THE ALL NEW Sight VLT 29
TAKING ELECTRIC ALL-MOUNTAIN TO THE NEXT LEVEL
We were excited to receive the new Norco Sight VLT 29 since it’s 27.5-inch wheeled little brother was our 2019 eMTB of the Year. Last year’s bike left our entire crew thrilled to see what the future of ebikes would be as the playfulness, liveliness and on-trail performance was as close to a mountain bike as we’d ridden yet. It was apparent from the get-go however that the new Sight VLT 29 was a world apart.
In what seems to be the current trend these days, the new Sight is very purpose-built and most definitely has a terrain and rider that it suits best. Many brands are chasing what we’re calling “New-school” frame design, which is great for bike-specific trails, but makes them a bit overkill for a lot of riders. Norco’s new Sight VLT 29er is long, slack, and did we say long? For those who ride these newer-school trails, which are higher speed, more open, in terms of obstacles and corners, this bike is a ripper. If you live in an area where the trails are flatter or perhaps evolved from old hiking trails, then we’d suggest sticking with it’s 27.5 little brother as it is far nimbler and fun.
Comparing Last Year’s eMTB of the Year Sight VLT 27.5 to the New VLT 29
We first unboxed the new Sight VLT without a clue as to what changes were coming, what it’d look like or anything as Norco hadn’t shared any of their media kits with us yet. It was a last-minute rush to get this bike out in time for our 2020 eMTB Roundup, which comes out March 1st. We love the looks, the paint and finish. In typical Norco fashion, it’s a dialed unit.
Once we got on the trails however the changes became very apparent. Many of the things that made the Sight VLT our eMTB of the Year last year were gone, however it had picked up some new tricks at the same time. The bike still has 160mm of front wheel travel and 150mm out back, however the changes in between are huge. The new Sight VLT 29 is beyond stable, offers confidence and had our testers riding this bike much faster and more aggressively into terrain that would have had us hovering over the brake levers last year. This is in large part due to the 64-degree head tube angle, longer reach and much longer wheelbase. No doubt the 29-inch wheels also aid in the rolling speed and stability.
Our first few outings on the Sight VLT 29 were on some more open, and hard-charging trails with lots of chunderous rock gardens. The trails were high-speed, steeper in grade and had longer, sweeping corners or berms. The testers were quickly bumping the Sight VLT 29 up higher and higher on the list of 2020 contenders. Then we switched trails.
The next couple of days we spent riding more “trail bike” level trails. Our roundup consisted of testing bikes in the “Enduro” and “Trail” categories. We labeled Trail bikes as those having 150mm of travel or less at the rear wheel. For the record, Norco calls this bike an all-mountain bike, but it fit in our Trail category as the Enduro category was reserved for bikes with 155 or more of rear wheel travel. The Enduro days were much spent on gnarlier, chunkier terrain and where most self-shuttled ebike riders would like to be, whereas the Trail category days spent more time riding trails that we felt a majority of riders would access on their local loops. We still tested the limits of these bikes on the rowdy stuff, but we were also more critical of their climbing performance, slow-speed handling and ability to navigate tighter, more technical trails. It was here the Norco Sight VLT 29 started to show its weaknesses.
It was amazing to see a bike that we loved so much last year, and over the last two days in its new iteration, ride so differently. The Sight VLT 27.5 has a 66-degree head tube angle versus the VLT 29er’s 64, making it two degrees slacker while the seat tube angle went from 75 to 78.7 degrees. Reach also increased 15mm (0.59”) from 470mm to 485mm on our size large test bikes. Another big change between the bikes is the rear center length, which went from 440mm to 458mm. These changes all add up to a whopping 1,280mm wheelbase on the VLT 29. That’s a big jump from the VLT 27.5’s 1,218mm. That’s a difference of 62mm (2.44 inches) in wheelbase!
Needless to say, when one degree or 10mm can make a perceivable difference on the trail, the huge differences of the VLT 29 make this feel like a completely different bike, and it is. We don’t want to spoil our eMTB Roundup results but as much as our testers loved the new Norco VLT 29 on the rowdy end of the spectrum, it had some major dissenters when it came time to ride it on mellower cross-country trails with tight terrain and tall rocks that needed to be navigated. That long wheelbase and reach are polarizing factors and will therefore make this bike incredibly well-suited for certain riders while also being less-than-ideal for others.
THE WOLF’S FIRST IMPRESSIONS
Norco’s Sight VLT 29 is a complete departure from the Sight VLT 27.5 in terms of on-trail performance and fit. If you thought the 27.5 was too short or twitchy and wanted something more planted and stable for your steep and high-speed descents, then find yourself a dealer and give this thing a test ride. The increased confidence, stability and ability to plow this mid-travel bike down trails way over its pay grade is impressive. However, if you were hoping for a playful, nimble and lively version of the 27.5 with larger wheels, this is not it. Our testers love the bike on more open, flowy and downhill terrain but struggled to get this long, planted bike around tight trails, obstacles and climbs.
Our full review of the Sight VLT 29 and 2020 eMTB Roundup will be dropping on March 1st and you’ll be seeing a lot more of this bike there as it made a lot of friends.
THE PRESS RELEASE
Norco Bicycles is excited to announce their next generation of electric All-Mountain full suspension bike. The 2020 Sight VLT 29 is an exciting evolution to the bike that received praise from both riders and cycling media – including being named “2019 e-MTB of the Year”.
“It’s been just over a year since we launched our first electric full suspension mountain bike, and there’s been a lot happening at Norco since then.” said Product Manager Jim Jamieson.
“Earlier this fall, we introduced Ride AlignedTM, and we’ve also seen the emergence of some exciting new e-MTB technology, like the range extender battery. The benefit to the new design and tech is really big – and riders really want a 29er – so we had to go for it to keep this bike on top!”
The Sight VLT 29 features Norco’s exclusive Ride AlignedTM design system, providing the same All-Mountain performance and handling as the 2020 Sight non-electric platform, with authoritative climbing, eager descending, and high-speed confidence that can only come from the complete integration of rider fit, frame geometry, suspension kinematics and precise bike setup.
By engineering the entire bike around a Shimano STEPS e-MTB drive unit with in-tube battery technology and an efficient power management system, e-MTB longevity and performance is brought to the next level. With the optional range extender battery (sold separately), you can add 50 to 70% more battery capacity to make All-Mountain rides even more epic.
The new Sight VLT 29’s refined design and geometry hold the perfect line through high-speed corners, send gaps with ease and provide all the pedal assistance you need to open the door to bigger adventures, bolder routes, and increased accessibility to rides that used to seem out of reach.
With five models that integrate e-MTB-specific components – including robust, easy-rolling 29-inch wheels with Maxxis Double Down casing tires, e-rated suspension forks and strong 4-piston brakes – the Sight VLT 29 now makes the next level of electric full suspension mountain bike performance available to more riders in both carbon and aluminum.
The carbon frame is strong and stiff in all the right places, and built as light as possible. The aluminum employs the same engineering principals to duplicate the performance and handling characteristics built into the carbon bike with minimal weight penalty.
The Sight VLT 29 is available in S, M, L and XL with 29” wheels in three carbon and two aluminum options.
This new Norco model is scheduled to arrive in February 2020 and will be available at Norco Dealers and through www.norco.com in partnership with a Norco Dealer.
Find out more about the 2020 Norco Sight VLT 29 at: Norco.com/2020-sight-vlt-29/