2012 Norco Sight 1 Extended Review

All Mountain Trail

I loved the way the bike handled with a small exception; When pushing hard into some corners, there is a slight hesitation, almost a stuttering, and it’s hard to tell if it is coming from the fork flexing, or from frame flex. I had observed a small amount of frame flex when sitting on the bike and pulling on the handlebars, and while there may be perceived effect when hard cornering, it has felt stiff and controlled when it’s really needed. The ride quality is very comfortable, the A.R.T. suspension doesn’t get hung up on rocks, and there is negligible harshness on rough terrain, the 140mm of travel soaks up the bumps, although a couple of times, it did feel like it was starting to wallow a bit, but that never seemed to slow it down.

The Shimano XT brakes and drivetrain have been amazing. The XTR Shadow+ rear derailleur is an expensive component, and I was concerned with how vulnerable it could be, but it is still working as well as it did on day one, and there are a few scuffs indicating that the derailleur got intimate with trailside objects. There is no chainstay protection to protect it from chain slap, but the clutch on the derailleur works exactly as advertised, and there are only a few dings from the chain, and chain drop was virtually non-existent. When the OEM pads wore out, I replaced the rear with a sintered metal pair of pads, and I found that not only was it noisier, it didn’t have the power or feel of the resin pads that came stock, but they are more consistent in the wet. When the original chain wore out and was replaced, the larger chainring would not cooperate and was skipping really badly, even though the original chain was not too badly worn. The teeth on the outer ring were quite badly worn from rock strikes, and for around BC, an ISCG mounted chainring protector would be a good investment if using the 2×10 system.

The wheels have been stiff, solid and have remained true and round, as good as the rims were, the freehub didn’t last so well. When removing the cassette for a routine cleaning, the freehub body fell apart, something had shattered it, and even in it’s broken state, it was working perfectly, held together by the cassette, and once apart, it was impossible to reassemble. Shimano replaced the wheel under warranty, and I was rolling once more in just over a week, and it’s been fine since.

The 26” Sight is returning in 2013 at a much better price, and definitely great value. It will be accompanied by the Sight Killer B (a 650b redesign). Not too much has changed with the new 26” model of the Sight 1, the Kenda tyres are replaced with Continental rubber, the uncomfortable Norco brand grips are getting swapped out with Ergon GA-1. A Bionicon chain tensioner has been added to supplement the XT Shadow+. The most notable, and needed, change is the chainrings have switched from 26/38 to a much more versatile 24/38.

At $5600, the Norco Sight 1 is still a very expensive bike, but the less expensive Sight 2 and Sight 3 come in at a much more reasonable price point, both with solid and sensible builds, they all share the same excellent platform with the A.R.T. suspension, which is still available as a frame only (The LE model). If you are looking for a really capable all-mountain bike that you can ride all day, then the Sight should definitely be on the short list. For 2013, the Sight 1 is $1000 less, and still offers a near identical spec, making the decision to buy this excellent trailbile a little bit easier. As mentioned earlier, the framekit is available, and at $2100 including the shock and a reverb, it is amazing value.

If your preference is for more gravity fed trails, Norco’s Range would be a bike worth considering, it still has the excellent A.R.T. suspension that is featured on the Sight, but much more aggressive geometry geared towards the downhill. That said, the Sight excels at everything, and even though there were a few minor problems, the spec and build quality are excellent. It’s easy to understand why it’s winning accolades such as “Trail Bike of the Year”.


  • Nimble, yet sturdy, this bike truly is a do it all bike
  • Climbs exceptionally well
  • Excellent customer service supporting the bike
  • Component spec is amazing


  • Fox 32 TALAS really holds the bike back
  • 2×10 gear ratios, and how exposed the Chain rings are
  • Pricey
  • Some tolerance issues (reportedly much better for 2013)

About me
I have been riding bikes off road for over 20 years, and even though I’ve raced, I’m not really a racer, but I do like to push bikes as hard as I can. I live in Vancouver, BC, and ride anywhere there are trails, but spend a lot of time on the North Shore. I have no affiliation with any bicycle or component manufacturer, and I was loaned the bike to review for the summer.

The review was split between myself (Steve Sheldon) and Chris Barker, this review is a collaboration of our thoughts.

