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Norco Torrent A1 HT Review

A hardcore hardtail that craves speed and aggressive terrain but is held back by some weak parts of its build
Norco Torrent A1 HT
Photo: Laura Casner
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Price:  $2,099 List
Pros:  Aggressive geometry, fast and stable, Deore 12-speed drivetrain
Cons:  Several notable weak points of the build, aggressive geometry feels a little out of place on mellow terrain
Manufacturer:   Norco Bicycles
By Jeremy Benson, Joshua Hutchens  ⋅  Apr 21, 2021
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79
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 8
  • Fun Factor - 25% 8
  • Downhill - 30% 9
  • Climbing - 30% 7
  • Build - 15% 7

Our Verdict

The Norco Torrent HT A1 is an aluminum-framed 29er hardtail with aggressive all-mountain geometry. This long and slack bike has a 150mm travel fork and it likes to go fast downhill and doesn't shy away from steep, aggressive terrain. It's no one-trick pony, however, as its short rear end helps to keep things sporty and playful when you want it to be. The simple fact that it's a hardtail makes it a relatively efficient climber, and a steep seat tube angle makes for a comfortable on-top pedaling position. Our main gripe with the A1 build we tested is that several of the component choices detract from this bike's ride feel and downhill shredding potential. This is undoubtedly an awesome hardcore hardtail, though we think aggressive riders might be happier with one of the higher end builds or building their own up from the frame.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Norco Torrent A1 HT
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award 
Price $2,099 List$2,150 List$1,999 List$1,899 List$2,579 List
Overall Score Sort Icon
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86
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80
Star Rating
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Pros Aggressive geometry, fast and stable, Deore 12-speed drivetrainHigh value, fun on a wide range of terrain, dialed geometrySolid value, mostly well spec'd, versatile geometry, 27.5-inch wheels help keep it maneuverable and playfulAggressive geometry, built to last, killer tiresSwift climbing, sharp handling, excellent value
Cons Several notable weak points of the build, aggressive geometry feels a little out of place on mellow terrainPoor fork specification, less compliant frame compared to outgoing modelA little bland on mellow trails, SRAM SX Eagle drivetrainMay be overkill for riders/trails, sluggish in tight spacesNot as fun on rough trails, 11-speed drivetrain
Bottom Line A hardcore hardtail that craves speed and aggressive terrain but is held back by some weak parts of its buildA stellar hardtail that is tremendously fun, versatile, and a solid valueAn aggressive yet unapologetically fun and playful 27.5+ hardtail that is a blast to ride on a huge range of terrainAn aggressive hardtail with the DNA of an enduro bike that comes alive as speeds increaseA swift-climbing hardtail that could serve as a daily driver or a cross-country race bike
Rating Categories Norco Torrent A1 HT Specialized Fuse Ex... Commencal Meta HT A... Rocky Mountain Grow... Ibis DV9 NX
Fun Factor (25%)
8.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
Downhill (30%)
9.0
9.0
9.0
10.0
7.0
Climbing (30%)
7.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
9.0
Build (15%)
7.0
8.0
9.0
7.0
8.0
Specs Norco Torrent A1 HT Specialized Fuse Ex... Commencal Meta HT A... Rocky Mountain Grow... Ibis DV9 NX
Wheel Size 29" 29" 27.5"+ 29" 29"
Weight (w/o pedals) 31 lbs 29 lbs 14 oz 30 lbs 4 oz 31 lbs 3 oz 26 lbs 8 oz
Frame Material Aluminum Aluminum Aluminum Aluminum Carbon
Frame Size Tested Large Large Large Large Large
Available Sizes S, M, L, XL XS, S, M, L, XL S, M, L, XL S, M, L, XL S, M, L, XL
Fork RockShox 35 Gold RL RockShox 35 Gold RL, 130mm RockShox Yari RC, 160mm RockShox 35 Gold RL Fox Float Rhythm 34
Wheelset Stans Flow D rims with Shimano hubs Specialized Stout Alloy SL, 29mm ID Spank Oozy 395+ rims with Formula hubs WTB ST i30 TCS 2.0 rims with Shimano MT400 hubs Ibis Hubs, Ibis 938 Alloy rims
Front Tire Schwalbe Hans Dampf 2.35" Specialized Butcher Grid, Gripton, 2.6" Maxxis High Roller II EXO, 27.5" x 2.8" WTB Vigilante TCS Light High Grip 2.6" Schwalbe Hans Dampf 2.6"
Rear Tire Schwalbe Hans Dampf 2.35" Specialized Purgatory Grid, Gripton, 2.6" Maxxis Rekon EXO, 27.5 x 2.8" WTB TrailBoss TCS Light Fast Rolling 2.6" Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.6"
Shifters Shimano Deore M6100 12-speed SRAM NX Eagle SRAM SX Eagke SRAM NX Eagle SRAM NX 11-speed
Rear Derailleur Shimano Deore M6100 12-speed SRAM NX Eagle SRAM SX Eagle SRAM GX Eagle 12-speed SRAM NX 11-Speed
Crankset Shimano Deore 32T SRAM NX Eagle DUB SRAM X1 1000 Eagle, 170mm SRAM SX Eagle 30T SRAM NX 30T
Bottom Bracket Shimano BSA Threaded SRAM DUB Threaded SRAM DUB Threaded SRAM BSA DUB SRAM GXP XR
Cassette Shimano Deore 12-speed 10-51T SRAM NX 11-50T SRAM PG-1210 11-50T SRAM PG-1210 11-50T SRAM PG 1130 11-42T
Saddle Fi:zi'k Taiga Specialized Bridge Comp Fabric Scoop Flat Sport WTB Volt Race 142 WTB Silverado 142
Seatpost Tranz-X YSP18 150mm TranzX dropper 150mm travel 34.9mm diameter KS Rage-I Rocky Mountain Toonie Drop KS E30i Dropper
Handlebar 6061 Alloy, 800mm, 18mm rise Specialized Stout Riser 780mm Ride Alpha R27 Rocky Mountain AM 780mm Ibis 780mm Alloy
Stem 6061 Alloy, 50mm, 35mm clamp Specialized Stout Ride Alpha Freeride 40 Rocky Mountain 35 AM Ibis
Brakes Shimano MT420 4-piston SRAM Level TRL SRAM Guide T 4-piston Shimano MT420 4-piston front, MT400 2-piston rear SRAM Level
Grips VP Lock-on Specialized Trail Ride Alpha DH Rocky Mountain Lock-on Light Lizard Skins Charger Evo
Warranty Five Year Limited Lifetime Five Years Five Years Seven Years

