After three years away from the British market, Canadian mountain bike brand Norco is returning to UK shores, exclusively distributed by ZyroFisher. Daniel Blackham attended the launch event to see the 2023 range
This piece first appeared in the April edition of BikeBiz magazine – get your free subscription here
The Norco story can be traced back to 1964 and its humble beginnings operating out of a chicken coop in British Columbia.
Starting out as Northern Cycle Industries, an assembly business, the brand quickly transitioned into manufacturing, shortening its name to Norco so it could fit on the down tube of its bikes.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s it was heavily involved in road cycling as well as motocross and BMX, distributing brands such as Bell Helmets and Shimano.
In 1983, the company became the first to develop a mountain bike for the Canadian marketplace called ‘The Bigfoot’.
Mountain bikes started to demand more of Norco’s attention through the 1990s with a cross-country race team and development of its full suspension bikes, the Rampage and the FTS, laying the foundations for where the brand is today more than 30 years later.
On Tuesday, March 14, ZyroFisher invited a number of retailers to celebrate the return of the Norco brand to the UK with an exclusive launch event at Halton Turner Brewing Company in Birmingham.
Returning to its roots
Throughout its history, Norco has segmented its offering beyond mountain bikes to include disciplines such as road, gravel and urban.
But looking ahead, the company is focusing its efforts on what it knows best.
“In Canada, and globally, we have been known as a brand that does a lot,” explained Chris Hennessey, international sales manager at Norco.
“Since 2018, we have put our stake in the ground and said ‘we are going to be a mountain bike brand only’. So going forward you will see us only develop mountain bikes, pedal and electric.”
“It’s a strong statement because you can see where we are based in British Columbia, mountains and it’s what people want from our brand. We are going to be laser-focused on that.”
Investing in the future
As part of the brand’s commitment to developing solely mountain bikes, it has invested heavily into its research and development programme.
“We are not stopping,” said Hennessey.
“We are full on the gas to keep developing new stuff, to keep making our products innovative, to keep making the quality of our bikes better and that’s a key part of the brand and where we are going.”
Earlier this year, Norco invited Alex Coventry, brand development head at Zyrofisher, to visit the company’s new R&D centre.
“We are very fortunate in our position that we get to travel around the world and see different brands and facilities,” said Coventry.
“Without question, this was the best investment I have seen in mountain bike R&D in terms of building in-house, 3D printing, prototyping and the way they operate testing and development.
“The datalog kit was also next level and very impressive to see.”
Ride Aligned Design System
One of Norco’s proudest innovations is its flagship technology, the Ride Aligned Design System.
This matches each individual bike to the human who rides it by inputting details on height, weight and skill level.
“Our focus is on fit, geometry and suspension,” said Hennessey.
“We put a ton of work into geometry but then to package it up in a nice way we have Ride Aligned.
“It’s super easy to use and very intuitive. This is a big USP for our brand and there is a tremendous amount of thought that went into it. Not only the geometry and fit is dialled, but they can be set up properly so the consumer gets the best experience.”
Once the rider’s details are put into Ride Aligned, the technology produces the optimal tire pressure, bar width and rise, stem dimensions, fork setup and recommended shock adjustments.
As part of Norco’s consumer focus, it works with suspension manufacturers to customise specifications for each frame.
“We work really hard to make sure that if someone is on a medium bike, that bike is fit for them and they are balanced on it,” said Hennessey.
“Balance is a key thing that we focus on, we want the rider nicely centred on the bike so they get the most amount of traction and performance.
“It’s a combination of fit and geometry but also suspension. The suspension is not only the kinematics of how it works but working with all of our shock makers to make sure they are tuned for the size of bike and rider so it is optimised for performance.”
Pushing the limit
As part of the brand’s relaunch in the UK it is bringing its e-MTB products, Range and Sight.
All e-MTBs utilise Norco’s own German-made proprietary battery and will come standard in the UK with a 720Wh fitted as well as Shimano’s EP8 motor.
A 540Wh option is available, but for riders who want to push the limit, there is the choice to upgrade.
“This is a key part of the story,” said Hennessey.
“A lot of companies are making bigger batteries but we are industry leading with 900Wh.”
Between each battery, there is a 1.5lb weight increase with, equating to an additional 700 metres of elevation from 720Wh to 900Wh.
With the UK’s weather front on the wet side for most of the year, Hennessey was keen to highlight the product’s durability.
“It’s bulletproof,” he said.
“There is absolutely no chance of it shutting down if it gets water in there.”
On being back in the UK
For those familiar with the Norco story, many will know the brand was working with Evans Cycles up until 2020.
With ZyroFisher now on-board as the exclusive distributor in the UK and Ireland, the brand is looking forward to a bright future
“All of us at Norco are so excited to be back in the UK,” said Hennessey.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity that we have got ahead of here and I really hope people get on and ride with us.”
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