In all the glory of the year that is 2020, there are more new bikes worthy of testing than you could ever ride in a season. As great as that is, it puts us, the consumer in a weird spot where purchasing decisions often times get based off numbers and looks before ever throwing a leg over a bike. The 2020 Norco Sight is capable, sexy and has no doubt got lots of eyes scouring its geo charts and Ride Aligned info graphics. It is definitely what we consider a leader in the new school train of thought when it comes to geometry and dimensions and while that gives the Norco Sight some incredible characteristics on the terrain it was designed for, we suggest reading this review to see if it’s the right bike for you.
A quick study will show the Norco Sight is a sled built for modern trails and an aggressive style of riding. Over the last several months we tested two Sights for this review. One Sight was up in Kirkland, Washington and another bounced between Bend, Oregon and Los Angeles, California. We’ll be sharing some notes and quotes from various testers on three different types of terrain in hopes of giving a bit more insight to the Norco Sight and its ideal owner.
THE LAB Compared to the Sight of yester-year, this bike is an entirely different beast. It has a head angle that’s a full 3-degrees slacker, at 63.5 degrees, and our size large has an extra 25mm of reach. Travel has also been bumped up from 130mm to 150mm on the 29” model. Needless to say the new 2020 Norco Sight is a major departure from its predecessor.
Norco has put a lot of effort into sizing and performance maximization. Their all new Ride Aligned system is a great way for both novice and expert riders to make sure they are getting the most out of their bike. It does a lot more than just tell you what PSI to run in your shock. It goes so far as to give you tire pressure suggestions, handlebar width and more. What’s more, Norco changes the seat tube angles and chainstay lengths with each size frame to keep the rider centered over the bike. Be sure to check out this deep dive video where we examine our Norco Sight and the Ride Aligned concept.
Norco is never a brand to skimp on the extras. A removable shuttle guard does a great job of protecting your investment and was something we never took off. The downtube also has a unique “belly button” feature that uses a zip tie to hold the internally routed dropper, brake and shifting cables in place, minimizing noise. It seems to work because this bike is stealthy.
For build kits, your budget will be the only limiting factor. Norco offers both aluminum or carbon frame options. You can even build your own ride on Norco’s website. Rock Shox and Fox models are available starting at $2,799 USD for the A3 and go up to $7,097 USD for the decked out custom we tested using Norco’s Build Your Ride webpage. Our other test bike’s owner up in Washington opted to customize his bike furhter with a 160mm DVO fork and matching DVO shock that he says really made the bike eat up the hits.
THE DIRT With bike geometry getting more and more progresive, meaning longer reaches and slacker head tube angles, riders definitely have to start asking themselves what do they want out of a bike and what’s best for their local trails. Bikes simply can not get longer and slacker without sacrificing some aspects of handling. Granted they also mean they do other things a lot better, namely descend steep and fast trails with more stability.
Climbing performance certainly isn’t what it was compared to the old Sight, but that does not mean all performance has gone out the window. The 2020 Norco Sight comes in with a very pleasing 77.7 degree seat tube angle on the size large. Our Washington tester’s last bike had a 73.7-degree seat tube angle, so this change was welcomed with open arms to not only him, but the rest of our testers. We have yet to have that front wheel come off the ground on steep ascents, unless we’re trying to.
This steeper angle really does make the entire cockpit more comfortable. Even with the 485mm reach, we’re in a very comfy and powerful position. In previous sections where we used to come up out of the saddle, we now remained seated. The downside to that distant front tire is negotiating tight switchbacks, or trails where you have to “thread the needle.” When climbing lava rock trails in Bend, OR or the steep, sandstone-littered trails of SoCal, we often found ourselves having to power wheelie the front tire over rocks that our front tire would normally avoid just to make turns.
Our Washington tester’s climbing trails are mixed with short punchy logging roads and or bike-specific trails with wider turns. “We really do not have many tight switchbacks, but there is one corner in particular that always takes a little more planning to navigate, and with the Sight it got even harder,” Cole shared. “Overall I do not find this to be a big issue, but if your local zone has tons of these types of climbs it may be something to consider. Does this issue outway the gains you get in other areas? In my opinion it’s a hard no but I could see myself getting frustrated if we did not have the great climb trails that we do. Ultimately though my focus is always on descending, so I am willing to pay for the best downhilling bike I can get,” Cole also noted.
