Norco Fluid 3 HT (2019) review

Fun, versatile trail hardtail with fork and tyre issues

BikeRadar score3/5

Norco’s fat-tyre Fluid has serious trail-taming potential, but this model’s capability is let down by a few sub-par components.

Norco Fluid 3 HT frame

The frame’s most striking feature is the dropped chainstay just behind the chainring. This is done to boost tyre clearance while keeping the rear end short. As a result, you can fit up to three-inch tyres in the back should you choose to up-size from the 2.8in already there.

The dropped stay sits very close to the chain, but it’s well protected and didn’t cause any rattling during testing.

The dropped stays give extra tyre room
The dropped stays give extra tyre room

You also get a threaded bottom bracket with external bottom bracket bearings. These are typically longer lasting than square-taper or ISIS bottom brackets.

Like many bikes at this price, the Fluid boasts a double-butted top tube and down tube. This saves a little weight by tapering the wall-thickness in the middle of the tube, where strength is needed least.

The brake caliper is nicely located inside the rear triangle
The brake caliper is nicely located inside the rear triangle

Despite this, the complete bike weighs in at a portly 15.6kg in XL. The blame for this bulk lies with the components.

Norco Fluid 3 HT kit

SRAM's NX drivetrain is a solid choice
SRAM's NX drivetrain is a solid choice

It’s unusual to see any dropper at this price, and the TransX post fitted here is a good one too. It offers 120mm of height adjustment, internal cable routing and an ergonomic under-the-bar remote. You also get SRAM NX 11-speed gearing, offering simple and reliable shifting performance.

You can lock out the fork for prolonged climbs
You can lock out the fork for prolonged climbs

Downsides are the coil-sprung 120mm SR Suntour XCM32 fork, slippery WTB Ranger tyres and lackluster Tektro brakes.

The Tektro brakes didn't hugely impress in testing
The Tektro brakes didn't hugely impress in testing

Norco Fluid 3 HT ride impressions

Despite its heft, the Fluid shifts along nicely. The big tyres roll faster than you might think, even on tarmac stretches, and when it comes to riding over bumpy surfaces they offer noticeably more comfort and sustain speed better than narrower rubber.

The big tyres smooth-out the bumps and find traction on rooty and loose climbs that had me spinning-out with regular rubber. The WTB Ranger tyres aren’t much good in muddy conditions though, there’s just not enough tread.

The WTB Ranger rolls fast but struggles in the mud
The WTB Ranger rolls fast but struggles in the mud

The continuous spread of gears and remote-dropper post ensure the rhythm of the ride is not broken up by awkward shifts between chainrings or stopping to adjust the saddle height.

It’s a mixed affair coming back down the hill though. The wide handlebar, quality grips and short stem make for a confident feeling cockpit. This is backed up by a relatively slack head angle (67 degrees) and long top tube, which combine to provide a comfortable fit and relaxed handling.

The steering is calm and well-weighted even when the trail gets hectic, and the threat of going over the bars is mitigated by the long front-end and short-ish 60mm stem, which keeps your weight centered when tackling steep descents.

The SR Suntour XCM32 fork is fairly stiff, but over-sprung I feel
The SR Suntour XCM32 fork is fairly stiff, but over-sprung I feel

Meanwhile, the fairly short chainstay length (from the bottom bracket to the rear axle) makes it easier to manual and bunnyhop.

However, when things get rough the fork lets the side down. Unlike an air fork, the coil springs can’t be adjusted to suit different rider weights, and the SR Suntour XCM32 fork is fitted with such stiff springs that I rarely used more than half of its 120mm of travel, despite weighing over 85kg.

It’s also sticky and reluctant to get moving, making for an uncomfortable ride and causing the front wheel to get bounced off-line over small bumps.

Pick the right tracks and the Fluid 3 is great fun
Pick the right tracks and the Fluid 3 is great fun

This may be less of an issue for heavier riders because the fork boasts a stiff chassis. This keeps the steering precise and confident in smoother turns, but the tyres let the bike down here. They have an overly rounded profile, with little shoulder tread.

This shape discourages proper cornering technique, which involves leaning the bike over into the corner like a carving ski — cornering aggressively on muddy or loose ground will likely lead to slipping out. The tyres are not tubeless-ready either, so they can’t sustain low pressures in rocky terrain without risking punctures.

Finally, the Tektro brakes are underpowered, making one-finger braking on steep descents very hard work.

Norco Fluid 3 HT specifications

  • Frame material: Double butted aluminium
  • Fork: SR Suntour XCM32, 120mm travel, 15x110mm
  • Front derailleur: None
  • Rear derailleur: SRAM NX
  • Cassette: SRAM NX 11-speed
  • Chain: SRAM NX 11-speed
  • Cranks: SR Suntour Zeron Boost, 170mm (XS/S) | 175mm (M/L/XL), 30t
  • Bottom bracket: SR Suntour BB24, threaded BSA 73mm
  • Shifters: SRAM NX
  • Brakes: Tektro HD-M275, hydraulic disc, 180mm/160mm rotors
  • Rims: Alloy XD26, 32 hole, 30mm internal width
  • Front hub: Novatec Boost 110mm x 15mm
  • Rear hub: Joytech D142TSE, 9x141mm QR
  • Front tyre: WTB Ranger, 27.5x2.8in
  • Rear tyre: WTB Ranger, 27.5x2.8in
  • Stem: Alloy 60mmx31.8
  • Bar: X6 Alloy 750mmx31.8
  • Grips/tape: Norco Lock-on
  • Saddle: Norco XC saddle
  • Seatpost: TranzX YSP18JL Stealth Dropper, 120mm travel, 31.6mm, 1x lever
Norco has done a good job with the geometry, including the short-ish stem
Norco has done a good job with the geometry, including the short-ish stem

Norco Fluid 3 HT geometry

  • Frame size: XL
  • Travel (mm front/mm rear): 120mm / 4.72in
  • Seat tube length: 500m / 19.69in
  • Head tube angle: 67.5
  • Seat tube angle (effective): 71.9 degrees
  • Horizontal top tube: 675mm / 26.57in
  • Head tube length: 120mm / 4.72in
  • Fork length: 531mm / 20.91in
  • Bottom bracket rise/drop: -45mm / -1.77in
  • Bottom bracket height: 316mm / 12.44in
  • Wheelbase: 1,194mm / 47.01in
  • Rear centre: 430mm / 16.93in
  • Front centre: 768mm / 30.24in
  • Reach: 469mm / 18.46in
  • Stack: 630mm / 24.8in
  • Standover: 795mm / 31.3in
  • Crank length: 175mm / 6.89in
  • Stem length: 60mm / 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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