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Norco Optic C2 650B Womens 2018 Review

A cross country minded trail bike that makes its money off very impressive climbing abilities.
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Price:  $4,999 List
Pros:  Excellent climber, lightweight
Cons:  Easily shaken on rough trails, weak tire specification
Manufacturer:   Norco Bicycles
By Tasha Thomas, Lani Raspen  ⋅  Aug 29, 2018
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58
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#20 of 29
  • Fun Factor - 25% 5
  • Downhill Performance - 35% 3
  • Climbing Performance - 35% 9
  • Ease of Maintenance - 5% 6

The Skinny

The Norco Optic C2 650B offers a comfortable ride with an upright feel excels at cross-country riding. With the combination of a steeper, 68-degree, head tube angle and moderate 75.5-degree seat tube angle, the rider is suspended directly over the pedals when spinning. This upright feeling detracts from this bike's descending abilities. This bike simply doesn't have the angles to feel confident in technical terrain. In addition. We found that we really had to slide behind the saddle to get in a semi-confident downhill position.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

Finding sneaky and smooth lines is critical on the Norco.
Finding sneaky and smooth lines is critical on the Norco.

Downhill Performance


The Norco Optic C2 operates well at higher speeds on flowing terrain and the 27.5-inch wheels maintain a balance of rolling abilities and agility. That said, this bike should come with a warning label instructing users to avoid rough and choppy terrain. The build kit was decent and was worked well enough.

The Optic has a reasonable 1111mm wheelbase. The 410mm reach measurement on our small frame keeps the rider fairly squared up over the BB. This bike does hover slightly lower to the ground with a bottom bracket height of 334mm. Normally, a low bottom bracket lends itself to better high-speed stability. The Optic is stable and confident on the right terrain and operates with quick handling and impressive maneuverability. When pushed beyond its preferred terrain, it is far less pleasant.

The xc-inspired geometry of the Optic is disconcerting.
The xc-inspired geometry of the Optic is disconcerting.

This bike does not hold its line when attacking rough trails. Off-camber rock gardens and bony trails are problematic. More effort and muscle is required to keep this bike steady and on its line. A sneaky line choice goes a long way as it was easy to rattle its cage when feeding it straight into rocks. We're talking medium-sized rock gardens here and both our testers agreed that it did not feel as comfortable as the Juliana Joplin or Yeti Beti SB5 when the going got rough.

The Optic C7 features components that are respectable and perform well within the intended application. This bike runs a Fox Performance Elite 34 Float 130mm fork and a Performance Elite Float DPS EVOL 120mm shock. Testers found that the suspension performs very well on braking bumps and smooth and buff section of trail. We would have liked to see a burlier fork on this bike as we found the bike rides slightly smaller than numbers suggest and it blows through its travel. That said, there is no denying how well this bike handles quick and precise maneuvers. In addition, this bike is happy engaging in healthy amounts of trailside shenanigans.

The Optic is an impressive climber.
The Optic is an impressive climber.

Climbing Performance


The Norco Optic C7 is equipped with a breezy SRAM GX Eagle and 10-50-tooth cassette making climbing a dream. Charging up the trails with a slightly steeper, 68-degree, head tube angle and 75.5-degree seat tube angle is comfortable and efficient. Working up steep switchbacks is fantastic. No matter how steep, long or nasty the climb, the Optic just casually meanders up the hill.

The Optic has the angles to make it quite the formidable climber. Furthermore, having a 34T chainring gives you that extra ummph when you need that extra punch up steeper technical sections of trail. In mellower climbing scenarios, the Optic propels forward and enables the rider to maintain a cadence that won't tire you out. Yes, a smaller chainring is more relaxing, but there is no denying the power can be beneficial.

Handling is sharp and this bike is reasonably playful.
Handling is sharp and this bike is reasonably playful.

This bike loved to stroll up the trail in both seated and standing positions. Seated climbing efficiency is impressive and you can just sit down and spin it out. That said, on steeper sections of trail, we did find ourselves standing to put a little extra power down. The Optic's platform positions the rider somewhat right over the bottom bracket in an upright forward position when seated and directly over the BB while in a standing position. We love it.

