Fluid Two Performance
The Fluid Two is outstanding in tight technical singletrack. I can’t identify one single attribute that makes the bike handle so well in roots, rocks and tight turns. It’s got your typical all-mountain head-tube angle at 69 degrees so that’s not the only reason. Perhaps its the combination of a relatively high bottom bracket, remarkable standover, nice tight rider compartment (ie short rider cockpit between handlebars and seat especially when I swapped the stock 90mm stem for a 70mm); the Fluid Two can be flicked around, is at home in technical situations and eats up tight corners.
On steep trails, the Fluid Two is also a superior performer in anything but the steepest, longest, roughest chutes, perhaps limited only by its suspension. I swapped out the stock 2.1 Kenda Nevegals for 2.35s for rougher, steeper trails but you can cram 2.5 Nevegals in the rear triangle of the Norco if need be. The RockShox Revelation gets quite a workout on big hits. It was fine for me but a bigger rider dropping in on steep trails will be able to flex the Revelation and would probably benefit from a slightly beefier fork (perhaps something with a 20mm travel – eg a Magura Thor which I swapped out for the front end). The rear suspension (a Fox Float RP2) is a known reliable quantity and is its usual boringly fine performer – eminently tuneable and handling shock-absorbing duties without fuss. As previously stated, swapping for a 70mm stem significantly improves bike handling on downhills and doesn’t seem to adversely affect uphill performance so, for me, this trade made a lot of sense. The Fluid’s tremendous standover also helps in steeps; the curved top tube and full length seat tube which allows one to jam the seat out of the way helping in this regard.
In the air, the Fluid is competent but clearly not a dedicated tail-whip machine. It’s light, so you can get a considerable amount of pop off lips and it’s pretty stable on landings. However, this bike is biased more towards staying closer to the ground and I strongly doubt that the components could take a lot of casing lips and/or flat landings. Having said that, I honestly can’t say that I did more then cursorily sessioned local jumps and hit a few smaller step-downs on local trails on the Norco so take these comments for what they are; ie shallow impressions from someone who didn’t particularly see fit to stress this bike beyond its stated use parameters.
Downhill (cont’d …)
I’ve now sat on four generations of Fluids and none shone in high-speed situations. The 2009 version is no exception. On loamy soft trails this isn’t an issue. However, in the more chattery, rough, chundery trails you will rapidly find yourself wearing out and destroying bits and pieces of Norco. The biggest limiting factor is the medium-travel air-sprung front and rear end. You will overwhelm the bike if you subject it to multiple high-speed downhill shuttle runs.
Hauling down faster trails gets rather “exciting”; the multiple big hits simply overwhelm the suspension and the bike isn’t quite slack enough for all-out, pin-it, speeds. Occasional ventures probably won’t hurt but if your style of riding tends more to going mach-loony on rough beat-up trails then you might want to consider a more burly setup.
The bottom line is that the Fluid Two is a tremendously versatile bike and has a lot of useable downhill range. Components are well-matched to the ride and Norco (again) managed to match value to performance.
Avid Elixir CR brakes – shockingly powerful. Rock Shok’s Revelation (5.5″, 140mm travel) with a 9mm QR handled front suspension duties
Another nice touch that you don’t always see in “mid-level” frames; black paint with sparkles under the clearcoat and a nice metal badge. It’s these touches that count