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Torrent was made to ride fast and tackle aggressive terrain.
The Torrent was made to ride fast and tackle aggressive terrain.
Photo: Laura Casner

Should I Buy This Bike?


If you've found this review, chances are you're already pretty interested in a hardcore hardtail like the Torrent HT A1. Riders who tackle super aggressive terrain and like to ride fast are who this bike was made for. Sure, it's a hardtail, but Norco spliced its DNA with a full-on enduro bike which is where it got its length and slack front end. In fact, this bike is longer in reach and wheelbase and a full degree slacker than most full suspension trail bikes we've tested recently. All that length and 29-inch wheels make it eager to go fast, and it's impressively stable when up to speed. The slack front end, 150mm fork, and long reach are also just begging to attack the fall line, yet the short rear center/chainstay length keeps the rear end sporty and maneuverable. A nice steep seat tube angle props the rider up nicely for efficient power transfer and tackling techy climbs. Yes, this bike is designed to rip, but several key components of the A1 build we tested felt pretty under-gunned for its hard-charging intentions and potential. We understand that Norco was trying to hit a certain price point with the complete build, but an expert-level bike with entry-level parts isn't an ideal combination. That said, if you're looking for a niche bike like this, then you probably already have an idea of the build you want, and we're willing to bet it doesn't look anything like the spec we tested. Fortunately, Norco makes the Torrent HT in both aluminum and steel frames in a range of builds. They also sell it as a frame-only in steel so you can build your dream enduro hardtail from scratch.

The Rocky Mountain Growler 50 is a very similar bike to the Torrent. In fact, their geometries are nearly identical and their build kits and prices are too. Both bikes clearly have the same downhill shredding intentions and have some lower-end components that hold them back from true greatness. The Rocky Mountain has a little bit of a leg up on the Torrent with its SLX/XT drivetrain, 40mm stem, 170mm dropper (size large), and properly aggressive 2.6-ich wide WTB tires. These differences may seem trivial, but they do help the Growler feel a bit burlier and better able to keep up with itself on the descents. The Growler comes in three complete builds ranging in price from $1,039 to $2,099.

The Torrent A1 has a flashy red paint job and a geometry as long and...
The Torrent A1 has a flashy red paint job and a geometry as long and slack as an enduro bike.
Photo: Laura Casner

Frame Design


The Torrent HT A1 has a full 6061 alloy frame, and ours came with a beautiful, eye-catching gloss red paint job. It rolls on 29-inch wheels and comes with a 150mm travel reduced offset fork. The frame has internal cable routing, a bottle cage mount on the downtube, and a mount on the underside of the top tube for a tool kit or other accessories. This bike does not come with any integrated chainstay protection, and we'd recommend immediately adding some to quiet it down in rough terrain. It comes in sizes S-XL.

