The Norco Optic C1 is the best example that you should never jump to conclusions. Despite offering only 125 mm travel, it doesn’t have to shy away from the roughest trails. From the first turn of the cranks, it will put a smile on your face and makes an impressive case for the fact that less is often more!
Click here for an overview of the best trail bike in test.
Leaving the suspension to one side for a moment, the Norco Optic looks like an all-out enduro bike at first glance. It features long and slack geometry and robust componentry. The spec includes a specially developed RockShox SuperDeluxe DH shock without a climb switch, Shimano XTR four-piston brakes, a 45 mm stem and a 780 mm handlebar. The silver, 140 mm travel RockShox PIKE Ultimate suits the bike perfectly both in its looks and performance. While the light SnakeSkin carcass of the Schwalbe Magic Mary tire up front and Hans Dampf at the rear are okay, with good grip and low rolling resistance, they don’t offer the best puncture protection. That said, we didn’t suffer any flats with a slightly increased tire pressure of 25 psi up front and 29 psi in the rear. At first glance, the chainstay protector seems too short, though the chainstay drops down far enough that there was no damage to the paintwork. However, we were annoyed by the sound of rattling cables as soon as we hit the trails. The additional cable tie on the down tube doesn’t help either – it slipped into the frame during testing.
Norco Optic C1
Fork RockShox Pike Ultimate RC2
Rear Shock RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate DH
Seatpost X-Fusion Maniac 170 mm
Brakes Shimano XTR M9120 180/180 mm
Drivetrain Shimano XTR / E13 TRS Race 30/10-51
Stem Norco Alu 45
Handlebar Race Face Next R 780 mm
Tires Schwalbe Magic Mary/Hans Dampf SnakeSkin 2,35
Size S M L XL
Weight 13,7 kg
Travel (f/r) 140/125 mm
Geometry of the Norco Optic C1
At 480 mm, the Norco Optic has the longest reach on test and no bike could outdo the 65° head tube angle of the Optic either. In order to optimise the bike’s weight distribution, the chainstay length increases with frame size and with a 38 mm drop, the bottom bracket is very low. The angle of the seat tube is steep at 76° while its length is kept short at 445 mm to perfectly round off the bike’s modern geometry.
The Norco Optic is one of the boldest and most progressive mountain bike concepts we’ve seen in a long time and that is exactly what makes this bike so good!
|Seat tube||395 mm||415 mm||445 mm||485 mm|
|Top tube||572 mm||605 mm||637 mm||669 mm|
|Head tube||100 mm||110 mm||120 mm||130 mm|
|Chainstays||425 mm||430 mm||435 mm||440 mm|
|BB Drop||38 mm||38 mm||38 mm||38 mm|
|BB height||337 mm||337 mm||337 mm||337 mm|
|Wheelbase||1,157 mm||1,196 mm||1,235 mm||1,275 mm|
|Reach||420 mm||450 mm||480 mm||510 mm|
|Stack||611 mm||620 mm||629 mm||638 mm|
The Optic C1 on test
The Norco Optic doesn’t exude the trail bike feeling that we’ve gotten used to in recent years. Instead of being stretched, you’re sat upright and central on the bike. This position is comfortable and pays off on steep and technical climbs. Nevertheless, the bike accelerates willingly with its firm rear suspension. We never missed the lock-out lever on the shock as there’s almost no pedal bob to speak of. With its fast rolling tire combo, the Optic quickly gets up to pace and is perfect for sprints. Your buddies will hate you on the way to the trailhead because you’ll always be a few meters ahead of them aboard this bike.
Less is more! Thanks to the firm suspension, the Optic is a lot of fun from the get-go!
While many bikes only start being fun when gravity takes over, the Optic will put a big grin on your face even on flat and flowy trails. Its firmly tuned rear end offers tons of support and immediately converts the rider’s input into propulsion. This invites you to pump the bike and build up a lot of speed and also makes it easy to play with the terrain. If you think that the Norco will quickly reach its limit as soon as things get demanding, you’d be wrong. Thanks to the long and slack geometry and the freedom of movement it provides, the bike instils you with confidence even in the steepest and roughest terrain, allowing you to go a lot faster. Even trips to the bike park or a shuttle day won’t faze the Optic. The only limiting factor is your level of fitness because the firm suspension can be quite demanding on the rider.
Tuning tip: if you want to go hard, we recommend fitting more robust tires | find a solution to better secure the cables
How does the Norco Optic C1 compare to the competition?
The Norco Optic is difficult to compare with the other bikes in this test. It combines the long and slack geometry of the Yeti SB130 with the firm suspension of the Giant Trance 29, creating a unique riding experience. This usually makes it more fun than the Yeti while simultaneously being more stable and composed than the Giant.
