Norco Charger 2 review$1,299.00

A capable mile muncher but not the best for serious mountain bikers

BikeRadar score2.5/5

The Norco Charger 2 will suit those who enjoy the mellower side of mountain biking, but those looking to push their limits in technical terrain will be better served elsewhere.

Norco Charger 2 frame

The frame looks good up close thanks to its glossy paint and smooth welds. Under the surface, it features double-butted tubes which save weight by varying the thickness of the walls throughout their length.

The overall bike weighs a respectable 13.3Kg in XL - the largest of four size options.

Handily, two water bottles can be mounted inside the frame.

Norco relies on an older style, non-external bearing bottom bracket
Norco relies on an older style, non-external bearing bottom bracket

Norco Charger 2 kit

The component highlight has to be the SRAM NX 11-speed drivetrain. The cassette has a wide 11-42 tooth range of gears, and with a 30 tooth chainring up front, the gearing is biased more towards climbing ease than flat-out speed. Most importantly, the single front chainring ensures intuitive shifting and reliable chain retention even in very rough terrain.

I also like the wide 750mm handlebar with lock-on grips. Combined with the relatively short stem (60–70mm depending on frame size), this makes for a confident feeling cockpit.

Norco has kept the stem short and the bars fairly wide
Norco has kept the stem short and the bars fairly wide

The RockShox 30 Silver fork delivers 100mm of suspension travel. Its air spring can be pumped up to suit the weight of the rider, and the rebound damping can be adjusted with a simple dial to match the spring.

The fork can also be locked out to stop it from moving when pedalling over smooth terrain. It has a 9mm quick-release axle, which doesn’t provide as stiff a connection to the front wheel as a 15mm thru-axle — something which can be found on some bikes at this price point.

A lock-out on the fork should make out-of-the-saddle efforts up smooth climbs more efficient
A lock-out on the fork should make out-of-the-saddle efforts up smooth climbs more efficient

Norco Charger 2 ride impressions

The Charger really charges up smooth hills. It’s respectably light and, more importantly, the relatively long top tube and wide bar provide a comfortable position on steep slopes.

The lightly-treaded tyres zip along smoother sections of trail with ease, so strong riders will find themselves at the faster end of the gearing range much of the time.

The tyres might roll fast, but they don't offer masses of grip
The tyres might roll fast, but they don't offer masses of grip

The 29in wheels smooth out the terrain a little, helping to maintain speed over bumps when compared to 27.5in wheels. But when riding anything rougher than a typical towpath or track, the narrow tyres make for an uncomfortable ride and actually slow progress when compared to a fatter tyre.

They’re also comically lacking in grip over anything soft, muddy or slippery. There is room for fatter tyres should you choose to upgrade, so this needn’t be a dealbreaker.

The steep head angle (70 degrees) makes for an agile and upright riding position at slow speeds and on gentle terrain, but when going downhill, especially when things get bumpy or fast, this causes the steering to feel somewhat twitchy and over-sensitive. This is despite the wide handlebar which does take the edge off this nervousness somewhat.

I found the Tektro brakes to be slightly under-powered
I found the Tektro brakes to be slightly under-powered

When the tyres do find traction and you push a little harder into a corner, the fork and wheels flex noticeably, creating a vague, smeared-out steering feel. This lateral flex can also be felt when pedalling out of the saddle as you rock the bike from one side to another.

The final problem for the aspiring mountain biker are the Tektro brakes. They are underpowered compared to some Shimano stoppers seen on many comparable bikes, which discourages one-finger braking — a key mountain biking skill.

You may find the Charger limiting if you are to push your limits off road
You may find the Charger limiting if you are to push your limits off road

Norco Charger 2 specifications

  • Frame material: Double butted aluminium
  • Fork: RockShox 30 Silver, 100mm travel, 9x100mm QR, air spring
  • Bottom bracket: Truvativ PowerSpline
  • Cranks: SRAM NX, 30t chainring
  • Cassette: SRAM NX 11-speed
  • Chain: SRAM NX 11-speed
  • Front derailleur: None
  • Rear derailleur: SRAM NX
  • Shifters: SRAM NX
  • Brakes: Tektro HD-M275, hydraulic disc, 180mm/160mm rotors
  • Rims: WTB MX21, 32 hole, 21mm internal width
  • Front hub: Joytech D341DSE, 9x100mm
  • Rear hub: Joytech D341DSE, 10x135mm
  • Front tyre: WTB Nineline, 29x2.25in
  • Rear tyre: WTB Nineline, 29x2.25in
  • Saddle: Norco XC saddle
  • Seatpost: Norco Alloy, 31.6mm
  • Stem: Alloy 60mm/70mmx31.8
  • Bar: X6 Alloy 750mm
  • Grips/tape: Norco Lock-on
Intuitive shifting from the SRAM NX groupset is great to see at this price
Intuitive shifting from the SRAM NX groupset is great to see at this price

Norco Charger 2 geometry

  • Sizes: S, M, L ,XL (tested)
  • Seat tube length: 55cm/21.65in
  • Head tube angle: 70.5 degrees
  • Seat tube angle (effective): 72.2 degrees
  • Horizontal top tube: 68cm/26.77in
  • Head tube length: 12.5cm/4.92in
  • Fork length: 50.6cm/19.92in
  • Bottom bracket rise/drop: -6.3cm/2.48in
  • Bottom bracket height: 30.8cm/12.13in
  • Wheelbase: 117.3cm/46.18in
  • Rear centre: 44.5cm/17.52in
  • Front centre: 73.6cm/28.98in
  • Reach: 47.3cm/18.62in
  • Stack: 64.3cm/25.31in
  • Standover: 79.5cm/31.1in
  • Crank length: 17.5cm/6.89in
  • Stem length: 6cm/2.36in
Seb Stott

Technical Writer, UK
Seb is a geeky technical writer for BikeRadar, as well as MBUK and What Mountain Bike magazines. Seb's background in experimental physics allows him to pick apart what's really going on with mountain bike components. Years of racing downhill, cross-country and enduro have honed a fast and aggressive riding style, so he can really put gear to the test on the trails, too.
  • Age: 24
  • Height: 192cm/6'3"
  • Weight: 85Kg/187 lbs
  • Waist: 86cm / 34in
  • Chest: 107cm / 44in
  • Discipline: Mountain
  • Preferred Terrain: Steep!
  • Current Bikes: Focus Sam 3.0, Kona Process 111, Specialized Enduro 29 Elite
  • Dream Bike: Mondraker Crafty with Boost 29" wheels, a 160mm fork and offset bushings for maximum slackness.
  • Beer of Choice: Buckfast ('Bucky' for short)
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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