Norco Shore 2 review

Norco’s Shore 2 is the brand’s heavy-hitting, big mountain high-pivot bike, rolling on 27.5in wheels. It uses a high main-pivot location coupled with a Horst-link suspension design to give 180mm of rear-wheel travel with a rearward axle path. It has an idler wheel to isolate suspension and pedalling forces, and is fitted with a wide-ranging 12-speed Shimano Deore M6100 drivetrain to help riders easily winch back to the top of epic descents.

The Norco Shore 2 has a downhill-focused geometry and spec, but is designed to provide enough of a balance to give you a fighting chance of winching yourself back to the top of the trail without needing a shuttle bus, chairlift or motor. I also pitted this bike against the low-pivot Orange Alpine Evo LE in my high-pivot vs low-pivot test, but here I’ll focus specifically on the performance of the Shore 2. In short, it’s very, very good.

Norco Shore 2 frame and suspension

Norco Shore 2 Freeride Mountain Bike

The high-pivot system and coil shock create a beautifully smooth ride. Built from Norco’s freeride-level aluminium, the frame’s design and its hardware are claimed to have been made with maintenance in mind, and the straightforward looks of its round tubes hide plenty of features. It has internally routed cables from front to back, in-built chain-slap protection and bottle cage mounts on the down tube that can accommodate a 750ml bottle, along with an accessory mount on the top tube. There’s a pickup truck tailgate pad on the underside of the down tube, too, and there’s space for a 2.6in-wide rubber.

Norco Shore 2 Freeride Mountain Bike

The underside of the frame has both rock-strike and pickup truck protection. The Shore’s party piece is its 180mm-travel high-pivot rear suspension. The brand has taken its multi-pivot Horst-link design and adapted it to provide a rearward axle path with a high main pivot, adding an idler pulley wheel to reduce pedal kickback and subsequent pedal-induced suspension bob. Its design gives the rear axle -13mm of rearward and upward movement when the bike is 105mm into its travel, and it then starts to arc forwards and upwards again, ending -7mm from its starting point at bottom-out. This increase alters the effective chainstay length as the suspension compresses.

Norco Shore 2 Freeride Mountain Bike

Because of the high pivot, the cables are routed through the top tube rather than down tube. Norco claims the Shore’s kinematics have been designed around coil shocks. I calculated the suspension to be roughly 25 per cent progressive (using BikeChecker’s linkage application), which should mean it gets firmer to compress the deeper into the travel it is.

Norco Shore 2 geometry

Norco Shore 2 Freeride Mountain Bike

A high-pivot 180mm-travel bike isn’t going to struggle with gnarly terrain. Although the Shore doesn’t feature any kind of geometry adjustment, its stock figures are worthy of its travel and big-mountain intentions. The size large test bike has a generous 480mm reach figure, a slack 63-degree head angle and long 445mm chainstays. Across the bike’s sizes, the chainstay measurements increase, starting at 435mm for the size small and extending to 450mm for the extra-large. This chainstay increase is not to be confused with the increase in effective chainstay length as the suspension compresses. The large’s wheelbase is 1,286mm.

Stack (mm)598611625638
Reach (mm)420450480510
Head tube length (mm)100115130145
Head tube angle (degrees)63636363
BB height (mm)346346346346
BB drop (mm)11111111
Chainstay (mm)435440445450
Wheelbase (mm)1,2031,2451,2861,328
Standover (mm)683680682693
Seat tube length (mm)365395410455
Seat tube angle (degrees)7777.377.778

Seat tubes are short (410mm, size large) and straight, allowing for maximum dropper insertion and travel for any given size. And the seat tube angle is 77.7 degrees, which should put its rider in a centred position over the bottom bracket to improve climbing comfort and control. The Shore looks very close to a modern enduro bike in terms of its geometry, but its long travel and smaller 27.5in wheels do differentiate it from its racier stablemate, the Norco Range, which runs 29in hoops, and has 170mm of high-pivot rear-suspension travel.

Norco Shore 2 specifications

Norco Shore 2 Freeride Mountain Bike

Shimano’s Deore M6100 drivetrain proved reliable. The Shore 2 is the most affordable option in the three-bike Shore range, retailing for £3,399 ($5,199). Despite its reasonable asking price, it’s still decked out in brand-name kit. Up front is RockShox’s 180mm-travel ZEB R fork with Charger damper, mated with a coil-sprung Super Deluxe Ultimate shock that’s been custom tuned for the Shore. My size large test bike was fitted with a 500lb/in spring.

