2012 Norco Sight 1 Extended Review

All Mountain Trail

By Steve Sheldon and Chris Barker

Back in May, I wrote some initial impressions on the Sight 1 by Norco, but like many short term bike reviews, it’s always a bit tricky to be totally objective when you are in the honeymoon phase, with a shiny new bike under you that is functioning perfectly and everything is tight and fresh. Since most people own bikes for at least a season, it’s good to know how they hold up to a full summer of abuse, and even though it may no longer be the current model, part selection and longevity of the frame speak volumes about the company and its approach to building a bike.

Since the preliminary review, we have seen amazing amounts of rainfall in the late spring, and have had the driest late summer in 116 years! Loads of rain, and dry dusty trails are perfect for testing out the toughness and durability of any bike product.

Through the test, the bike has been to the Chilcotins for some high alpine epics, it has been in the Nimby 50 XC race, The Four Kings staged enduro race in Whistler, handled everything from flowy smooth alpine meadows to the chundery roots and rocks of Vancouver’s North Shore. I even took it into Whistler Bike Park, which the bike handled fine, but a couple of runs was more than enough! If one had to be limited to having one bike to rule them all, this would be a definite contender.

Further Impressions
Most of my initial impressions have not changed too much, the Sight is an incredibly fun, nimble and very capable bike. Even after a season of riding hard, everything feels fresh and tight. The bike’s playful characteristics has had me popping off every root to catch air at every opportunity, and I always take the harder lines, since the Sight begs for it! The fun-factor is something that often gets overlooked since it’s not easily quantifiable, but in this instance, it’s cranked to 11. As mentioned in the short term review, geometry on the bike is great, short chainstays and a decent length top tube with a slack (but not ungainly) head angle keep the wheels going where you want them to. Where the Sight truly excels, is technical climbing; rooty, rocky trails, loose dirt and steep, the back wheel never loses composure, and keeps the traction (No thanks to the stock tires), nearly every time, it was my legs that gave out before grip became an issue.

The great thing about riding a bike for a full season, is finding all the small annoyances, problems with the frame and components and how things wear out, basically the stuff that doesn’t show in short term reviews that really can change the experience of owning a bike. Overall, apart from a few scuffs, mostly cable rub, the frame has held up incredibly well. There were a couple of places where cable rub was significant. Under the bottom bracket shell, the shift cable had rubbed through the paint and left a shallow indentation, not enough to be damaging, but I could not see an obvious way to route the cable to stop it from happening. Where the dropper post hose runs along the top tube the paint is scuffed quite badly, and the white scuff marks really stand out against the black paint. On the subject of the dropper post, the Reverb has been totally flawless, and it’s function has been consistently excellent.

The fork’s performance has continued to be disappointing, changing the oil made it perform much better, but it’s small bump performance makes rides very fatiguing on the hands, especially with the stock grips (which I swapped out for some Ergon grips that are much more comfortable). The TALAS feels wooden and flexy, especially when compared to other forks in that category, such as the Marzocchi 44 or Rock Shox Revelation or even a standard Fox 32 Float. The performance of the fork was not it’s only issue, as it developed a bad creak in the crown where it interfaces the stanchions, an issue that is seemingly ubiquitous with Fox Forks especially on the 32 platform. The creak did not affect the function, but it was very distracting, and quite often I would find myself altering my lines to avoid making the crown creak.

On Terrain like this, fork creaks are really unnerving, even if you know that they aren’t a structural problem.

A few other creaks and squeaks throughout the frame did develop, but routine maintenance, mainly the bottom bracket and pivots, silenced them. The main pivot bearing in the linkage rocker broke part way through the test period, the inner race of the bearing separated, making it impossible to remove the outer race without causing more damage. The guys at Norco swiftly resolved the issue by replacing the part under warranty. The one piece rocker assembly is incredibly stiff, and because the bearings are pressed in, the piece is reliant on the tolerances being perfect to ensure that over tightening the mounting screws will not sideload the bearings. At about the same time, the screw holding the main pivot together snapped, and was easily replaced with a standard fastener (I am a big fan of using standard mounting hardware for this reason, custom fabrications are costly and not readily available). The design of the lower pivot has been modified for 2013, making the assembly much stronger, and the rocker has higher tolerances according to Dustan Sept, Norco’s PR marketing coordinator. I am a big believer in supporting local bike manufacturers because dealing with warranty issues can be so much faster, and from my experience, Norco has always been excellent in this department.

