Norco Judan 29er Belt Drive Review

29er Pro Reviews

 

Cockpit Feel/Fit –

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I was a little apprehensive to ride a 29er the first time I got a chance.  Being in the land or gnarly trails, about to do a Canadian XC ride, I wasn’t sure if I could handle it on a single speed 29er.  Especially since everyone else had 26inch wheel, 4 to 6 inch travel, full suspension bikes.  But the moment I swung a leg over the saddle, gripping the handlebars, 5.10s on flats (those are all I brought to Vancouver with me), I knew I was going to have a great time.  It took me a couple minutes to adjust to the larger wheel size, but after that, I was off like lighting.  The trails in Burnaby park were nothing to scoff at.  Skinnies around blind turns, baby head littered ruts, tight twist and turns, roots galore, and skinnies training course.  It was everything opposite from what we have in SoCal.

The cockpit is very comfortable.  The Judan feels similar to all other Norco bikes.  If you’ve never ridden a Norco the feeling I get is of stability and control.  Body position always feels very centered, steering is the complete opposite of twitchy without being slow, and the bike comfortable, stable and inspiring at high speeds.

The handlebars are a bit shorter than I  would have liked, but are comfortable.  I think on the size Large and XL Norco should consider 28-30 inch bars and let the end user cut down as they see fit.  There is some flex in the stem, but nothing too great.  Coming from the predominately bomb proof stem world of DH, a bit of flex can be unnerving at first, but after some time on the bike it became trust worthy.

Over all I was able to find a saddled position that was comfy and kept spine from being too far bent over. On long rides my arms never grew tired of supporting my body, like they can do in a more aggressively designed cockpit.

The grips were a bit thin for my taste, but whatever.  Grip is such a specific thing to each bike rider it is almost a shame to sell a bike with grips at all.

Climbing -

Climbing on the a single speed can at times being the easiest thing on earth or the most exhausting.  You don’t really get a choice of it.  The hill is what the hill is and the gear ratio is what the gear ratio is.  But, I found the Judan to be very able to get up most hills without too much trouble.  I’d like to think one day I’d be good at going up hill.  But, even if I lost another 15lbs I’d still be 215lbs, and let me tell you, it takes a lot to get that up a long hill.  But the Judan was never frustrating for me.  Only on really loose trails, going up hill did I really wish for a geared bike.  But someone told me walking was part of the SS game, so, it happens.

One problem I did have with the Judan while ascending was getting the front wheel up over roots.  The front isn’t the easiest thing to pop up.  It can be done, but it does take some fore thought into the trail and your route.

Descending/Handling –

Handling the Judan is simply pleasurable.  The steering is stable and the front wheels goes where you put it.  The bike is able to handle a surprising amount of technical terrain and gave me the confidence to really push it, on a 29er that is.  Having the front fork helps keep the bike on track at high speeds and over loose or rocky trails.  The wheelbase seems perfect for everything except quickly popping the front wheel up.  With the plush fork and 29er rear wheel it takes a good pull to get it up.  Of course setting the rebound a little faster, or having a stiffer fork would help, but I like a plush ride and the ability of the fork to suck up a larger rock.  Turning was pretty easy as well. The bike was able to stay on the chosen line.  Off camber trails posed little issue as well. But I think half of that game is experience. Unless your tire tread is whack.

One thing I truly appreciate about a chromoly fame is the smoothness in the ride it gives you.  Aluminum is so hard, every vibration seeps into your body and a ride can quickly become fatiguing on the hands and body.   The slight flex in the chromo frame gives the bike the ability to soften the trail and add bit of snap from the frame when accelerating out of a corner.

Conclusions -

Overall I have to say I really like this bike.  I’m not sure I’m completely sold on the belt drive concept, but it works well once adjusted correctly.  Otherwise the bike is absolutely great.  A wonderful choice of components, a great look and color combination.  Plus a sub $1799 price tag means it is easily in the reach of your average consumer.

I give the Judan a 9 out of 10.

Overall I’d like to see a better tensioner design and maybe a lip on both sides of the sprockets to make the belt slippage or popping off unheard of.

Value Rating:

5 out of 5 Stars

Overall Rating:

4 out of 5 Stars

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  • LeeL says:

    That’s a strong, comprehensive review Adam. FWIW I totally agree that the Conti tires suck in almost all possible conceivable situations.

  • adam says:

    Thanks LeeL

    - I wouldn’t though say they sux in almost all conditions, I know of better tires, but I also know of worse ones.

    I never pinch flatted – and they do roll very quickly – but if you try to ride more aggressively I’d go for something else.

    Thanks though for the kind words!

  • UniballerJimmy says:

    You don’t look anywhere near 225 lbs. (Does that score me any swag?)

  • rkj__ says:

    Nice review on a very interesting bike. You clearly stated what was your opinion, and what your background and expectations were. The review was quite complete, and well written. Thanks for posting.

  • a2cm says:

    I agree itz a grreat lookin bike and very good quality parts ………with one exception the tires I had the 26″ version of the the Mountain queens and by far the worst tire I have ever owned ! lasted 90 days and too many flats to even try and count absolute garbage designed with one purpose in mind and that is to take your money ! otherwise looks like a great ride

  • francois says:

    These tires are awesome but they are not ideal for all conditions. For most, these work great in the rear then complemented by the Rubber Queen in the front.

  • Paul says:

    Would really like to finde out how tall you are Adam???
    I am a heavy and tall rider so to see in comparizon whether the bike will be suitable for me too
    Thanx

  • James says:

    Do you offer a version with the Shimano Alfine hub?

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