The Norco Revolver 2 was a completely unknown bike to our testers until late December of 2011. It is now a highly recommended bike by the crew that rode it over the last couple of months. It went through 4 testers and myself in that time. On arrival, all of us were very impressed with how complete this package was for the price ($3,350 MSRP). With a killer color combo and many house branded and OEM parts perfectly color coordinated, the Norco looks very tight and put together. Looks are fun and all but it was the ride that got the 29erOnline crew excited.
Climbing: The Norco Revolver 2 is a solid climber. It responds well to pedaling. We have ridden bikes that have a snappier feel, but not by a large margin. The suspension never felt mushy and, unless you are staring at the shock while you are pedaling, it doesn't feel like the shock is bobbing at all. Geometry wise the Norco is very neutral when climbing. I felt a tiny bit of the wheel wanting to flop on some steep climbs but, with a little bit of good form, the sensation went away. What the Norco lacks in raw acceleration it gains in tight switchbacks and slow speed, climbing technical ability. I haven't ridden a bike with better slow speed manners. You will need to ride with a little bit of awareness, as the bottom bracket felt a little low but it was easy to get used to. To be completely fair with regards to climbing, I am at the extreme tall end of fitting this bike. I had tons of seat post showing, and was running a 100mm stem which is longer than stock and definitely longer than I like. Even with these modification, the size medium Norco was still a little small for me at 6’2”. To sum up climbing, we didn't get any complaints from the testers, but no one raved about it either. It seemed as everybody enjoyed their time climbing. I personally never felt like the bike was fighting me when climbing; it’s just not as snappy as others.
Descending: This bike is a handling machine on the downhills! Throw it into a berm and this bike comes alive. Throw your hips into a turn, and feel this bike whip into it. Bunny hops and pumping terrain are awesome on the Norco Revolver 2. When doing direction changes and being in the air, the Norco feels right at home. Getting onto your back wheel is excellent. I have only ridden two other bikes that could hang with these traits in the 29er world. However, what the Norco gains in agility, it compromises in high speed stability. That said, the Norco is more stable than most 26ers that I have ridden, until you hit the 6 inch travel range. When compared to other 29ers, it isn’t as sure footed but I would gladly trade in ultimate stability for this sort of playfulness.
Parts: The Norco is an excellent value and it has a well thought out parts kit. It is mostly SRAM X7. The drivetrain has been trouble free, even after throwing the derailleur into the wheel in a derailleur hanger failure. There is some hesitation compared to XO, XTR, and XX kits. However, it is made up of really solid, reliable, work horse components. It's hard to justify more. The Elixer 5 brakes are powerful and reasonably weighted. There is a pulsing at the lever that is characteristic of most SRAM brakes I have ridden. Regardless, the power is excellent, and easy to control. We experienced two issues with these brakes: First, the rear got very soft after 3 months. Most likely this is due to having air in the lines. This can probably be solved by a bleed. The second problem is that they use DOT fluid. DOT fluid is effective as far as performance, but environmentally bad, and very hard on the finish of your bike and your skin.
The OEM cockpit is really great. No complaints; it's pretty light for aluminium parts, looks great, and has given us no problems. I was skeptical of the hubs when we first received the bike. They are an OEM hub and, usually, OEM hubs are completely lackluster. However, the Norco's hubs were smooth, pretty quiet, and they stayed that way for the entire test despite our best efforts to abuse them. We had them in terrible mud. Then, they were on the back of the truck for days in the rain during a road trip. Despite all this, I have done no service to them and they are running as smooth as the day we got them. There is no need to change them. I would ride them until they quit, which could be a very long time! On a side note, we ran a DT Swiss RWS rear axle with no problems, so switching from the stock axle, which requires tools to remove, to something tool-free is easy..
The Norco Revolver 2 is very easy to set up. The fork has a chart on it that gets you close with minor air pressure adjustments after that to make it feel how you like. In the rear we started at just under our body weight and worked from there. We all settled on 25% sag for a balance of comfort without getting too deep into the shock’s travel.
There were only two real complaints about the Revolver 2. The first was the Kenda Slant 6 tires. They are fast, but sacrifice confidence and functionality on the terrain this bike is capable of hitting. The bike has much more ability than the tires will let the rider achieve. The good thing is tires are easy to change. The second complaint is that the suspension pivots came loose 3 times during our test. Again this is easy to fix with hex head keys. A little bit of Loctite seems in order.
Smaller nits to pick. The rear axle needs tools for removal (see above note) There are many really good systems out there. The DT-Swiss RWS system is one of my favorites. It provides tool free rear wheel removal. Another small issue is that 4 of the rear spokes came loose. Not a little loose, like flopping around in the wind loose. We tightened them down and have not had a problem since. Whatever shop you buy the bike from should handle this, especially if it happens a month after getting the bike, as we experienced.
One really cool feature is that the frame houses a bolt in it on the non drive side ahead of the bottom bracket on the down tube. Why the random bolt? The rear derailleur hanger has a breakaway bolt. The bolt in the frame is a replacement should you break the original on the trail. The breakaway bolt is a great idea, as it's easy and cheap to replace a bolt and the repair can be done trail side. By contrast, if the derailleur breaks, you would have to shorten your chain and ride it off the trail as a single speed, which is less than ideal on a bike made to run gears. In this case, you need a new derailleur and chain which would be about $150 dollars between the two. With the breakaway bolt, it might cost you $25. In addition, you would be able to finish your ride . Just remember to order a replacement bolt to put it back in your frame should you need it again.
Who Should buy the Norco Revolver 2 ?
This bike is a trail bike. It would do well in endurance races, or 24 hour races at the Sport level. It would also serve well for the racer that needs comfort more then he needs to scrape out every drop of efficiency. Jamie did a 40 mile race on it. He would have been happy racing it again if time had allowed. It is a little light on the suspension to be an All Mountain bike. However, for the recreational Enduro rider, the Revolver 2 is plenty capable, but not necessarily the best tool for the job.
The Norco will be most appreciated by the rider that rides it all but puts the most emphasis on handling and playfulness. The Norco's strength is its ability to be maneuvered. Conquering slow speed tech, and tight, technical switchbacks (climbing or descending) is where the Norco felt at its best. To be put hard into a berm, thrown off a jump, and bonked off logs, the Norco is perfect. What it loses in all out efficiency and speed it gains in fun. If your emphasis is on racing there are other better suited bikes. Conversely, what the Norco loses in brawn, it gains in finesse. The Norco isn't bad at anything, but the extremes of climbing or descending are better handled by other bikes. At everything in between, the Norco is a blast.