We tested this bike in the dry summer months in the Sierra Nevada mountains. It gets quite dusty and sandy making climbing conditions difficult when the sand got deep. Traction is a struggle in the sandy soil and decomposed granite of this region. The Maxxis Forkaster tires had a difficult time with the soft and loose conditions. It is clear these tires weren't built for loose and sandy conditions. Traction aside, this bike boasts excellent climbing abilities.

The Optic has 120mm of four-bar suspension.
The Optic has 120mm of four-bar suspension.

Frame Design


The Optic features 120mm of A.R.T. suspension. A.R.T. is a simple four-bar system. The main pivot located near the bottom bracket and another about 60% up the downtube that drives a rocker link. There is one more link on the chainstay just forward of the rear axle. Four bar systems have excellent small bump compliance. The downside is they tend to rely heavily on the shock's climb switch to avoid pedal bob.

Our small frame has a 562mm effective top tube and a 410mm reach measurement. The chainstays measure 425mm. The head tube angle is 68-degrees and the seat tube angle is 75.5 degrees. The wheelbase measures 1111mm. Our small bike was impressively light and came in at 27 lbs 3 oz setup tubeless without pedals.

The cockpit set up is slightly awkward and has us scratching our heads. This impression may just be due to the Optic being outfitted with 800mm handlebars. With such large bars on a small bike, they are almost certainly going to be cut down by most women.

Photo Tour


The Fox 34 Performance Elite was the most adjustable fork in the test.
The Fox DPS Performance Elite shock is adjustable  sturdy  and plush.
The GX Eagle drivetrain only contributes to the excellent climbing abilities.
The RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post worked well.
The Maxxis Forecaster front tire was fine.
Climbing traction would improve with a better rear tire.

Build Options


We tested the Optic C2 650b which has a carbon frame. Our bike retails for $4999.

If you want a carbon fiber frame and this build kit seems a little lofty, the Optic C3 sells for $3599 with some downgraded components. This bike has a serviceable RockShox Revelation, GX Eagle drivetrain, and SRAM Level brakes. While this build kit isn't as flashy with the downgraded fork, it will get the job done.

If you want nice parts and don't feel the need to have a carbon fiber frame, the Optic A1 is a solid choice. This bike has a RockShox Pike fork, Schwalbe tires, Shimano XT tires, and Deore brakes. This is a great option for riders not too concerned with weight or stiffness.

All of these build kits are also in a 29-inch version. Taller ladies may benefit from the wagon wheels more, but the extra roll-over abilities could prove valuable.

Hang on tight through the chunder  it can get sketchy.
Hang on tight through the chunder, it can get sketchy.

Value


The Optic C7 has a hefty price tag of $4999. This eyebrow-raising price seems a bit steep for the mediocre downhill performance. This bike can still be a good choice for the cross-country minded rider who doesn't ride many rough trails and doesn't feel the need to push their limits.

Suggested Upgrades


We would have liked to see our test bike outfitted with 760mm or 780mm handlebars. Ladies on a small frame probably don't have super wide shoulders to necessitate the wider bars. In addition, narrower bars navigate tighter trails more comfortably.

Better tires would go a long way. The Maxxis Forekaster tires have to go. A combination of a Maxxis Minion DHF/DHR II would go a long way. Who doesn't love more grip.

The Optic has a strong preference for fast and flowy trails.
The Optic has a strong preference for fast and flowy trails.

Conclusion


The Optic C2 is a solid trail bike that definitely leans towards the cross country application. This bike is especially suited for the rider who wants a cross country capable bike with a little extra suspension. It is most comfortable motoring down fast and flowy trails without super long rock gardens. This bike really impressed us with its swift and composed climbing abilities. Riders who want a trail bike that can help them push their limits on the descent should look towards the Yeti Beti SB5 and Juliana Joplin.


Tasha Thomas, Lani Raspen