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Norco Fluid HT 1 Review

A serviceable hardtail mountain bike that lacks any exciting ride characteristics
The Fluid HT 1
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Price:  $1,699 List
Pros:  Sharp handling, solid cornering abilities, Eagle drivetrain
Cons:  Weak fork specification, tires miserable over loose terrain, super-tight cockpit
Manufacturer:   Norco Bicycles
By Pat Donahue ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 22, 2019
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66
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#10 of 12
  • Fun Factor - 25% 7
  • Downhill - 30% 6
  • Climbing - 30% 7
  • Build - 15% 6

Our Verdict

The Norco Fluid HT 1 is serviceable hardtail mountain bike at an attractive price point. This bicycle has a well-rounded personality, and it never feels too out of place in any situation. Climbing is smooth, comfortable, and relatively efficient. Downhill performance is decent, but it has a preference for berm-filled flow trails over choppy and chunky downhills. While this bike is a noble performer in most situations, it never delivers that grin-inducing wow factor that some of our other bikes do. The Fluid HT is Norco's entry-level, trail-worthy hardtail and the price tag and component specification reflect this. While the geometry is well-sorted, the fork, tires, and brakes are not ideal for pushing this bike to the limits. Regardless, the Fluid HT 1 is an okay value for the right rider who wants a simple, effective, and attainable entry into the world of mountain bikes.


Compare to Similar Products

 
This Product
Norco Fluid HT 1
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award  
Price $1,699 List$2,150 List$2,550.00 at Competitive Cyclist$1,599 List$1,499 List
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Pros Sharp handling, solid cornering abilities, Eagle drivetrainHigh value, fun on a wide range of terrain, dialed geometrySwift climbing, sharp handling, excellent valueExcellent descender, high-end fork, excellent pop out of cornersExcellent high-speed stability, great traction, capable on rough terrain
Cons Weak fork specification, tires miserable over loose terrain, super-tight cockpitPoor fork specification, less compliant frame compared to outgoing modelNot as fun on rough trails, 11-speed drivetrainNo dropper post, weak tire specificationGeometry could be awkward for some, no dropper post, long wheelbase
Bottom Line A serviceable hardtail mountain bike that lacks any exciting ride characteristicsA stellar hardtail that is tremendously fun, versatile, and a solid value.A swift-climbing hardtail that could serve as a daily driver or a cross-country race bikeAn aggressive descender with an impressive build kit despite a couple notable drawbacks.An aggressive hardtail built for high speeds with some geometry quirks.
Rating Categories Norco Fluid HT 1 Specialized Fuse Expert 29 Ibis DV9 NX Meta HT AM Essential Whyte 901
Fun Factor (25%)
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8
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6
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8
Climbing (30%)
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Build (15%)
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Specs Norco Fluid HT 1 Specialized Fuse... Ibis DV9 NX Meta HT AM Essential Whyte 901
Wheel Size 27.5"+ 29" 29" 27.5'+ 27.5"+
Weight (w/o pedals) 29 lbs 8 oz 29 lbs 14 oz 26 lbs 8 oz 29 lbs 8 oz 28 lbs 2 oz
Frame Material Aluminum Aluminum Carbon Aluminum Aluminum
Frame Size Tested Large Large Large Medium Large
Available Sizes XS, S, M, L, XL XS, S, M, L, XL S, M, L, XL S, M, L, XL S, M, L
Fork RockShox Sektor RL 120mm RockShox 35 Gold RL, 130mm Fox Float Rhythm 34 RockShox Yari RC, 160mm, 35mm stanchons RockShox Recon RL Gold 130mm, 32mm stanchions
Wheelset Novatec front Joytech rear hubs, Alex MD-35 rims Specialized Stout Alloy SL, 29mm ID Ibis Hubs, Ibis 938 Alloy rims E*Thirteen TRS, w/ Formula Hubs, 35mm ID WTB i29 w/ Boost hubs, 29mm ID
Front Tire WTB Ranger 2.8" Specialized Butcher Grid, Gripton, 2.6" Schwalbe Hans Dampf 2.6" Vee Tire Co Flow Snap 27.5 x 2.6 Maxxis Forekaster 27.5 x 2.6
Rear Tire WTB Ranger 2.8" Specialized Purgatory Grid, Gripton, 2.6" Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.6" Vee Tire Co Flow Snap 27.5 x 2.6 Maxxis Forekaster 27.5 x 2.6
Shifters SRAM NX Eagle SRAM NX Eagle SRAM NX 11-speed SRAM NX 11-Speed SRAM NX 11-Speed
Rear Derailleur SRAM NX Eagle SRAM NX Eagle SRAM NX 11-Speed SRAM NX 11-Speed SRAM NX 11-Speed
Crankset SRAM NX 175mm 30T SRAM NX Eagle DUB SRAM NX 30T SRAM NX 32t SRAM NX 30t
Bottom Bracket SRAM DUB Threaded SRAM DUB Threaded SRAM GXP XR Press Fit Threaded
Cassette SRAM NX Eagle PG 1230 11-50T SRAM NX 11-50T SRAM PG 1130 11-42T SRAM PG-1130 11-42t SRAM PG-1130 11-42t
Saddle Norco XC Specialized Bridge Comp WTB Silverado 142 Ride Alpha Whyte Custom
Seatpost TranzX YSP18JL 130mm TranzX dropper 150mm travel 34.9mm diameter KS E30i Dropper Ride Alpha Rigid Whyte Rigid
Handlebar X6 Alloy 750mm Specialized Stout Riser 780mm Ibis 780mm Alloy Ride Alpha 780mm, 31.8 clamp Whyte 760mm
Stem Alloy 60mm Specialized Stout Ibis Ride Alpha 40mm Whyte 40mm
Brakes Shimano Altus BR-M201 SRAM Level TRL SRAM Level SRAM Level SRAM Level
Grips VP lock-on Specialized Trail Lizard Skins Charger Evo Ride Alpha Whyte Lock-On
Warranty Five Years Lifetime Seven Years Five Years Four Years

