New 2020 Norco Sight Mountain Bike Review
Behind the Science of Send
Words by Drew Rohde | Video & Photos by Brian Niles
A few months back when Norco Bicycles released its 2020 lineup, the internet was buzzing. Not only did the new bikes look sharp, but Norco was also catching a lot of attention thanks to their press releases throwing strong marketing hype around the redesigned models. Words like proprietary kinematic software, anthropometric data and lots of other catchy phrases were being met by excited fans and skeptics alike. Mountain bikers may be the most hardened consumers on the planet. I think it’s safe to say we’ve grown resistant; dare I say hostile to the yearly marketing parade of ever-improving products that do everything better. For example, it’s quite possible that mountain bike forum commenters have scared every brand from using an acronym for anything ever again. So, where does that leave the new Norco Sight and what exactly is the Science of Send?
We spent the last two months learning about the new Norco Sight, talking with Norco engineers and putting some test miles under our belts so we could better understand what this bike offers consumers looking to buy a new mountain bike.
After putting the tires to dirt, we had a list of questions for Norco Bicycles’ Engineering Manager David Cox and Design Engineer Geoff Scott, the first being, what is the “Science of Send?” According to Norco Bicycles, it is a “Supporting marketing directive – a sexy tagline if you want to call if that way – designed to encompass the hours of research and development that went into developing the 2020 Sight.” No denying it’s catchy, and props to Norco for nailing that one down, but let’s get out the white gloves, it’s time to dissect the new Norco Sight.
Available in either 29er or 27.5” versions, Norco offers the Sight in a variety of price points and two materials. Norco offers its carbon C2 for $5,199 and the C3 for $4,299. Both the carbon models also feature a Women’s Specific variation. Norco also offers a carbon frame for $2,899. Riders can either purchase the frame alone or utilize the Build Your Ride, Ride Your Build Program to customize their bike.
For the alloy fans, Norco will offer three options for both men and women. The A1 will come with competitive spec and retail for $4,499. The A2 is more affordable at $3,599 and the entry-level A3 starts at $2,799. While the adult bikes are available in both wheel sizes and materials, Norco will only be offering their Sight Youth in 27.5 wheels. If you’ve got a little ripper on the loose, the Norco Sight Youth 27.5 is worth a look.
Sporting 160mm of front wheel travel and 150mm of travel in the back, the 2020 Norco Sight is a departure from previous generations. The travel increase may have some riders thinking it’s now an enduro bike, but Norco has hinted that enduro fans should keep their eyes peeled in 2020. Instead, Norco’s engineers are making a statement that travel is no-longer the main indicator of what niche a bike falls in.
Likewise, geometry numbers see a big change on the 2020 Norco Sight and they don’t just see a change across the model line. What we mean is, each size frame has its own geometry and Norco does that to maximize performance and comfort on the trail. The costly and painstaking effort to offer so many different pieces within the Sight range is part of the Ride Aligned Design System. The system works together with its Gravity Tune concept, a concept that Norco has been using for many years now. Norco’s primary goal with the Ride Aligned system is to get riders the best performance possible by having the best fitting bike that optimizes the rider’s center of gravity.
Here’s where the big words start coming into play. Norco engineers studied data, analyzed charts and graphs and looked at endless amounts of numbers when creating the Ride Aligned System. The four main ingredients examine Geometry, fit, setup and suspension.
By evolving Norco’s tried and true Gravity Tune concept to the next level, Ride Aligned now seeks to put riders in the optimum position over the bike. Each size frame has slightly different seat tube angles, different reach numbers and unique chainstay lengths to yield the best, most precise fit Norco could create.
By combining the hard work done behind the scenes with the mobile-friendly Ride Aligned Bike Setup Guide, consumers will be able to ensure they’re ready to ride from their first day out on the trail. The setup guide is well thought out and offers users a great baseline for setting up the suspension, tire pressure, handlebar width, and stem length. From there riders can make small tweaks to fine-tune the bike to their local terrain and riding style.
Before we go down the wormhole too much further, let’s share our interview with David Cox and Geoff Scott. These guys played a vital role in the development of the Norco Sight and the 2020 Norco lineup as well as the theories behind them.
TLW: To all the non-scientists out there, what is anthropometric data and how did you collect then translate that into bike design?
Norco: Anthropometric data contains human body dimensions for male & female bodies. We can use this data to take a human-centered approach to bike fit, ensuring that our bikes fit the intended standing height ranges accurately. The human proportions with respect to bike size also have a huge influence on bike geometry and suspension design, as they are all parts of the rider-bike system. Using anthropometric data, we can evaluate the center of gravity for riders of different height, sex, and morphology.
