The brand new, redesigned Norco Sight pushes the boundary of bike geometry. It’s about as slack and long as anything on the market, yet it rides more like a trail bike than the numbers might suggest. Watch the video below, or head to our YouTube account for all the other bike reviews.
The 2020 Norco Sight has been rebuilt from the ground up. Norco has clearly put a lot of thought and effort into the fit and geometry of this bike. Using the new “Ride Aligned” system, Norco has nailed down every detail of fit, geometry, setup and suspension to squeeze out the last drop of performance on the trail. How much performance you might ask. Read on and find out.
Norco Sight Geometry and build
Normally, we’d breeze over this bit of the review as it can be a bit of a formality. That’s not the case with Norco’s new bikes. They certainly haven’t breezed over the geometry so we can’t either. Ride Aligned — you’re going to hear about it a lot in the next 3,000 words. It’s Norco’s new design philosophy that covers almost every aspect of the bike fit and setup. Go to their website, pick a bike and play around for a minute. Seriously, push pause on reading this review and go do it. You’ll be stunned by how much thought and effort went into how their bikes should fit and ride. First off is how the bike should fit. Enter your height, weight and rider ability and Norco will suggest a frame size along with a whole slew of setup recommendations. These fit setup recommendations include bar width, stem length, the number of spacers under the stem and bar rise. To change your riding position Norco suggests, altering bar width, rise and the number of spacers under the stem rather than swapping to a longer/shorter stem — which can effect the bikes handling pretty dramatically. Seems like a great approach to bike fit. Next they recommend air pressures for your tires and suspension. Pay pretty close attention to these numbers. As usual, I set my test bike up how I normally would, I checked the sag and went for a ride. I wasn’t overwhelmed with how the suspension felt. Lesson learned. I then used the Ride Aligned setup guide and things started feeling a whole lot better. I’m now pretty convinced that you should trust Norco on this one and at least try setting your bike up how they suggest. It worked pretty well for me.
Not only does Norco have a pretty intensive setup guide, they build each frame size with a holistic approach. Fact: carbon frame molds are expensive. That fact is probably what drives most bike manufacturers to make a single rear triangle mold for all the different front triangle sizes. That means someone riding an XS frame gets the same rear triangle as someone on an XL. Doesn’t make too much sense, but hey, it saves some money. Why should a 6’5” rider have the same itty-bitty rear center as a 5’1” rider? Wouldn’t this make the bike a little unbalanced? The answer is yes, but we mostly just deal with it. Norco says “to hell with that” and they make an appropriately sized rear triangle for each and every frame size. That means my bike is built for me in mind. It puts my weight more in the center of the bike rather than way off the back like others. That balanced fit is noticeable on trail. I’ll get into how it rides later, I promise.
Last but not least. I tested a C2 Sight. It’s the banana yellow frame with a very value conscious build kit. It uses a Fox 36 Performance Elite fork with a Grip 2 damper. I’m going to let you in on a little industry secret here. The Performance Elite level is the exact same as the Factory level minus the fancy gold Kashima coated stanchions (Shhhhhhh, I didn’t tell you that.) The shock is a Performance X2, not to be confused with Performance Elite — there’s a difference here. The Performance Elite comes with more adjustments than just the Performance level. And, in the case of this bike, there’s no lockout lever on that X2 — something that wouldn’t cost much to add and would be a nice option. The “make the bike go and stop” bits are a mix of Shimano XT and SLX. The wheels are XT hubs laced to Stans Flow rims. Really there’s very little to complain about on the build. Sure, you could go lighter and fancier, but this build gets you 95% of the way there in terms of performance. If it were me, I’d probably swap the dropper post to something like the Oneup Components Dropper or Fox Transfer. Although, I’ve ridden the X Fusion on two bikes now without any problems.
Like I said earlier, my first ride out, I wasn’t all that impressed with how the bike climbed. I set it to what I measured was 30% sag and it seemed to climb somewhat like a pogo stick. After using the Ride Aligned guide, the pogo stick turned into a relatively efficient climber. It’s not as efficient as the Yeti SB130 or even SB150, but it’s pretty efficient. It’s one of those bikes that doesn’t wow you with quick acceleration, or ultralight handling, but it will get you to the top of your climb without too much fuss. That said, I wouldn’t be too upset if this was my only bike and I had to use it for epics and long days. The climbing position feels good, if not a little cozy. The seat tube is one of the steepest I’ve ridden at 77.7° It’s something I adjusted to quickly and actually ended up enjoying the more upright position. The steep seat tube also helped keep my weight centered between the wheels rather than off the back. That balanced position keeps the front wheel from being too floppy and light. With a 64° head tube angle, I was worried the bike wouldn’t want to track straight on the climbs or it would want to wheelie up every pitch. That wasn’t the case — I attribute this to the balanced, if not weight-forward climbing position.