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Fluid HT 1 is a good bike and it'll get you out on the trails  we think there are better options at this price.
The Fluid HT 1 is a good bike and it'll get you out on the trails, we think there are better options at this price.

Should I Buy This Bike?


It is 2019, and there is an increasing number of compelling hardtail mountain bikes in the $1,500-$2,000 price range. New technology trickles down to lower price points every year, and we are now seeing 12-speed drivetrains and dropper posts in this price range. Yes, there are a lot of great options for the budget-conscious buyers. Unfortunately for the Fluid HT 1, we feel you can do substantially better with other bikes at a similar price. The Norco is not a bad bike, but there are better options. If you stumble across a deal on this bike, it could still be a viable option for some newer riders who want to get out on the trails. As they say, cash is king.

The Editor's Choice Award-winning Specialized Fuse 29 is best hardtail we've tested. Without sounding too harsh of our stealthy Norco, The Fuse does virtually everything better. We tested the aluminum Expert model which sells for $2,150 and rolls on meaty 29 x 2.6-inch tires. The new Fuse has modern trail bike geometry that delivers excellent all-around performance. It's not the fastest climber, but it certainly won't leave you hanging on the ascents. On the descent, the Specialized delivers a high fun factor, solid handling, and a surprisingly confidence-inspiring and capable ride for a hardtail.

If you want to put in some serious miles on a fast and light hardtail, the Ibis DV9 is a mile-crushing bike. The DV9 is a versatile bike that leans towards the cross-country application. The Ibis uses relatively conservative geometry that lends itself to tremendous power transfer and efficiency. This hardtail is far and above the best climber that we have tested. Steering is direct, and handling is razor-sharp. Don't go thinking the DV9 is simply a cross-country, weight-weenie, bike. It is a fun descender that rips down flow trails and uses its quick-witted personality to slice through rock gardens. The DV9 is available in carbon fiber only. We tested the entry-level build kit which retails for $2,550.

Do you like the idea of a gravity-oriented enduro bike? Does the idea of a full-suspension bike seem a little complicated and expensive? Good news, we tested a couple of excellent, aggressive, hardtails. The Whyte 901 and Commencal Meta HT AM are ripping bikes that blend the super-aggressive geometry with the simplicity of a hardtail. Both of these bikes are exceptionally confident at speed or on steep terrain. Given the downhill-oriented geometry, these bikes feel glued to the ground as the speedometer rises. The downside is some awkward and bulky handling at slow speeds or in tight spaces. As one might expect, climbing is less efficient and requires a bit more energy compared to the other bikes we tested. Still, gravity fiends will love these bikes that both sell for around $1,500-$1,600 with solid components but without dropper posts.

