NORCO FLUID FS A1 REVIEW
Review by Max Rhulen
Photos by Max Rhulen & Dusten Ryen
When we found out a new and improved (yet still affordable) Norco Fluid was on the horizon several months ago, we were very excited. There is no doubt that mountain biking has one of the highest barriers of entry out of almost any sport, so when a brand remains committed to offering top-shelf tech in a more entry level performance product, we take note. Norco’s new Fluid is a short travel trail bike that packs a punch in both ride performance and build kit options, so let’s dig in.
Right out of the box the Norco Fluid FS A1 is a showstopper. A sparkly, green paint job, 29” wheels, Kashima coated Fox Factory fork, internally routed cables, Vittoria tires, and other quality components are enough to stop anyone in their tracks. Built out of 6061 aluminum the Norco Fluid frame packs 130mm of rear travel with a 140mm fork. The frame features a Horst Link suspension design aimed to keep anti-squat values low and efficiency at a maximum. We did a pretty in-depth look in our Norco Fluid Dissected feature when it first launched, so check it out here if you want all the nitty gritty details.
• 130mm Horst Link Suspension
• Affordable Alloy Trail Bike
• HTA 65°
• STA 76.7° (Effective / Large)
• REACH 480 (Large)
Price: $1,999 – $3,999
Norco offers several spec options and price points for the Fluid FS, starting at $1,999. Our top-spec test model comes in at $3,999 while other models retail for $3,149 and $2,499. The Fox Factory fork brings performance and the ability to fine tune settings that are normally only seen on higher end bikes. Complimenting the fork is a Fox Float X Performance Elite shock that has been custom tuned specifically for the Fluid.
Norco worked with various shock manufacturers to provide custom tuned dampers on shocks across the range. It’s common to see many brands working with a company like Fox or RockShox on custom tuned suspension for a bike that is double or triple this price, but as mentioned in the Dissected Feature on the Fluid (here), Norco’s product manager Paul Burnett shared that Norco spent a ton of time working to custom tune the ride for every level bike and shock from Fox to X-Fusion. They went over dyno data and fine-tuned the performance of the shock to best suit the bike, even at the $1,999.00 price point. Norco has put a lot of effort into creating an entry level full suspension bike that performs well and it shows.
The suspension outfitted on this bike is impressive, but so is the Shimano XT drivetrain, four piston TRP Trail Evo Brakes, 203/180mm brake rotors, and long travel dropper post. The Fluid comes in sizes Small to XXL, which Norco claims will fit riders 5’1” to 6’7”. The size Small is equipped with a 150mm dropper post, the Medium and Large with a 170mm, and the XL and XXL come spec’d with a 200mm dropper post.
In addition to spec’ing this bike with quality components, Norco Bicycles is trickling down their Ride Aligned technology to the new Fluid. This technology does more than slap on a size specific chainstay. It has altered reach, seat tube angles, and steering geometry to ensure each rider can maximize the performance of the bike. According to Norco, if you follow their bike setup guide (here), the body position for each rider should stay the same no matter what size bike you are on. The size Large that was tested had a 480mm reach, 635mm stack height, 65-degree head angle, and 1,245mm wheelbase.
Hundreds of miles were logged by four different riders on the Norco Fluid FS A1 during the test period. Long climbs, flowy descents, rock rolls, and shuttle laps, the Fluid saw it all. I often found myself riding this bike like a 160mm long travel machine when choosing lines and features to jump. The Fluid agreed with everything I threw at it, punching well above its class. Even with its aluminum tubing I detected very little flex in the frame, supplying a supportive, stiff platform for pumping and cornering. Accelerating and maintaining speed on the Fluid was never an issue. It zipped down the trail carrying me and my ear-to-ear grin with it.
The 76.6-degree effective seat tube angle made for an aggressive, yet comfortable seating position. The Fluid was an efficient climber, and it was quite quick considering it is an aluminum trail bike weighing over 30lbs. I never had an issue with wheel slip when shifting my weight forward to move over an obstacle, making technical sections of trail a breeze. The 30-tooth front chainring paired with Shimano XT 12-speed cassette tackles any climb the Fluid comes across. The 30-tooth front ring might leave you wanting more gear on the descent, but I never encountered that. I did find myself using the highest couple of gears during the majority of my descending on the Fluid, but I wouldn’t consider this an issue. The Shimano XT derailleur kept chain slap to a minimum and the shifting was smooth.
