MBA Bike Test: Norco Revolver FS 1 120

Norco Revolver FS 1 120

Category: Cross-country/trail
Suspension front & rear: 120mm
Tire Size: 29″

The Norco Revolver FS 1 120 is one of many bikes ushering in a new wave of highly capable, short-travel mountain bikes. With modern geometry—low, slack and long—this 120mm cross-country bike is designed to be ridden more aggressively than the typical endurance machines of yesteryear.

Based on Norco’s 100mm-travel flagship cross-country race machine the Revolver, the FS 1 120 is cut from the same cloth—designed for long rides. But, with 120mm of travel, it is intended to be capable of high speeds along the way. Needless to say, the MBA wrecking crew was excited to put that claim to the test.

FRAME

The 2020 Revolver comes in five choices—two 100mm race models and three 120mm versions. While the latest Revolver may look similar to its predecessor with its smooth carbon contours, there are subtle geometry changes that make the 2020 model a whole different beast.

Norco claims to have increased frame stiffness by a substantial 40 percent—no doubt with help from modern design features like Boost rear-hub spacing and metric shock sizing.

A key rear-suspension-design kinematic change facilitated by the metric shock sizing is the change to a longer-stroke shock, while using the same eye-to-eye dimensions as the previous Revolver model. The 190mm overall length shock now uses 45mm of stroke, which lessens the leverage ratio to approximately 2.7:1 to allow the FS 120 models to be more sensitive and supple through the entire suspension curve.

In the interest of durability, Norco chose to equip the dropout pivot with a bearing, as well as a set of double-row, sealed bearings in the rearward shock mount.

SRAM’s G2 RSC brakes offer multiple adjustments and excellent modulation.

COMPONENTS

Prices for the Revolver FS 120mm models range from $3999–$8699. We chose the middle child of the 120mm Revolver family for its parts spec, which is intended to be lightweight yet durable enough to deliver solid handling on high-speed adventures. The Revolver FS 120 1 uses SRAM’s GX Eagle group, which includes a 12-speed shifter, derailleur, chain, 10-50-tooth cassette and DUB cranks with a 32-tooth chainring.

SUSPENSION

RockShox’s SID Ultimate fork and Deluxe Select+ RL rear shock control the 120mm of front and rear travel. Up front, the SID features the latest Charger 2 RLC damper with two positions— open and lock—as well as compression,  adjust. In the back, the Deluxe Select+ RL offers a rebound-adjust dial, along with a two-position compression lever—open and lock. Riding in open most of the time allows full-bump absorption whether traversing or descending, with the Lock position providing a fully rigid interface that is best used for extended fire-road climbing and sprint-for-the-finish-line efforts.

DOWN AND DIRTY

New-school cross-country best describes the Revolver FS 1 120’s demeanor. If memories of your first XC bike conjure thoughts of nervousness and skittish descending, you can forget all that. When tailoring the new FS 120 chassis, Norco’s goal was to reposition the rider’s weight across a greater distance by increasing the wheelbase and to lower the rider’s center of gravity by pulling the front end out with the help of a 51mm-offset fork. The result is a bike that is calmer and gentler when speeds increase. In the old days, the words “calm” and “gentle” were never used to describe a typical cross-country bike’s downhill performance.

Aggressive geometry helps the Norco Revolver FS 1 120 charge turns.

We found ourselves having a lot more fun on descents and traverses on the Revolver FS 1 120. Even when seated, the suspension design generated traction and didn’t wallow, allowing us to power through undulating terrain.

Climbing: Thanks to the Revolver FS 120’s steepish 74.9-degree seat tube angle and its low, forward riding position, the front end remains planted when grinding up steep climbs. The bike is able to create traction and make effective use of each pedal stroke. The FS 120’s suspension kinematics provided an efficient pedaling platform without us having to fiddle with the lockout, but it was nice to know the suspension could be locked if we were ever inspired to apply all-out pedaling power.

The Norco Revolver FS 1 120 is an XC bike with serious agility.

THE FLOW

We set up the Revolver FS 1 120 with 20-percent sag in the rear. At this setting, we were able to bottom the suspension several times on each ride; however, we never experienced a harsh bottoming sensation or even heard a noise that would alert us that we had abruptly reached the end of the travel. So rather than set less sag, which could inhibit initial, small-bump sensitivity, we kept it at 20 percent and found the Revolver FS 1 120 was always able to deliver performance from the beginning to the end of its suspension travel. Using all the bike’s travel was never a distraction.

A solid parts spec helps the Norco Revolver FS 1 120 perform everywhere.

Overall, the Revolver FS 1 120 offers a lively ride. Modern geometry gives this XC bike enjoyably predictable handling. Beyond its pedaling efficiency, you can charge descents, not just survive them. The 67.4-degree head angle may not sound slack, but for a bike in the 120mm-travel category, it’s relaxed enough to provide confidence and precision when going downhill.

The parts spec delivered its promise of durable componentry for aggressive riding. One nicety we appreciated was the ergonomic versatility of the Crankbrothers Highline dropper-post remote lever. The lever could be mounted in many different positions, thanks to its spherical, single-bolt, hinge-locking system that offers 22 degrees of tilt. Its ease of setup ensured the remote lever was mounted in the right spot, regardless of preferred riding position, for any size hand.

MODS AND UPGRADES

During our review, we decided to use the Revolver FS 1 120 to test some aftermarket tires and wheels—see the Vittoria Mezcal tire review on page 51 and the Boyd Kanuga wheel review on page 34. Consequently, we found that mounting a set of lower-profile tires really brought out the Revolver’s high-speed, fast-rolling XC personality. And, of course, going tubeless on the FS 1 120’s stock wheels and tires was an upgrade we chose just a few days into testing—a no-brainer to reduce flats and increase performance.

BOTTOM LINE

This 120mm version of the Revolver race bike can be efficient and as serious about pedaling great distances as any cross country race bike, yet it won’t shy away from getting frisky when nimble maneuverability is required. If you’re looking for all-day performance on any trail—did somebody say multi-day stage race?—then the Revolver FS 1 120 just might be the bike to provide the all-day comfort and control you’re looking for. www.norco.com


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