Prototype Norco Shinobi Full Suspension 29er Freeride Mountain Bike and Steel Judan Belt Drive Hardtail

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SEA OTTER CLASSIC 2010 – I walked over to the Norco booth with the Gates PR guy to check out the new Judan, a steel hardtail singlespeed that uses the Gates Carbon Belt Drive (background bike), and it’s nice, but what really caught my eye was the bike with “Prototype” emblazoned across the top tube.

Some people have gaydar, some have a sixth sense.  I haven’t come up with a good term for it yet (suggestions are welcome), but if there’s something that that says Prototype, Black Box, Skunk Works or similar, it’s like catnip and all else around becomes secondary.

Named Shinobi, it’s Norco’s answer to long-travel, freeride oriented 29ers, which is a segment that’s growing.  The Shinobi gets hydroformed downtubes,  shaped toptube and a barrel-like tapered headtube and 140mm of travel via a new linkage design.  Specs, pricing and more after the break, along with a couple pics of the Judan…

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Starting at the front, this new (massive) tapered headtube will start showing up on all of Norco’s long travel bikes, 26″ models included.  If you notice, the hydroformed downtube takes full advantage of the width to create a big, stiff front end…which is a good thing considering the additional forces the big wheels will add to a 140-150mm single crown fork.

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Norco’s current lineup uses a long rocker arm that looks very similar to Ellsworth’s bikes.  The Shinobi gets a new linkage design that’s pretty smooth looking (cosmetically, I can’t speak to it’s performance):

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Those bolt-on cable guides probably won’t make it to the production models, but they sure look sweet.  The ziptie not so much.

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Out back, the Shinobi uses the Syntace 142×12 rear axle system (above) and post mount brake tabs (below).

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With a target retail of $2,650 for a complete bike, it’s looking to be quite a bargain.  Spec on this bike was purely for show and not likely to be the final spec at this price point.  Most likely, though, this is a starting price with better equipped models being available either at launch or shortly thereafter (our guess).

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While it looks a bit close at this angle, the S-bend seatstays provide pretty decent tire clearance.

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At the other extreme of the 29er realm is the Judan.  It’s a Reynolds Chromoly framed singlespeed hardtail with the Gates Carbon Belt Drive, a Manitou Minute 29er fork, Continental tires, WTB saddle and Avid Elixir R brakes.

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