Norco Shore 2 Freeride Mountain Bike

The basic ZEB R proved itself a great fork. Elsewhere, it’s fitted with a Shimano Deore M6100 12-speed drivetrain mated with e.Thirteen’s LG1 cranks and 34t chainring. It has Shimano’s four-piston MT520 brakes on 203mm rotors. There’s a TranzX YSP-105 dropper post with 200mm travel (size large and extra-large), but it uses Norco’s own-brand 1x lever. It has e.Thirtreen LG1 DH rims laced to Shimano Deore hubs, wrapped in Maxxis Assegai 2.5in-wide 3C MaxxGrip Double Down casing tyres front and rear.

Norco Shore 2 Freeride Mountain Bike

The dropper post has loads of travel and is adjustable. Finishing kit is taken care of by a mix of Norco, WTB, SDG and e.Thirtreen components. The size large Norco Shore 2 I tested without pedals weighed 18.26kg.

Norco Shore 2 ride impressions

Norco Shore 2 Freeride Mountain Bike

The bike’s balance and composure was incredible.

Norco Shore 2 setup

Norco’s Shore 2 is one of the bikes included in the brand’s Ride Aligned online setup guide. You input your height, weight, skill level and on-bike body position in order to get recommended suspension settings such as spring weights, damper adjustments, and even tyre pressure guides, bar width and height suggestions – along with stem lengths. However, Norco doesn’t recommend fork or shock sag measurements, citing that static sag doesn’t reflect rider weight distribution and dynamic sag when the bike is being ridden. The Ride Aligned guide takes that into account when providing its recommended settings, so sag measurements aren’t needed. After inputting my details, Norco suggested I run 64psi in the RockShox ZEB R fork with two volume-reducer tokens. At the rear, the guide suggested a 450lb/in spring with -9 clicks of rebound and -12 clicks of low-speed compression damping.

Norco Shore 2 Freeride Mountain Bike

Norco’s Ride Aligned setup guide was surprisingly good. These settings proved to be a good starting point. I ended up first reducing the fork spring pressure to 50psi, but then increasing it back to 60psi, while retaining two tokens. This gave me 17 per cent stanchion sag and provided the best feel on-trail. I set rebound to taste, faster than Norco’s recommendations. I swapped out the stock 500lb/in spring for the softer 450lb/in spring the guide recommended, but fully opened the rebound and compression damping adjustments to get the shock to feel how I wanted it to. With the 450lb/in spring, I had 21 per cent shock shaft sag.

Norco Shore 2 Freeride Mountain Bike

More bike companies should take note and stick proper rubber on their hard-charging bikes. I set the Maxxis DoubleDown MaxxGrip 2.5in-wide Assegai tyres to Norco’s 23psi front and 25psi rear recommendations and left them at this pressure for the duration of the test period.

Do Norco’s recommended settings work?

Norco’s Ride Aligned recommendations were pretty much perfect for my riding style and preferences. Adjusting input parameters did change the recommendations in a way I would expect. Clearly, the brand has spent a long time considering the setup of each bike, and how to clearly communicate this to consumers. However, the lack of fork stanchion and shock stroke sag recommendations is a bit frustrating. Not including them in the setup guide does limit the amount of information available that people commonly use to set up a bike. Even though static measurements should only be used as a guide rather than absolute figures (much like Norco’s Ride Aligned recommendations), they are useful figures to have.

Norco Shore 2 Freeride Mountain Bike

Norco’s Ride Aligned suggested settings were bang on the money for our preferences. For someone who doesn’t know what they are feeling out on the trail and doesn’t know what adjustments to make to rectify a problem, a recommended sag number is a great figure to begin to check any settings. If the brand is saying sag needs to be around 20 per cent, and you’ve got much more or less than that, problem solving is a simple task if you have recommended numbers. Despite that, I was impressed with the setup guide.

Norco Shore 2 climbing performance

Norco Shore 2 Freeride Mountain Bike

Despite its hefty weight figure, it wasn’t too much of a slog to ride on all-day missions. Pointing uphill, the Shore 2’s pedalling performance defies its headline weight and travel figures, and idler system in terms of how much pedal bob there is. Little of your energy feels as though it’s being lost to drivetrain drag and it accelerates impressively quickly with rider input. Sitting down on the saddle and spinning the pedals at high or low cadences reveals very little unwanted suspension movement. The same is true for when you’re standing up and cranking or sprinting – the suspension remains impressively decoupled from pedalling forces.

