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First Impressions: Norco Sight VLT C1 29

Canadian brand's updated eMTB eyes up big adventures

Norco Sight VLT C1 29

Norco has been on a roll lately. Both the B.C. brand’s new Optic and Sight bikes were well received, and deservedly so. After enjoying time on the analog version of Norco’s all-mountain oriented Sight, I was curious to try out the electric version, the Sight VLT.

Like its unassisted sibling, the Sight VLT has undergone a major overhaul for 2020. The e-all-mountain line moves from 27.5″ to 29″ wheels, and gets the more aggressive “forward geometry” treatment that made the Sight so fun to ride. New for Norco, the Sight VLT is now available in an aluminum option as well. For those that prefer smaller wheels or a less aggressive stance, last year’s 27.5″ version of the Sight VLT remains available.

Norco Sight VLT C1 29

What’s new? Sight VLT looks “forward”

“Forward Geometry” is how Norco describes the new design philosophy that has grounded the Optic, Sight and last year’s Revolver re-designs. Simply put, it aims to make the bike more capable when riding near the limit, on steep or challenging terrain, while keeping the rider positioned far enough forward on the bike to be comfortably in control while riding seated.

On paper, this shows up as a slack, 64-degree HTA on the Sight VLT, a lower BB, longer reach and a stretched out 1280-mm wheelbase (on a size Large). With 160-mm travel out back and 150-mm up front, the bike is ready for some serious descending. This is paired with a very upright 78.7-degree seat tube angle, which varies by size and is steeper than the analog Sight, to keep your weight on the front wheel and in control of the steering. One feature the electric version of the Sight does give up is the size-specific rear centre, which measures 458-mm across the size range.

Norco Sight VLT C1 29

Norco Sight VLT C1 29 – build and drive unit

Norco outfits the Sight VLT with a carbon fibre frame and seatstays and alloy chainstays. Housed inside that frame is a Shimano STEPS E8000 drive unit and In-Tube 630 Wh battery. For 2020, an optional range extender can be added to the Sight VLT, boosting the bikes range by 50-70 per cent. Rubber and plastic guards keep the downtube safe below the head tube and near the BB. More protection lines the seat and chainstays.

The Sight VLT C1 is built with a full complement of eMTB specific parts, including fork, wheels, and drivetrain. This includes an e-rated, 160-mm travel RockShox Lyric Ultimate, and single-click SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain. DT Swiss chips in with M1700 Hybrid rims and hubs for added durability. SRAM Code R hydraulic brakes with matching 200-mm rotors keep the added weight reigned in. All this adds reliability, but it also adds up. The Sight VLT C1 is not light, even in by the standards of eMTBs.

On the trail

On the trail, the Sight VLT is long and it is not light, but it uses both traits to its advantage wherever possible. Norco keeps the drive units weight low on the frame and well balanced between the wheels. Combined with meaty Maxxis Minion DHF/DHR tires, this gives the eMTB a feeling of endless traction on the trail, even on slick rocks and steep corners where traction is normally scarce.

The benefits of the added traction extend to the climbs, where the Sight VLT is surefooted and capable. The very steep seat tube angle lends the bike comfortable climbing position while seated, forward enough on the long wheelbase that the front wheel doesn’t wander. The bike isn’t short, and I’ve been reminded of that when the switchbacks get tight. But, with the added oompf of the drive unit, climbing the VLT is comfortable, bordering on a fun challenge.

Shimano’s STEPS drive unit is reliable, which has earned it a place on many eMTBs lately, but it is not quiet. While not obscenely loud, it has occasionally been a relief to crest a hill and let gravity’s silent pull take over from the whirring of the STEPS drive. It is easy to use though, with a sleek bar-mount remote and small, but informative display.

First Impressions – new Sight VLT has its eyes on big adventures

On paper, the Sight VLT might look like it should be a boat, long and slow to respond, but so far the geo chart has been deceptive. The weight is well balanced, making the eMTB easy to move around on the trail. With its steep seat tube pushing keeping you forward on the bike, it is engaging and fun when the trail levels out, not just on steep trails. That’s not to say it is short, or “poppy.” The Sight VLT definitely excels at carrying speed through corners and over technical features over any sense of playfulness. This bias toward stability and preserving momentum has so far suited its all-mountain designation well. Going forward, it will be interesting to see how far the Sight VLT can push into challenging trails, and how it can balance that increased capability on the descents with staying nimble enough to make easier trails enjoyable.

Norco’s Sight VLT is an interesting option for riders facing limited opportunities for shuttling and restricted operations at bike parks around Canada this summer. Looking further into the future, without social distancing restrictions, the Sight VLT should remain an interesting adventure companion. It’s parts build and on-trail demeanor make it well as well suited to big adventure days, where you’re not sure what you’ll run into on the trail, as it does riding laps of your local trails. With the added weight, though, you’ll just have to hope you don’t run into too many downed trees to lift the VLT over.

Norco Sight VLT C1 29

2020 Norco Sight VLT C1 29

Frame: Carbon fibre front triangle, seat stays. Aluminum chainstays. 150mm rear-wheel travel. (RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ shock)
Fork: RockShox Lyric Ultimate e-rated – 160 mm travel

Drive Unit: Shimano E8000 with in-Tube 630 Wh battery (range extender optional)

Wheels: 29” DT Swiss E-1700 Hybrid E-Bike rated
Tires: Maxxis Minion DHF WT 29×2.5” front: Maxxis Minion DHR II WT 29.2.4 rear

Brakes: SRAM Code RSC 4-piston hydraulic. 200-mm rotor, front and rear.
Crankset: Shimano Deore XT, e*thirteen Compact upper Slider chain guide.
Shifter: SRAM Eagle GX, one-click shifting. 11-50 tooth Eagle 1230 cassette.

Sizes: S, M, L, XL

Price: $9,499 CAD