The Sight is not lightweight. Even for a 150mm travel bike it’s on the heavy side. The frame is made of carbon minus the chainstay that’s made from aluminum. Even so, the bike weighs 33.5 lbs. Before weighing the bike I guessed it was in the 32-33 lbs. range. I guess that means it climbs well enough for me to think it weighs less than it actually does. Or it just means my ultra-accurate arm is out of calibration. Either way, I don’t think it climbs like it weighs 33.5 lbs.
I noticed the Sight doesn’t lack in the traction department. If you’ve ever ridden in the Utah desert, you’ll know that some of the obstacles are incredibly steep. You’ll also know that most of the time, you need to stand up out of the saddle to get the power you need to get up those steep pitches. It can be tough weighting the bike correctly so you don’t lose all the rear wheel traction and spin out. The sight seems to be a traction machine and I never really had issues with the rear wheel sliding out. When I’d stand up and put power to the pedals, the back end would dig in and grip enough to get me up the climb.
Overall, I think the Sight is a good climber — not great. It doesn’t jump out at me as a zippy, little bike that wants to charge uphill, but it also doesn’t stand out as being a slow, slack pig. If I had to make a comparison on climbing performance, I’d likely compare it to the Santa Cruz Hightower. It goes uphill without complaint but doesn’t really stand out above the crowd. Considering this is a 150mm all-mountain bike with a 64° HTA that’s actually quite impressive.
I’m not surprised the Sight likes going downhill more than up. I’m not surprised that it rewards an aggressive riding style. I am surprised, however, that it feels as mild-mannered as it does. When Norco first launched the 2020 Sight, I thought they were bonkers — a trail bike with a 64° HTA and a 1259mm wheelbase (in size L) what where they thinking? Those numbers are getting close to the freakishly long and slack Geometron bikes. Seriously, the Sight is as slack and long as some DH race rigs, yet it’s billed as the do it all bike. I’m starting to find that numbers listed on a spreadsheet don’t give you the full story — they can be rather deceiving. That’s certainly the case with the Sight. It rides like a trail bike — a plush and confident trail bike, but a trail bike nonetheless.
It corners really well. In the West, we have a lot of open, straight and fast trails. Sure, we have corners, but they or a little wider and can usually be taken with some speed. There’s something to having a really long wheelbase for getting a little extra traction in those corners. If you live in the East, the Sight is going to be pretty long for the tighter, windier trails. That said, the handling on the Sight is pretty light and snappy. I never once felt like I was trying to do a u-turn in a limousine — something I was afraid of going into the test ride. I didn’t even have to be going flat-out to get the bike to come alive. It felt plenty maneuverable in the slow speed stuff too.
The Sight plows through rocks the way it should considering it is big and burly. The rear suspension allows the rear wheel to move up and out of the way of impacts, giving you free speed. Who doesn’t love free speed? It doesn’t get hung up in the consecutive hits. The Sight feels pretty plush in the first half of the travel giving it a very quiet ride feel. It doesn’t skip around or get knocked side to side in the chunk. Rather, it tracks straight and keeps the wheel on the ground for more control. When it comes time to get the bike in the air, it takes a little more effort. You can imagine if the travel is squishy, it takes more rider input to get the bike off the ground. Need an example? Go bunnyhop a BMX bike, then grab a DH race rig and try it — get my point? The sight has long chainstays, plush travel and the Fox Float X2 — all things that give the bike more stability, but perhaps at the expense of playfulness. That’s not to say it’s impossible to jump, it just means the bike would rather keeps the wheels down while plowing through rocks. It also has enough support for pedaling efforts. It has a decent amount of get up and go. The suspension gives you enough platform to sprint out of corners and regain speed.
The Sight reminds me quite a bit of my Yeti SB130 Lunch Ride. It has similar handling, intentions and is equally as capable. The Sight feels a little more plush than the Yeti, likely due to the same reasons it feels a little less lively.
Norco Sight vs optic
Stay tuned for a full comparison between the Sight and Optic. For now, I’ll quickly compare the two. They both have a very similar feel. They want to be piloted aggressively by a rider who enjoys finding bonus lines and side hits. They have this sporty, playful attitude rather than feeling like race rigs. The Optic is considerably lighter and climbs quite a bit better, but can’t match the Sight on rugged descents. The Sight is far more plush and capable, especially over rough ground. It tracks the ground better and gives you more control.
If I had to choose between the two, I’d probably take the Sight. It suits the trails I like to ride and is a more versatile bike. It would handle everything from alpine epics to bike park and shuttle days. If I already had an enduro bike though, I’d opt for the Optic as it is incredibly fun and lively and would be a great compliment to a long-travel squishy bike.
Who is the Norco Sight for?
The Sight of for the aggressive trail rider. It’s not a full-blown enduro bike and it’s far more capable that your run-of-the-mill trail bike. It lies in that middle ground between trail and enduro. It’s mild-mannered enough to be a daily driver, yet capable enough to take to the bike park or local enduro race. If you’re all about going uphill, keep in mind, It’s not the lightest bike out there, or the most efficient climber, but it gets the job done. If you ride bikes uphill to turn around and go back down them, you’re probably going to be a big fan of this one.
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