Norco Phena Review

26er Pro Reviews Women's



phena-03 phena-16

Suspension -
The fork was scary at first. Before it broke in the damping didn’t work at all so it was like riding a pogo stick down the mountain. It also made for energy sapped climbing as the bike bobbed up and down. After the third ride though, (approx. 6-7 hours) the fork began to behave itself and ended up working pretty well. It handled everything from rock drops to twisty corners and jumps without issue and was smooth to boot. It also climbed nicely without being uncomfortable with the lock-out activated. The Tora was a little on the flexy side, but it was only noticeable in rough rock gardens. The rear Rockshox Ario 2.0 has adjustable rebound and air pressure. There’s no compression damping adjustment, but despite that it worked well too. Its set-up was straight forward and it maintained its pressure for the duration of my testing it. I never noticed any air leaks over the 3 months I rode the bike. The combination of the bike geometry and shock made for surprisingly good climbing efficiency and smooth, stable descending. The Phena handled corners nicely with good traction and bump absorption over jittery, slippery sections, as well as choppy rocks and sharp hits. All in all it rode well.



Brakes -
Norco chose the Shimano M-575 brakes with 160mm rotors to stop the Phena. Though not the strongest on the market, they still worked well. There was slight fade, however, on longer, steeper descents (~ 20-30 minutes). For a medium length downhill, say 15 minutes, they’re fine. Anything longer than that and they slowly start to give up. The reach was sufficiently adjustable for my hands to fit comfortably, though the side-to-side placement of the levers was hindered by the shifter pods. This resulted in a compromised two finger grip that was awkward and non-optimal for descending. The cheap solution to this problem would be to cut off the shifter indicator pods. Seeing as how it wasn’t my bike, I didn’t feel like I could make my own permanent modifications. But that one change will make your life much happier.

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  • Ecogeek says:

    I won’t mince words on this one. IMO this is overpriced crap intended to exploit the ignornance of women getting into the sport. Shame. Furthermore, it literally adds insult to performance/value-injury by stereotyping the market segment. To top it off, the graphics used to do so are hideous.
    When a bunch of components including BRAKES need “replacing immediately” then that should be enough to keep away.
    Furthermore, women generally benefit the most from light bikes (less muscle mass to haul them up hills and throw them about, whilst weighing less and so not punishing lighter components as badly that men) – and this is heavy.
    The rear shock is not up to much (I see they use the slightly better, but still low-end Monarch 2.1 on the current model) and the suspension looks like another deceit. Get a *real* Horst-link rear end w a decent shock and brakes from KHS for a much better performance/value. Laughably, Norco list the intended use of this as “All Mountains/Enduro” and “Shore Trails”. Hmmm. Good luck!
    If you buy this and replace parts, it’ll end up costing you more than a decent bike in the first place and it’ll never be high end or light no matter what you did so the gradual upgrade path will not take you v far – other than into debt.
    If you want performance value, there are ways to get it.
    Look at KHS. Or buy a good light frame w high end shock and good suspension design in the sale and also a Motobecane built bike. Take all the parts from the Motobecane and put them on your other frame. Sell the stipped Motobecane frame. Need to know someone w tools for this and a fair bit about component cross-compatibily. Via either of these route, for $3k you end up with a top notch bike all around. If you get the Motobecane in a size larger than you need, then all the cables etc will likely be long enough. Doesn’t matter as you’ll sell the too-big frame and use the high-end one that’s the right size.
    This way you end up w a Yeti, Titus or Rocky Mountain for $3k!

  • Ecogeek says:

    Oh, further to above com: Make sure the cranks are the right length for you if you are swapping stuff between bikes. If you’re 5’10″+ and not short-legged then you can go w 175mm for more leverage – often good for the ladies.
    Shorter ladies or those w short legs (below ~31.5″ inseam) will prob be better off w 170mm cranks, but you lose about 3% leverage – which can be the difference between cleaning climbs or pushing – so look at an 11-34 cassettte so you can still climb anything. Go ladies!

  • Slowup says:

    So here we have a bike advertised on Norco’s website as a capable women’s specific AM rig with some light freeride/shore riding thrown in. Specs indicate weight is a titch over 30 lbs, price is just around the 2k mark and the build is shall we say robust.
    Seems totally believable to me.
    I would suggest that with comments in the above 2nd post regarding what’s “good for the ladies” is more a stereotype than anything Norco did.

  • Ecogeek says:

    Yeah. And I guess suggesting that ladies often using different saddles due to body differences would be equally off the mark and offensively stereotypical too.
    So why do those saddle makers do it? And why to Norco make a women specific bike at all? Lol.
    If you are suggesting that I am wrong about women *generally* having longer legs relative to their torsos than men then you should take that up with every women-specific anything maker on the planet. Including Norco and their Phena right?!
    So the whole point is self-contradicting. Are you campaining against women-specific stuff? I made a point to help beginners get a better fit and a better deal based on real differences that are the entire reason Norco produced this particular product.
    But that is unhelpful AND offensively stereotypical? Sheesh.
    Upset Norco product manager?

  • Ecogeek says:

    And look at the facts in this review. Top of page.
    Height: 5’6”
    Inseam: 33”
    You will not find a v large proportion of 5’6” men w a 33” inseam.
    Oh dear, I did it again. The fact thing.
    Ooooh, those daaaamned facts!