Lower-cadence pedalling at slower speeds in higher gears does cause it to move in and out of its travel, however, but the movement is not extreme enough to negatively impact forward progress. This is fortunate given the rear shock doesn’t have a lock-out lever, so stopping pedal bob isn’t possible with the bike in its stock configuration.

Norco Shore 2 Freeride Mountain Bike

Once muddy, the idler wheel did create some vibrations through the pedals. With a well-lubricated and clean chain, very little vibration is transmitted through the pedals as the chain passes over the idler wheel. Decrease the amount of lube or increase dirt contamination and the drivetrain does start feeling gritty and lumpy, especially when torque levels are high. Despite it feeling lumpy when covered in dirt, the cranks were still able to spin freely backwards, and I struggled to perceive any notable increases in drivetrain friction.

Tacky rubber

Norco Shore 2 Freeride Mountain Bike

The MaxxGrip DoubleDown tyres provided plenty of traction. The most notable factor that slowed down uphill progress was the MaxxGrip compound DoubleDown casing tyres. Although they’re enormously sticky on all terrain types, aid traction both on the ups and downs, and are well-suited to the bike’s downhill intentions, there’s no denying how much friction they cause. I swapped the MaxxGrip tyres for a pair of MaxxTerra compound, EXO-casing versions and the difference in its ascending prowess was marked. With the different rubber fitted, it was considerably more sprightly, but the grip and the damped feel of the DoubleDown versions was lost.

Whether that loss of grip is a suitable compromise for you will depend on the type of terrain you ride and how much you want to compromise downhill performance for an easier ride to the top. I think the disadvantages of MaxxGrip tyres on the climbs are far outweighed by their advantages on the descents.

Grappling with gravity

Super-technical climbs are where the Norco really excels. The decoupling I spoke about earlier reduces pedal bob, but also enables the suspension to move freely through its travel over bumps even when under power. This results in a smooth, comfortable and traction-rich ride, where scaling difficult climbs with square-edged rock and root faces becomes easier and less energy intensive. The bike can be left to its own devices to absorb the terrain, while the rider can focus on conserving energy for the downhills. This is even true in low-cadence, high-torque scenarios, where the Shore ironed out bumps impeccably.

Norco Shore 2 Freeride Mountain Bike

We haven’t seen a gear display window in years! There appeared to be no perceptible pedal kickback either, no matter how deep into the travel the suspension had compressed, or what gear I was in. This was evidence that Norco’s idler is positioned perfectly to do its job. Impressively, it’s hugely comfortable to ride over rough terrain. Its rear end did a great job of smoothing out small- to mid-sized bumps that usually sap speed and drain energy. Although it’s not the fastest bike to the top of the mountain, the Shore is dependable and predictable. It has grip where others do not, permitting you to take direct lines or focus on saving muscle power.

Norco Shore 2 Freeride Mountain Bike

The down tube has bottle cage mounts. The relaxed and upright riding position, thanks to its geometry, further improves comfort. The seat tube angle placed my hips over the bottom bracket at the centre of the bike. This reduced front-wheel lift when gradients became very steep and I rarely found myself shuffling forward onto the saddle’s nose to keep the front wheel from lifting or to maintain grip. Add in Shimano’s wide-ranging 10-51t cassette and there are plenty of gears for very steep ascents. Its 200mm-travel dropper had more than enough travel, too.

Norco Shore 2 descending performance

Norco Shore 2 Freeride Mountain Bike

It was in this type of terrain where the Norco excelled. If you think the Shore 2 sounds impressive on the climbs, it’s even better on the descents.

Super-supple suspension

Thanks to the supple-feeling coil-sprung shock and high-pivot rearward axle path combining, the Norco has traction in spades. Shoot along an off-camber section and the rear wheel conforms to the contours of the terrain, maximising its time in contact with the ground to generate as much traction as possible. Fire it across slick, wet rocks or roots, or even through a spider’s web of both, and the rear wheel hammers up and down in perfect sync with the terrain. Avoid the temptation to dab the brakes, locking up the rear tyre, and it feels as though the traction is virtually limitless.

The steerer tube is long enough to allow for plenty of adjustment. Mistime a jump or hop, tagging the back wheel on the obstacle you were trying to clear, and the Shore’s suspension system works hard beneath you to insulate you from impacts, but also maintain the speed and line of your forward trajectory uninterrupted. In situations like this, you can feel the back wheel moving up and out of the way of bumps. Likewise, hammer into a rock garden with straight legs and no sympathy, and the Shore takes it in its stride, not slowing down, getting thrown off-line or reacting unpredictably. This makes it a true plough bike on all types of terrain. It also reduces fatigue and enables the rider to concentrate on going faster with fewer consequences, rather than wasting energy focusing on threading the perfect line.

