Norco LT 6.1 - 2010 Review
Review, photos and videos by Lee Lau
First Looks and components
The Norco LT 6.1 is a long-travel bike from Norco that sits in the "all-mountain" category but with a bias to downhill performance. I've already taken a look at the Norco LT 6.1's components and briefly reviewed the bike in a First Looks article for MTBR. I won't repeat what I've said in that article so please read the previous writeup should you have any specific questions about specifications and geometry,
Norco's LT 6.1 is an all-mountain bike for demanding terrain. It can be taken on longer "epic" style rides. It can handle the descents you'll find on those rides without limiting the rider. It's a bike that doesn't compromise; proving that it is possible for a bike to be jack of all trades.
Norco LT 6.1 on Foreplay trails, Whistler
Lee Lau's biases
I am 160 lbs and 5' 11" and have had over 15 years experience riding bikes in North Vancouver, Squamish, Whistler, the Chilcotins and many other areas in B.C. and Alberta. I've also made many bike trips to Utah, Washington, Oregon, California and Ontario (for example) so I've had some experience biking in a variety of terrain. My bias is towards pedalling up and unlike many people who learned to ride bikes on North Shore trails, I actually enjoy riding (and sometimes bushwhacking) uphill.
This is a test bike that will be given back to Norco at the end of the test period. I am not sponsored by Norco and have no commercial association with Norco.
Lee in the Griffin trails - North Vancouver
I prefer bikes with a small'ish rider compartment that I can move around under me. I could theoretically ride either a large or medium frame but, for reasons of personal preference, chose a medium LT 6.1. Rambling and personal musings aside, I've always loved the way Norco's handle and the LT 6.1 is no exception. By the numbers, the LT 6.1 has decent BB clearance (353mm/13.9"), a short-ish length theoretical top tube (569mm/22.4") which I combine with a 70mm stem. In short, the LT 6.1 inspires confidence when descending.
In tight, technical singletrack the LT 6.1 is outstanding. I'd go so far as to say telepathically responsive .
In the air, the LT 6.1 is also really good. I didn't sail it off anything really large (biggest drops on this was about 6 feet to transition) but I think that's fair for a bike that doesn't have pretensions to be a big air machine. For what it's worth, neither the Lyrik nor Monarch bottomed out on the 6 footer and the frame didn't make alarming creaking sounds on landing; I don't think I've explored the outer limits of the LT 6.1's downhill performance.
In the steeps the LT 6.1 is confidence inspiring. I attribute that partially to the Lyrik (Rock Shox's come a long way) and partially to the stiffness of the frame. The LT 6.1 feels precise & tracks straight and true when descending. You don't get the feeling that the rear end will wander under braking or that the bike will be overwhelmed by the force of the descent.
Tyler Wilkes - North Vancouver
Lee Lau - North Vancouver
Here are some other random comments about the LT 6.1 and its components as they relate to downhill performance:
- The LT 6.1 has adjustable 137-158 mm / 5.3 "-6.2" rear wheel travel and I used both settings for the review. Leave it on the longer travel setting (its the hole in the rocker closer to the seat - tube). It's a lot more plush and the longer travel feels much better. Why would you have bought a 6" travel bike and not used all the travel?
- There's a lot of literature about the Rock Shox Lyrik. It didn't used to be the most reliable fork out there (seal would blow, two-step adjustable travel would fail) but a plush, stiff performer when it worked. Rock Shox seems to have solved this problem as the Lyrik has been problem free for three months of hard riding. There's not as much written about the Monarch rear shock. Suffice it to say that it works, it's plush, easy to tune, has adjustments that actually do something and is wonderfully well-matched with the Lyrik up front.
- It's good to see 70mm stems being spec'ed for downhill-oriented all-mountain bikes. In the Vancouver area, you see shops with boxes and boxes of 90mm and longer stems so if you really want a longer stem it won't be hard to arrange a trade.
- I was initially a bit nervous about the lightweight, light-duty Mavic XM 317 rims but they've held true. A heavier rider might want to replace these with some wider, slightly more robust rims if there's an issue. Paired with the stock Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.2 tires they are fine. When I put my preferred Kenda Nevegal 2.35s on, the tread pattern is a bit compressed because of the Mavic XM 317's narrowness. Which segues nicely to my next point ....