Taking the Norco out of its comfort zone.
Taking the Norco out of its comfort zone.

Frame Design


The Fluid HT is constructed out of good old-fashioned aluminum. Aluminum frames are less expensive and more resistant to rock strikes and crashes. The frame has a sleek and stealthy look that might be mistaken for a far more high-end bike at first glance. The Fluid HT can run 27.5+, 27.5, or 26+ wheels. 26+ will lower your ride height slightly. Our bike came stock with 27.5+ wheels. One quirk about our test bike is that it has 141mm rear spacing. Not 142mm…141mm.

We measured our large test bike and found it to have a 640mm effective top tube and a 442mm reach measurement. The head tube angle measures 67.7-degrees while the seat tube angle is 72.7-degrees. The bottom bracket is 322mm off the ground with the stock 27.5+ wheels. The chainstays are 432mm, and the wheelbase is 1170mm. Our large HT 1 hit the scales at 29 lb 8 ounces setup tubeless and without pedals.

Design Highlights


-Available in aluminum frame only
-XS-XL frames available
-Runs 27.5+ (tested), 27.5, or 26+ wheels
-Build kits range from $975 to $1,699.
-Designed around 120mm fork

-141mm quick-release rear axle

The downhill performance of the Fluid HT 1 is best suited to the low-key rider and mellower trails.
The downhill performance of the Fluid HT 1 is best suited to the low-key rider and mellower trails.

Downhill Performance


The Fluid HT offers decent downhill performance that is highlighted by its fun and snappy cornering abilities. This is not the bike we want to ride on substantially rocky or rooty trails, that said, it can be quite fun on fast and flowy trails. The 2.8-inch WTB Ranger tires are a bit of a curse and a blessing. They roll fast and perform well on hardpack but can be a nightmare on loose or sandy soil.

The descending position aboard our Norco is compact and a little cramped. Standing up on the pedals, the 442mm reach measurement is quite short on a large frame. This short cockpit has two main effects. On the one hand, the short reach paired with a low-slung top tube, shorter wheelbase, and stout chainstays create somewhat of a dirt jumper feel. It is quite easy to throw this bike around, and it is easy to get it airborne or lean into a manual. On the other hand, the short cockpit can feel sketchy when charging down singletrack as fast as you can. It interferes with proper weight distribution and reduces stability.

The Norco can still get after it on descents  but you've got to dial it back a bit due to the geometry  tires  fork  and brakes.
The Norco can still get after it on descents, but you've got to dial it back a bit due to the geometry, tires, fork, and brakes.

The Norco is not the bike for you if you plan on riding chunky terrain. We suggest looking to bikes like the Specialized Fuse, Commencal Meta HT AM, or Kona Big Honzo ST. The Fuse has a well-designed frame that mutes the trail surface a little bit and the 3.0-inch tires offer some damping. The Meta HT AM is built for hard-charging with its ultra-slack geometry. The Kona Big Honzo ST has meaty tires and a steel frame that provides a comfortable ride. The Fluid HT feels out of place in rough terrain. The weak fork specification, short wheelbase, and relatively steep head tube angle simply don't play well. It is challenging to keep this bike under control when the going gets bumpy, and it feels like you could go over the bars at any given moment.

While this bicycle isn't much fun in rock gardens, it fares far better motoring down flow trails. While the steeper head tube angle detracts from confidence on raw and rugged trails, it creates sharp and direct handling. On the right soil, this bike can be a blast. It rolls quickly, encourages boosts and shenanigans, and slays corners. Simply dip a shoulder, and the Fluid HT rips through corners. The short rear end creates a nice snap out of the turns. This bike does have a high fun factor if you find yourself on a trail with well-laid-out corners.

The Fluid HT 1 is in its element on smooth and flowy trails.
The Fluid HT 1 is in its element on smooth and flowy trails.

