When looking at the Norco bike range you could be forgiven for thinking there was a fairly big gap in their trail bike range between the Fluid and Sight… Introducing the Norco Optic; a potent mix of XC whippet and enduro eagerness. Available in both 29” and 27.5”, aluminium and carbon, and with a removable ISCG front derailleur mount, Norco really have looked to cater for all.

Update July 2017: We’ve published a full review of the Norco Optic C7.2

Norco Optic Bike Shot 1
The Optic comes in a range of specs and models, from 27.5”…
Norco Optic Bike Shot 2
… Right through to a 29er.

Introducing the Norco Optic

The easiest way to describe the Optic is one bike available in two flavours, although both the 27.5” and 29” share the same name and specification, when you look at the details you see Norco have cut no corners in optimising both frames to their respective wheel size and rider height with their ‘Gravity Tune’. The 27.5” has 130 mm travel on the front whilst Norco’s A.R.T suspension linkage controls the 120 mm of rear wheel travel. On the 29er, there are several changes, like a drop in travel of 10 mm front and rear to accommodate for the larger wheel size, and also fitting a shorter stem to bring the bars in closer. Scanning the geometry tables you can pick up on more of these tweaks, for example, a 0.5° steeper head angle on the 29er , roughly 10 mm difference in top tube length, a shorter reach on the 27.5”… Most noticeably Norco has managed to package the rear end well meaning the chain stay lengths stay constant between the two models, keeping things short and snappy for a 29er at 435 mm on the large frame, worth noting is that the rear end on all models are aluminium.

Norco Optic Bike Detail Shot 1
The ‘Advanced Ride Technology’ suspension layout offered good performance both up and down, aided by the rear shock’s ease of tuning.
Norco Optic Bike Detail Shot 2
Clean and clever cable routing kept things tidy and quiet on the Norco Optic!
Norco Optic Bike Detail Shot 3
The rear end on all the bikes including the carbon models is made from aluminum, the bikes come with 2.25” tyres but there is plenty of space for larger rubber.
Norco Optic Bike Detail Shot 4
The removable front derailleur mount was one of our favorite details of the Norco Optic.


Geometry of the Norco Optic

29″ (120 mm / 110 mm):

Frame Size Small Medium Large Extra Large
Seat Tube Length 410 mm 445 mm 485 mm 530 mm
Head Angle 68.5° 68.5° 68.5° 68.5°
Seat Angle 75.4° 74.9° 74.5° 74.1°
Horizontal Top Tube Length 571 mm 602 mm 632 mm 662 mm
Head Tube Length 93 mm 90 mm 100 mm 120 mm
Bottom Bracket Height 332 mm 332 mm 332 mm 332 mm
Wheelbase 1114 mm 1144 mm 1175 mm 1206 mm
Chainstay Length 425 mm 430 mm 435 mm 440 mm
Reach 414 mm 441 mm 464 mm 486 mm
Stack 598 mm 601 mm 607 mm 617 mm
Stand Over Height 755 mm 755 mm 760 mm 780 mm


27.5″ (130 mm / 120 mm)

Frame Size Extra Small Small Medium Large Extra Large
Seat Tube Length 380 mm 410 mm 445 mm 485 mm 530 mm
Head Angle 68° 68° 68° 68° 68°
Seat Angle 75.9° 75.5° 75° 74.5° 74.1°
Horizontal Top Tube Length 532 mm 562 mm 592 mm 622 mm 652 mm
Head Tube Length 97 mm 107 mm 117 mm 127 mm 137 mm
Bottom Bracket Height 334 mm 334 mm 334 mm 334 mm 334 mm
Wheelbase 1080 mm 1111 mm 1142 mm 1174 mm 1205 mm
Chainstay Length 420 mm 425 mm 430 mm 435 mm 440 mm
Reach 338 mm 410 mm 433 mm 455 mm 478 mm
Stack 575 mm 584 mm 593 mm 602 mm 612 mm
Stand Over Height 750 mm 750 mm 750 mm 760 mm 780 mm

The Optic has some well thought out features, they have worked directly with FOX and got a different compression tune for the 120 mm fork to bring it closer to the performance of the 130 mm version on the 27.5”.he ‘GIZMO’ internal routing keeps things clean and quiet whilst making maintenance hassle free. The carbon frames have an ‘ArmorLite’ resin to increase the impact protection whilst their ‘SmoothCore’ gives the frame a light and efficient structure. One of the features we liked the most was the removable ISCG front derailleur mount meaning riders can run whatever setup they want whilst keeping the frame tidy and nicely packaged, the bikes will even come with a chainring in the box for swapping to 1X! The rear end design has been aided by the Optic utilizing ‘boost’ hub spacing which also increase wheel stiffness, the 29er also runs a boost fork up front.

Specification of the Norco Optic

C 9.1 / C 7.1 C 9.2 / C 7.2 C 9.3 / C 7.3 A 9.1 / A 7.1 A 9.2 / A 7.2
Fork FOX 34 Float Factory Boost FOX 34 Float Performance Elite RockShox Revelation RL FOX 34 Float Performance RockShox Sektor Silver TK
Shock FOX Float DPS Factory EVOL DPS FOX Float DPS Performance Elite EVOL FOX Float DPS Performance EVOL FOX Float DPS Performance EVOL FOX Float DPS Performance EVOL
Derailleur SRAM XX1 1X11 Shimano XT 2X10 SRAM GX1 1X11 SRAM GX 1X11 SRAM GX 1X11
Crankset Race Face Next SL Carbon Race Face Turbine SRAM FC S-1000 Race Face Affect SRAM FC S-1000
Brakes SRAM Guide Ultimate Shimano Deore XT Magura MT2 SRAM DB 3 SRAM DB 1
Wheels DT SWISS XMC 1200 Carbon Easton AR 24 Tubeless Ready Alex DP23 I23 Tubeless Ready Alex DP23 Double Wall I23 Tubeless Ready Alex DP23 Double Wall I23 Tubeless Ready
Price € 7299 € 4699 € 3599 € 3099 € 2499

A frame only option is available, this includes a FOX Float Factory EVOL Shock and retails for € 2099.