All of our testers agree this bike excels when the going gets steep and rough. That nice comfy reach you have when climbing seems to magically grow when you stand up and let off the brakes. The best way to describe it is stable and confidence inspiring. Washington-based Cole said, “For me, I really enjoy the longer wheelbase, as the trails I tend to ride are higher speed and rough. With that said, I found the OEM Rock Shox Super Deluxe Select + to be a bit underwhelming performance wise. Even with the maximum amount of volume spacers I could not get it to feel quite right. The shock felt good overall, but I wanted a bit more. Upgrading to the Topaz made all the difference for my style of riding, responding better under load.”
Our Bend and SoCal testers agreed with Cole on both fronts. We wondered how the Fox X2 would compare and if would offer more aggressive riders a bit more progression. We felt the Rock Shox Super Deluxe rode less than dynamically when we wanted to play around and especially when landing jumps or drops. It also felt less than lively on flatter terrain with braking bumps or smaller roots and rocks as we could feel a deadened thud, letting us know we were out of travel. We played with setup, bar height, fork air pressures, shock air pressures and rebounds and just accepted that the shock works best with a forward weight bias. This is much easier to achieve on steep terrain, which is why we loved this bike so much when trails got fast, steep and rowdy. When you get the bike on steep terrain and weight the front tire, the fun factor overwhelms the senses. It’s like shifting the rider’s weight forward over the bars makes the bike wake up and really come alive.
The 1,259mm wheelbase yields great stability and control at speeds. It gives the rider a sense of confidence and an ability to hold lines that many other all mountain bikes can’t match. If you have a more relaxed riding style, or ride flatter trails, you may find it to be a bit long and heavy in the playful department.
Just like on the tight, twisty uphill climbs, navigating tight sections on the downhill can take a bit more skill and efficient bike control to maximize the fun. There have been times when we found ourselves almost coming to a complete stop to get through a section that a shorter bike would have no trouble with. To get this bike to move at slow speeds takes a bit more body english, or a quick lock-up of the rear tire to initiate a skid, which is certainly fun, but not ideal for a couple of reasons.
Once up to speed however, our testers all agreed that the Sight can lean into corners with the best of them, offering almost DH-bike like body positioning and confidence. As we entered high-speed corners, the confidence and stability just urged us to keep off the brakes a little more and just dip the handlebars over and twist our hips into the turn. It feels as if there is endless traction as the long wheelbase just grips the earth. Cornering and steeps are definitely more fun on the new 2020 Norco Sight.
The Wolf’s Last Word
Our advice to consumers looking at the 2020 Norco Sight is to be real with yourself. Don’t be the guy who buys a Ferrari to sit on the 405 freeway in L.A. traffic every day, never getting it out of second gear. This is a modern all-mountain bike that will absolutely shred if you’ve got the right kind of terrain to unlock its potential. Yes, Sam Blenkinsop and Bryn Atkinson can make this bike do incredible things beyond the capabilities of most all mountain machines, and while that’s very impressive from an engineering standpoint and completely inspriring, if you don’t ride like them, you may not need a bike like theirs. If your local terrain is more on the XC or flatter or tight and technical side of the spectrum, there may be a better-suited bike for your needs, like the Norco Optic for example, which we absolutely love and will be reviewing soon.
If however, you have the need for speed, have nice up-trails, rough n rowdy downhills and want a 150mm bike that will stick and move the more you push it, the 2020 Norco Sight is really worth a look. We didn’t love the tune of the Rock Shox SuperDeluxe on flatter trails and when landing jumps or drops, but the bike really came alive on steep descents when the rider’s weight was shifted over the bars. When we put this bike on the terrain it was designed for, it’s hard to think of a better riding bike in recent memory. We could push the Sight well beyond what most think a 150mm bike is capable of, and we did it with big smiles on our faces. The 2020 Norco Sight looks sharp, rides silent, and is a blast to rip around corners. Overall this is a very solid bike and we’re sure it will make a lot of riders happy, on the right terrain.
Price: $6,897 As Built Weight: 32.12 lbs Website:Norco.com
Slays Corners Loves Steep Terrain Stable at Speed Great Entry Price Point Looks Good Stiff Chassis Seated Climbing Position
Polarizing Geometry/ Could be Too Long/Slack for Some Areas Rear Shock Tune on Super Deluxe Matte Paint Scratches Easily Lack of Shimano Builds
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