The damaged one piece rocker link. The outer race of the bearing is still stuck in the rocker. Norco replaced it under warranty very quickly and reported that it is an isolated issue and the cause (tolerancing) is much better for 2013.

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  • Raym says:

    Great review! Your comments were thorough and had a feel of honesty that many bike mag reviews lack. Again props to you.

    When I dream of mountain biking, the trails often look of those on the vid. Sweet single track!

    • Steve Sheldon says:

      Thanks. Being a long term review, it gave me plenty of opportunity to report on the things that a product shot or press camp can’t look at, and in my opinion, things like component choice and manufacturer support are incredibly important in the long run, but are hard to test. Norco has created a bike that remained fun to ride after a full season, with a really solid build kit, and although there were some minor issues, everything was dealt with, and it’s a bike I would recommend to anyone.

  • Gregg says:

    Thanks for the awesome review, Steve! The video is SWEET! I love the beer can knock off at 3:50! Haha!

  • PUNKY says:

    Hopefully you can get out on the 2013 Sight 650B as you would be able to notice difference that weren’t apparent to me

  • Jessie says:

    I do appreciate the tester’s honesty on this review, although there was some sugar coating here. Personally, I wouldn’t be looking to spend 4K on a bike that has a creaking fork and suspension linkage parts that break. For that kind of money, I want a ride that will be _totally_ reliable.

    • Chris Barker says:

      Jessie, thanks for the feedback. Agreed about the suspension linkage however as noted, Norco informed us it was an isolated occurrence and they have improved tolerances for 2013. Read that as you like, we felt it was resolved and reported on it accordingly.

      As for the creaking fork, I would say Fox is the most commonly spec’d brand on mountain bikes these days so it could happen to any bike be it low or high end.

      I can’t think of many bikes that don’t have some sort of reported issues, it’s how they are resolved that is the important factor in my opinion.

  • Jessie says:

    Agreed – kudos to Norco for fixing the suspension. I hope it was a _very_ isolated incident. Nothing like a 10+ mile walk back to the trailhead to make one very annoyed with a bike (and bike manufacturer).

    Why are Foxes being spec’d so often if they are so creaky? Or is that a rare occurence as well?

    • Steve says:

      The broken bearing didn’t leave us stranded. Really, it’s a problem that can happen to anyone, and I’ve seen it happen on a lot of different bikes. What makes the difference is how the company handles the failure. In this case, it was handled exceptionally well.

      I am not certain, but I think that Fox is so prolific because they have the capability to meet the OEM volume. They make a good product, but we the riders are constantly demanding more performance for less money, and in a lighter package. At some point, there will be a problem with that drive. In the case of the creak, it’s a common problem with all single crown forks; you have a long lever pushing on a relatively small press fit interface. Small microscopic movement in the crown causes the noise, although it likely won’t ever fail, it is distracting. As we get into longer travel forks, and start to push them hard, then this problem will become harder to overcome.

  • Jessie says:

    “…but we the riders are constantly demanding more performance for less money, and in a lighter package. At some point, there will be a problem…” That sounds about right. I’d add that as forks are being made more rigid, _some_ part has to absorb the lateral movements. If the fork legs don’t flex, then maybe it falls to the interface you mentioned to absorb some of that energy. I suppose creaking would be a much preferable option to the fork falling apart. Still, it does sound disconcerting.

    Oh, and I wasn’t implying that you folks were left stranded. I was just saying that it _could_ have happened to someone, given a similar problem.

  • Gman says:

    I have an ’06 Fox Talas 32 and never ever creeked ever. I’m a hard charger.
    The travel adjust went bust after a poor judgement front wheel landing.
    Fox fixed that under warranty…
    Not convinced these are minor.
    My Titus ML ’06 has had ZERO issues out of the box and that includes wheels and build.

  • Paul says:

    Hey Steve/Chris,
    Just curious, how would you rank/rate the Norco Sight 1 (26er) to Spec Stumpjumper FSR 26er of similar equipment level? Any direct experience with the Stumpy in same trails to compare apples-to-apples?

    • Steve says:

      The two bikes would compare quite closely. My time on a Stumpjumper is limited, but they do have a similar feel (if you exclude the brain shock). The Specialized is a little stiffer, but the Norco is better value for money. Both are excellent bikes, both use the same suspension design, and ART and Spec’s FSR handle quite similarly.

  • Nate says:

    Where did you find your replacement “standard fastener” for the main pivot? I’ve broken 2 already 🙁

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