Into the wild: The Norco Revolver During a British Columbia Winter
The Revolver 1 was subjected to five months of BC’s winter weather and was ridden about 1500km on a variety of trail types. It was the weapon of choice for three-hour gravel grinders, 30km trail rides on single and doubletrack, and even some jaunts into more daunting, technical terrain. Many of the trails that the bike was tested on feature rolling cross country sections followed by semi-technical climbs and all mountain descents, so the bike was pushed outside of its intended use on a regular basis.
The Revolver was designed to be ridden on fast, rolling “California-style” singletrack and it’s obvious from the first time that you swing your leg over the bike that it’s well suited to that task. The bike is really comfortable and well-suited to charging up and down mellower grades and trails, thanks to the frame’s upright seat tube, relaxed head angle, and sorted cockpit that combine to situate the rider in a forward-neutral riding position. While spinning along in the middle chainring, the ART-controlled rear suspension is relatively firm off the top and retains some of that raciness in the shock’s mid stroke before becoming more progressive as the shock reaches the end of its travel. The Revolver exhibits a little bit of pedal-induced shock movement but it isn’t too noticeable when riding unless you’re mashing along in the granny gear, and the design largely remains free of pedal feedback. A simple flick of the ProPedal lever on the Fox RP23 rear shock provides a firm pedaling platform that eliminates pedal bob at the expense of small bump compliance.
Handling and Suspension Performance
The Revolver’s geometry encourages the rider to sit in a forward neutral position while climbing, a quality that keeps some weight over the front wheel to prevent it from wandering on steep fire roads and long singletrack ascents. The Revolver is surprisingly nimble during climbs through technical singletrack and it blows through difficult sections of trail without much fuss, benefitting from the light, 29″ wheels and the tendency for the suspension to sit comfortably in its mid-stroke while powering through the rough stuff.
When the Revolver is pointed downhill on moderate terrain, the rearward axle path of the ART-tuned suspension helps the rear wheel over square edge hits and helps the bike become a trail-eating machine that rolls over chunder like a monster truck crushing a subcompact car. The frame’s relatively short chainstays (17.6″) and low bottom bracket height (13.2″ BB height / -35mm BB drop) help it corner better than many 29ers and the WTB Bronson tires hooked up just fine unless the trail was littered with off-camber roots and large rocks.
Given the diversity of the landscape in southwest British Columbia, it’s not uncommon for a single trail to incorporate terrain suitable both for traditional cross country bikes and full-on downhill rigs. As such, it wasn’t uncommon to find myself rolling through a patch of semi-technical singletrack before bowling into a steep, technical, and rock-strewn descent — terrain that wasn’t necessarily an ideal match for the Revolver. In these circumstances, the 29″ wheels often provided a deceptively easy out that helped the bike roll over a lot of the stuff that would pose a problem to a 26″ wheeled bike. However, on steeper, rougher sections of trail, the bike’s 100mm of front and rear wheel suspension took the edge off the first couple of hits but soon became overwhelmed by the conditions. The RockShox SID performed admirably on more use-appropriate terrain, but on technical descents, the fork blew through its travel and bottomed harshly before deflecting all over the place; out back, the Fox RP23 ran out of travel just as quickly although the sensation of bottoming out wasn’t as noticeable as it was with the SID.
Given that the Revolver 1 comes stocked with some high-end componentry, there aren’t a lot of things to criticize in the spec. Aside from a front shifter that suffered from stripped internals, the SRAM-equipped drivetrain performed well throughout the test, offering up the clean, crisp shifting that is typical of the X0 trim level. The FSA SLK 3×10 carbon crankset spun smoothly and offered decent shifts, even though upshifting performance under load wasn’t as good as similar SRAM or Shimano setups. The SRAM X0 brakes felt great although they required regular bleeding, and the rear brake’s master cylinder failed and needed replacement about half-way through the test.
The Revolver’s WTB Stryker Cross Country wheelset was a bit of a revelation because it handled all of the abuse that was thrown its way even though they’re intended for cross country and light trail use. They spin up fairly quickly and allow you to maintain good amounts of momentum without grinding things out to maintain your pace. And once the bike gets up to speed the wheels really shine, devouring terrain while climbing and descending, and helping you reel in the buddies who snaked you at the start of the trail. Of course, one of the downsides of using light and fast-rolling wheelsets that aren’t made out of carbon is that they often exhibit more flex than burlier alternatives. While climbing in the 22T chainring and the cassette’s lowest gears, there was occasionally enough rear wheel flex to cause the tire to buzz the front derailleur. While descending, the wheels’ lateral flex was most noticeable in hard corners and g-outs on fast sections of trail.