2013 Norco Range and Sight 650b Bikes

27.5 All Mountain Trail Enduro

Ride Impressions:

The rider and the trails:
I’m Francis of mtbr and I’m 5’8″ 145 lbs of XC rider who has been transforming into a trail rider. My main rides are a 29er Santa Cruz Highball hardtail, a Niner Carbon Air9 hardtail, a Specialized 29er Epic FS and a Santa Cruz Blur TRc converted into 650b. So I’ve ridden dozens of 26ers and 29ers recently but the weapons I chose are 29er hardtails and short travel FS and 26er All Mountain and long travel bikes. And that’s right, I’ve ridden several 650b bikes. I’ve ridden the Jamis 650b FS, Haro 650b hardtail and I’ve converted several 26er bikes to 650b ultimately settling on the Santa Cruz Blur TRc in 650b format. Read about that project here.

I’m actually a firm believer in the future of 650b . I love big wheels but I’ve seen the limitations of 29er wheels as one goes to 140-160mm of travel and beyond. Geometries and wheelbases get all out of whack and compromises have to be made just to fit those wheels in and still get decent chainstay lengths. Couple that with the wheel inertia problem and a big wide rim, and a 2.4 29er tire and and the 29er can exhibit all the undesirable sluggish qualities we fear with big wheels. What often happens is we fit light, expensive wheels and tubeless, 2.2 tires on these FS rigs just to get the ultimate ride out of a 29er.

650b has been around for a while but it has been held back by inferior front suspension forks and small tires. But now, the forks are here and the tires are definitely coming. For 160mm travel bikes, 650b made more sense than 29er because of the geometry and inertia issues. Are they better than 26er? Can you feel the difference? That’s what we’re here to find out.

The rides they took us on are the trails of Burnaby mountain by the college and Fromme in the North Shore. The Burnaby trails are tight trails with lots of obstacles and features that just flow left to right, up and down. The trails keep going as they guide the rider through berms, rocks and structures. The other trail is the Executioner trail of the Fromme in North Shore, BC. This trail is a daunting singletrack filled with roots, rocks and steep pitches. The locals described it as ‘flowy’ but this Norcal resident has a lot to learn before he can flow on these trails.

The Norco Sight 650b
After the presentation and the hype on the green 160mm travel Range, I was a little disappointed to be put on the 140mm Range (white bikes in the photos) for the first day. But as soon as I hopped on, all concerns were appeased. The Rockshox Revelation seemed fine and the rear travel seemed very plush. All bikes were fitted with Sram Reverb dropping posts and these devices are almost mandatory for these bikes.  And the best part of it all… the bikes came with Schwalbe Hans Dampf prototype 650b tires. These tires are probably the single most anticipated component of the 650b movement. They are huge, grippy and they roll well. This is the tire that will hold the fort as 650b tire selection grows while the established wheelsizes offer a massive array of available tires.

The ride started off with some descending on singletrack and this bike was instantly easy to ride. Like the brochure says, the bike handles like a 26er.  The BB height of 13.3 ensured it carved nicely and the the wheelbase was short as well as it matched the old 26er Sight bike. I made sure to set my tire psi on the Schwalbe Hans Dampfs to 23 psi and they were dialed on the Burnaby descents. The bike carved the berms and it handled all the rocks and roots with easy.  I could see all the rocks, roots and ladders in front of me but they actually pretty smooth under the bie 650b Schwalbe tires.

What came next were about three daunting  climbs and although unpleasant for my tired legs, the bike seemed to climb with ease. I didn’t have to lock out the CTD rear shock as the rear exhibited very little bob.  If I climbed out of saddle a lot, the rear would move up and down more and would warrant a different shock setting. But I just left front and rear wide open and the bike climbed efficiently.

As we got to the Jay Hoots bike park at the end of our ride, I gave the Sight a couple rounds through the pump track and it seemed easy to pump and it carried speed well.  The other journalists put the Sight through its paces and put the bike sideways in mid-air as they just went round and round doing tricks. I think this this attests how easy the bike is to throw around in mid air as it did not have the big 29er wheel on it.

The Norco Range is next…

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About the author: Francis Cebedo

The founder of mtbr and roadbikereview, Francis Cebedo believes that every cyclist has a lot to teach and a lot to learn. "Our websites are communal hubs for sharing cycling experiences, trading adventure stories, and passing along product information and opinions." Francis' favorite bike is the last bike he rode, whether it's a dirt jumper, singlespeed, trail bike, lugged commuter or ultralight carbon road steed. Indeed, Francis loves cycling in all its forms and is happiest when infecting others with that same passion. Francis also believes that IPA will save America.


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Wordpress Comments:

  • madsedan says:

    Sexy, love the Sight killer B

  • Michael Jordan says:

    I’ve been riding a fantastic Jamis 650b for all of 2012 and it’s great to see more new bikes to choose from. The stoke of the testers is great to hear. 650b is a great platform and it lives up to the hype in my experience. The Norco bikes look extremely well thought out and well equipped. Can’t wait for my first demo ride.

  • Michael9218 says:

    I’ve been riding with a 650b on the front of my Ellsworth Truth for a couple years now in a B6 configuration (650b front and 26 rear). I really like the 650b wheel size. It really is just right. I’m encouraged to see more bike manufacturers embracing the size. I’d like to see more development on asymmetrical wheel sizes. You get front wheel rollover with rear wheel acceleration.

  • gurthang says:

    Regardless of the wheel size, the important point here is trying to tune the length of all the parts of the frame to the different rider sizes.

  • RoDe says:

    I was never hooked on this 29″ wheel size. 650B I think is the way to go for me.

  • JeffO says:

    I recently went from a Scott 26 al to a Moto Ti 29er. At 6′/195lb., it works well for me and much more enjoyable than was the Scott 26er. It may not be a good comparison given the Ti 29er is 12 lbs. lighter than the Scott 26.

    I think the 650B is probably way more suitable for anyone 5’8″ and below to be sure. And for the bike industry, this is a huge boom for the growing audience but even mire so formthe millions of enthusiasts; who are comfortable where they are on the 26er rides they have and likely wouldn’t be a new customer for many years. Probably 50%of them if not more will purchase a 650B years before they otherwise would have bought a new ride.

  • Izzy says:

    I’d looove to see a Sight 650B vs. Altitude 7X0 shootout ;-)

  • Pepe Lepau says:

    What really bothers me is the abuse of the manufactures in terms of pricing. Now that riders interest on 650b’s is booming, the prices on new 27.5 bikes are ridiculous. Even Jamis with a low end components is charging well above $2000 for their bikes.
    Same happened with 29ers, they were very exclusive and now you can even get them on Walmart.

  • Paul says:

    We need a back to back comparison from someone who can throw down on a 180mm+ FR bike, dirt jumper, has ridden a 29er downhill bike (like a Lenz or WFO), and can compare the wagon wheels to the tweener.

    I’m glad to read reviewers from folks of a different perspective, but it seems like those who have been riding the 650B wheels are usually XC riders, not downhill guys. If I’m a downhill guy looking for a new AM/Enduro rig, I want to hear if downsizing from 29 to 650 will be worth it.

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