This year we’ve seen a blizzard of new aggressive geometry short-travel bikes hit the market. With a little more travel than a standard XC bike and geometry nearly matching a 140mm travel bike of a few years ago, these bikes are buzzing. Norco was definitely an early adopter to this category. Prior to the Revolver FS 120, the previous generation Optic was ahead of its time and still one of my favorite short-travel bikes. Let’s find out why I believe the Norco Revolver FS 120 is an epic ride dream machine.
Why short travel?
That’s a question you may ask yourself, especially with 130mm to 150mm travel bikes becoming more of the norm. I think of short travel as a light and fast option that climbs better and usually is more fun on the trails where the descents aren’t as big and rough. I always have more fun on a short travel bike where there isn’t a lot of really rough terrain to warrant extra suspension. A shorter travel bike is generally more agile, requires less effort and can cover more ground in most situations. Short travel bikes aren’t without their drawbacks though — they do require the rider to be a little more precise with line choice.
On paper, the Revolver looks like a great example of a fun nimble short travel bike. Its modern geometry ticks all the boxes with a long reach, steep seattube, slack headtube, and wheelbase that’s not too long.
2020 Norco Revolver FS 1 120 | $5099 | 26.2lbs | Size tested: medium
- Solid modern geometry
- Reasonably lightweight 5.6lb frame
- Super efficient pedaler
- Very precise and easy to control
- Internal cable routing – rubber grommets where the cable enters the frame tend to work their way out.
- Not as plush as some other 120 bikes
Riding the Norco Revolver FS120
It’s funny how different the characteristics of bikes can be with a change of components and suspension kinematics. You might think the Revolver would ride like my main bike the Ibis Ripley V4 with similar weight, suspension and geometry. Despite trail geometry and 120mm’s of travel, the Revolver retains a very racy XC bike feeling. The bike has lots of snap. When you jump on the pedals, it surges forward very efficiently, more so than even my Ripley which is renowned for its pedaling efficiency. Despite there being 120mm of travel, the bike felt as efficient as many 100mm travel bikes I’ve ridden in the past. When climbing tight trails the Revolver’s shorter wheelbase helps make it easy to nail the exact line you want cleanly.
Descending on the Revolver is much like its climbing – efficient and precise. Its very easy to put the bike in the line you want. Hopping over a section of roots or rocks or last-minute line changes are effortless. These are good traits since its firmer rear suspension and less robust Sid aren’t as forgiving when you hit the really rough terrain. The Revolver definitely doesn’t feel as plush as my Ripley.
On small to medium bumps, the Revolver’s rear suspension felt great without diving too deep into its travel. When aimed down steeper fall line trails here in Pisgah with lots of smaller drops, rocks and roots the rear end became overwhelmed quick. I played with the rear shock by running more sag and checking air volume reducers. This felt a little better but I started hearing lots of what I thought was chain slap. It wasn’t though. It was the actual shock bottoming — as soon as I raised the pressure back up it went away.
Overall I was very pleased with the way the Revolver rode and don’t think I would change a thing if it were my endurance race bike. If I was regularly hitting rough trails on it I would look at swapping out the 2020 Sid for something a little more robust.
Compared to the Competition
There are some hot bikes right now in the 120mm travel category and the Revolver stands high with this crowd. The Transition Spur, Revel Ranger, Kona Hei Hei and Specialized Epic Evo are a few of the hottest at the moment I compared here earlier: https://crankjoy.com/all-country-thoughts/.
I really like where the Revolver sits in this category. Sure, there are bikes that go to the extreme to gain a certain feel, but there is always a compromise when you try reaching too far away from the others. In the case of the Revolver, it’s among the latest geometry numbers with these bikes. In some cases like the seattube angle, it’s a little steeper than most at 74.9 degrees — which I like. Its also among the lightest with a 5.6lb frame and just over 26lbs out of the box.
Although the Revolver may not be the plushest in this category, much of that could be pointed at the suspension. I believe the fork might go along ways towards changing this characteristic and the new 2021 Sid might be the answer.
The Revolver FS120 is for the rider that demands an efficient peddler yet still wants a fun bike to tackle a broad range of terrain. For those epic rides its efficiency, lightweight and willingness to tackle any terrain make it a serious weapon. It does demand a little more preciseness from its driver, but good thing its excellent agility has your back.