One brand that we think has been doing just that is Norco, and this looks to be a brand new downhill bike underneath one of its riders spotted in British Columbia. Pinkbike user Tonkatruck went above (or should that be below) and beyond to get this spy shot from underneath a truck and then uploaded the pictures to our forums for us to pore over.
Norco’s previous downhill bike used the distinctive HSP system. HSP stood for High Single Pivot, and it marked the first non-Horst Link bike that the brand had designed since 1995 (that would be the FTS-1 for any completionists). It used the same theory as classic Sunn bikes and more recent Commencal Supremes, where a high pivot provides a rearward axle path that lengthens the wheelbase as the suspension compresses. This should make it more stable through the rough stuff. Unlike the Commencal though, where the shock is compressed from below, the current HSP system uses an A.R.T pull-link to tug on a rocker that compresses the shock from above. Norco said that this allowed them to create a more progressive and tunable linkage than other similar designs.
It looks like Norco will be sticking with the high pivot design on this new frame, but there are definitely some changes going on with the linkage. Unfortunately the meat of it is obscured thanks to a handily placed leg, but we do think we’ve spotted something interesting about the way this bike might work. Pinkbike’s tech editor and engineer, Dan Roberts, has run some numbers and believes that this bike could be using flex pivots to make the new design work.
Flex stays are fairly common in XC racing, where the low travel amounts mean that the chain stay and seat stay don’t move apart very far, but we can’t think of a downhill bike that has ever used them. We also think the aluminum drop outs could be used for some extra adjustability and could allow riders to tune the length of their chainstays, similar to the ones we’ve seen Greg Minnaar using on his V10 29 this year.
We’re still just speculating at this point and reached out to Norco for more information, but at the moment all they said was, “This bike is part of Norco’s Research and Development program and is purely an information-gathering exercise at this time. No details to share with you as any information about any bikes in R&D are under embargo.” Hopefully we get to see more of this wild looking bike when racing restarts.