NSMB’S 2007 NORCO TEAM DH REVIEW

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SOURCE: NSMB/WORDS, PHOTOS:(unless noted) BY COREY ANDERSON

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It’s a good time to be in the market for a new ride. The selection has never been greater, with bikes out there that cater to almost every riding style and any size of pocket book. All of the new bikes we’ve been looking at in magazines all winter are popping up on trails and in lift lines all over the place. One of those new scoots is the 2007 Norco Team DH.

I was pretty pumped when I was asked to test this new machine. For those of you that are frequent flyers on nsmb.com, you’ll probably recognize the combination of Corey Anderson and a Team DH. I’ve been fortunate enough to follow this specific model since its inception in 2001, when I bought my first downhill bike. That bike has been passed down, but she is still in service and going strong.

A lot has changed over the years, and having spent a considerable amount of time on this model, it’s possible to see how the big picture has evolved. Certain features have come and gone, things you felt didn’t belong got removed, and things you wished the bike had appeared. Someone at Norco has obviously been listening to the reviews, as well as rider and racer feedback.

The Buzz
There were rumours flying in 2006 about a lighter, simpler looking Team DH for ’07. Norco doesn’t have a reputation for building the lightest downhill bikes, and this change was something that was getting attention. The pre-production model on display at Crankworx 2006 gave people a glimpse of what was to come.

Rather than abandoning the tried-and-true Horst Link rear suspension design for one of the newer, much-hyped designs that are circulating these days, Norco stayed with the four-bar design for the Team DH. Sure, it might have been interesting to see something that looked more radical, but not at the expense of a suspension design that is one of the best riding and feeling available. Simple, solid, reliable, and efficient. Put a killer rear damper in there and you are set. What more do you need?

What’s New
There are a few striking changes in the frame design that result in a chassis that’s one full pound lighter than last year’s frame. The seat mast uses smaller tubing and the top of the mast has a considerably slimmer profile, using only a single tube to connect the seat tube to the frame. A boxed-in gusset ties it all in to keep things solid. The simplified design uses less material than last year’s bike and saves weight. The seat tube also includes a new weld at the base that prevents the seat post from protruding too far and coming into contact with the rear shock on full compression.

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Functional aesthetics

The boxed monocoque front triangle is gone, having been being replaced with a cleaner-looking tube design. The new top tube design and seat mast translate to a 20mm reduction in stand-over height. The tubed design on the ’07 bike uses a boxed triangle gusset that wraps around the lower portion of the slackened head tube, and extends out into the frame. For those that get off on functional aesthetics, Norco followed the look of the rear end and punched out the middle of the triangle so you can see right through it. This also shaves down the required materials and looks slick at the same time.

The industrial look of last year’s rear shock linkage has also been cleaned up. Machined aluminium fittings hide the new, upsized sealed cartridge bearings, and the CNC’ing on the linkage plates removes unnecessary material and keeps things looking clean. The biggest improvement here is that the linkage is now a one-piece unit. Previous versions of the bike used a bolt-in brace to tie each link plate together, which meant extra hardware, extra weight, and one more part to take apart and clean when you have it on the stand. The welded linkage is lighter and stronger, and maintenance free.

Norco also dropped the suspension travel indicators, which I was happy to see go. Riders who have this bike will know how to set it up; something about the laser-etched travel specs just didn’t fit with the factory race bike.

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New linkage, new shock, new adjustments and new frame.

Last year, some riders, myself included, voided their warranty by filing down the upper shock mount cam and flipping it over to create a lower bottom bracket height and slacker head angle. This year, Norco created a shock mount cam that can be flipped, giving riders the same beneficial adjustments without them having to sacrifice their warranty to achieve those results.

The finish of the bike is fantastic. The standard offering is anodized silver, something that some other manufacturers charge extra for. Anodized frames offer a nice advantage over traditional finishes, as they offer a level of durability that nothing can come close to. They don’t scuff, chip, or scratch like other finishes, and provided you make a bit of an effort, will help you keep your bike looking like new all year.