Photo Thumbnails (click to enlarge)

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  • Raym says:

    Great review! Your comments were thorough and had a feel of honesty that many bike mag reviews lack. Again props to you.

    When I dream of mountain biking, the trails often look of those on the vid. Sweet single track!

    • Steve Sheldon says:

      Thanks. Being a long term review, it gave me plenty of opportunity to report on the things that a product shot or press camp can’t look at, and in my opinion, things like component choice and manufacturer support are incredibly important in the long run, but are hard to test. Norco has created a bike that remained fun to ride after a full season, with a really solid build kit, and although there were some minor issues, everything was dealt with, and it’s a bike I would recommend to anyone.

  • Gregg says:

    Thanks for the awesome review, Steve! The video is SWEET! I love the beer can knock off at 3:50! Haha!

  • PUNKY says:

    Hopefully you can get out on the 2013 Sight 650B as you would be able to notice difference that weren’t apparent to me

  • Jessie says:

    I do appreciate the tester’s honesty on this review, although there was some sugar coating here. Personally, I wouldn’t be looking to spend 4K on a bike that has a creaking fork and suspension linkage parts that break. For that kind of money, I want a ride that will be _totally_ reliable.

    • Chris Barker says:

      Jessie, thanks for the feedback. Agreed about the suspension linkage however as noted, Norco informed us it was an isolated occurrence and they have improved tolerances for 2013. Read that as you like, we felt it was resolved and reported on it accordingly.

      As for the creaking fork, I would say Fox is the most commonly spec’d brand on mountain bikes these days so it could happen to any bike be it low or high end.

      I can’t think of many bikes that don’t have some sort of reported issues, it’s how they are resolved that is the important factor in my opinion.

  • Jessie says:

    Agreed – kudos to Norco for fixing the suspension. I hope it was a _very_ isolated incident. Nothing like a 10+ mile walk back to the trailhead to make one very annoyed with a bike (and bike manufacturer).

    Why are Foxes being spec’d so often if they are so creaky? Or is that a rare occurence as well?

    • Steve says:

      The broken bearing didn’t leave us stranded. Really, it’s a problem that can happen to anyone, and I’ve seen it happen on a lot of different bikes. What makes the difference is how the company handles the failure. In this case, it was handled exceptionally well.

      I am not certain, but I think that Fox is so prolific because they have the capability to meet the OEM volume. They make a good product, but we the riders are constantly demanding more performance for less money, and in a lighter package. At some point, there will be a problem with that drive. In the case of the creak, it’s a common problem with all single crown forks; you have a long lever pushing on a relatively small press fit interface. Small microscopic movement in the crown causes the noise, although it likely won’t ever fail, it is distracting. As we get into longer travel forks, and start to push them hard, then this problem will become harder to overcome.

  • Jessie says:

    “…but we the riders are constantly demanding more performance for less money, and in a lighter package. At some point, there will be a problem…” That sounds about right. I’d add that as forks are being made more rigid, _some_ part has to absorb the lateral movements. If the fork legs don’t flex, then maybe it falls to the interface you mentioned to absorb some of that energy. I suppose creaking would be a much preferable option to the fork falling apart. Still, it does sound disconcerting.

    Oh, and I wasn’t implying that you folks were left stranded. I was just saying that it _could_ have happened to someone, given a similar problem.

  • Gman says:

    I have an ’06 Fox Talas 32 and never ever creeked ever. I’m a hard charger.
    The travel adjust went bust after a poor judgement front wheel landing.
    Fox fixed that under warranty…
    Not convinced these are minor.
    My Titus ML ’06 has had ZERO issues out of the box and that includes wheels and build.

  • Paul says:

    Hey Steve/Chris,
    Just curious, how would you rank/rate the Norco Sight 1 (26er) to Spec Stumpjumper FSR 26er of similar equipment level? Any direct experience with the Stumpy in same trails to compare apples-to-apples?

    • Steve says:

      The two bikes would compare quite closely. My time on a Stumpjumper is limited, but they do have a similar feel (if you exclude the brain shock). The Specialized is a little stiffer, but the Norco is better value for money. Both are excellent bikes, both use the same suspension design, and ART and Spec’s FSR handle quite similarly.

  • Nate says:

    Where did you find your replacement “standard fastener” for the main pivot? I’ve broken 2 already :(

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