Norco Optic C2 Review

Norco Optic C2 Review


Photos by Drew Rohde and Sean Leicht

This year Norco has been making a lot of waves and the new Norco Optic is no exception. The Optic C2 we reviewed has voided the decades of experience that had us boxing in what a “short travel” bike was capable of. This is not the old school 125mm bike you are used to, it has a modern take on geometry, suspension spec, and the intended user group. While the Norco Optic may have been an XC pinner’s dream a few years ago, it’s now the bike aggressive, baggy short-wearing trail riders will be throwing knee pads on to ride. While that makes riders like us happy, it may alienate the die-hard lycra riders who are still looking to KOM climbs. So, without further adieu, let’s get into the 2020 Norco Optic review.

Those looking at the Optic may be confused as first glance. If you look at the geo chart and see 125mm of rear wheel travel, you may think this is more of a pedal-minded trail bike. If instead your first look at the Norco Optic is a visual one, spotting the Rock Shox Super Deluxe Ulimate DH shock, a 140mm Rock Shox Pike fork and four piston brakes with 180mm rotors, you may think this is an enduro rig built for slaying down trails.

Norco Optic C2

The reality is Norco designed this bike to be something in-between. We examined Norco’s “Holistic approach to fit, geometry and suspension kinematics,” in our Dissected feature a couple months back when we first reviewed and rode the 2020 Norco Sight. The new Optic utilizes Norco’s same concepts when it comes to modern geometry and bike design. To learn more about the Ride Aligned concept and how Norco changes seat tube angles, chainstay lengths and more to optimized each rider’s center of gravity over their respectively sized bikes, click here.

In the past we were used to riding under-gunned short travel bikes because that’s all we had, those days are gone thanks to a stiff, yet light frame, burly suspension and a slack head tube angle with a long reach. Our size large Optic sports a long 480mm reach and 65-degree head tube angle with a 76-degree seat tube angle. A 337mm bottom bracket height, 1,235mm wheelbase and 435mm rear-center length give the Optic a planted, yet somewhat playful feel.

Norco Optic C2

Now, if you’re a number cruncher you don’t need us to tell you these numbers are similar to what you would have found on a 160mm+ travel bike not too long ago. Although that means this bike will give you the confidence and stability to descend like a bike with much more travel, it also means that technical climbers and XC riders will most certainly notice the length and slackness when it comes to navigating their favorite tight trails and steep climbs.

We tested the Norco Optic C2, which retails for $4,699 and comes with a competent build featuring a 140mm Pike Select fork, Super Deluxe Ultimate DH shock, SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain, Shimano BR-MT250 brakes and carbon SRAM X1 Eagle cranks. The Norco cockpit is simple and leaves room for upgrading and customization, but it gets the job done. Stan’s Flow S1 29er rims are laced to DT Swiss 350 hubs and get wrapped in Schwalbe Hans Dampf/Magic Mary 2.35 tires. Norco also offer the Optic in four other builds from $3,749 to $8,999 as well as a frame option for $2,499.

Norco Optic C2 Review

We had two Norco Optics in the dirt in the Seattle, Washington area and Bend, Oregon. This allowed us to get a greater variety of terrain and rider-style input for our review. We’ve found Norco’s latest bikes are a bit polarizing as their geometry is getting a bit extreme on the new-school side of things, so we wanted to get as much variation as we could. The Optic isn’t as long as the recently reviewed Sight, and we are happy that’s the case as the Optic comes alive much easier and will be a viable option for more riders.

Climbing the Optic was a lot of fun for our testers who felt it was a competitive climber in the aggressive trail genre. It’s not going to climb like a Specialized Epic or Trek Top Fuel, but it’s also a lot more capable. The Super Deluxe DH shock does not have a climb switch, so instead the bike relies on its tuned Horst Link, four-bar suspension design to keep the power transfer as efficient as possible while still maintaining downhill performance. If you are a watt-cruncher you’ll notice the bob and suspension movement on hard efforts, but the bike also climbs with excellent traction, so the tradeoff is worthwhile for us.

Norco Optic C2 Review

Once at the top, the Optic really begins to shine. It’s odd to focus on the descending when evaluating a 125/140mm bike, but there is no denying this bike loves to go fast. What it loses in uphill and tight switchback performance it more than makes up for in playfulness, stiffness and hard charging capabilities.

Most of the bikes we test have 140mm or more of rear wheel travel. As such, we’ve grown accustomed to testing all of our bikes on the same trails we’ve grown to know and can repeat our testing on. When we started putting up times comparable to these mid- to longer travel bikes on the Norco Optic, with less effort and more fun, we were pretty impressed to say the least. The Optic is lighter than many of the longer travel bikes we review so it made gapping sections of trail, pulling the bike around corners or playful jibbing a lot easier. Getting the bike off the ground, placing the bike into weird spots and playing on the trail is effortless.

Norco Optic C2 Review

The Wolf’s Last Word

Our riders continually got in weird spots as the long and low-slung demeanor of the bike had us pushing the bike harder and harder. The supple yet progressive suspension is ready to handle the hits and the laterally stiff frame doesn’t flinch when we slam the back end into catch-ruts or berms at mach speeds. In our opinion the Norco Optic is leading the way in the new category of short travel shredders built for an existing category of rider that probably got tired of breaking short travel frames and has had to settle riding a longer travel bike than they need.

What we mean here, is that there are riders out there who shred trails but live in an area that doesn’t require 160mm of travel, yet in order to have a bike slack, long and strong enough for aggressive riding, those riders have had to deal with the inefficiencies of longer travel bikes. With the way these modern, aggressive short-travel trail bikes are being built, riders can now deal death to the trails in an efficient yet brutal manner.

This is not your spandex-wearing neighbor’s 125mm bike. The Norco Optic is built for discerning rippers who know what they want and are ready to throw down with a bike that has the geometry to handle high speeds and aggressive riding without the wasted energy and effort that 150mm + of travel requires. The Norco Optic is a rocket and among the most impressive pedal bikes we’ve ridden in recent memory, and it retails for under five grand while supporting local bike shops.

Weight: 30.79-lbs;
Price: $4,699;


Frame: Carbon Front Alloy Rear; 125mm
Fork: Rock Shox Pike Select Plus; 140mm
Shock: Rock Shox Super Deluxe Ultimate DH

Brakes: Shimano BR-MT520; 180mm
Handlebar: TranzX 6061; 780mm
Headset: FSA Internal
Saddle: Fizika Taiga
Seatpost: X-Fusion Manic
Shifter: SRAM GX Eagle; 12s
Stem: Norco 6061; 45mm

Hubs: DT Swiss 350
Rims: Stan’s Flow S1
Tires: Schwalbe Magic Mary 29 x 2.35 (f), Hans Dampf 2.35 (r)

Bottom Bracket: SRAM BB Dub PF
Cassette: SRAM XG1275; 10-50t
Cranks: SRAM X1 DUB Carbon; 30t
Derailleur: SRAM GX Eagle; 12s

Norco Optic C2 Review

We Dig

Easy to Get Airborne
Stiff Frame
Stable and Aggressive Stance
Playful and Fun to Ride

We Don’t

Brake Pads/Rotors

Leave A Comment & Win Free Schwag

Want to win some free schwag? Leave a comment and vote up the most thoughtful comments and each month we’ll pick a winner. The person with the smartest and most helpful replies will earn some sweet new gear. Join the Pack and get the latest news and read the latest reviews on the top mountain and electric mountain bikes.