As mentioned before the Norco Optic is available in a wide gamut of options to suit all. Ranging from the top end carbon C 7.1 and C 9.1 model with Factory FOX suspension and SRAM XX1 shifting to the budget aluminium model of the A 9.2 and A 7.2 which comes kitted out with a RockShox Sektor and SRAM’s GX drivetrain, you can also get hold of the frame only if you would prefer to build to your own preference. We swung a leg over the middle of the road carbon model, the C 9.2 and C 7.2 which had, on the whole, a well thought out spec with not too much to lust after, tweaked FOX Suspension, Shimano XT, Race Face, and Schwalbe rubber. The 27.5” bikes are available from XS up to XL whereas the 29” bikes miss out in the XS department.

Norco Optic Bike Detail Shot 5
We opted for a 1X set up on our test bike with the XT drivetrain giving us good range.
Norco Optic Bike Detail Shot 6
A tidy Race Face cockpit kept things nimble with a 50 mm or 60 mm stem depending on the model, these were then anchored to 760mm bars.
Norco Optic Detail Shot 8
The tried and tested FOX 34 Float Forks were a wise choice, the Optic on the whole had a very well thought out spec.
Norco Optic Detail Shot 8
We’d had a few reliability issues with XT brakes in the past, but this set didn’t seem to carry the same bite issues we’d had previously.

Riding the Norco Optic

First up was the 29er. Our test rider comes in around 185 cm so we opted for the Large frame which once we’d jumped onto we immediately felt at home on with a very comfortable pedalling position that was perhaps more over the front thanks to the steep seat tube angle (74.5 on the large), we did find ourselves landing nose heavy a few times in the first few laps. Once you start pedalling you can really feel the efficient transfer of power into the trail surface which meant we found ourselves pedalling everywhere and anywhere where we could! The Optic seems to have an excitable and active personality whilst remaining predictable putting to bed any worries people might have about the big wheels thanks to the fairly steep 68.5° head angle and short 435 mm chainstays. The cockpit is tidy with a 50 mm stem and 760 mm bars which responded well to our inputs. The Schwalbe rubber rolls well with the Nobby Nic and Racing Ralph seeming like a reasonable partnership for the hardpack trails where the bike was launched, but the rear did tend to break traction on loose climbs when out the saddle. The Norco Optic hustled you to push harder and gave you nice feedback from the trail so we couldn’t help but smashing out laps in quick succession.

Norco Optic Action Shot 1
The Optic proved lively and playful, longing for you to push harder.

The suspension feels quite progressive and soaks up small bumps well, it’s not until the bigger hits when we tended to blow through the rear travel that you remember the bike doesn’t have as much as travel as it might feel sometimes. The rear offered up good traction under braking despite a tyre that is far from aggressive.

Norco Optic Action Shot 2
The 29er seemed better suited to the trails around the launch area.

Norco set out to optimise the geometry around each wheel size so the bikes would have similar handling characteristics once out on the trail. The most noticeable difference once we had swapped onto the 27.5” bike was it felt like we had more grip in the corners as the 29er tended to break away occasionally, but this was probably more down to the fact that the 29er carries a higher rolling speed on a trail surface that doesn’t offer up bundles of grip. The trails at the launch location had more small repeated bumps rather than big hits and one thing we did pick up on was that these were definitely amplified once we’d switched to the smaller wheel size. We didn’t get the same overwhelming feeling that the bike wanted to be hustled quite as hard as the 29er, BUT the trails of the launch location at Cannock Chase in England are fairly mellow, fast and straight, definitely playing into the hands of the 29er. We would have liked to have tested both bikes on some steeper, technical, and tighter terrain to really get a handle just on the definite strengths and weaknesses of both bikes.

Norco Optic Action Shot 3
The 27.5” appeared to have more cornering grip sliding less than the 29er, but this was probably more down to the increased rolling speed of the bigger wheels on a less than grippy trail surface.

Conclusion on the Norco Optic

What Norco have built here is very user-friendly bike that is adaptable and lets the rider choose in their preference of wheel size to match their trails and terrain. The Norco Optic has a tonne of nice features and leans slightly more to uphill efficiency rather than downhill charging, but is very enjoyable to ride both up and down; It has a very exciting and lively personality that wants you to push it harder and faster. But which bike is better? The 27.5” or 29”? Neither. It’s the rider’s choice, we preferred the 29er, but we’ve spent a fair amount of time on that wheel size in the last month and the test trails really did play to its strengths. The Norco Optic is a very capable bike that a large and diverse audience around the world could happily find themselves smashing out mile after mile, kilometre after kilometre, lap after lap…

For more information on the Norco Optic, head to their Website.

Update July 2017: We’ve published a full review of the Norco Optic C7.2

Words: Ross Bell Photos: Ross Bell / Toby Martin / Margus Riga

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