As the motherland of real mountain biking, Canada has a vast landscape with some of the sickest trails – ones that we’ve heard are best spent discovering on Norco’s Optic. Norco claim it’s a trail bike with cross-country pop and all-mountain adventure, but how will it fare away from its home turf?

Norco OPTIC C7.2 | 130 / 120 mm (v/h) | 12,65 kg | 4.699 €
Norco OPTIC C7.2 | 130 / 120 mm (front/rear) | 12.65 kg | € 4,699

When it came to designing the Optic, Norco ended up creating more prototypes than ever before for one single bike, largely because it is much more than just one bike; it comes in both aluminium and carbon models, as well as with either 27.5″ or 29″ wheels. Against common belief, the various models are reputed to have virtually identical ride characteristics despite the different wheel sizes. For this group test, we picked a 27.5″ carbon model that retails at 4,699 €, kitted out with FOX Performance Elite suspension, Shimano XT brakes and 2x Shimano XT drivetrain, which can be switched to 1×11 with the provided compatible chainring for the Race Face Turbine cranks. It’s a worthy upgrade, and we’d recommend removing the remote lever for the fork while you’re at it. Depending on the frame size, the Optic doesn’t just feature longer reach and stack, but also extends the rear end. Our test bike’s super-balanced handling came courtesy of the 455 mm main triangle and short 435 mm chainstays. The riding position on the Optic is compact for a 180 cm-tall rider, but very comfortable.

Norco-OPTIC-C7.2-Review-CB-web-5 [emaillocker id=”139658″]

Thanks to the steep 74.5° seat angle and effective rear end, the Norco climbs without much undue effort. Out-of-the-saddle efforts are rewarded with speed, which is also down to the low-profiled tread on the Schwalbe Racing Ralph rear tire. If you plan on exploiting the bike’s downhilling potential, however, then you’ll have to replace the Racing Ralph with a more aggressive tread. The low toptube is another asset to this agile bike’s liveliness. Of course there’s the suspension, which – while reliable – is no rival for the top dogs in this group test.

Helm Specialized Ambush | Brille 100% Speedcraft | Jersey Fox Indicator LS | Short Alpinestars Pathfinder Shorts | Knieschoner Alpinestars Paragon Knee | Rucksack USWE AIRBORNE 15 CARBON
Helmet Specialized Ambush | Glasses 100% Speedcraft | Jersey Fox Indicator LS | Shorts Alpinestars Pathfinder Shorts | Knee pads Alpinestars Paragon Knee | Backpack USWE AIRBORNE 15 CARBON

Specs of the Norco Optic C7.2

Fork: FOX 34 Float Performance Elite
Rear shock: FOX Float DPS
Brakes: Shimano XT
Drivetrain: Shimano XT
Seatpost: RockShox Reverb Stealth
Stem: Race Face Turbine
Handlebar: Race Face Turbine
Wheels: Naben SRAM MTH / Felgen Easton AR24
Tires: Schwalbe Nobby Nic / Racing Ralph
Weight: 12.65 kg
Price: € 4,699

Efficient The A.R.T. rear suspension design is familiar with the words ‘a turn of pace,’ and definitely not acquainted with bob. You can even lay off the shock’s platform damping.
Efficient
The A.R.T. rear suspension design is familiar with the words ‘a turn of pace,’ and definitely not acquainted with bob. You can even lay off the shock’s platform damping.
Limiting factor The rear Schwalbe Racing Ralph tire limits just how fun the Optic can be, so you’ll need a Nobby Nic like you’ve got at the front in order to really glean the benefits of the bike. The Light Skin casing does keep the weight down, but increases the risk of punctures. We’d recommend the Snake Skin model.
Limiting factor
The rear Schwalbe Racing Ralph tire limits just how fun the Optic can be, so you’ll need a Nobby Nic like you’ve got at the front in order to really glean the benefits of the bike. The Light Skin casing does keep the weight down, but increases the risk of punctures. We’d recommend the Snake Skin model.
Overloaded There’s too much going on with the Norco’s bars, affecting user-friendliness and ergonomics. We’d suggest removing the fork’s remote lever and switching down to a 1x11 drivetrain (kit provided).
Overloaded
There’s too much going on with the Norco’s bars, affecting user-friendliness and ergonomics. We’d suggest removing the fork’s remote lever and switching down to a 1×11 drivetrain (kit provided).
Free choice The Norco Optic C7.2 comes as standard with a 2x11 drivetrain, but there’s a 32-tooth chainring for the Race Face Turbine cranks included in the purchase, meaning the bike can easily be switched to 1x11.
Free choice
The Norco Optic C7.2 comes as standard with a 2×11 drivetrain, but there’s a 32-tooth chainring for the Race Face Turbine cranks included in the purchase, meaning the bike can easily be switched to 1×11.
Geometry of the Norco Optic C7.2
Geometry of the Norco Optic C7.2
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Conclusion


The Norco Optic with 27.5″ wheels is agile and flickable, turning every single root into opportunity for airtime and an insane ability to flow over the ground. While we’d love to score it top points, there are a few little weaknesses in its spec and an overly crowded cockpit that lets it down.

Strengths

  • Agile handling
  • Efficient rear end
  • 1×11 option included

Weaknesses

  • Rear tire too mellow
  • Twitchy at high speeds
  • Crowded bars

For more information head to the Norco website.

For an overview of the test fleet head to the main article: 9 short-travel trail bikes in comparison

All bikes in test: Canyon Nerve AL 9.9 LTD | Evil The Following X1 | FOCUS Spine C Factory | MERIDA ONE-TWENTY 8000 | Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt BC Edition | SCOTT Genius 910 | Specialized Camber Comp Carbon 29 | Trek FUEL EX 9.8 29


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Words: Christoph Bayer Photos: Noah Haxel, Christoph Bayer