The Torrent HT has geometry numbers that are reminiscent of those you'd find on a long travel enduro race rig. There are several similar hardtails on the market, which we like to call hardcore hardtails. All sizes come with a slack 64-degree head tube angle, a nice, steep 76-degree seat tube angle, and a 333mm high bottom bracket. Reach measurements increase by 30mm per size, from 420mm on a small to 510mm on an XL. Our size large measured with an effective top tube length of 639mm with a 480mm reach and 1,240mm long wheelbase. Large and XL frames have a 425mm chainstay/rear center length while small and medium frames are 5mm shorter at 420mm. Our large test bike weighed in at 31 lbs set up tubeless and without pedals.

Design Highlights

  • 29-inch wheels only
  • 150mm travel fork
  • Long and slack geometry
  • Boost spacing
  • Threaded bottom bracket
  • Comes in aluminum (tested) and steel frames
  • Aluminum-framed builds from $1,649 to $2,099 (tested)
  • Steel-framed builds from $2,499 to $3,399.
  • Steel frame-only goes for $799

The Torrent is a speed demon that doesn't shy away from steep or...
The Torrent is a speed demon that doesn't shy away from steep or rough trails.
Photo: Laura Casner

Downhill Performance


A quick look at the geometry chart of the Torrent HT and its clear that this bike was designed to shred on the descents, and that's where it truly shines. It craves high speeds and steep, aggressive terrain, yet it remains reasonably maneuverable with a sporty and flickable rear end. Unfortunately for the Torrent HT A1, a number of the parts attached to the frame seriously detract from its downhill shredding potential.

We feel the Torrent HT A1 is a bit of a quiver bike for the aggressive trail rider that wants to ride gnarly terrain on a hardtail, and Norco gave it a decidedly aggressive geometry to back up its trail-slaying intentions. In fact, the Torrent models are listed with their All-Mountain bikes and not the Trail category. Make no mistake, this bike is indeed slack with a 64-degree head tube angle, and quite long with its 480mm reach and 1,240mm long wheelbase on our size large. Those numbers combine to give the Torrent excellent stability at speed and a confident behind-the-front-wheel feeling when rolling into something steep or chunky. The 29-inch wheels roll fast, carry speed well, and a 150mm travel fork helps smooth out the front end. The Torrent isn't exclusively about riding fast or down the fall line, however. The 425mm rear center/chainstays keep the back end of the bike feeling lively, and it's easy to manual, pop a side hit, and slash corners. For as long and slack as the Torrent is, it's not just a lifeless plow machine, it feels pretty well balanced in a range of downhill scenarios. Of course, it can feel like a bit of a handful in super tight terrain or at lower speeds, but that's to be expected given its length and slackness.

The Torrent remains reasonably playful with short chainstays that...
The Torrent remains reasonably playful with short chainstays that seem to encourage some shenanigans.
Photo: Laura Casner

While testing, we tried our best to push the Torrent and ride it in the terrain it was intended for. We could definitely sense this bike's potential, but we never felt completely comfortable going super hard on it due to what we feel are some poor component choices. We experienced many flashes of brilliance, and we know what this bike is capable of, but considering the fact that it's a hardtail with a stiff aluminum frame, we were looking for a little more compliance and forgiveness, and we weren't finding it where we felt it was needed. Obviously, concessions were made to keep the price of this bike down, but they didn't do it any favors from a performance standpoint. Our takeaway: yes, this bike is sick, but you might want to consider getting the steel frame and building up your own shred-ready Torrent, or be ready to upgrade parts on this build over time to get it up to speed.

We know the Torrent can be an amazing bike, but the A1 build left us...
We know the Torrent can be an amazing bike, but the A1 build left us wanting is several important areas.
Photo: Laura Casner

First and foremost, the RockShox 35 Gold fork is relatively sturdy but nearly impossible to make feel good. It gives this bike an unrefined and poorly damped suspension feel, and no matter what we tried it still felt twitchy and awkward. Tires are an easy place to give a bike a burly feel and help dampen the ride, and while the 2.35-inch Schwalbe Hans Dampf tires are a versatile option, they are pretty narrow and low volume with flimsy sidewalls and relatively non-aggressive tread. More aggressive, more supportive, and higher volume tires would do absolute wonders for this bike's ride feel and handling. In the cockpit, the 50mm stem feels out of place, it lengthens the reach and just doesn't feel right. We'd swap it out for a stiffer, shorter stem immediately. The 150mm dropper post is fine, but we'd like to see a longer travel dropper come on a bike with a 480mm reach. On a more positive note, the 4-piston brakes felt adequately powerful, despite the long throw levers having a cheap look and feel.

