed to on my personal bike (Transition Sentinel). The reach felt good as well, and I was super comfortable getting drifty and taking inside lines into loose turns.
Regardless of the size, both the medium and large Sight were a blast on all the jump trails I rode, with the benefit of being more maneuverable than my personal 29″ sled.
The climbing position on this bike is dialed and I had no problems climbing up rock-filled, rooty climbs or switchbacks. However, it truly shines when pointed down; if you haven’t spent time on a mountain bike with modern long and low geo, they’re amazing at speed. With that stability though, comes a bit of a trade-off, as you lose a bit of the low-speed play factor. A lot of riders claim modern geo to be superior in every way, and if your goal is a Strava best, this is true. The stout build of the Sight isn’t made for setting records going uphill though, as it’s optimized for the descending experience. That said, steep seat tube angles aren’t going anywhere – the climbing position a steep seat angle makes for a comfortable perch for ascending.
Overall, the large was a better fit than the medium. (Note: I also happen to own a size large Norco Aurum DH bike as a personal bike) If I added one to my personal quiver I would likely regret the medium as it did need a longer 50mm stem to feel right. Steep seat angles place you further forward, and it’s a welcome climbing position, but with the slack front end, you do need a longer front center.
Another item of note with slack head angles: raising the stem noticeably shortens the reach; swapping to taller bars is better than raising your stem when it comes to adjusting bar height.
I did prefer the shorter 435mm rear stay length on the medium though, and my ideal ride would pair the front triangle of the large with the rear end of the medium, trading a bit of that high-speed stability for play. (though that would admittedly make it more nervous on bigger jumps and features, which the Sight is intended for; note that this also comes from a rider that also maintains a 29″ all mountain bike in his quiver)
I did spend more time on the medium though, and I would likely become accustomed to the rear end of the large if I had spent more time playing on urban assault rides as opposed to being deep in the woods.
What kind of rider is the 27.5″ Norco Sight bike intend for?
Norco classifies the Norco Sight models (in both 27.5″ and 29″ wheels) as all-mountain trail bikes. That said, we’ve found the definition of “all mountain” to vary greatly based on your location, riding style, and the types of trails you have available to you. So who is the ideal Norco rider?
With its progressive geometry and sizeable wheelbase, it doesn’t feel like it gives up as much speed to bigger wheels as other 27.5 bikes, but you’re still retaining the maneuverability found in the smaller wheels. If you spend your time seeking steep or high-speed black diamond trails littered with jumps and drops, this bike was designed for you.
It is worth mentioning that these bikes are stout. Designed and intended for aggressive riders and trails, they’re built and spec’d accordingly. With smaller, faster-rolling treads it could serve as an all-day trail bike, but you’re likely to ride over the level light tires and wheels can handle. Norco is not a brand known for weight weenie builds on their trail bikes, but for bikes that will reliably hold up for multiple seasons of riding. Being based in Vancouver, Norco’s local trails are packed with gnar, and the local trail riders ride it all on one rig. Coil suspension, tire inserts like Cushcore, and large volume burly treads are common in order to hold up to the abuse a bike endures on a typical trail ride. This bike also happens to shine in bike parks for riders that are looking at a steed that can do it all.
The first Sight I had the opportunity to spend time on was the C2 (size medium) which weighed in at 33.5 lbs. on my scale, which considering the carbon fiber components, gave me a bit of shock initially. (ironically the size large pictured weighed in at 32.41 lbs., so it was likely the tires) That said, that was with a heavier than stock tire as found on the Norco demo fleet models, which are set up to take a thrashing. You could potentially lighten it up a bit, but those parts may not hold up to the abuse this rig is capable of. When you’re charging through burly black diamond sections of trail, that reliability is reassuring. (It also could be a good excuse to indulge that N+1 impulse to add a lighter weight downcountry whip to the quiver.)
If you’re looking at the 27.5″ Sight, you’re likely to be the kind of rider that enjoys challenging yourself and your equipment, are looking for a steed that can hold up and provide service for a number of years. Competition in this space include models like the Transition Patrol/Scout and Specialized Stumpjumper EVO, which feature similar angles and characteristics. If you’re a taller rider though, the size-specific features unique to the Norco design may give the Sight a decided edge.
Learn more about the Norco Sight at Norco.com