Bike Test: Norco Fluid FS 1
The Fluid FS is Norco’s entry-level full-suspension trail bike designed to punch well above its weight class, especially when considering its all-new progressive geometry and updated component spec. That’s right, an all-new Norco Fluid is here for 2019, and we can easily say that this steed is more advanced in every way. Now, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s hone in on some of the finer details of Norco’s all-new entry-level machine.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
At $3050 for the top-tier model and a starting price of $1650, the Fluid FS is a bike made for shredders on a budget. It combines 120mm of rear suspension travel with a 130mm-travel fork and offers riders the choice of either 29-inch or 27.5-inch wheels. Sizes XS–M are designed around 27.5-inch wheels, while M–XL frames feature 29er wheels. Furthermore, Norco introduced a full line of women’s models in order to offer specific touches for girls who shred. The Fluid FS 1 is the premier model in the lineup but utilizes mid-level components to keep the price at a more approachable figure.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
For 2019 Norco scrapped the old design of its 2018 model and introduced an all-new frame with updated geometry and a sleek finish. Norco constructed this Fluid with an X6 aluminum frame but used smooth-weld technology to hide the fact that this bike is made from aluminum. To tell the truth, many of our testers assumed the frame was carbon until they got up close and really began to look at it. Norco added Boost hub spacing and introduced internal cable routing using a system similar to that of Norco’s higher-end models. The all-new Fluid also received a revamped geometry featuring a longer reach, a slacker head tube angle and short chainstays across both wheel-size options.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
Norco ditched the front derailleurs across its line and spec’d a SRAM Eagle 12-speed drivetrain on the Fluid FS 1, thanks to SRAM’s value-driven NX components. Along with this wide-ratio gearing, Norco added quality suspension using a RockShox Revelation RC fork with a Charger 2 damper and a metric-sized Deluxe R shock. The bike rolls on massive 2.6-inch-wide tires and comes with a TranzX dropper post; however, with only 130mm of travel for a size-medium frame and above, many riders will be asking for more. Norco nailed the cockpit with a 780mm handlebar and a 50mm stem. SRAM Guide T brakes offer a four-piston design that is not overly powerful but is easy to modulate, enhancing control in loose
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Setting sag: Norco provides a comprehensive suspension guide that makes tuning your ride easier than ever. We followed this guide to see if it landed our test rig right in the sweet spot. Up front, we ran 85 psi for our 165-pound rider and installed an additional air volume token for a total of two. Our rebound was then set at eight clicks out with our compression lever set wide open. Out back, we continued to reference Norco’s suspension guide, which called for 175 psi and the rebound set to six clicks out.
Norco clearly did its homework with this suspension guide, as our tester felt immediately comfortable with these base settings. Of course, terrain and riding style will influence the need to further play with suspension settings, but for riders who prefer to set it and forget it, Norco did the dirty work for them.
Moving Out: The Fluid FS is available in a vast range of sizes from extra-small to extra-large. Norco designed these frames to fit riders from 4-foot-10 up to 6-foot-3. Our test rider who often feels
comfortable on a size medium found the Fluid runs small. He said the 440mm reach felt comfortable, although a touch tight. Each frame size grows in reach by 30mm, so if a rider opts for a larger size frame, he or she may want to reduced the stem length in order to keep a comfortable fit.
Climbing: Norco followed modern trends and gave the Fluid a steeper 76-degree seat tube angle in order to place riders in a balanced seated pedaling position. Along with the steepened steep tube, the extended reach adds a planted feel to the front end. During climbs, the Norco’s suspension stays efficient, allowing riders to leave the shock’s compression lever open. Our main test rider wasn’t able to achieve his correct saddle height, which hindered his climbing performance, so we highly recommend checking Norco’s sizing chart before purchasing this bike.
Cornering: Our medium test bike was the only model sold with both wheel-size options, so we opted for the more popular 29-inch wheel. The Fluid FS has a compact rear end that tucks the wide 29er tire right up against the seat tube, making the bike quick and snappy. Looking at the numbers, it’s quite impressive that Norco was able to keep the chainstays as short as 429mm. We can thank the innovation of Boost hub spacing for that achievement. All in all, we had no complaints when it came to thrashing this bike around the trails.
Descending: With budget-oriented components, you can’t expect to push as hard as with a top-dollar machine, but thanks to the Fluid’s all-new geometry, the bike feels dialed and comfortable at a speedy pace. With its 29er wheels, RockShox suspension and aggressive WTB tires, the Fluid has no problem taking on gnarly trails. For the money, the Fluid is an absolute blast to ride; however, the brakes, drivetrain and suspension components are nowhere near as smooth and precise as on Norco’s higher-end models. Entry-level and intermediate riders are unlikely to out-ride this machine, but more skilled riders will be begging for upgrades.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
There are quite a few changes that could be made to turn the Fluid FS into a true trail shredder, starting with component upgrades. First and foremost, all of our testers asked for a longer-travel dropper post, at least in the 150mm-travel range. Not only would a longer post help taller riders better fit a medium frame, it would also allow more clearance over the bike, increasing confidence and control. The next place we would focus our attention is the drivetrain. While NX Eagle offers a great range of gearing, its shifting quality is just okay. Upgrading the shifter and rear derailleur might be pricey, but it would result in a smoother and more precise shifting feel. Last but not least, we would recommend upgrading the SRAM Guide T brakes for a pair of Guide R or Guide RS brakes.
While there are quite a few upgrades needed to make this bike perform at the top level, there are no upgrades required for entry-level riders. At the end of the day, the Fluid FS is suitable for beginners but offers a modern geometry comparable to top-tier bikes. Riders looking to score a great deal now and have a bike they can upgrade later will find Norco’s all-new Fluid FS 1 is a bike made for them. www.norco.com
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