Norco tamed the graphics down considerably for 2007, sticking with a simple white, black, and grey design that blends in nicely with the silver finish. People who liked the louder, factory moto look from last year might miss some of the colour, but there are a few of the white, red and black factory racing versions of the DH available if you look hard enough.

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Summer nights make me feel right || Photo: Matt Yeoman That’s All Stock?

Cutting to the chase, there just are not that many bikes out there that come built like the ’07 Team DH. Every other manufacturer that offers a ‘Team’ downhill bike needs to have a good long look at this bike when they’re choosing spec.

You get Truvativ Holzfeller bars and ODI Lock-on grips steer and a Chris King headset; a ti-railed WTB saddle that is colour keyed with the bike, a Truvativ Holzfeller seatpost; an e.13 SRS guide that spins on Truvativ Holzfeller cranks with a 36T ring and a Howitzer bottom bracket; and Crank Bros. 50/50 pedals.

The rear cassette was changed to a SRAM PG-970 11-23 road cassette, which is an increasingly popular choice among downhill racers. The benefits are that you can run a smaller front ring and guide to get more ground clearance, and you get tight gear ratios and low gearing for high-speed riding.

When that’s combined with the SRAM Black Box shifting with the carbon fibre short cage X.O rear mech and 9.0 trigger shifter, you get shifting that is impossible to beat.

Norco made a good decision in retaining the Shimano Saint brakes from last year’s bike. They have earned a reputation for being one of the best brakes on the market, offering excellent power and modulation and a fantastic lever feel that few other brakes can touch. Durability is top notch and should you bin it hard enough to break them, parts are easy to find and reasonably priced.

The welded seam Alex Supra-D rims have also stuck around from last year, losing their flashy anodized red look in favour of a more stealth black finish. Dual anodized red Hadley hubs bring in big bling factor to the wheels, and are a nice upgrade. Anyone who has spent time on these hubs will testify to their reliability, ease of service, and the quality of service available when required. Kenda Nevegal Sticky 2.5s keep things glued to the ground.

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Art in motion. || Photo: Matt Yeoman

Bombered
The ’07 Team DH boasts new suspension both up front and in the back, with a Marzocchi 888 RC2X World Cup fork complete with titanium springs handling front suspension duties. This fork is all new for 2007, improving on the 2006 888 RC2X. The finish on the sliders has been upgraded to a more durable nickel coating that offers a smoother suspension feel and greater resistance to scratches and scuffs, while the titanium springs shave weight and give the fork a livelier feel.

The fork keeps all of the adjustments that made the 2006 for the best 888 yet, with the lower compression adjustment tucked further into the fork leg to keep it out of harm’s way. The disc brake mount has been changed from a tab mount to a post mount, which gives the front brake a more solid feel. Unfortunately, the decal choice remains the same as last year’s fork. The decals on the test bike barely lasted more than six rides before they started falling off. I’d like to see the branding either cast into the lowers or badged in a more durable format.

The rear end balances out the front thanks to the Marzocchi Roco World Cup shock. The Roco takes away some of the more complicated settings offered by other shocks, keeping things simple with a basic air adjustment to fine-tune compression at the end of the stroke, and standard preload, rebound, and compression settings. There is no pedal platform on this version of the Roco.

Go Time
The amount of snow we received this year made getting a new bike in January a little frustrating, but the trails finally emerged and I was able to hit the dirt on the Team DH. First impressions are everything, and this bike left me with a few impressions that are worth mentioning.

I’m 5’11” and in the past, the Small/Medium offering of this bike works best for me. The Medium/Large felt too big for my liking, whereas the S/M felt more nimble and manageable in our tight and technical terrain. The changes to the ’07 frame discussed above made a big difference in how the bike feels when you saddle up. The standover height reduction is noticeable, as is the 7mm reduction in top tube length over the ’06 bike. I had to slide the seat back as far as it would go, and the new dimensions still took some getting used to. If you’re going from an ’06 Team DH to an ’07, be sure to check out both size offerings before pulling the trigger.

