Norca Phena bike test



The new women's mountain bike range from Norco for 2010, named the Forma range, includes six bikes and most excitingly two longer travel bikes for proper mountain use. The freeride oriented Vixa has 160mm travel and the smaller Phena offers 120mm for a more all-mountain ride.


Norca say their Forma range is "By women for women, the forma line offers fine tuned geometry, women specific parts and intricate graphics." They offer the following characteristics:

  • Frame geometry designed for women, shorter top tubes , smaller XS size options and longer headtubes, improved standover, better women’s fit
  • Light weight alloy tubing - decreased bike weight
  • Colour and graphic designs - created by women cyclists and critiqued by women’s cycling groups
  • Women’s specific saddle and grips as well as easy adjust levers for smaller hands - provides improved comfort and fit for women
  • Bikes for several intended use styles from freeride, all mountain to XC trail and path



Norca Phena 1



The Phena is aimed at riders who like light freeride, shore trails and mountain enduro riding, that's all very 'Canadian and North Shore', but what does that mean for British riders? Well, it's a solidly built number that can certainly handle some rough riding, enjoying technical singletrack, rocky descents and a bit of jumping should you like that kind of thing. We might not have as much vertical gain here in the Uk as Norca's North Shore testers but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy the drops we do have.


It's not a lightweight number, at 30.5lbs on the scales. Maybe here in UK we don't actually need a bike quite this beefy but should a trip to the Alps be in the offering we trust the Phena to hold it's own on the rocky descents and easily withstand the toll big mountains take on bikes. Descending is super smooth, fast and confidence inspiring, the suspension set up is easy to adjust for all weights of riders, an important point for lighter riders. It didn't take us long to dial in the rebound and dampening rates to suit our size and riding style. We like plenty of plush travel to flow smoothly over rocks and moderate sized drops with rapid response to small obstacles without forcing us of course. No problems!


Not every 'all-mountain' bike offer equal measures of good climbing ability versus descending ability; in fact every one we've tested in the past has had a slight bias one way or the other, and most have been uphill oriented. In our opinion the Phena has more of a downhill focus, and no we don't mean it's a DH bike but that its weight is a slight hinderence to smaller riders on ascents. That said, we found the quality of climbing pretty good, it was well balanced, comfortable on longer climbs and felt like pedal power was put to good use when riding in and out of the saddle. Given its Northshore heritage, where a chunkier bike is a big bonus in those conditions, maybe we're being unfair on the Phena expecting a 'tough do it all bike' to be lighter on the scales, but it is rare that women need or indeed want this added weight for British riding. In fact we strongly beleve that bikes designed for women could be loads lighter!


The ride position and fit was good, a shortish stem complimented the direct and easy to predict steering and allowed us to get our weight over the front for fast and traction filled cornering. Grips, bars and saddle all from Norca, are made for comfortable and female-friendly bike contact points. No complaints there, or indeed with any of the gear or braking equipment either. It's well specc'd and solid stuff, nothing fancy but reliable!



Norca Phena 2



We found the Phena had a left-field choice of tyres for UK riding (Kenda Small Block tyres), fine for hardpack and dry days but in wet conditions we struggled with traction and for more freeride focussed riding we'd prefer a bigger volume tyre. That said in our local woods with its firm and wel drained terrain, we enjoyed railing berms and flinging the Phena around in equal measures so the tyres do have their place. We'll keep you posted on how they fair thorugh the boggy winter months.


Price: £1520 approx


Sizes: XS, Small, Medium, Large

  • Frame: Phena 2010 w/ 140 mm travel
  • Rear Shock: Rockshox Ario 2.1
  • Fork: Rockshox Tora Air 130 mm travel
  • Cranks: Shimano Deore 442 9 speed crank
  • Bottom Bracket: Shimano Octalink BB
  • Pedals: Wellgo LU-A4 MTB pedal
  • Front Derailleur: Shimano Deore
  • Rear Derailleur: Shimano SLX Shadow RD
  • Shifters: Shimano Deore rapid fire 9 speed
  • Cassette: Shimano CS-HG-50
  • Chain: KMC Z-9000 9 speed chain
  • Front Hub: Shimano HB-M495 center lock disc
  • Rear Hub: Shimano HBM-495 center lock disc
  • Rims: Alex Ace 24
  • Tyres: Kenda Small Block 8 26 x 2.10
  • Front Brake: Shimano BRM-575 160 mm rotor
  • Rear Brake: Shimano BRM-575 160 mm rotor
  • Brake Levers: Shimano M-575 levers
  • Handlebar: Norco MTB alloy rise bar
  • Headset: FSA TH-855 1-1/8" threadless
  • Stem: Norco MTB alloy threadless stem
  • Grips: Norco Sheild dual density
  • Saddle: Norco MTB ladies design dual density foam
  • Seat Post: Alloy 2 bolt MTB post
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