Review: 2020 Norco Optic – The One Bike Answer?

2020 Norco Optic C2

Norco’s previous generation Optic was a trend-setting bike in 2016 and is still one of the most fun short-travel bikes.  The all-new 2020 Norco Optic bumps up 15mm in travel to the mid-travel trail category.  Looking at geometry alone you might even think its a long-travel enduro sled.  Riders looking for a little more trail bike and a little less enduro should be very interested in this new Optic.  Could it be a one bike answer?

As a huge fan of the previous generation Optic, I was excited to see how the latest generation evolved.  My opportunity to review the bike on home trails of unforgiving Pisgah terrain was perfect for this bike.  Additionally, I hit some favorite spots in Virginia for well-rounded testing of flow and ridgeline rock gardens.
2020 Norco Optic C2
2020 Norco Optic cable keeper
The Optic uses a port on the downtube to zip tie all internal cables together. Absolutely zero cable rattle is the result. What looks like another bottle cage mount under the toptube is actually for a tool pack/accessory mount.
Driveside 2020 Norco Optic
If you’re not into the lichen green, there is a super sweet PURPLE Optic available in complete bike or as a frame only.
Non-drive side 2020 Norco Optic C2
The latest Rock Shox Pike felt tailor-made for this bike.  The 42mm offset helps keep the Optic steering quick.   I never felt limited by the bikes long wheelbase.
Norco Optic C2 linkage
Norco opted for the top end Rock Shox Super Deluxe on the rear of all 2020 model Optics.

2020 Norco Optic C2 | $4499 USD | 125mm rear/ 140mm front | Sram GX Eagle | Rock Shox Super Deluxe Ultimate shock / Pike Select Fork | 31.2 lbs – medium w/o pedals


Riding the Optic

I felt at home very quickly on the Optic.  The Rock Shox Pike/Super Deluxe suspension and grippy soft compound Schwalbe Magic Mary/Hans Dampf tires help the bike stay glued to the ground when you need it most.  The bike was always more than willing to pop and float over trail obstacles with ease and confidence.

Climbing on the Optic feels very much like other Norco’s I’ve ridden with excellent traction from its horst link suspension.  The traction along with a steep 76-degree seattube gives you the feeling that you can climb the steepest root-infested rocky climbs without issues.  The Optic has very efficient pedaling manners but has a little softer less efficient feeling than some of its competitors with similar travel.

On tight twisty terrain, I never noticed the long wheelbase as I have on other long bikes with reduced offset forks.  Even on super slow speed switchbacks, the bike felt more than capable.

The bike the Optic reminds the most of is the Transition Smuggler (which I also really like). The Optic feels VERY similar to the Smuggler with almost identically geometry and Horst Link suspension.  Both bikes put a little more emphasis on going downhill with their tire and suspension specs.  Although I think both the Optic and Smuggler climb very well they both sacrifice some climbing ability in favor of descending prowess.

Compared to the latest generation Ibis Ripley (V4) the Norco Optic feels more composed on rough terrain.  This shouldn’t be a surprise though since the Optic has 10mm more front and 5mm more rear travel.   I believe the Ripley’s DW suspension and lighter weight help give the bike a slightly more agile feel as well as more efficiency on the climbs.


?

  • Crazy fun on a super wide variety of terrain. It’s not just another great pedaling trail bike that you suffer through the gnar with.
  • Very Quiet – Notable measures have been taken to quiet down any internal cables from rattling
  • Size-specific chainstays – Chainstays grow 5mm each size you go up to keep riders centered.
  • Great value with a smart component spec

?

  • A little on the heavier side compared to other trail bikes.  Many similar spec’d bikes with this much travel are over a pound lighter.
  • Soft compound Schwalbe tires wear a little quick.  The tires have an amazing bite, but wear is definitely more noticeable after 100+ miles.

The 2020 Norco Optic should give you the magical ability to ride like Bryn Atkins in the below video :).


