Review from Bicycling Magazine
TO MOST CYCLISTS, NORCO IS PERHAPS BEST KNOWN for its North Shore-inspired mountain bikes, but the Canadian brand was, in fact, first established in 1964 to build road bikes. Today, models with skinny tires, including road and commuter bikes, make up about half of its line. The Tactic is the company’s latest high performance offering and its only race bike.
Norco’s previous road racer, the CRR, was a stiff model designed with input from the Continental Symmetric pro team that competed on it. But many modern road bikes are more than just unyielding rocketships like the CRR; these days, frames are also designed to smooth rough roads. Rather than update the older model, Norco decided to replace it with the Tactic-a model that addresses comfort in a way that the old frame did not, without giving up any speed. To add compliance in the places it’s most needed, the company’s engineers borrowed the curved seatstays from Norco’s Valence endurance road bike and adapted them for this racier model. The result: stays that absorb some road chatter while still rapidly transferring power to the wheel the bike eagerly jumped ahead when I pedaled hard.
Norco didn’t only emphasize creating a comfortable ride-the Tactic 1is also lighter than the CRR, and its chassis is stiffer. The company didn’t change the geometry. Both models share the same sharp angles, including a short 17cm head tube (on our 58cm test bike). The low front end lets riders get into an aggressive position to help them corner confidently and hide from the wind. Anyone who would like a more upright stance should consider the Valence or use an up-angled stem.
There are six versions of the Tactic, built around two frames. What sets each frame apart from the other is the type of carbon material used in its construction. This bike, the Tactic 1, has a frame that weighs 880 grams (claimed) and is built of a 46-ton carbon material. The lower-cost frame weighs 1,040 grams and is built of 24-ton carbon, a difference that should result in a slightly different feel on the road (we haven’t ridden the heavier version).
The Tactic’s frame has an airfoil-shaped seat tube and other designs intended to improve efficiency in a strong wind, an increasingly common trend on highend road bikes. Indeed, the company claims that the frame moves through the air more efficiently than the older CRR. But the bike looks less slick than proven aero bikes like the Scott Foil, Cervelo S5, Specialized Venge, or BMC TimeMachine TMROl. We can’t say for sure, though. Norco used computer modeling to assess the bike’s aero characteristics, but has not tested the Tactic in a wind tunnel. On the road, it was difficult to tell the difference between this bike and a non-aero road frame.
But the bike’s aerodynamic efficiency-or lack thereof-should not affect your enjoyment on the macadam. The Tactic does an admirable job of smoothing bumps while remaining responsive to input from the rider. It’s not the stiffest bike in its class, but it delivers a crisp, smooth ride that I never found jarring. Regardless of road surface, I could slice down descents without wavering. In fact, the Tactic reminded me of the widely lauded Cervelo R3-a well-balanced bike that is stable yet easy to maneuver in a pack or on fast group rides.
This model is also a great value. The Tactic 1 that I tested comes with better than expected components for the price, including Shimano’s Ultegra drivetrain, Easton wheels, Fi’zi:k’s Arione Mg saddle, and cushy Clement Strada LGG 25mm tires. The parts are worthy of racing, but also appropriate for all-day recreational rides. In that respect, they are ideally suited to the Tactic-a fast, comfortable, mild-mannered bike that many different kinds of riders can enjoy -MattAllyn