Dirt Rag Mag Reviews the Norco Fluid 9.1
February 28, 2014
We love riding $10K wonder-bikes as much as anyone, and probably more than most. But all that bling can spoil us. Feeling the need to pull our heads out of the clouds (some might say out of our asses), we hunted down six $2,500 full-suspension trail bikes, loaded them into the van, and headed south from Pittsburgh to the Stokesville Lodge in Harrisonburg, Virginia, to ride the rowdy trails and reconnect with bikes that have price tags well below the cost of a new motorcycle.
There are basic similarities with the six we chose: All have hydro-formed aluminum frames, tapered forks and air rear shocks. Not a single piece of carbon fiber anywhere-but lots of WTB rims and saddles. Almost every bike needed wider bars, and that is coming from a bunch of tight-woods riding Easterners. And not a single fork had stanchions over 32mm wide-the Camber only had 30mm stanchions.
Nearly every bike had bars, stems and dropper posts swapped out for personal preference and comfort. We tried stock tires, but switched those when the wet, leafy trails demanded more aggressive knobs. We’d consider this pretty par for the course for most experienced riders setting up a new bike. As for the dropper posts, that is just simple math: How many mountain bikes would be improved by the installation of a dropper post? All of them.
While there was some bellyaching before the trip, along the lines of ruining a fall riding retreat with less than top-of-the-line machinery, everyone stopped complaining from the first ride onward. For the price, these bikes are a much better deal than many two to four times the cost.
hese longer-travel 29ers had very distinct personalities. At 30-35 percent sag, the Fluid suspension is active and plush, needing to be tempered with the Float CTD shock’s Trail setting. Adjusted back to 20-25 percent sag, it feels much more balanced and largely eliminates the need for switch flipping and knob twiddling. The Horst Link suspension design has a reputation around the Dirt Rag office as not being the most pedal-friendly, but with a higher air pressure, the Fluid 9.1 is a set-it-and-forget-it bike that climbs without significant suspension movement sapping your energy. The long wheelbase and big wheels actually make it amazingly capable over short, steep and techy power-climbs.