The Revolver FS is the pure-bred XC race bike of the Norco’s Lineup. As evidenced by its 100mm of travel, sub 4.5 lb frame weight, and it’s notably steep head tube angle of 70.5 degrees. I expected this bike to responsive, quick to change direction, and dare I say “twitchy”. But, this is one case where the numbers are more than a little bit deceiving…more on that later.
This bike is one of the most visually appealing I’ve ever owned…after one year of riding it. I still find myself stealing an occasional glance to its location in the garage. There are smooth transitions, hidden curves, and an aggressive look that hasn’t gotten old.
Execution of the details is notable. Norco’s “Gizmo” internal cable routing system was initially time consuming to set up, but has remained silent and has prevented contamination of the cables since. Bonus points also for having room for a large bottle inside the main triangle, and also a mount on the underside of the downtube for a reserve bottle to be used in longer races and rides. Suspension hardware is well finished and has needed no attention prior to pulling the rear shock for a rebuild after one year of riding.
That said, there are a couple of areas where Norco could improve the frame design. Tire clearance for 2.35” tires was tight in the rear and a tire of that width would occasionally rub, best to stick to max width of 2.25”. The other area that could see improvement would be a chainslap protector on both the top of the chain stay and the underside of the seat stay, where some chips have developed from chain slap. Aside from those areas, the frame and paint has worn very well. It has shown very little in terms of damage and still looking relatively new.
Riding the Revolver FS
Norco markets the Revolver FS as an out-and-out XC bike. That intent is reflected with a 100mm travel fork included with all build kits, and it’s “steep for 2017” 70.5 degree head tube angle. But there may be some hidden magic in what Norco labels “Gravity Tune” geometry. With Gravity Tune, chainstay length remains proportional to frame size…meaning that larger frames get longer stays, and vice versa. The stays on my size large bike are 435 mm.
When ridden, the Revolver FS wears its trail bike heart on its sleeve. Compared to other XC bikes I’ve ridden, the Revolver keeps its composure like a trail bike through the most challenging of trails. It somehow manages to feel planted, stable, and lively…all at the same time. If you ride terrain with lots of roots and rocks, and want the liveliness and low weight of an XC bike, the Revolver FS should be on your (very) short list.
Norco utilizes a 4 bar linkage suspension. My first impression of the suspension was that the harder it was pressed, the better it performed. It just kept about its business and soaked up hits large and small. There was no noticeable squat when climbing, yet it seemed to just eat bumps up while descending. Impressive stuff.
Power Transfer on the Revolver
The Revolver stands out in its ability to put the power down over rough and loose terrain. There is no discernible pedal kickback and the rear wheel tracks the ground extremely well. However, I was a bit surprised that the suspension presented a little bit of bob on smoother trails.
Segment times seem to indicate that it doesn’t cost any speed, but it is worth noting for those that like the feel of a super solid and responsive suspension action, or racers who normally race XC courses that are on the smooth and punchy end of the spectrum. Given how well the bike rides on rough terrain, and how subtle the movement is, it isn’t a deal breaker for me as an XC race bike.
Build Kit and Component Impressions
For 2018 the Revolver lineup includes bike priced from $3,099 to $7,699 USD. All utilize the same high-modulus carbon fiber frame as the custom build test bike. Below are some notable impressions of the parts that made up the custom build on the bike tested.
• SRAM Eagle XX1 My first few rides on the Eagle group set left me impressed. It was smooth, quiet and precise. But as it aged it started to miss shifts. Meticulous attention to B-Tension adjustment using SRAMS provided guide seemed to help, but only for a bit. The group is fantastic when set up perfectly, but is not terribly resilient to wear and diverse conditions.
Here’s a long-term review of SRAM XO1 Eagle: http://crankjoy.com/long-term-review-sram-xo1-eagle-12-speed/
• SID RLC w/ Charger Damper Experience with past SIDs have left me underwhelmed. The chassis of recent iterations has provided impressive stiffness, the Motion Control and XX dampers always seemed a step behind the terrain.
The new version with the Charger damper has changed that. This may very well be the best performing fork I’ve ridden…even when compared against the travel Pikes and Fox F34s. It just does so well controlling what little travel it has. It’s smooth over the smallest of bumps, yet composed against pedal efforts and weighting the front of the bike for better grip. It’s a shame that the new for 2017 SID models can’t be extended beyond 100mm travel.
• Fox Factory Series F34 (120mm travel) This review reflects my impressions of the bike with the stock 100mm travel RockShox SID. To further test the trail bike chops of the bike, I did swap out the fork to a Fox Racing Shox F34 set to 120mm travel.
The change made the bike even more confident in rough terrain, and cornering became more intuitive. What didn’t change was the lively feel of the bike. The only notable downside is an increase of ½ lb in weight. Surprisingly I didn’t prefer the suspension action of the F34 to the SID. I do prefer the ride of the bike with the added front end height of the 120mm fork though.
The Revolver in a Nutshell
A lively and fun bike, the Norco Revolver FS 9 felt instantly intuitive and fun. What it gives up in snappy acceleration when compared to some XC race bikes, it more than makes up for with its composure and lack of pedal kick back. That makes it an absolute XC race weapon in rough and challenging terrain.