Dirt Rag Magazine

Review: Norco Truax

By Eric McKeegan,

Norco is Canadian, Canadian enough to have a bike dedicated to riding on the famed North Shore of Vancouver, with the descriptive name “Shore.” The Shore was a long-running model, but it was time to up- date it. Rather than make improvements, Norco chose to start from scratch in order to take advantage of advancements in materials, manufacturing and suspension design. The result is the Truax, a bike designed to handle anything the skilled, and slightly mad, trailbuilders of British Columbia can throw your way.

The frame might not look very different from most others at 10 feet away, but get up close and this is an impressive piece of engineering and manufacturing. The first thing to notice is the lack of welded on clevises for the suspension pivots. Norco took advantage of modern aluminum manufacturing techniques to form and then machine the pivots right into the ends of the tubes, ensuring accurate alignment, adequate stiffness, and low weight.

 

Add in forged pieces for the one-piece link arm, bottom bracket shell with ISCG 05 mounts, main pivot, 142×12 dropouts, and rear disc post mount and it is very obvious how much thought went into this bike’s design. It’s a shame all the work that went into this frame isn’t more visually obvious.

The rest of the frame has plenty of shaped and formed tubing, a tapered head tube and upper pivot integrated into the seat tube. All the pivot hard- ware is stainless steel. A chainstay-mounted front derailleur completes this well thought out package.

The Truax Two build kit is best described as simple and solid. A 2×9 drivetrain has plenty of gears, although I would have liked to see a 34 (or even 36) tooth granny gear on the cassette. The stock 32 is pretty steep with the 32/22-tooth chainrings for a bike this heavy. The Sun Equalizer rims held up fine, even as I managed to pinch flat the stock single-ply Nevegals pretty regularly.

The Avid Elixr 203mm (front), 180mm (rear) brakes had plenty of power, but the rear did fade a bit on long descents in Whistler. Cockpit parts are plenty sturdy, as they should be, this bike is made to handle abuse.

I was fortunate enough to sample this bike on my home terrain as well as at Whistler. I was impressed with how well the Truax handled every- thing from smooth flow trails to more natural, gnarly singletrack. As one would expect, a bike with 180mm of travel and a 65.5° head angle is made to descend.

The 65.5° head angle might sound slack to some, but compared to modern downhill bikes the Truax maintains a good bit of maneuverability and nimbleness, which is great for people who like to change lines a lot and find every last lip to launch off. As a relatively new gravity rider, I’ve found that a true DH bike is more confidence inspiring, but I was still able to tackle terrain that would have terrified me on a shorter-travel bike.

Obviously the head angle isn’t the only thing going on here, even with 440mm chainstays, the wheelbase isn’t out of control at 1159mm, on my medium tester, which makes for a pretty manuverable bike. The Truax loves to blast through rock gardens but can get nervous at high speeds.

I was able to get down and carve corners, while still being able to change direction without the relying on the combination of body English and brute force required by many DH bikes.

The almost comically big RockShox Totem fork (40mm stanctions) worked fine for me. The top-mounted compression clicker made it easy to dial out some bob while climbing and tune out brake dive while descending. The Fox Van R rear shock gets by with only preload and rebound adjustments. It was nice to set up the suspension once and ride; no worries about high and low-speed compression, bottom out control, etc. Multiple mid-size hits at high speed seemed to overwhelm the Totem, but speeding up the rebound helped to keep the fork operating in its sweet spot and offered more pop off lips.

One thing I’m usually hypersensitive to barely crossed my mind with this bike: stiffness. The frame, wheels and fork worked in harmony, with just the right level of stiffness to never think about it.

It can’t be all about going down, at least if you ride anywhere other than a lift –served park, so I rode the Truax all over the place, even on XC rides where it was a bit of a howitzer at a fist fight. With the addition of a dropper post (cable guides are provided, natch), I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t a complete mess out there.

It is pretty easy to make a bike that will make its way up a fire road to the next ripping decent, it is harder to make something that can get up more technical climbs and handle a good bit of flatter terrain too.

Now, you don’t want to stand up and pretend you are sprinting for the line in some spring classic road race, but sitting down, even without the smoothest spin will make quick work of most hills with little fuss from the rear end. Hitting up some the technical singletrack at home makes me realize just how capable this bike is. Some stuff I looked at before as kind of sketchy was dispatched at a much lower heart rate and much higher speed.

The only real issue on XC rides was the weight (40 lbs is 40lbs regardless of how well it pedals) and technical climbing. Care needs to be taken to keep pedals, crank arms and bash guard from contacting trail obstacles, and wresting this bike up steep stuff gets old fast. Expect to walk up some of this stuff unless you are mighty strong and stubborn.

The man-made stunty stuff I rode revealed the Truax to be very much at home. The front end comes up when needed, the wheelbase wasn’t too long to make it hard to stay on curvy stuff, and the suspension was capable of handling large drops. I would have probably been happier on the large, rather than the medium I tested. A bit more front center length would have made me less nervous on the steep stuff, which was where I found myself squeezing the brakes and second-guessing myself.

The Truax stands out in the crowd of 170-180mm travel bikes, it is neither a mini-DH nor an air-sprung heavy all-mountain bike, but a coil sprung bike with enough gears and pedaling performance to self-shuttle to the trailhead. It also doesn’t shy away from big lines in the bike park, while still maintaining enough agility to get through tight and twisty trails. What else to call this but the next evolution of the freeride bike?

Tester stats

  • Age: 37
  • Height: 5’11”
  • Weight: 155lbs.
  • Inseam: 32”

Bike stats

  • Wheelbase: 45.6”, 1,159mm
  • Head Angle: 65.5 degrees
  • Seat Tube Angle: 72 degrees
  • Bottom Bracket: 13.2”, 355mm
  • Chainstay Length: 17.3", 440mm
  • Weight: 38.5lbs, 17.5kg
  • Sizes: S, M (tested), L
  • Specs based on size tested

 

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