Home > MTB

Long-term review: 2021 Norco Shore

A big burly bike that is ready for all kinds of abuse

2021 Norco Shore

When Norco brought the Shore name back to its line, it caused a stir. Why? For riders over a certain age, the name brought back memories of the “golden age” of North Shore riding. For riders below a certain age, who might not remember how much it hurt falling off sketchy woodwork and flat landings, it inspires a different nostalgia.

Most of us, its fair to say, are not pro freeriders. So, who else is this modern freeride bike for? Well, a surprisingly wide range of riders, it turns out. For anyone who lives near a bike park or regularly shuttles, but also wants to pedal. Anyone looking to improve their skills or conquer fears and scary features on a bike. Riders who don’t want a race bike. Anyone who does want a big bike they can beat the ever-living crap out of. The Shore does all of that, without batting an eye.

No matter how you remember “The Shore,” Norco’s new aluminum frame big bike does an excellent job of keeping the dream alive.

2021 Norco Shore review

What kind of bike is the new Norco Shore?

Norco was very clear when this bike launched that it is not an enduro race bike. While the aluminum frame is safety-rated for a triple-crown fork, it’s also not a downhill race bike. It is a “freeride” bike. Whatever that word means to you right now, the new Shore can probably handle it.

The Shore’s aluminum frame prioritizes durability over weight savings, to be sure. Dive into the details and you’ll see that Norco’s design for the bike’s suspension kinematics is biased toward fun over pure speed. Where a DH race bike hugs the ground as much as possible, the Shore is eager to get airborne. It has a poppy feel that is much more suited to bike park laps with friends than timed runs on a race course.

“With the Shore, we tried to build a bike that was made for the fun part of riding and forget about racing. That’s the spirit of the bike,” said Jim Jamieson, Senior Product Manager at Norco. “It wasn’t to remake the old Shore, it was to create a purpose-built bike for what’s happening today.”

2021 Norco Shore review
Durability and good design is worth a couple grams.

Not everyone wants to hit big jumps, of course. If you have a stronger sense of self-preservation, the 180-mm-travel Shore is a great way to expand your sense of normal, even just a little. Especially knowing the frame will take any abuse you throw at it in stride. Laps at the bike park or crashes trying to conquer a tricky feature, that’s all been designed into the Shore.

“It’s a workhorse bike that you can ride hard and put away in the garage, then ride hard again,” Jamieson adds. “You don’t have to worry about carbon or batteries or anything high tech – function before fashion.”

2021 Norco Shore review

Idler pulley: What’s going on back there?

Norco borrows the extra idler pulley, which sits above the chainring, from the design of its World Cup downhill Aurum HSP for the Shore. While the design isn’t yet common, it is more accepted among the race crowd. Lately, it’s slowly making its way into single-crown bikes. The extra pulley wheel adds a few unique functional features that suit Norco’s intentions for the Shore quite well.

One feature of designs using an idler pulley is that they separate suspension movement from the drivetrain, particularly with rearward axle path designs. On a race bike, that means you can pedal through rough sections without feeling pedal kickback. That works because the chain tension isn’t fighting against the direction the rear wheel is moving. For a freeride bike, such as the Shore, you don’t have the pedal kicking back toward you on big, heavy landings. That is important when you’re already trying your hardest to hold on.

Norco Shore 1

The Shore 1 is at the top of Norco’s freeride line. In an era where mountain bikes regularly crack the $10,000 mark, Norco delivers the Shore for $7,300 with a full build of Fox Factory level suspension. The aluminum frame helps keep costs down compared with carbon fibre, but so does smart parts selection. Norco mixes performance where it really matters with durability.

Since suspension has a huge impact on how a bike rides, Norco’s made quality a priority. The Shore floats on a burly Fox Factory 38 fork with 180-mm travel. It gets another 180 mm out back via a Fox Factory DHX coil shock. Control is also key, especially on a bike destined for steep trails and long bike park laps. SRAM Code RSC four-piston brakes provide excellent control with big 200-mm rotors. Deity Ridgeline 35 mm bars (800-mm wide) with DMR Deathgrips keep you firmly in control. 27.5″ Maxxis Assegai 2.5″ WT MaxxGrip tires will keep you connected to the sketchiest woodwork and slipperiest rock faces. Credit to Norco for fully committing to the Shore and spec’ing heavy DD casing tires here. Even knowing the bike’s weight would catch attention, Norco’s put on heavier tires knowing that full grip is what this bike deserves.

