On March 16th
, Norco Bicycles officially celebrated 50 years in the bike business. We’ve been imagining, designing, producing and, most importantly, riding bikes for a long time. And when you’re a part of something for a long time – the bike industry, for example – you tend to take a longer view on things.
Technology has evolved at an incredibly rapid pace over the past five decades – faster than at any other time in human history. As a consequence, the world we take for granted today would have been science fiction to the people of 1964. Just imagine travelling back in time to 1964 to try and explain smart phones, the internet and gluten-free beer… Crazy, right?
The rapid evolution of bicycle technology over the past fifty years has been equally remarkable. When we really dig into some of the monumental changes we’ve experienced in bike design, it is interesting to consider the influence technology has had on culture, and vice versa.
As you may have learned in Sociology 101, technology and culture are inextricably linked. Same goes for bike technology. Because of this connection, technology tends to become more interesting and meaningful when we consider it in its cultural context. In honour of our fiftieth birthday, then, let’s take a quick look at the bike technology/culture relationship – and let’s do it through a Norco lens:
1966 The Rail (Northern Cycle Industries)
The high-rise coaster had a distinctive look that made it a favourite among North American youth in the 1960s. Complete with chopper-inspired “ape hanger” handlebars, banana seat and sissy bar, there was no better bike for cruising the meandering streets of the ‘burbs. The fact that parents weren’t particularly fond of high-rise coasters helped make them even cooler. Bikes like the ’66 Rail inspired youngsters the world over to develop a lifelong passion for bikes, and quite a few of them still work at Norco.
1978 Norco Avanti
Throughout the 60s and 70s, European 10-speeds took over North American roadways. Major races like the Tour de France were now being televised, and we all wanted to ride bikes in the same style as those we watched ripping down the Col du Galibier. To satisfy this appetite, Norco began importing French-made Gitane bikes in the late 60s, and we started producing our own 10-speeds in the mid-70s. While the Avanti isn’t exactly a Tour bike, it helped to deliver the look and ride that cyclists were looking for in 1978.
1983 Norco Starfire Team Bike
In the 1970s, North American kids began using their bikes to poach laps on motorcross tracks. Norco responded with the MX 1200, a moto-influenced full suspension BMX and one of the very first of its kind. Bicycle Motor Cross (BMX) bikes eventually lost their suspension, and the sport followed two distinct branches: race and freestyle. The Starfire was our top-of-the line BMX race bike, piloted to three National Titles by the Norco Factory Team from ‘83 to ‘85.
1992 Norco Rampage
During the 1980s the mountain bike took over in a big way. With our home base in the Pacific Northwest, mountain bikes were a natural fit for Norco. Early on, we took a leading role in driving the MTB phenomenon. Over the years, geometry and technology were refined and the rugged terrain outside our back door demanded a more capable bike. Enter the 1992 Rampage – the industry’s first front suspension-specific mountain bike frame.
2001 Norco VPS Shore
Throughout the 1990s, a group of innovative mountain bikers were busy creating a whole new style of riding on Vancouver’s North Shore – Norco’s back yard. “Shore” trails were (and are) incredibly steep, rugged, full of rocks and roots and wet about half the time. This new style of riding demanded a new style of bike: bombproof for managing huge impacts, yet highly maneuverable for tackling steep, technical terrain and treacherous skinnies. Norco responded with the VPS Shore – and the rest is history.
And that’s essentially how Listen, Innovate, Ride plays out over the span of five decades. There are a great many other Norco innovations we could have focused on, but we would need much more space than we have here. It always comes back to the fact that we are a proudly Canadian company full of passionate cyclists. We’re out there riding the trails, roads and pathways with you, relentlessly imagining, developing and producing technologies that help us all have more fun on our bikes. You inspire us to make cooler, faster, more capable bikes, and hopefully we inspire you to ride every day like it’s your last time on two wheels.
Thanks for joining our ride, and for inviting us to be a part of yours.Le 16 mars dernier, Norco Bicycles célébrait officiellement cinquante ans de service dans