Editor’s Note: Along with longtime Mtbr forum member Kent Robertson (KRob), the 2016 Outerbike Test Sessions were conducted by Ben Slabaugh, aka Schlim on Mtbr. Ben, 37, has been riding mountain bikes since he was 12, and today leans toward the XC side of things. This year, the pair headed to Moab, Utah, for the annual Outerbike consumer demo event where they rode as many bikes as possible. These posts are first ride impressions only — not full reviews. However, they stand by their opinions, and feel like they are good at feeling out the true identity, strengths, weaknesses, and soul of any given bike. For each session, they attempted to get set-up and suspension as dialed as possible. Test rides usually lasted 30-60 minutes. All bikes were then rated on a scale of 1-5 for visual impression/looks, climbing ability, descending, cornering, general agility, fit, and an intangible factor. Lowest possible score is 7. Highest is 35.
Check out the entire Outerbike Test Sessions archive.
Good memories of how the original aluminum Norco Sight performed a few years ago (with a Monarch Plus no less) moved me to take a cruise on the Optic. It’s a 110mm rear, 120mm front 29er setup that leans to the XC side of the trail category. The granny smith sparkle finish is awesome in the sun and accentuates the whole package nicely.
The Optic rides pretty much like you would expect a horst link bike to ride, with no real surprises. Without some kind of shock sorcery or ridiculously good geometry, horst link bikes tend to feel pretty bland to me. The rear suspension is very active, and supple, but does exhibit some softness to it under power that a rider coming from the various anti-squat short link setups will notice.
I do think the Float EVOL and the 34 fork are a good pairing and spec on this frame for its intent. The caveat to that statement is that I felt continually like I wanted another inch of travel up front. I also found the stack height too low and biased forward. Throw a longer fork on there, and I would have been fine with the additional propping up, and probably more comfortable.
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The rear triangle is aluminum, which is a perennial head scratcher for me. In 2005, the industry was doing aluminum main triangles with carbon stays. In 2010, it had switched to carbon main frames and alloy stays. In 2016 are we still really doing this on $5000 bikes? I know Specialized and Trek are both guilty of it, but it broadcasts to me that the manufacturer doesn’t trust their carbon to not break. Either carbon or don’t, I say.
I took the Optic on Deadman’s Ridge, which had some good technical sections for a 29er trail bike. It proved to be a good choice with a nice balance to the overall ride and handling. The whole setup was basically very decent overall, but never felt outstanding. The Optic is a bike that I could live with just fine, but wouldn’t really love it.
Outerbike Test Session Score: 23 out of 35.
For more information visit www.norco.com.