MBUK Superbike Feature
One of the original North Shore Machines
Words by Doddy/MBUK
Norco Bikes are a born-and-bred Vancouver company, dating back to 1964. They have very strong roots within the local riding scene, and the North Shore that it revolves around. The Shore boasts the wildest, most technical and punishing mountain bike trails on earth so bikes built to ride it need to be up to the challenge.
Early on, Norco supported the Horst Link design, rolling out their first Horst-equipped model – the FTS-1 – in 1995. This helped them gain notoriety on the North Shore, but it was the VPS 1 in 1998 that really put them on the map. This 100 to 140mm (3.9 to 5.5in) adjustable travel, box framed beast paved way for the VPS Shore, which was released in 2000, and is what you see here – a bike designed to take on the toughest trails on the planet. Based around the Specialized FSR licensed rear end, it was an efficient at pedaling as it was at taking drops.
The formidable riding around North Vancouver means long climbs to get to the top of the runs, so a speed-sapping design wasn’t an option. The FSR linkage rear end is incredibly plus, doesn’t react to braking forces and is resistant to pedal-induced bobbing.
Norco have used the design from the start and, aside from refinements to the pivot position and bearing types, they still use it today.
Built to drop
The Shore had Norco’s own VPS system at the rear end, which allowed for adjustable travel by altering the shock position without affecting ride quality. Huge drops and increased leverage from the development of twin crown forks saw riders constantly ripping head tubes off their bikes; with their rear end sorted, Norco set out to make the front end bombproof.
A huge box-section 6061 aluminium front triangle with a reinforcing boom down tub provided extra strength for hard landings. The seat mast allowed the seat to be will positioned for climbing, combined with a double-drop extendable seatpost so riders could get full saddle height without fouling the frame by lowering a full-length post.
The front end certainly had a ‘love-or-hate’ look but it won over all those who climbed aboard, and impressed anyone who dared to take it to the limits.
The North Shore movement quickly developed with companies like Norco at the forefront, but riders from other countries often didn’t get it.
In particular, many downhill riders would look at bikes like the BPS Shore and see the high bottom brackets, fairly steep head angles and short wheelbase, and dismiss them as poor downhill bikes. They were missing the point. Riding on the North Shore then was all about tackling ultra-technical trails on really steep terrain. Trail builders were building ladders over gullies and were incorporating fallen trees into trail features. The steeper head angle and shorter wheelbase of the VPS Shore allowed riders to tackle these features slowly and surely, even on seriously difficult obstacles – these machines stayed stable even when the riders weren’t.
The tight geometry kept the bike feeling nimble too, despite its fairly hefty weight. The VPS Shore could move with surprising agility, get airborne off drops that would make most riders shrink, and survive the landing again and again. Norco are still making incredibly good bikes today, and they’re not a million miles away from the VPS Shore – but then great design lasts…
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