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REVIEW: 2010 Norco Faze 3

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REVIEW: 2010 Norco Faze 3

Old 08-03-10, 08:01 AM
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REVIEW: 2010 Norco Faze 3

A little over a year ago, I hade occasion to visit the Spanish island of Tenerife.

While I was there, I took a mountain bike tour up and down a volcano on a full-suspension Bionicon. This bike is unusual, in that the front and rear suspensions are hydraulically interconnected. There is a button on the handlebars that allows the gemotry of the bike to be reconfigured on the fly - compress the front suspension and extend the rear, and it becomes a climber; extend the front and compress the rear, and it's a downhill rig.

On the long, long, long slog up the mountain, I had occasion to marvel at how useful the rear suspension was for climbing. Rather than having to carefully pick my line as I would on my own hardtail, this bike ould just plow over anything - ruts, roots, rocks; it just mowed them all over. (Which was welcome, becasue aftr the first 2000' of climbing I was in no shape to avoid anything, I was head-down and grinding my way up the hill)

And when we finally summited, press the button and PSHHHHHST! Downhill rig. And what a downhill! 65km/h down a potholed fire road? No problem! The bike felt like it was on smooth pavement, even though the ground was as rough as all get out.

I finished the ride with the brakes literally on fire. How could that not be fun?

I came back from that ride with a whole new appreciation for what a full suspension rig could really do, and it made it very difficult to go back to my poor old hardtail.

Notwithstanding, there is no justifiable reason for me to own a bike like that Bionicon. I live in Windsor, where the largest hill for 100km barely rates a single contour line on a topo map. We have lots of great s, swoopy singletrack, but nothing even vaguely close to Tenerife or Whistler. So, back to my hardtail I went.

But after that experience, riding the hardtail felt like driving a basketball. I became increasingly aware of how much the requirement to carefully pick out line and square up for obstacles really did limit my speed. And I started keeping my eye out for a full-squish rig that would meet my riding style.

Plus I want to buy Canadian - you know, show a little national love.

So I had an eye out for a Norco Faze, Devinci Moonracer, Rocky Mountain etc. And this weekend, my favourite LBS had one in the shop window, at an amazing price... so I bought it. I probably shouldn't have, but I just couldn't resist.

As per usual, the manufacturers offer a single frame per category and then differentiate models within a category by changing the specs on the components. The Faze 3, being the entry level Faze, comes with a basic RockShox Tora XC springer fork with a rebound adjuster, Deore 9-speed transmission, a RockShox air shock with a rebound adjuster, Juicy 3 hydraulic brakes, basic Shinamo wheels, and a Norco-branded cockpit. Higher-end Faze models come with lighter wheels, better forks/shocks, and XT/XTR transmission bits.

But thanks to my upgraded hardtail, I had a variety of better-grade components ready to swap on. An afternoon of work installed a RockShox Recon 351 air fork, an Easton EA-70 cockpit, SRAM X-9 rear transmission, and CrankBros Acid pedals. All the lesser-spec parts from the Norco went back on the hardtail, so whoever buys it will get some new stuff.

The net effect of the upgrade was to drop a little weight off the bike and help it fit me a little better, but it didn't constitute a radical change in spec. Indeed, now the bike is mostly a Faze 2.

With the parts swapped over and the sag set, it was out for a ride. Riding on the street on the way to the trailhead mostly the same as my hardtail. Hammering hard felt a little bit dead on the pedals - just the tiniest bit, a sensation that power transmission was no longer perfectly instantanious - but no bob or pogo-ing. Firm, but not rigid.

But once on the trail... wow!

I was expecting the rear suspension to take the edge off bumps and roots, and it did that in spades. There is a little connector trail between two sections that has two 2" diameter roots half-mooned on it. On the hardtail, there's a slight pause as you go over them; a squaring up and lightening up the rear end before hitting them. On the Norco - full power over the roots with no slowing down. It was like that all over the trail; it was ridiculous how much more speed I was carrying because the trail wasn't kicking me offline and I didn't need to compromise line to account for obstacles.

And the added rear traction enabled the bike to accelerate HARD - out of corners, over bumps, and (most surprisingly) up hills.

Riding up the backside of the one big hill in Windsor, I encountered someone on a hardtail scratching his way up the path. The track is wide enough for two, but one side has a deep runoff-rut in it that is full of baby-head rocks. On impulse, I popped into the rut and zipped up the hill, passing the hardtail who had the smoother path. Rocks and bumps don't bounce the bike around, and the rear wheel stays planted which produces more driving force.

On the downhill, the bike isn't as unruffled as the Bionicon was. There isn't that feeling of being able to mow over any obstacle. The Faze is NOT a downhill rig. But the rear suspension helps take the edge off and really helped on the braking when I had a sudden panic-stop when a jogger popped out onto the line.

Overall, it is incredible just how much faster the rear suspension makes the bike. The single biggest problem I had out on the trail was misreading how much speed I was carrying and having to dodge trees on corner exit. I spent 3 days of riding giggling like an idiot because I was having so much fun.

My sole complaint is that the bike is a touch on the heavy side. The lower-end component spec (even after upgrades) means the bike is fairly hefty at about 30 lbs. At some point, it is going to have to go on a dit.

For those who may be wondering if the suspension on an XC bike really makes all that much difference - hell yes, it does. I'm very, very happy with the new sled and for the first time in a while I'm looking forward to hitting the trails.

Highly recommended!

RecceDG is offline  
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