Dirt Norco rider Ben Reid gives us an update on the Norco 650b Aurum proto that he rode at rd#2 of the BDS at Fort William.
I had my first ride on Norco’s 650b prototype downhill bike in Fort William, Scotland at round two of the BDS, people may begin to think the word prototype means this will be the next move for Norco but this time it’s not the case.
This bike is simply a rough test piece so that Norco can begin to gather feedback on the bigger wheel size for DH and at the moment have not given us any indication of making the jump to 650b for DH any time in the near future. However in typical Norco fashion they have made sure we can do some accurate testing for them so they have made this frame so all the geometry is the same as on the already dialled in 26” Aurum race bike keeping the BB height the same and so on.
There are some other frames out there at the moment that allow the bigger wheels to fit but few if any that are so far along as Norco in already having a purpose built 650 specific test frame. We are also pretty fortunate with the team sponsors to be in a great position to carry out this testing with Schwalbe already having some 27.5 DH tyres and as well with the Manitou Dorado forks not causing any clearance issues.
I guess the big question everyone wants to know is whether or not it is faster for DH? The truth is I really couldn’t say as there is still far too much testing to do before making that call. What I can say however is after riding this bike last weekend in Fort William it seems to be the right sort of track where there are probably not too many if any draw backs from using the bigger wheels. I think the world cup there next month will be another great opportunity for me to build some really strong feedback for the guys at Norco under World Cup racing conditions. I am also looking forward to getting some more testing in on all sorts of tracks this season and hopefully in a few months time we all will have a better understanding about the bigger wheels for downhill racing.
Back to Fort William and to anyone that studied the times from the BDS race they might have noticed I set the fastest speed trap and already be putting two and two together that it must have been the bigger wheels. I would be the first to want to know if this was the case but I’m not convinced it was all down to my wheel size.
The speed trap is not something many riders pay much attention too but when I was on my way up the hill for my race run my mechanic pointed out the speed trap and that there was some cash up for grabs to the fastest man, I quite liked the sound of some free Derv and thanks to my mechanic I had it fresh in my head to not brake until I was through the trap — which was a bit of a risk as the big right hander before the ‘hip replacement’ was right after the trap and I very nearly didn’t make the corner from braking so late, I also raced with a Schwalbe Hans Dampf tyre on the rear which is not really a full on DH tyre but on a track like Fort William with myself not being the heaviest rider I was happy to trade some rear grip for better rolling.
More news on the big 650 machine as and when we know more but for now I think 26inch wheels in DH racing are still very much the goer.
Thanks for reading.