With more than four decades in the bicycle business, Norco Bicycles (Norco) is an expert in cutting-edge cycling technology. Highly regarded in the industry for its high-performance street, BMX and mountain bicycles, with notable patrons including Andrew Watson and Catherine Vipond, two of Canada’s fastest cyclists endorsing the brand, Norco is dedicated to enhancing the customer experience through innovation and quality.
When developing the rear suspension system for its 2012 lightweight mountain model, the Phaser, Norco turned to Saint-Gobain to provide a solution that would meet its lightweight requirements and boost performance.
Living for Bikes
For the staff at Norco, bikes are everything. Its designers are dedicated to producing the highest quality bicycles and components, fit for athletes and amateurs alike. The design team includes professional cycling champions who know what is needed to create the perfect high-performance bicycle.
Outside of the office, Norco is active in the local community. As well as supporting numerous health and children’s charities, Norco is also a proud supporter of cycling advocacy groups. “We are passionate about bikes from designing to riding them,” said PJ Hunton, Engineering Manager, Norco. “Our goal is to produce the perfect ride and we won’t rest until we do.”
To develop the suspension for the 2011 Phaser, a lightweight mountain racer, Norco faced a problem: how to further reduce the weight of the bicycle without sacrificing performance or detracting from the customer experience.
The bicycle suspension system is designed to cushion the rider from contact despite the roughness of the terrain, to create a smoother ride. The suspension system also improves safety as it ensures that both wheels are in contact with the ground as much as possible. To enable the inner section of the suspension to move smoothly inside the frame, a bearing is needed.
Traditionally, Norco used rolling-element bearings in its suspension systems. These were sturdy and offered the low friction values needed for the suspension to operate smoothly. The rolling-element bearing worked well, but, at 12 grams, was too heavy to use in the Phaser.
“We wanted to offer our customers a high-quality mountain bike that had the advantage of being lighter than others on the market to improve racing performance. We knew that the answer was to find a lightweight bearing that offered the low friction values and longevity of the rolling element bearing,” said Hunton.
Hunton was already familiar with Saint-Gobain through working with the company in the past, so he approached the company to find a solution.
“Working together was key to finding a solution that met Norco’s requirements,” said Paul Humphreys, Global Market Manager, Bicycles, NORGLIDE Bearings, Saint-Gobain. “Our NORGLIDE Bearing was the answer they were looking for – a bearing that was lightweight but capable of performing under difficult conditions. Norco and Saint-Gobain then worked together to customise the PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) compound used in the bearing to enable NORGLIDE Bearing to make a big difference to the Phaser rear suspension system.”
The NORGLIDE Bearing is a PTFE-coated, aluminum stainless or regular steel-backed bearing. The custom-developed PTFE layer acts as a lubricant, offering consistently low friction values throughout the long life of the product and the steel backing ensures it can handle the stress of a mountain bicycle ride. At 1.2 grams, it is one tenth of the weight of the traditional rolling-element bearing, NORGLIDE Bearing helped Norco enhance the smart design of the Phaser by achieving weight and space savings. Thanks to its self-lubricating coating, it also offers improved stick-slip effect and higher performance capabilities, while its ability to reduce vibration ensures the noise-free cycling experience.
The Consummate Cycle Ride
As well as being much lighter, the NORGLIDE Bearing offers lower friction values than the traditional rolling-element bearing, which means the Phaser offers a smoother, more comfortable ride than ever before. The 2012 mountain model has proved itself capable of offering exceptional performance for leisure cross-country biking and racing alike.
“We are extremely satisfied with the performance of the NORGLIDE Bearing in the Phaser. The pivot in a bicycle suspension system is something our customers shouldn’t have to think about. The new composite bearing from Saint-Gobain glides like a dream and offers the same high performance time after time. It performs better than we could have imagined,” added Hunton.
The Phaser has been popular and highly-acclaimed across the industry. In fact champion Canadian cyclists Andrew Watson and Catherine Vipond both ride the new model and it is now sold to cyclists across Canada, the USA, the UK, Russia, Norway, Israel, Argentina and Australia.
Looking to the Future
Norco was so impressed with the performance of the NORGLIDE Bearing in the Phaser that the company is now working closely with Saint-Gobain on new projects.
“This partnership is set to continue,” said Hunton. “Saint-Gobain doesn’t offer one-fit only products, but offer custom-made components designed especially for our bicycles. The company’s engineers take the time to understand our needs and, as such, we are looking forward to the next phase of our relationship.”
“We at Saint-Gobain are pleased that the Phaser has proved such a success,” said Paul. “Saint-Gobain has years of experience in supplying small parts that make a big difference in the bicycle market and we have brought our bearing expertise to help find solutions for Norco’s needs. Both companies are innovative and committed to quality and that is why our partnership has been so fruitful.”
Filed Under: Rapid prototyping