It may be a touch heavy, but the Torrent feels relatively efficient...
It may be a touch heavy, but the Torrent feels relatively efficient with a properly steep seat tube angle.
Photo: Laura Casner

Climbing Performance


The Torrent HT A1 is a relatively comfortable and efficient climber. It's no zippy XC race bike or anything, but it's still a hardtail after all. The seated pedaling position is comfortable, and it scoots up climbs in much the same fashion as other models we've tested with similar geometry. Again, the components are a mixed bag, but mostly good on the uphill.

The aggressive modern geometry of the Torrent HT is a bit of a double-edged sword on the climbs. Of course, we all love steep seat tube angles these days and 76-degrees is properly steep, especially for a hardtail. This puts the rider right up on top of the cranks/bottom bracket, and power is transferred straight down into the pedals and feels as efficient as it should. This up-top position also helps keep the rider's weight from being out over the rear wheel and when tackling tricky technical sections of trail. The 1,240mm wheelbase and 480mm reach are quite long, and when combined with the slack 64-degree head tube angle this bike can feel like a handful in tight turns/terrain, especially at lower speeds. These factors, and short 425mm chainstays, also lead to the front end feeling a little light and wander-y on super steep climbs. That said, it's pretty easy to pop wheelies on this bike for the same reasons, a tradeoff we're pretty willing to accept.

The Torrent climbs well, although the front end feels a little light...
The Torrent climbs well, although the front end feels a little light in steep terrain, and it can be a handful in tight spaces.
Photo: Laura Casner

At 31 lbs, the Torrent HT isn't exactly lightweight, but it doesn't really feel heavy while climbing either. This bike rolls fast, and its 29-inch wheels help smooth over small bumps and rock edges. The 2.35-inch Hans Dampf tires roll relatively quickly and have good climbing traction on a wide range of surfaces. They don't have lots of air volume, however, and the higher pressure we felt the need to run in them to prevent flatting on descents didn't provide as much damping as we would have liked while climbing. The rear end of this bike is stiff, and it definitely felt a little jarring while climbing rougher trails in the saddle. We feel that some bigger, badder tires would make a big difference. The reach of this bike is also on the longer side, and the 50mm stem only makes it feel even longer. We think a shorter, stiffer stem would be an improvement. The Shimano Deore 12-speed drivetrain is a thing of beauty. It may be the budget option in Shimano's line, but it shifts precisely and works much better than low-end SRAM shifting in our opinion.

Photo Tour


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Value


This bike is a decent value, although if it were ours we would likely feel the need to lay out some additional cash right away to upgrade several things to make it feel burly enough to match its geometry and aggressive attitude. We'd be more inclined to get the Torrent S2 for $2,499 with a more complaint steel frame and beefier wheels and tires, or get the Torrent S frame for $799 and build it up with parts that are better suited to the style of riding this bike was intended for.

Conclusion


The Torrent HT A1 is an aggressive hardtail made for riding terrain where most people don't ride hardtails. This long and slack bike likes to go fast and attack the fall line, but it isn't opposed to playing around a bit too. We're sure it's obvious by now, but the component specification of the A1 build we tested just can't match the capabilities of this hard-charging hardtail. This in no way implies that the Torrent HT is a bad bike, we think it's a great bike with poorly chosen components. If you're looking for a hardcore hardtail, this bike should definitely be on your list, but like almost any bike in this price range, be ready to upgrade parts or build one up yourself.

The A1 build we tested leaves a bit to be desired, but there's no...
The A1 build we tested leaves a bit to be desired, but there's no doubt that the Torrent HT is an excellent option for the hardcore hardtail crowd.
Photo: Laura Casner

Other Versions


Norco makes the Torrent in aluminum (tested) and steel frames. The A1 build we tested is the more expensive of the two aluminum framed builds offered. The A2 goes for $1,649 and comes with a Suntour Zeron35 fork, 11-speed Shimano Deore drivetrain, and Tektro 4-piston brakes.

The steel-framed Torrent S is sold as a frame only for $799, and it comes in two complete builds. The S1 is the top-of-line model at $3,399. It comes very nicely spec'd with a RockShox Lyrik Ultimate fork, a Shimano SLX 12-speed drivetrain, Stan's Flow S1 wheels with XT hubs, and beefy Maxxis tires.

The Torrent S2 retails for $2,499 and comes with a RockShox 35 Gold fork, Shimano Deore 12-speed drivetrain, 4-piston brakes, Stan's Flow S1 wheels, and aggressive Maxxis tires.

Jeremy Benson, Joshua Hutchens