Founded in 1964 in Northern Vancouver (aka The North Shore), Norco is a humble Canadian brand that makes mountain bikes that are up to the challenge. The North Shore is thought to be the birthplace of free-ride mountain biking and is, without question, home to some of the gnarliest trails in the world, giving Norco a leg up in testing. It should be no surprise then, that the brand offers one of most understated but efficient women’s trail bikes on the market: the Optic C2.
At first glance the Optic C2 isn’t flashy—there are no bright colorways; just a navy paint job—but look closer and the bike’s details begin to pop. Equipped with a carbon frame, a Sram GX1 12-speed rear-shifter, Sram GX Eagle derailleur, Fox Elite 34 Float fork and Fox Elite shock, the Optic C2 has all the features of most more expensive bikes that fall in the all-mountain range.
Pioneers in off-road bike technology, Norco developed their first full-suspension bike (the MX1200) back in 1973 and have been leading the charge ever since. Many old-school free-riders remember the infamous Norco VPS series of bikes that were crucial in developing the North Shore free-ride scene in the late 1990s, which cemented the area as the riding mecca it’s known as today. Norco have never been afraid of challenging geometry norms, and the Optic is proof of this, with a slack 68-degree head-angle and gravity-tune geometry which assures an optimal wheelbase for each frame size. This combo seems to make descents playful and free-flowing. Really steep descents that would fare best with longer travel bike aren’t an issue for the Optic C2—we found that it just made us have better body position and not lazily rely on the bike to do all the work.
In the fast-paced and ever-growing industry, it seems that every day there’s new tech that promises to make faster riders—but this doesn’t necessarily mean a better rider. The “beefier the bike, the better” attitude is actually producing inefficient riders. (Lest we forget the rigid, heavy, v-braking bikes that the founders of MTB rode harder, on more rugged trails than the pristine machined trails of today.) Although the Optic C2 is a beefy bike for its category, when ridden in all-mountain settings (like when climbing 2,500 feet), we found it to be proficient, responsive and nimble.
On steeper climbs, subtle body movements that are natural to the geometry made spinning out or front nose lifting (common gripes of less experienced riders on carbon bikes) non-issues. Dubbed as an entry-level bike, the Optic C2 proved to set all levels of riders up for success.
Of the 100 miles—over 85 of which were on handmade, rocky and root-covered ground, off-camber alpine hiking trails, rock gardens and loose steep pitches—there were moments when one would think it better suited to enduro/all-mountain bikes, but the Optic C2 was fast on descents and crushed the climbs. Throughout these journeys, we couldn’t help but feel like we were getting away with something. That’s the beauty of Norco’s Optic C2: it reminds you that less can be more and it’s about the riding, not just the ride.
Images by AV Wakefield