At 6’ I often find myself between a Large and XL in terms of sizing. Norco’s Ride Aligned Design System app suggests just that, I can ride either. The Large that they sent as the test bike worked great for me. If I had ridden the XL I might have found the bike to be a bit more stable, but the fun part about the Fluid is the responsive nature of it. The Large allowed me to move the bike around and be much more playful. The low standover height of 699mm accompanied by the 170mm dropper post gave me ample room to move around and get the bike over obstacles. With my height and longer legs I could have ridden with the longer, 200mm, dropper post spec’d on the XL, but I never once had the seat get in my way while descending.
Being a shorter travel bike, at 130mm of rear travel, the Fluid excelled on flowy terrain where the rider is pushing hard into corners and popping off rollers. That being said, I spent a day shuttling some more technical terrain and I never once thought about how this bike had less travel than my riding partners. The Fluid handled steep, rough trails that approached 25+ degrees. I did find the rear end of this bike to be a bit harsher on technical trails. Part of that is the 130mm shock being overwhelmed by successive hits, but the Fox Float X seemed to have a lot of progression. The mid-stroke was very supportive and offered a lot to push against while riding hard. This could be something to do with the custom tune that Norco has worked on with Fox.
During the shuttle day I was impressed by the brakes on this Fluid FS A1. TRP’s EVO brakes are some of our favorites and to have the four piston Trail EVOs as part of the package was a treat. With the help of a 203mm front rotor and 180mm rear rotor slowing this bike down was never problematic. The Trail EVO brakes were easy to adjust, dial in for every rider and they showed no fading during long, steep descents.
The tires spec’d on the Fluid FS A1 are the Vittoria Mazza 2.4” Trail G2.0 and Martello 2.35” Trail G2.0. These two tires roll well, maintain speed, and provide decent traction on hard, dry trails. I didn’t experience too much tire roll, but I am a lighter rider at 155lbs. One test rider, Nic, did puncture the rear tire right between the center knobs. He was riding a looser, rockier trail, but nothing that this bike can’t handle. Tires with a thicker casing would be a welcomed upgrade for this bike, due to the fact that the Fluid encourages riders to charge hard. We also found that the tires don’t particularly grip well on rock surfaces, whether it be Sedona or the PNW. They seem to have a pretty stiff compound that resulted in more sliding than traction when we really wanted it. If we had to pick a low point of the spec, it’d be these tires.
The Wolf’s Last Word
From our first ride on the Norco Fluid FS A1 to our last, the bike has remained a joy to ride. Norco has made a more consumer friendly full suspension trail bike that performs above its price point and is durable. Spec’d with TRP 4-piston brakes, a Fox Factory fork, Shimano XT drivetrain, a custom tuned shock, and size-specific geometry, Norco has elevated the game on what an affordable, dual suspension mountain bike can offer. While I might opt for a burlier tire or different handlebar grip, there is not much left to be desired on the Norco Fluid. Whether this is your first full suspension bike or your 10th the Norco Fluid FS A1 will be ready to ride and help you progress as a rider without taking a huge financial fall!
Weight: 33.4 lbs
Frame: Norco Fluid FS A1 | 130mm
Fork: Fox Float Factory 34 GRIP2 | 140mm
Shock: Fox Float X Performance Elite, 2-Pos, Custom Tune
Brake: TRP Trail EVO, 4 Piston
Shifter: Shimano XT SL-M8100
Handlebar: TranzX 6061 Butted Alloy, 780mm, 20mm Rise
Headset: Sealed Bearing, Tapered
Stem: 6061 Alloy, 40mm, 35mm Clamp
Saddle: Fizik Alpaca Terra
Seatpost: SDG Tellis Dropper, 34.9mm
Front Hub: Bear Pawls Sealed Bearing, 15x110mm Boost, 6 Bolt
Rear Hub: Bear Pawls Sealed Bearing, 12x148mm Boost, Micro Spline, 6 Bolt
Rims: Stan’s Flow S1 29” 32H
Front Tire: Vittoria Mazza 2.4” Trail G2.0
Rear Tire: Vittoria Martello 2.35” Trail G2.0
Bottom Bracket: Praxis M24 Cartridge Bearing, BSA Threaded
Cassette: Shimano XT, 10-51t, 12 speed
Cranks: Praxis G2 Cadet, 30t
Derailleur: Shimano XT RD-M8100
Bang for your buck
Handlebar and Grip Spec
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