- I do not trust those Schwalbe's in the wet; they are predictable in that they break loose on wet roots alarmingly easily. They are fine in the dry and I would imagine they roll better than Nevegals. In the dry is when I'll put the stock tread back on the bike.
- Every all-mountain bike should have an adjustable seatpost. I'm now a convert. However, this is my second bike with a Joplin and there's still room for improvement. The Crank Bros seatpost is the Joplin 3 (the purportedly improved Joplin 4 wasn't realized when OE spec was finalized). The Joplin 3 has a single allen bolt head will that will move around if you smack it hard with your butt. Additionally, the seatpost won't rise all the way up to its maximum when triggered - a problem familiar to many frustrated Joplin owners. It's too bad such an expensive item performs so poorly
- I've now run 2.5 DH tires on the LT 6.1 without issue - there is plenty of rear chainstay clearance.
- The Rock Shox front and rear suspension combination is impressive. Adjustments that actually make a difference when you use them, reliable, easy to setup, and balanced - ie both the front and rear ends of the bike feel the same in terms of the way the suspension reacts to hits.
- I came into this test as a Hammerschmidt skeptic despite my avowed willingness to keep an open mind and have come away a convert. No chain slap, no derailed chains! It's frighteningly easy to change front ring gears under almost any circumstance or under sloppy load. Let's not forget the clearance you now have because you don't have the middle ring to snag into logs and debris. My only worry is that this will make me lazy when I go back to a non-Hammerschmidt bike and I'll be breaking middle rings.
Lee Lau - Whistler
Tyler Wilkes - North Vancouver
XC and uphill performance
I didn't find all that much difference in the climbing "feel" of the LT 6.1 between the short & long-travel modes so left it in the longer travel modes. I'd have to attribute that to the Rock Shox suspension. The Monarch in particular has to be one of the nicest platform shocks I have used. Like most air platform shocks it has an on-off switch for the platform - but also has a dial which allows one to dial in the amount of anti-bob/platform. This dial actually works. Couple the rear Monarch shock's tuneability with the now -reliable two-step and platform tuning of the front suspension Lyrik Two-step and it's now entirely possible to tune this bike so its an exceedingly capable climber.
Because the Rock Shox suspension is so good, the LT 6.1 is a pretty effective seated and standing climber, in particular in seated climbing the rear tire digs into the ground when grinding or spinning away up uphill making for exceptional traction. During standing or sprinted sections of climbing, the rear Monarch shock should definitely have platform engaged otherwise the bike will be too active, bobbing and wallowing like a pig on a string. However keep in mind that the LT 6.1 is a 32 lb bike. Do not mistake it for a World Cup glorified road course xc machine.
Another word on the Hammerschmidt. It's a sloppy gear changer or a grinder's dream. You can shift under the worst loads and it'll do its job without fuss. I had the "All-Mountain" Hammerschmidt with the 22/36 gear range. Match that with a 34 tooth rear cog and you have tiny gears - you can merrily granny ring away up steep hills. The 36 tooth top Hammerschmidt gear than gives you lots of range for faster trails.
Lee Lau - Whistler
Tyler Wilkes - North Vancouver
Lee here with a quick word on this. I thought it would be a good thing to add some comments from a "guest reviewer" who's had time on other bikes, rides differently than myself and could add his/her impressions.
About Tyler Wilkes
I am 160 lbs. I ride uphill & downhill. I'm more aggressive descending than Lee and will huck 20 feet to sketchy landings on demand for Lee's photography enjoyment! I split my riding about 50/50 between shuttling with the DH bike and riding all-mountain/ XC trails. Although I'm only 23 I've been riding for 11 years. Born and bred in Surrey I ride the Shore, Whistler, Squamish, Pemberton and have also gone on trips to the BC Interior, Canadian Rockies, Chilcotins & Idaho. My current ride is a Banshee Rune and a Specialized Demo 9.