Trail surface is an extremely important factor for this bicycle's downhill performance. The WTB Ranger 2.8-inch tires work well on hardpack trails. They roll fast and have a decent bite to them. When the trail gets loose, sandy, or mixed, things go south in a hurry. Testers had a difficult time controlling the front end, and the front wheel broke away quickly with little warning. This was especially problematic when rolling into a rock garden where this bike needs a clear entry. Losing the front end in your time of need is a one-way ticket to disaster. As a result, it is difficult to recommend this bike with these tires in certain areas, like the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where traction can be an issue.

The HT 1's build kit was poor and negatively affected downhill performance. The RockShox Sektor RL fork is mediocre at best. It is difficult, if not impossible, to set this fork up to feel good. It is far from smooth, and the chassis is noodly and flimsy. The entry-level Shimano hydraulic disc brakes get the job done if your speed is under control. When the trail gets steep, or you're carrying a head of steam, they feel a little weak and underpowered. We have discussed the WTB tires at length by now. The takeaway? They are decent on hardpack soil and far less impressive in loose conditions.

Climbing Performance


The Fluid HT is a respectable climber. Testers found that it was a bit more well-rounded on the climb compared to the descent. Handling is sharp, and the front wheel stays grounded through uphill switchbacks. Power transfer is okay, and with its reasonable 29.5-lb weight, it feels fairly efficient.

Like most hardtails  the Fluid is no slouch on the climbs.
Like most hardtails, the Fluid is no slouch on the climbs.

The climbing position is reasonably comfortable. The slacker, 72.7-degree seat tube angle, leaves something to be desired. If you look down while spinning in the saddle, it is clear the bottom bracket is significantly forward of your hips. This detracts from efficiency as it is more beneficial for power transfer to be on top of the bottom bracket. The short reach is less problematic when climbing as opposed to descending. The slack seat tube angle puts you behind the bottom bracket. Since the bottom bracket is one of the points from which you measure reach, being significantly behind the bottom bracket makes the reach seem longer.

Steering is direct on the ascent. It is easy to change directions quickly to find a smoother and more pleasant line. The Fluid works through sharp switchbacks with ease. Longer and slacker bikes require a well-laid-out game plan and clean entry into a corner, the Fluid HT does not. If you find yourself on a bit of a funky line, you can correct the mistake given the shorter wheelbase and quick steering. When it is time to punch up some rocks or choppy section, the Norco handles well-enough. With tire pressure around 19-21 PSI, this bike delivers decent traction. It is beneficial to get up and out of the saddle to save your body from getting beat up.

It climbs relatively well and has plenty of range with the NX Eagle drivetrain.
It climbs relatively well and has plenty of range with the NX Eagle drivetrain.

The component grouping worked well on the climb. The NX Eagle drivetrain is a nice specification on a $1,700 bike. We often find 10 and 11-speed setups on bikes in this price range. The Norco's 50-tooth climbing gear is breezy when paired with a 30-tooth chainring. The WTB Ranger tires fared far better on the ascent compared to the downhill.

Photo Tour


The Fluid HT 1
The Fluid HT 1 is a stealthy and attractive looking bicycle with a stiff aluminum frame.
The RockShox Sektor fork looks fancy but it is hard to tune and feels a bit flexy.
The NX Eagle drivetrain provides a good range for this bike and is a nice spec at this price point.
The Fluid HT 1 has a comfortable and well-appointed cockpit. No complaints here.
Dropper posts and hardtails are an excellent combination. The model on the Fluid worked well for us during testing.
WTB Ranger tires are ok but lack the cornering traction we were looking for.
WTB Ranger tires are best suited to smooth and firm trails  they are a little sketchy in anything loose or chunky.

Value


At $1,699, the Fluid HT is an average value. On-trail performance is decisively fine but it doesn't shine in many situations. The build kit is a mixed bag with highlights featuring a dropper post and NX Eagle drivetrain while notable lowlights are the RockShox Sektor fork and tires with multiple personality disorder. To put it simply, there are better bikes in this price range.

Cruising on the Norco. It's a good bike but can't quite match the competition in this review.
Cruising on the Norco. It's a good bike but can't quite match the competition in this review.

Conclusion


The Norco Fluid HT 1 is a wallet-friendly hardtail mountain bike that lacks any legitimate, standout, ride characteristics. Climbing performance is respectable, but downhill performance is too one-dimensional for our liking. At $1,699, this bike represents an average value that may be a serviceable bike for novice riders. Still, there are better options at this price.


Pat Donahue