THE ONE BIKE quiver is dead. Well, it never existed. Never could either, except in the minds of bike manufacturers’ marketing departments, who’ve tried over the years to convince potential buyers that this mythical beast actually exists. A bike that climbs nimbly and descends with aplomb. But unless you’re the type who actually believes in the existence of Santy Claus, the Easter Bunny or a sane US Republican Presidential candidate, you know that no bike can perfect, that there are always going to be compromises. The question is, where?
No, wait. Actually, there’s one other thing about the one bike quiver; it’s not dead at all. For most of us without the funds for a multi-bike stable, that’s all we can afford. One imperfect bike to do the lot—general trail riding, rock-strewn descents, bikepacking, maybe even (though not for me) an XC or marathon race here or there—accepting whatever trade-offs are necessary. Personally, I’ve usually leant towards compromising climbing ability for the descent. But for the next few months I’m trading in my 170mm all-mountain beast for something more nimble: Norco’s Optic 9.2.
It actually seems a bit strange to me being so excited about a bike with just 110mm rear travel. And a 29-er at that. It’s not just that it’s a great looking bike (I mightn’t have thought that fluoro lime would have been my colour, but coupled with the subtle graphics, it completely works).
But over the last couple of years, shorter travel 29-inch trail bikes have been changing. They are—well, at least some are—no longer lumbering beasts. Chainstays have been shortened, improving agility. Head angles have been slackened. And shorter travel doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting bucked all over the place; you don’t need 150mm rear shocks to enjoy the descent. I’ve changed too, or rather, I’m just smarter. I’ve come to the realisation that the trails I usually ride (Newcastle’s Glenrock and Sydney’s Manly Dam/Bantry Bay) just don’t need long travel. I’ve also realised I just wanna ride faster on the flats and climbs and general trail as well.
Without going into the full specs, the 9.2 looks well-suited for harder riding that pushes well beyond XC boundaries. The custom-tuned Fox Float DPS shock, coupled with Norco’s tweaked Horst-link design, provides a progressive rear platform, while the EVOL air sleeve helps maintain rear-end suppleness over smaller bumps; the Boost 148 hub stiffens the rear as well as allowing for short chainstays (just 430mm for the medium); and the FOX 34 forks are stiff, proven performers.
But remember this is a bike about compromise, too. The ART suspension design is firm under pedalling loads, and while the ARC24 hoops aren’t super wide, they are light. And since I’m going to take it bike packing, I’m happy to see the Optic has retained the capability up front to switch easily from a 1x to a 2x drivetrain so I can opt for lower gears.
Check out the Sep/Oct issue of AG Outdoor for the first of several reviews. And check out Norco’s website. You can read there about the 27.5 flavour as well.