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At the start of this summer we starting looking for a new women's product reviewer for WMB.  After great discussion and countless hours deciding wie would like to introduce our newest contributor to WMB, Kristen Johnston.  No stranger to bikes, Kristen likes to hammer hers around and most thursdays you can find her leading the charge at the loonie races and more times than not she wins the women's category.  The rest of the week you can find her at the medical clinic working at her family medicine practice or hanging out with her husband and kids, who also can put down a pretty hard pace.

 

It has been a cold and wet, West Coast Spring - absolutely perfect for mountain biking!  Whistler is full-on at any time of year, but if you love Mountain biking, this spring has started out to be fantastic for exciting trail riding action!

Yesterday, we climbed up Cougar Mountain to the trail head of the Flank to Alpine.  We hit deep snow at the 3600 foot trail head, and so, had to descend back down the logging road - bummer!  Maybe in a month if the sun shines hot again!  The trails below 3500 feet have been just awesome, and as always the trail maintenance crews have been out creating some pretty cool new rides.

This spring, I have had the pleasure of trying out the Norco Phena woman's all terrain mountain bike.  When I was first given the bike, my first two thoughts were:

  1. How sexy it was in grey and violet with its sassy pink seat.
  2. How heavy it was going to be on the climbs compared to my light cross-country race bike.

My first climb with the Norco Phena, included the gruelling climb up Happy Trail and up the Nimby 50 in Pemberton. I was pleasantly surprised by the performance of the Phena on that climb.  The angles felt just right for an extended technical climb.  The Balance point between seat and bars was easy to establish from a standing position on the peddles, the back wheel contacted the trail without too much rattle and slip, and the front fork tension and travel (5.2 inches) allowed for a pretty smooth ride up the rough patches.   If the bike is compromised in one area, I would say the rolling weight of the wheel-set was a bit too high;   it could easily be felt in steep climbing momentum changes over rocks and roots.

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Norco Phena mid rift.

The Phena is built tough and handled Whistler's tough terrain with no difficulty.  It uses a Rockshox Ario 2.1 rear shock and its frame is adjustable to 112-131 mm (5.2 inches) of travel.  With these features and its' front shocks which is a Rockshox Tora Air  with 130 mm (5.2 inches) of travel, the Norco Phena  is a cushy ride.  It absorbs the technical terrain with comfort and grace.

The disc brakes, Shimano BRM - 575 180 mm rotor, ran perfectly.  There was no squeak at all and they functioned smoothly.  The Shimano Rapid fire gear shifters were smooth as one would expect from Shimano, they shifted quickly, and quietly, with no need for adjustment after a month of riding.

One drawback inherent to this bike is its ability to corner on the downhill.  I was riding with a local bike mechanic and mountain bike racer, Chris Clarke, and mentioned this to him.  He made some adjustments   to the spacers on the front stem which lowered the handle bars. This small change improved the bike's ability to corner somewhat; however, I would still say this may be a weak point with this bike's frame geometry.  But keep in mind; I approach Mountain biking from a racers mind-set, born over years of grinding it out against speedy woman looking for an advantage on downhill race sections.  As a result, I have an ingrained expectation about a bike's high-velocity, downhill performance.

The Norco Phena is designed and built to fit a women's body.  The Phena's shorter top tube and a low stand-over height make it instantly comfortable.  It was nice to jump right on and feel at home - without any large adjustments.  That would be rare with a bike not specifically built for a woman.

Probably the best thing about the Norco Phena is its great price point at approximately 2000$.  This price provides a great starting point for an intermediate rider wanting a fun, good all mountain bike.  If you want to race it, you may want to drop some weight by upgrading specific components like the wheel-set, tires, and cranks.  If on the other hand, free-riding and great all-day cross country riding is your passion, then you may have just found the bike for you...

 

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Norco Phena rear end.

 

Opinion:
Affordable women's specific bike that works right out of the box.

Plus:
Affordable, women's geometry.

Minus:

Needs at least a 15mm front fork.


Price:
$2165 Cdn

Website:
http://www.norco.com/bikes/mountain/forma/phena/

Rating: 4/5
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