By adjusting (the) reach, chainstay length, and seat tube angles per frame size we can obtain the desired weight balance for each frame size. We also provide body-specific setup data to further tune the bike to the individual. Ultimately, the holistic approach allows us to create a bike that rides the way we intend it to for all people.
TLW: How long did it take you to create your Ride Aligned bike set up recommendations database? A very cool feature by the way.
Norco: A very long time. Besides extensive shock tune evaluation, it takes days to complete the evaluation of a single suspension configuration (matched shock and fork). Each suspension configuration is ridden by multiple riders of varying skill and morphology to create the baseline charts. The weight ranges around the test riders are interpolated and checked for the correct balance (particularly critical with rebound damper settings).
TLW: Obviously the setup guide is just a starting point, but we’re curious as to what spectrum of riders you had develop the tuning and did you go beyond just riding in BC and the Pacific Northwest to develop the tunes? Riders in Phoenix or Utah will certainly have very different set ups for example.
Norco: We tested the bike (Norco Sight) in a wide variety of terrain, including Phoenix, to get an idea of how we tune the setup for each terrain. We find that really good bikes are generally more versatile on a baseline setup, however, there are things we would do to modify our PNW baselines for other areas. We expect to add some info on this to the guides later, but in general we soften the front/rear pressure slightly and slow rebounds slightly for areas like Phoenix with very firm ground and tight maneuvering. However for high-speed areas like California, we would look at firming up air pressures to provide a higher support point.
TLW: The new Sight is quite a departure from its shorter travel predecessors. Can you describe why the bike changed so much and is seemingly now taking over where the Range was before?
Norco: While travel is used a lot as an indicator of how a bike will feel, we also know that suspension tune and careful selection of steering parameters can give two bikes with the same travel very different personalities. Rather than the all-out speed focus of an Enduro bike we focused the Sight around being a very dynamic and engaging bike to ride. While some people might think the Sight has gone “full enduro” we would encourage them to wait for other things to come.
TLW: Like every other brand, we’re sure you were trying to create the best pedaling uphill bike that descends like a World Cup DH machine, but we all know that every suspension design has unique characteristics, strengths as well as flaws. How would you describe the suspension rate and curve on the Norco Sight? What does that mean on the trail to riders who aren’t concerned with staring at graphs?
Norco: The Sight’s suspension curves are medium-progression with a high initial leverage. More important is how this translates to the trail feel. For the Sight, we were focused on creating a very versatile, all-day platform.
The suspension is set up to maximize grip for control on varied terrain while maintaining a very active use of travel for a dynamic ride feel (this is largely due to a little less progression in link and shock, allowing more depth of travel). The combination allows the rider to translate inputs very quickly to the ground while still offering a forgiving ride with the higher amount of travel over previous iterations. With the tune we focused on maintaining a high amount of mid-stroke for cornering support and popping off lips while using the higher starting leverage to provide excellent small bump traction.
TLW: Are the shocks valved differently for different sized riders or does the Ride Align system only suggest changing air pressure and volume for tuning?
Norco: We don’t revalve shocks for different frame sizes. Revalving is a very large change in tune on shocks and can often work against the intended purpose. For example, most women (and some men) require a much higher proportion of shock support to fork support. A lighter tune on the smaller bikes would prevent a rider from being able to weight the front contact patch properly. On the opposite end, you have tall riders with lower body weight that require a very high proportion of fork support to shock support and those riders cannot handle heavier tunes. In general, modern shocks are set up to handle a wide variety of body weights with a single given tune. We run our charts from 120lbs to 240lbs and feel the shock tunes fit that range appropriately.
TLW: Why is suspension tuning for an aggressive 160lb rider different than a beginner 190lb rider and how do your kinematics achieve ideal performance for each user?
Norco: Rider skill plays a massive role in setup due to the speeds encountered and the correspondingly high forces applied to the bike. As the bike is pushed harder and harder more support is required to translate the forces to the ground without overusing the suspension. The trade off is the bike will feel quite harsh at lower speeds and not allow a more novice rider to drive the bike effectively. In general, the changes for skill level are a large increase in fork support (up to around 20psi and an increase in compression) that allows a highly skilled rider to push the front end hard and consistently into corners without having it dive excessively and disrupt the weight balance.
Does your brain hurt yet? Luckily there are plenty of smart people out there who enjoy digging deep to help make our hobby even more enjoyable. If you’re a simpleton who just wants to ride bikes and have fun, don’t feel bad, in fact, that’s what these engineers want most of all. All this work gets done behind the scenes, not to impress consumers with who’s got the biggest brains in the engineering department but to get more riders as stoked as possible. Norco believes they are doing that with their heavy focus on the four main principles of the Ride Aligned system: Fit, setup, geometry and suspension.
Over the next couple of months we will continue to put as many miles on our new Norco Sight and Optic bikes and will be reporting back with some long-term reviews, so stay tuned.