This was the best handling bike I have ever ridden. It was very responsive to rider input and behaved exactly as expected when cornering or riding technical sections. The Lyrik fork was plush, stiff and felt very appropriate for the style of bike. Though simply designed, the rear suspension was very "tight" and predictable. For a rider such as myself, who spends the majority of my time riding the North Shore and other BC trails, this seems like a single bike that I could own and be happy with for 90% of my riding. On some smooth and fast trails in the BC interior, the bike still handled extremely well. The only weakness I noticed is that the longer feeling cockpit was not ideal for small jumps and drops when compared to other more downhill oriented all-mountain rides, such as the Banshee Rune or Rocky Slayer.
The Fluid LT 6.1 was a superb climber on all types of climbs. It climbed through a very rocky and rooty trail very easily and handled well on tight corners. The rear tire was glued to the trail and the rear suspension was perfectly active to maintain traction without robbing power and energy. It also performed well on smoother climbs and with the front fork travel reduced, the geometry is ideal for long climbs. With previous versions of the Fluid that I have tested, I noticed a slight bobbing issue; however, the 2010 edition did not seem to have a problem possibly due to the Monarch rear shock. Overall, the Fluid LT 6.1 was an excellent all-mountain climbing machine.
The Fluid is a fantastic bike for most riders out there who want to own a single bike that can handle almost any trail. For the trails of British Columbia, I am confident that I could throw the Fluid LT 6.1 on the bike rack, travel to the nearest riding town and comfortably ride 80% of the trails out there. The only downsides are a few of the specs, such as the Truvativ Hammerschmidt crankset and the Joplin seat post. The Hammerschmidt is a good idea in principal, but in practice it robs power due to friction in the big ring. Especially when considering the price of the crankset, the cons far outweigh the pros. The additional cost of the Hammerschmidt could be used to improve some of the other specs of the bike. In addition, for the average all-mountain rider, the on-the-fly adjustable seat post was not necessary. With those two issues aside, the Fluid LT 6.1 is one of the best all-mountain rides on the market.
-Excellent climbing performance
-Very responsive feeling bike that handles very well. The bike is limited only by the skills of the rider
-great all around bike for "all-mountain" trails
-Simple and attractive colours
-Cockpit length and head angle feel more oriented to climbing than descending steep trails or doing jumps/drops
-Truvativ Hammerschmidt crankset has lots of friction in big ring. It's not worth the money for most riders in most situations
-Some components of the bike could be upgraded if the expensive crankset and seat post were omitted (eg. XO derailleurs/shifters)
Norco LT 6.1 ratings
4.0 Very Good
3.0 Above Average
- The Rock Shox suspension is superlative
- Parts spec is very intelligent - cut out the bling to save on cost but include functional parts that improve ride quality & match intended use (ie Hammerschmidt and Joplin post)
- Terrific downhill performer
- At 32 lbs its on the big-boned side of high-end bikes in this category.
- No waterbottle mounts in smallest size frame.
- Not a big fan of the tires (yes I acknowledge I'm reaching on this one, since this is a personal preference)
- The biggest problem with the LT 6.1 is the Norco LT 6.2. It's cheaper ($3,400), has decent spec (lower-end components, no Joplin, no Hammerschmidt) and is 1 pound lighter.
See the Norco site for more information about specifications and geometry. The list price for the LT 6.1 is $ 5268 Can ($4469 US). Compare this with the previous prices for the highest-end LT ($ 5879 in 2008, $ 6859 in 2009) and it appears Norco is working hard to hit the value for money price-point.
* 68deg HA - 73 deg SA
* Frame remains largely unchanged from previous years proven designs (good) but with a stiffer tapered headtube (better)
* RockShox Lyrik 2 Step front suspension with RockShox Monarch 4.2 rear suspension
* Largely SRAM drivetrain
* Mavic XM-317 rims with Sun hubs
* Crank Bros. Joplin adjustable seatpost
* Truvativ Hammerschmidt Freeride crankset
Complete bike weight: 32lbs
Tyler Wilkes - North Vancouver
VIDEOS OF THE NORCO LT 6.1 IN ACTION
Boundary - North Vancouver - testing the Norco LT 6.1 from Lee Lau on Vimeo.
More wet and wild Norco LT 6.1 - April 22, 2010 from Lee Lau on Vimeo.