On the durability side, SRAM GX Eagle performs dutifully, without complaint or attention. The 10-52 tooth cassette helps make any climbing more comfortable. E*thirteen LG1 DH rims with DT Swiss 350 hubs aren’t splashy, but function reliably with a bombproof build. TranzX may be lesser known, but the 200-mm travel YSP-105 dropper post performed flawlessly for the entire test period, which is more than I’ve been able to say about many other more expensive posts.

Huck to flat? Riding the Shore

Any bike named after North Van’s infamous trails immediately brings to mind soaring woodwork and pancake flat landings. The Shore will do handle those, if you want, but that’s not where it excels. With 27.5″ wheels and a supportive coil shock this bike is happier carving corners, floating jumps and riding steep trails. How big those features are is entirely up to you, with the Shore happily taking any hits as you take the next step in your riding.

A (brief) note on climbing

But first, you have to get to the top of the hill. Much has been made of this bike’s weight, and this is one area where the added insurance of an over-designed frame doesn’t do you any favours. No one is buying this bike to climb, though, even if it does do that quite well. Not fast or effortlessly, by any measure, but the idler pulley and coil shock keep the tires glued to the ground as you winch your way up technical trails. I’ve been surprised a few times by what I was able to clean climbing on the Shore. No KOM’s were captured, but I also rarely had to put a foot down.

Full on fun

Given the bike’s heft, I was immediately surprised by how easy it moves around once pointed downhill. The bike’s weight doesn’t disappear, but it starts working with you. Gravity brings Shore to life. The 27.5″ wheels are fun in corners, and tough enough to survive all the times I came up short or slammed into errant rocks. Pair that with a supportive suspension kinematic that helps the Shore pop off the ground, whether that’s jumps or airing off a root, and the Shore is equally fun tackling downhill flow trails and bikepark style trails as it is bashing through rough, technical features.

To me, the appeal of the Shore is in its combination of bombproof toughness and fun. Either trait on its own isn’t that special. If the Shore was just a tank that let you plow through things, that would get tired quickly. So would a lighter bike that is too delicate to try anything exciting.

I did use the bike to cross off a long list of local features that had been just outside my comfort zone on other bikes, and that didn’t always go perfectly the first time. In those situations, I appreciated the Shore’s rugged design. The same goes for the smoothness of the idler pulley suspension and coil shock when I got sketchy. It’s just as important, though, that the Shore was fun on the trails where I was inside my comfort zone. While 180 mm will go a long way to smoothing out a trail, the little wheels keep the Shore bright and playful.

Norco’s decision to put the bulk of its budget into suspension and brakes pays off. The Fox Factory parts added control when I was on the edge. They also work well in a wider range of situations, from slow tech to high-speed fun, compared with some more budget-oriented options. Fox’s burly 38 fork seems designed just for this bike, with little flex in the harshest situations.

2021 Norco Shore review

Review: 2021 Norco Shore 1

Norco does exactly what it set out to do with the Shore. When you look at the range of ways Norco expects the bike to be ridden, from pedal-access freeride to bike park laps, the Canadian brand is making a big ask for one bike. Through smart parts selection and solid design the Shore delivers. Focusing on fun over raw speed results in a big bike that is well suited to a wider range of riding. The Shore is confident on rougher, downhill style trails, but happiest when the clock is turned off and the main goal is to enjoy the ride.

There is a weight penalty for performance and durability. With how fun the bike is on descents, that is paid primarily paid on the climbs. To most riders looking at this bike, that’s a fair price. If you’re pedalling more often than not, that might be more of an issue.

Still, the Shore opens up a lot of doors for riders who want one bike to do a bit of everything, or freeriders looking to do something really specific. It’s a great bike if you mix shuttle laps with pedal powered rides. I’ve taken the Shore on everything from steep technical trails to fun jump lines. It’s balanced and maneuverable in the air on small jumps to bigger lines. And, with Norco’s sponsored riders currently using the Shore on some of the biggest jumps in the world at DarkFest, I’ve felt confident pushing my own comfort zone knowing the Shore will handle hard riding with confidence. All around, this bike stands out as capable of being a park bike and a trail bike, and tough enough to survive a busy summer of riding.

2021 Norco Shore

Norco offers three builds for the Shore. The Shore 1 is $7,300 as tested. The Shore 2 is $5,400, while the dual-crown equipped Shore Park is $5,800. All are available through Norco.com or your local dealer.