Bike Test: Norco Fluid One

Norco is located in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, north of our border in Canada. Their location gives them a certain advantage when it comes to developing mountain bikes. There are few places on the planet that allow you to ride most of the year on epic trails that spawned a new style of riding, and during the summer you are only a carpool away from the grand daddy of all ride parks, Whistler Mountain Bike Park. The Norco Fluid One is proof that Norco takes advantage of their surroundings.

The Fluid One (and its brothers, the Two, Three and Four) is Norco’s adjustable-travel trailbike. Norco’s design goal was to make a bike strong enough for major trail riding abuse but with enough versatility to handle the longest climbs without punishing the rider.

The Fluid One uses a hydroformed, butted-aluminum frame with the top tube curved to keep the standover height comfortably low. The hydroformed tubes eliminate the additional weight of gusseting. The rear suspension’s forged rocker beam has two shock mounting positions for your choice of 4.5 or 5.5 inches of rear-wheel travel. Norco licenses Specialized’s FSR rear suspension design. You should use a magnifying glass to examine the frame’s welds, because they are more than burly. They are beautiful. All the pivots are big, sealed affairs that look ready to handle a few seasons of nasty Shore riding before needing attention.

Norco went for the Shore-approved Marzocchi 44 ATA fork with a 15-millimeter thru-axle. The fork’s travel adjustment ranges from 3.9 inches to 5.5 inches. The Fluid One gets a Thomson stem and seatpost, a mix of Shimano drivetrain components, Avid Elixir brakes and specific disc brake diameters for the front (seven inches) and the rear (six inches). The Pro Palm lock-on grips, WTB Devo Team saddle and Shimano XT leave the Fluid One rider with nothing to add to this bike but leg power.

Moving out: Jump on the Fluid One and you know this bike was made in a land where trails are tight and surprises are many. The Fluid One rider is positioned slightly forward of center in an upright position. The top tube is short, as is the stem, but a slack head tube angle gives the bike a well-mannered, singletrack personality. The grips, saddle and pedals are ideal contact points. Cables tuck in neatly, and the seat stays and chainstays get generous bends to keep them from contacting your heels or calves.
Pedaling performance: Throw the shock’s easy-to-reach blue ProPedal lever to the on position (we’ll leave the three firmness settings up to you), flip the fork’s red lockout lever to lock, and hammer away. Both suspension components have some give in their firmest settings, so you get a solid accelerating bike that still removes trail chatter. The Shimano drivetrain backs up the chassis’ performance for a bike that moves right along under your leg power.
Cornering: The Fluid One has a great balance of quickness and stability. It doesn’t slice a corner the way a cross-country race bike would, and that’s what Norco wanted. The Fluid rider can be, well, fluid. The Fluid tracks corners easily without nervousness or sluggishness.
Climbing: Throw those pedal platform levers to the on setting and spin away. The rider position makes it easy to keep the front end from unwanted wheelie’ing when the going gets steep. The Fluid One devours uphill switchbacks, and it remains light enough on its tires that you can pick the line of least resistance (or use the suspension to plough over obstacles).

Descending: Open up the suspension and let it rip. The Fluid One is a confident descender with its much-loved Avid Elixir brakes, great wheels, MBA tire shootout winners, and suspension that doesn’t give you any surprises in the form of harsh spikes or frame deflection. Point this bike and go.

We didn’t find ourselves using the fork’s travel adjustment for two reasons: One, the bike feels best at the full 5.5 inches of front wheel travel, regardless of where the rear wheel travel is set. Two, the travel adjustment knob takes nine complete rotations (not clicks) to go from full travel to 3.9 inches of travel. That is not an on-the-fly adjustment. The fork’s lockout lever is pressed in and can be knocked loose, at which point you may lose the internal nylon gear.

If you ride extremely technical trails, try reducing the rear wheel travel while leaving the front at full travel. This slackens the geometry, and you will find the steep stuff even more fun to drop in on.

This is an easy one. The Fluid One is a well-constructed, serious trailbike. It will serve as a great all-around trailbike in any riding situation. It will really shine where the sun doesn’t. If your trails are tight, nasty snakes that wind through wet and wild forests (think the Pacific Northwest, parts of Oregon, Pennsylvania, New England and, of course, British Columbia), the Fluid One is the one. q

Price         $3725
Country of origin         Taiwan
Weight         28.4 pounds
Website  Norco Bikes
Frame tested         17″
Bottom bracket height         13.75″
Chainstay length         17″
Top tube length         23″
Head angle         69ø
Seat angle         73ø
Standover height         28.5″
Wheelbase         44″
Suspension travel (front)               5.5″
Suspension travel (rear)        5.5″
Frame material         Aluminum
Fork         Marzocchi 44 ATA
Shock         Fox Float RP23
Rims         Mavic XM 317
Tires         Kenda Nevegal (2.1″)
Hub         Shimano XT
Brakes         Avid Elixir R
Crankset         Shimano XT
Shifters         Shimano XT Rapidfire
Handlebar         Ritchey WCS Carbon (26.5″ wide)
Front derailleur         Shimano XT
Rear derailleur         Shimano XTR
Chainrings         Shimano XT (44/32/22)
Cassette         Shimano XT (11-34)
Pedals         Shimano XT