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Nobody builds trails like Splinky || Photo: Matt Yeoman

On the trail, two things struck me as different almost immediately. This bike is lighter on paper, and it actually feels lighter on dirt. Losing a pound in the frame and putting ti springs in the fork wakes this bike up. The front end comes up quickly, and the bike is easier to man-handle in tight trails. This makes for a more nimble feeling bike, and really camouflages the fact that you are riding a bike with 9″ of travel.

The lighter feel, slacker angles, and the top shelf components on the Team DH make it easy to warm up to and get comfortable on. It also likes to go fast. The tried, tested, and true four-bar rear end pedals well, offers everything from small bump to big hit performance, and gives the bike a solid feel.

Norco seems to be treating the head angle of this bike cautiously – it has become incrementally slacker over the past few years, and for ’07 it’s as laid back as it has been yet. Head angle is arguably one of the most influential numbers in how a bike feels on the trail because it plays a large role in how a bike handles, turns, and absorbs terrain. Raking this bike out has resulted in the raciest feeling yet, without making it impossible to rip it down switchbacks and tight trails.

It was a good decision to use the same manufacturer for the front and rear suspension. The legendary plush feel that has made Marzocchi forks so popular now exists in the Roco rear shock, and it makes the bike feel wonderfully balanced. Easy-to-use external adjustments make set up simple, and the result is a well balanced and great handling ride. There are a lot of different suspension components to choose from, but few other manufacturers seem to have figured out how to get the plush feel of Marzocchi’s products, and the reliability and quality to back it up.

Garage Talk
Few things are perfect, and while the ’07 Team DH is very good, I have a few gripes with the bike. The most serious concern is sizing. In previous years, the Small/Medium size worked well for me. The ’06 bike felt a bit roomier than the ’05, while the ’07 bike feels more compact than both of them. That being said, I’m not sure how comfortable I am on a Medium/Large DH bike.

Ultimately this is a lot of bike, and a lot of money for a bike. It is fair to say that the model has been successful enough over the years as it sells out consistently, and demand seems to have gotten to a point to justify the costs of offering an additional size. I would like to see riders have the more traditional choice of a small, medium, or large frame.

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Stunt riding on the Shore. || Photo: Matt Yeoman

The second issue with the bike is not as serious, as it’s rectified at a relatively low cost. The Crank Bros. 50/50 pedals need to go. The model that comes on this bike comes with short pegs with a pylon-looking profile. They are hard enough to find grip on in the dry weather, despite wearing Five Ten sticky rubber shoes. When these pedals get wet, do yourself a favour and call in your appointment for shin stitches ahead of time. The design of this pedal means that there isn’t a viable replacement option for the pins, as the threads are tapped right through the pedal. New pins have nothing to thread up against, and won’t stick around with just Loctite alone. Off with the pedals!

There are riders who don’t like the interrupted seat tube design of this style of rear suspension, but this is a purpose-built bike. If you are looking to crank your seat up so you can hang your armpit in it when you pause for a power gel, this isn’t the bike for you. If you are like the rest of the crowd riding downhill race bikes, you’ll cut your post, set your seat height for the year, and threaten to run over any of you friends who screw with your set up.

Taking the Cake
You are going to be hard pressed to find a better out-of-the-box downhill bike. As mentioned earlier, there are several other manufacturers who also offer a team race bike, but there is always something missing. It’s going to cost you big bucks to get those bikes up to par with the ’07 Team DH. For a privateer DH racer looking to pony up for a winning bike, this is the bike that will let them get that initial purchase out of their way, and then put their wallet away and hit the trails.

The Team DH can be found at you local Norco dealer for CDN$6,050.00

Specs: 5
Price: 4
Ride: 5
Overall: 4.5

Pros:
– Lightest Norco Team DH yet
– Unbeatable build kit
– Great choice for privateer racer

Cons:
– Limited sizing and colour choice
– Poor choice of stock pedals
– Big impact on your pocketbook

Rating Guide:
5.0 Outstanding
4.0 Very Good
3.0 Above Average
2.0 Fair
1.0 Poor

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