Norco Shore 2 Freeride Mountain Bike

Despite having a Charger damper, it has no external adjustments. This didn’t matter on the trails, however. The marvel of the rear end’s suspension is matched impressively with RockShox’s ZEB. Despite this model lacking any externally adjustable compression damping, with the correct spring pressure and number of volume spacers installed, they proved a perfect match for the Shore’s rear end. They had no compression spike, and I never felt I wanted to adjust the damping, both testimony to how well tuned the Charger is.

Pop it like it’s hot

Bikes with such luxuriously supple-feeling suspension, especially when used with a high-pivot design, can feel quite sponge-like deeper into their travel. Fortunately, Norco’s progressive leverage ratio gives it a poppy and supportive demeanour. Push and load the bike into turns and compressions and it remains stable, and its dynamic geometry doesn’t alter dramatically thanks to its suspension not blowing through its travel. This makes it predictable and easy to ride hard, where pumping the ground is rewarding rather than energy-sapping and doesn’t require fore and aft weight shifts to compensate.

Norco Shore 2 Freeride Mountain Bike

A chunky bike made for chunky riding. It also means it’s got plenty of pop and push for jumps. It was easy to blast off take-offs, where loading it up on the lip of a jump was rewarded with plenty of airtime. These traits give it a snappy-feeling back end, despite the long 445mm chainstay figure. That means it has a beautifully blended hard-charging but easily flickable character, something other manufacturers should aspire to.

Although the effective chainstay figure does grow during suspension compression, I didn’t notice it negatively or positively impacting the ride, although some riders might have a different experience. Another piece to the Shore’s suspension puzzle is how progressive it is. Bottom-outs were imperceptible, despite trying my hardest to get it to misbehave or feel harsh. This made ploughing through choppy terrain virtually consequence-free, and the bike’s ability to do a significant portion of the heavy lifting was massively pleasing.

Building blocks of perfection

Norco Shore 2 Freeride Mountain Bike

Trails with fast, rough sections became easier to ride faster. The Norco’s geometry, in my eyes, is about as close to perfect as you can get. This translates to a confidence-inspiring ride, no matter the terrain. I found the hand-to-feet relationship was spot on, where I was low enough on the bike that hooking around turns was rewarding and didn’t require any untoward weight shifts, but its front end was high enough, meaning I didn’t feel as if I was pivoting over the front or needing to compensate by leaning off the back of the bike. This gave it a very natural and intuitive feel that was easy to ride confidently and quickly right away, without needing to spend hours setting it up.

Norco Shore 2 Freeride Mountain Bike

The high-pivot system and coil shock create a supremely smooth ride. On steeper tracks, it felt particularly sorted. Thanks to the slack head angle and generous reach, I could weight the front wheel confidently, knowing it wasn’t going to tuck under me. How easily the front wheel was to load made tackling tight hairpins fun, but also fast. The long chainstays meant that when I did lean back there was enough bike behind my feet that its stability wasn’t totally compromised. The sweet-spot geometry seemed to make the Norco perfectly composed at speed or on super-technical sections, but also forgiving enough that when I needed to throw my weight around to get it to dance from one side of the trail to the next it had plenty of juice left in the tank for when I eventually got things wrong.

Norco Shore 2 bottom line

Norco Shore 2 Freeride Mountain Bike

For the price, its spec is hard to beat. Unusually, the Norco Shore 2 seems to blend characteristics from rather polarised ends of the spectrum. Its suspension is decoupled from pedalling forces, yet it remains super-active on bumps, and is massively forgiving. Thanks to its weight and suspension travel and design, it’s as close to a downhill bike as you can get on the descents, while still being able to pedal to the top comfortably and relatively quickly. And its geometry means it’s stable and easy to control at high and low speeds, on both flat and steep trails.

Norco Shore 2 Freeride Mountain Bike

Although basic in looks, the Shimano brakes have more than enough power. Finally, it’s specced with some of the best-performing kit, while Norco has kept the retail price remarkably low. Of course, it has its limitations and won’t suit a trail-centre warrior or bridleway basher, but for someone who rides gnarly enduro and downhill tracks, whether that’s uplift or pedal-accessed, this is one of the best bikes out there. The Shore 2 strikes an incredible compromise, and is one of the best big bikes on the market today. It’s where I would spend my cash.


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