Norco Shinobi 2011 Review

29er Pro Reviews Video

 

A.R.T. (“Advanced Ride Technology”) suspension

Norco has extensive documentation regarding the new A.R.T. suspension. It’s hard to speak much to this new suspension without reciting company marketing so I’ll summarize and then relate personal impressions in the body of the review. A.R.T. suspension has four main goals: (i) increased pedalling efficiency (ie less wallowing and bob while pedalling); (ii) improved leverage curve (ie. more progressive feel to the suspension); (iii) increased square edge bump compliance (ie smoother ride when encountering obstacles); (iv) improved braking performance (ie suspension performs even while under braking).

Norco is a licensee of Specialized’s FSR four-bar linkage suspension design. A.R.T. tweaks this design by moving the location of the pivot (tilting the rear link lower and slightly forward from the older position). The major accomplishment of this modification is to allow the rear wheel of the Shinobi (or any other A.R.T. – suspended bike) to move not only upwards under impact but also rearwards (watch this video starting at 0:52 for more).

 


This graph of the A.R.T’s wheelpath shows the difference between the 2011 A.R.T. bike and the standard four-bar 2010 Fluid LT; more rearward movement under load as compared to the standard 2010 Horst-link bike


Qualitatively testing the A.R.T.’s characteristics in Vancouver’s North Shore


 

Shinobi XC and uphill performance

I’ve always been a fan of Norco’s implementation of FSR suspension in its downhill application. I’ve not been such a big fan of FSR bikes when pedalling uphill as such bikes would bob and weave like drunken shadow-boxing sailors unless one used a platform rear shock and engaged the platform. This is not true for the Shinobi which pedals steadily without appreciable bob uphill.

The Shinobi is a very effective seated climber; the rear tire has tremendous traction and seems to dig into the ground when grinding or spinning away up uphill. Standing climbing is also a stable affair possibly due to the anti-bob of the A.R.T. system). Having said that, the Shinobi is still a 31 lb 29er wheeled bike. Big wheels need more energy to get going and the Shinobi accordingly suffers somewhat if you need to apply power for small sections. The Shinobi seems to climb best when you get it going and keep it going by applying gradual increments of power. So prepared to be underwhelmed if you have lots of small steep sections of uphills where you need to sprint and recover as the Shinobi will be suboptimal. However, If you have longer more gradual climbs (whether smooth or technical), be prepared to be impressed by what this bike can climb.

Rolling terrain is where 29ers shine and the Shinobi is no exception to this rule. Once you get the bike up to speed if you have the engine to keep the wheels rolling, you’ll find the sweet spot as the greater momentum of the bigger wheels takes you through and over obstacles with aplomb. It’s a truism that you ride a 29er differently than you ride a conventional wheeled bike; simply pick a line and the bigger wheels will carry you through. This is even moreso with the Shinobi where I believe many factors conflate to produce an especially convincingly confident-inspiring ride which allows you attack terrain; namely the exceptional stiffness of the frame, particularly the rear end, the tremendous range and performance of the Rockshox Reba front end; and the impressive performance of the Kenda Nevegal 2.2 tread.

 


 

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About the author: Lee Lau

Lee Lau calls North Vancouver and Whistler BC home. He's had over 15 years experience riding bikes mainly in western North America and in Europe. Unlike many people who learned to ride bikes on North Shore trails, he actually enjoys riding (and sometimes bushwhacking) uphill.


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  • Nitsuj says:

    Nice use of the word conflates. For some reason I thought you were an FSR fan, didn’t you love the Pitch and the LT?

  • leel says:

    Thanks! I really enjoyed the Pitch particularly because it combined so much value in one package and also really liked the Fluid LT that I tested.

    In the Fluid LT I tested I thought the bike really needed platform when going uphill; since then I’ve come to the conclusion that year’s model of DHX Air rear shock suffered from mid-stroke wallow. Its quite possible that its been rectified since other DHX Air’s I’ve tried haven’t had that same deficiency. Bottom line though was that, imo, the Fluid LT’s implementation of FSR was very active. Good for downhills. Hard to control for uphills therefore necessitating platform shocks.

    The Pitch Pro I tested didn’t seem to need platform and would stay planted while pedalling uphill. I’d think these are good datapoints for the perhaps trite observation that the pivot location for FSR implementations is quite important.

    Fluid LT One review here for reference – http://www.nsmb.com/2607-2008-norco-fluid-lt-one-and-two-review

    Pitch Pro review where I guest – reviewed here – http://reviews.mtbr.com/2009-specialized-pitch-pro/4

  • leel says:

    Some more information from Norco:

    Frame weight with shock is 3300 grams (7.27lbs), no shock is 2940 grams (6.48lbs).

    The frame is available on its own and the MSRP is $2280

    Planned changes for 2012 are as follows:

    - Changed tires (Nevegals will be stock)
    - Wider bars
    - Shorter stem
    - Added an outer guard

  • justin says:

    Thanks for the follow up LeeLau. I think I missed the part about the Fluid’s active ride. Would be interesting to have bikes that were favorites a year or two back to be re-ridden and mini reviewed to see if the conclusion at the time has held up or if their performance hasn’t held up over time relative to the new crop of bikes.

    BTW, got change for $.05?

  • Pingback: MTBR’s Two Cents on the Shinobi « News « Norco Bikes

  • Lee Lau says:

    That’s a tough one Justin. It’s hard enough just reviewing a bike let alone doing that kind of compare.

  • Matt B says:

    I enjoyed reading your review. It has stoked my interest in the Shinobi.

    I am definitely looking for an FS 29er XC but with a bit of an all mountain bias. Clearly you found the bike was a capable climber. Any thoughts on gearing, – did you feel the 24 x 36 granny on a 29er was low enough for extended mountain climbs ? Do you think the bike might be a bit on the heavy side for something like the BC Bike race?

  • leel says:

    Matt – I think it would be a bit overkill for the BC Bike Race but only because I know the course and the course favours lighter bikes. Thinking about it that’s because not many races involve 7 days of that much singletrack. While the Shinobi is a pretty good climber all that weight will hurt over the long haul. Consider the Revolver instead which is Norco’s 100mm travel version

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