Who’s the bike for?

In the hands of a rider that picks good lines, this bike can easily hang with bikes that have 20mm more travel.  What it lacks in big bump absorption it makes up for in agility and feels really stable at speed.  The Optic is the bike for those that don’t shy away from the most technical terrain.  They also don’t want to give up pedaling performance in favor of a big heavy and slower handling enduro bike. If you want one bike to ride any trail no matter how tame or rowdy the 2020 Norco Optic is setting the bar.

If you’re ready to pull the trigger, Norco now sells directly from their website – Buy Norco Optic


Full disclosure:  We are not given bikes for review as we attempt to remain as unbiased as possible in our opinions. We do receive a small percentage from sales (at no added expense to you) should you purchase from the link above. We truly appreciate your support!  As always let us know if you have any additional questions in the comments below.

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This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Me

    What do you think about the bike not having a climb switch?

    1. Chad Davis

      As someone that almost never uses lockouts or climb switches even on long fire road climbs, I think it is unnecessary on the Optic. I never once thought that I needed a better pedaling platform. That being said, I almost never thought that I needed one on the Norco Range with 150mm out back either.

      If you are worried about the efficiency of the rear suspension and you use those switches regularly, I would strongly suggest looking at the newest Ibis Ripley V4 as it has a firmer pedaling platform for sure. The Ripley with knobbier tires and the fork extended to 140mm rides very similar to the 2020 Optic.

  2. Greg

    Nice review, i´d like to know which framesize do you ride at which height.
    The Optic seems to be on the bigger side.

    1. Chad Davis

      Hi Greg and thanks for the question!

      I’m 5’7 and ride a medium Optic. To me the size feels the same as most other mediums. Norco’s size chart is a good starting point https://www.norco.com/support/bike-sizing-information/ but I would consider your terrain and body proportions as well. If you have relatively longer legs and shorter torso OR have lots of tight terrain you may consider a smaller size. How tall are you? Do you know what your saddle height is?

  3. Greg

    Hey Chad, thanks for your reply.
    I am right between 5’9 and 5’10. In the past I rode a Sight C in medium. In my opinion a bit to short for me. So I think I’ll go with a large this time.

    1. Chad Davis

      Greg, at your height you defiantly could ride the large. Enjoy the Optic!!

  4. JonoSK

    Great review! I appreciated your ride impressions and handling of the bike. Very helpful!
    Have you ridden the Rocky Mountain Instinct or Trek Fuel Ex and able to compare the Optic to those two?

    1. Chad Davis

      I apologize for the slow rely, some how I didn’t see your comment till now.

      I have spent a few days on the latest Instinct (non BC Edition) but not the latest Fuel EX. The Instinct feels much more XC than than the Optic. This is partially due to component spec but geometry and suspension also play a roll. The Optic has much more aggressive geometry numbers and more DH oriented component specs that give it more confidence on the rough and steep terrain. Pedaling and climbing feel very similar despite differences in weight. If you’re concerned about weight the Instinct frame is likely 1.5 lbs lighter.

      1. Jonathan Schwarz

        Interesting! So even with the extra travel on the Instinct you still found the Optic outperformed on technical downhill?
        That’s just the type of observations I’m looking for in deciding between the two – thank you!

        Ya just trying to find a one-bike quiver killer. The Optic seems to be ticking those boxes

        1. Chad Davis

          Yes, as much as I loved the Instinct when it was released it’s likely getting ready for an update this year. Its older geometry (compared to the Optic) holds it back as the terrain gets faster and steeper. I also feel the Optic suspension performs a bit better especially on the mid-big hits. Where the Instinct still shines is in the tight and twisty flatter terrain.

  5. Paul

    Am also in the same dilemma as Greg, am 5.8 1/2 (174cm) it’s in the middle of norco size between medium and large. Getting a test bike of the uk importer is like getting blood out of a stone.

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