  • Slowup says:

    Here’s some more facts for ya -

    Both the reviewer and yourself mention that the Phena is heavy yet nowhere is the weight actually given. Norco lists the bike at 30.3 lbs which for it’s intended purpose and, yes, even for it’s intended audience is not heavy.
    The reviewer also states that the Phena is somewhat overpriced but at the same time affordable (?). She also goes on to say that the Phena is about the same price as other slightly better spec’d models yet doesn’t give any examples. This information would be very usefull for those interested in comparison shopping.

    More fact:

    Nowhere in the review was it stated that the brakes should be replaced, contrary to what you say in your first post.
    Norco has licensed the Horst Link from Specialized for a good many years; what is not “real” about that??
    Your other comments in your first post about purchasing a light weight frame and stripping parts, etc. etc. to create a high end bike makes no sense in light of the fact the Phena is marketed as a mid-level bike. I think your cost-to-value ratio is somewhat off too if you think you can create a high end bike for $3k going the route you suggest.
    On the other hand I have no argument against bike fit, compatability and so on as these kind of things are so much a personal preference and yes, that includes the pretty pink saddle on the Phena.

    Your stereotypical comments are more along the lines of presumptions in that you have some belief in yourself that the info you’ve provided would be of any use to anyone but yourself.
    Frustrated reviewer perhaps??

  • Ecogeek says:

    Why are you so upset about my pointing out to fellow riders that in my option the Phena can be crushed for value?

    Re brakes. Yeah. Other than the desired “permanent modification” that “will make your life much happier” the brakes are perfect!

    A significantly highER end custom bike than the Phena can DEF be created for $3k *no probs*. Every component would be better!
    For example: $850 Yeti ASR, Titus El Gaupo… frame (depending on what you want to do) from Jenson, Leaves $2050 – 2150 for new components from Jenson and Pricepoint. OE forks can be had for around $200 (Tora (similar to Phena) is $199).
    Sram X.0 build kit $1200 (not even at sale price).
    Leaving $750-850 to play w! Plenty to cover all other costs inc shipping and still fall well within the entirely realistic 3k budget.
    You could splash some of what is left on a higher end fork in the sale.
    I already mentioned the need to know someone w tools…
    BUT with all the spare cash even if you had NO tools you could easily buy all you needed including a nice socket set or bike tool-kit that will last forever and come in within budget.
    What do you need anyway?
    Internet. Got it. Links to and Got.
    BB tool. $13
    Cassette lock-ring tool. $7
    Torque wrench. $30
    A few sockets and hex bits. $50
    Grease. $6
    Multi-tool w chain tool. $12.
    Generic dremel (to cut housing). $30.
    Needlenose Pliers. $5.
    Get shop to press headset or get frame w internal set like KHS XC Team. No cups!..
    If you want to cut the fork steerer yourself then hacksaw, file, clamp and half a brain. $30 for the tools and the half-brain is free.
    So $200 to tool up. And you make that back and then some by being able to do all future maint yourself!
    Knowing your (higher end all around) bike is perfectly setup and maintained forever more: Priceless.
    I concede that adjusting hydro brake-line length is a PITA for noobs. But do it once and it is easy forever.
    Are you going to say next that women cannot do this sort of thing? They can.

  • Ecogeek says:

    Last time I checked all bike components came w clear instructions that are intelligable to *either* sex.
    If I can do it…
    Some websites have forums that help first time builders. Can you think of one of these websites?

  • Ecogeek says:

    Of course, if you take the time to individually select your ‘build kit’ components you can do even better and really end up w a nice machine for v good value indeed esp if you look for sale items.
    For example w a couple of mins research:
    Easton Havoc or XC One wheelset (skewers and rim strips included) $350.
    Monkeylite carbon bars $60.
    PG980 cass $40
    X.9 rear DL and shifters $120
    X.9 front mech. $35
    PG971 chain $20.
    Hayes stroker brakes $140.
    EC-70 or EA-70 or Raceface Deus post $40
    Raceface Deus stem $20
    Women specific saddle $35-40 (Titec Hellcat, WTB speed-she).
    Truvativ Stylo crankset w GXP BB $120
    Set of decent, lightish tires (Mythos XCII 2.1K $30 or Piranah Air Light $40).
    Light tubes $10.
    Cane creek S3 headset $30.
    Jagwire switch housing kit. $20.

    Under $650.
    That leaves *another* $550 free (vs the std X.0 build kit) to splash towards higher end stuff in the build if you desire!..
    Or instead of splashing that cash, you can keep it – thus potentially doing the whole build for about $2500, inc shipping, tools, brake hose adjustment, adapters, new seat-collar, getting a store to press your headset…..
    And have a bike with every component from the frame and shock to the brakes and seatcollar could be equal or better.
    Everything is from just two suppliers so no shipping cost issues.
    And you would be able to do all your own maint in future…
    Thus saving money long term and owning tools that retain some value. These can always be liquidated again later (via eBay for example) recovering a chunk of the purchase price and making the actual cost of ownership even lower (further adding to the PROFIT the tools make you on maintenance long term).
    Or you could just buy the Phena.
    I respect that some would rather do that. But riders on fully custom, all around better machines for the same price must be forgiven for feeling sorry for the poor noobs that are forced to go that route and end up using parts that good riders would say needs “immediate replacement”.
    Ok. Enough here now for people to understand both opinions. And to make their own decision. A third option is of course to still buy a complete bike – but maybe look around cos if I have demonstrated anything – it is that better performance/value IS possible. ;)

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