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Trail

Tested: Norco Torrent S1

Simple, stout and ready for a little bit of everything

Basics

-150mm front travel
-Chromoly frame
-Aluminum options available
-29-inch wheels


Pros

-Smooth riding
-Fun in every sense
-A case for more geometry and less travel
-Planted and absolutely fun

Cons

-Heavy
-More expensive than expected


Price

$3,400

Brand

Norco


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It’s easy for frame geometry to play second fiddle to fancy suspension design. Modern angles or extreme reach numbers often get overlooked by the latest trunnion mount or leverage curve. The Norco Torrent is a case of aggressive geometry versus longer travel, and brings a level of simplicity that inspires just the right amount of nostalgia around the good ole days of mountain biking. There’s no fuss, just business, and a surprising amount of capability from this hardtail born on the North Shore.

First glance at the Torrent, and there is no hiding how long, slack and low this chromoly all-mountain hardtail is. While the reach is pretty long it’s still within a reasonable range that keeps the geometry on the more accessible side. My size large has a reach of 480 millimeters, adding or subtracting 30mm for neighboring sizes. If your bike’s reach is longer than its seat-tube, you’ll feel right at home. Norco uses a very short 435mm seat tube to allow for longer dropper posts. My size large test bike (and the medium below) it comes with a 170mm X-Fusion Maniac, but I felt that I could have gone even longer. Up front, the Torrent has a head tube angle of 64 degrees, designed around a 150mm travel fork with a 42mm offset. The effective seat tube angle is a steep-for-a-hardtail 76 degrees with tucked 420mm chainstays that have clearance for up to a 2.6-inch wide tire. Norco uses a threaded bottom bracket with full external cable and hose routing with the exception of the internally routed dropper cable.

There are four versions of the Torrent with two versions using an aluminum frame with the same geometry. The S1 (tested) and S2 builds use double-butted chromoly tubing, as does the bare Torrent frameset. My S1 build came equipped with a 150mm RockShox Lyrik Ultimate fork and Shimano SLX/XT drivetrain with a Praxis Cadet crankset with 170mm arms. Four-piston Shimano M520 brakes paired with 180mm rotors are doing the stopping with Stan’s Flow S1 rims laced to Shimano XT hubs keep things rolling. XT hubs can be hit or miss in terms of reliability but the Stan’s rims were a nice touch.  At $3,400 I wouldn’t say this bike is loaded with value. If anything, it feels a touch expensive for its spec level.

The best way to describe riding the Torrent is “stable and planted,” with everything working together to achieve a balance. The 150mm fork felt comfortable in relation to the Torrent’s geometry and fit. Despite its hard tail, it’s far from a cross-country racer. Its better suited for mellow, casual climbs, needing a little extra effort to push this 32-pound beast up the mountain. Hitting steep pitches, you can feel the high, slack front end start to wander, but not to the extent that it was difficult to control. In fact, it nearly felt like I had a head start pulling its front wheel up and over rocks or roots. As leisurely as the climbs were, each one was worth it. Every bit of singletrack I sampled rewarded me with a ride quality that, as you might expect, stands out in harsh contrast to the current crop of full-suspension bikes.

The Torrent is smooth, real smooth and adds just the right amount of playfulness to keep things interesting. The combination of the steel tubes and plush front suspension made for a much calmer ride than I was expecting. The occasional square edge hit would force me to keep my whits about me but, overall, the Torrent made for a comfortable ride. Hitting chunky bits of trail, I was politely reminded that I was lacking a rear shock, but not in a sense that dulled my spirits. Speaking of spirits, I’d chalk up a large part of the Torrent’s playfulness to its short rear end. The 420mm chainstays gave it an agile quality, especially noticeable in tight corners.  But it felt most at home on high speed flow trails and steep chutes. The limitations of the Torrent are hard to define, and will depend on how far the rider is willing to push.

The Torrent is surprisingly versatile and well manned on rough trails in spite of being a hardtail. Where does the Torrent fit in today’s endless selection of capable mountain bikes? It’s a bike that is unapologetically simple with a “can-do” attitude.

Entry Point:

Another example of what Shimano Deore has done for entry-level bikes, the Torrent A2 (A for A-luminum) has all the drivetrain quality you’d want out of what is technically a budget bike. But like the S1 tested above, it’s still not as cheap as you might want a hardtail to be. $1,650 is kind of a lot of dough for a bike with Tektro brakes, a Suntour fork and a TranzX dropper that tops out at 150mm, even on large and XL sizes. Looking throughout the Torrent lineup, there’s no obvious peak in value. Even the $2,500 steel-framed Torrent S2 has a relatively basic Rockshox 35 fork, and is the cheapest you can go if you want a 170mm dropper out of the box. Bottom line, this is a niche bike that doesn’t have many other options if you’re looking at mainstream brands, which means it’s hard to reach an economy of scale that would lead to the value we’re used to seeing in more traditional bikes. But this isn’t the bike you get if you’re looking for something traditional.