Conclusion of the Norco Optic C1
The Norco Optic C1 is the perfect bike for everyone looking for an unfiltered trail experience with a need for speed. Its firm suspension doesn’t spoil the rider with excessive comfort and it provides tons of forward propulsion and very direct handling. This works perfectly in combination with the progressive geometry and is sure to put a grin on your face on flowing trails! You have to be strong and fit to tackle more demanding descents, though the bike always remains composed.
- maximum fun on almost every trail
- calm and composed despite short travel
- comfortable pedalling position
- firm suspension isn't the most comfortable
- rattling cables
- demanding on the rider
For more information head to norco.com
The test field
Click here for an overview of the best trail bike in test.
All bikes in review: Cannondale Habit Carbon 1 (Click for review) | Canyon Spectral CFR 9.0 SL (Click for review) | Giant Trance Advanced Pro 29 (Click for review) | Ibis Ripmo AXS (Click for review) | Nukeproof Reactor 290 (Click for review) | Orbea Occam M-LTD (Click for review) | Radon Slide Trail 10 (Click for review) | Santa Cruz Hightower CC X01 Reserve (Click for review) | Scott Genius 900 Tuned AXS (Click for review) | Specialized Levo SL Expert Carbon (Click for review) | Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper SRAM AXS 29 (Click for review) | Trek Fuel EX 9.9 X01 AXS Project ONE (Click for review) | Yeti SB130 TLR (Click for review) | YT JEFFSY CF PRO (Click for review)
This scale indicates how efficiently the bike climbs. It refers to both simple and technical climbs. Along with the suspension, the riding position and the weight of the bike all play a crucial role.↩
How does the bike ride and descend? How spritely is the bike, how agile is it through corners, how much fun is it in tight sections and how quickly can it change direction?↩
Is the bike stable at high speeds? Is it easy to stay in control in demanding terrain? How composed is it on rough trails? Stability is a combination of balanced geometry, good suspension and the right spec.↩
This is all about how balanced the bike is and particularly about how well it corners. Balanced bikes require little physical effort from the rider and are very predictable. If a bike is unbalanced, the rider has to work hard to weight the front wheel to generate enough grip. However, experienced riders can have a lot of fun even with unbalanced bikes.↩
How sensitive is the suspension over small bumps? Can it absorb hard impacts and does it soak up repeated hits? Plush suspension not only provides comfort and makes a bike more capable, but it also generates traction. The rating includes the fork and the rear suspension.↩
This aspect mainly comes down to the suspension. How much pop does it have, does it suck up the rider’s input or is it supportive, and how agile and direct is the bike?↩
We don’t calculate value for money in an excel spreadsheet or based on how high-end a bike is specced. We are more concerned with how a bike performs on the trail and how the bike benefits the rider. What good are the best components if the bike doesn’t perform well on the trail? Expensive bikes with a lower-end spec can offer very good value for money – provided they excel where it matters. Just as supposedly cheap bikes with good components can get a bad rating if they don’t deliver on the trail.↩
No, it’s not about racing, it’s about efficiency. Fast, fleet-footed and efficient – those who want to speed along flowy singletrack and gravel roads need a defined and spritely bike that accelerates with ease and efficiency. Nevertheless, reliable components are important too. We interpret XC more like the Americans do: big back-country rides instead of a marathon or XC World Cup with the ultimate in lightweight construction! Uphill-downhill ratio: 80:30 (not everything has to be 100%!)↩
...also known as mountain biking. Classic singletrack with roots, rocks and ledges – sometimes flowy, sometimes rough. For this, you need a bike with good all-round qualities, whether climbing or descending. Uphill-downhill ratio: 50:50↩
Even more extreme and challenging compared to Trail riding, riddled with every kind of obstacle: jumps, gaps, nasty rock gardens, ruts and roots. For this, you need (race)proven equipment that forgives mistakes and wouldn’t look out of place on a stage of the Enduro World Series. Climbing is just a means to an end. Uphill-downhill ratio: 30:70↩
Strictly speaking, a 200 mm travel downhill bike is the best choice for merciless tracks with big jumps, drops and the roughest terrain. Those would be the black or double-black-diamond tracks in a bike park. But as some of the EWS pros (including Sam Hill) have proven, it’s the riding skills and not the bike that define what you can ride with it. Climbing? On foot or with a shuttle, please! Uphill-downhill ratio: 10:90↩
Words: Christoph Bayer Photos: Christoph Bayer, Finlay Anderson, Markus Frühmann, Jonas Müssig