Christmas came early this year for Team Colin, in the form of a test ride weekend with a 2017 Norco Ithaqua 6.1. Norco’s answer to the question “Hey Norco, could you please build a racing fatbike for me?
They answered “Yes”, and the Ithaqua is many other things too, but at it its core, it’s just a big, mean, race-ready, fatbike. It literally squashes the Sasquatch and Bigfoot (The Ithaqua’s little brother and sister), and rides like a raging behemoth. This bike is one big mother. Really, I think that’s what I like about it the most. It’s long, lean, and robust–and its size and geometry combine for a tight, yet supple, and burly feel.
Wait, Itha what, now?
ITHAQUA. Remember that name.
Seriously though, did I just write “burly”! And what’s an Ithaqua?
Well aside from being Norco’s aforementioned big boss mountain bike, it’s a big boss legend too. Here, from the Google, are some notes about the legend of the Ithaqua:
“Ithaqua is a horrifying giant that controls snow, ice and cold…prowling the Arctic, hunting unwary travellers and slaying them gruesomely.
Ithaqua is the only one of his kind. Those who join Ithaqua’s cult will gain the ability to be completely unaffected by cold.” (The Wikipedia)
I think the engineers at Norco read the legend, and then built a bike around it, because they have created something truly awesome. Seriously, Norco didn’t just build a bike. They built a legend. This bike is sooooo badass. Yeah, I just cussed.
The Ithaqua frame is made of mid modulus carbon, and…BORING. Okay, if you want to read the actual review part of this “review” (note the quotation marks, denoting how serious of a reviewer I am), you can scroll down to the “Norco Ithaqua’s Five Cs of Awesomeness”. I’m not big on “mm”, degrees of anything, or specific specifics, but I think you’ll get the picture. However, first, I want to gush a bit more.
Well, the cat’s out of the bag. I love this bike—I love this bike–and the tone of this post is going to be, um, glowing.
Full disclosure: I’m not a techie cyclister. When riders are comparing gear ratios and suspension travel, I’m more apt to say “Hey, cool bike”. To be honest, I’m still not even sure why Kevin, the rep at Live to Play Sports, let me demo the bike. True story: when I left the warehouse, I speed walked to my van shouting “Start the car! Start the car!” even though I was alone. Shh. Don’t tell Kevin–I want to try it again on snow. Also, don’t tell Kevin that I yell to people who don’t exist in my car.
Okay, so I like the bike, but does the Ithaqua live up to its lofty, mythic name?
Yep. Absolutely. You bet. Oh yes, it honestly and truly does. And omigod does it ever.
I had the bike for four days, and tried a few types of terrain. Unfortunately, the weather in Ontario can change pretty drastically in one week, and the demo days were snowless. Boy, what a difference one week can make. We’re on our third straight day of snow here. Anyway, on the Day 1, I rode it on the streets around Mount Albert, Ontario, to get to their Christmas Parade. True story—at times there more people were craning their necks to see the cool bike behind them than there were watching the floats. The next day, I spent a few hours on the XC Loop pumptracks, and skinnies at Joyride 150. Tooling around the park was awesome. Then, on Day 3 (the morning after Joyride) I met my riding buddy, John (and his friend) for a proper rip in Northumberland Forest. After a rough work week, a few sleepless nights, and pounding the bike at Joyride for a few hours the day before, I was not in the mood for a ride. Also, it was cold, and I was tired. What can I say, I’m delicate.
And then I sat on the bike (vroom).
And then we started riding (vroom vroom).
And then we hit a few climbs and some technical stuff (VROOM VROOM).
If I thought Joyride 150 was fun on the Ithaqua, ripping actual singletrack was a blast. You don’t just ride over logs with an Ithaqua. You ride up the trunk of a tree, through its canopy, and down the other side of the trunk. This is a beast of a bike. I thought I was Batman, riding something cooked-up in the Wayne Industries laboratory. The bike climbs like a jackrabbit, handles trail features like a ballerina, and just rips like a demon. Put plainly, it was gnarly and fun.
The next day, my demo weekend was over, and my time with the bike was waning, but I wanted to feel the thrill jut a bit more, so I spent Day 4 just messing around. I managed to sit on the bike and play around as much as I could: In my driveway; around my house; next door to see the neighbours; or whatever. I don’t think there’s a more fun ride when you want to play bikes, and as much as the Ithaqua will “hunt unwary travellers and slay them gruesomely” in a race, if you scratch its surface, it’s a bike, and bikes are fun—this one is just that much more fun because it’s made so well.
Enough gushing, here’s my review of the Norco Ithaqua 6.1:
For those inclined, here are the Specific Specifics on my demo:
– Seat/Seatpost: SDG Duster RL/Race Face Next Carbon 31.6 x 400mm
– Headset: Angular Sealed Cartridge Bearings w/2x10mm Matte UD Carbon spacer
– Stem: Race Face Turbine 35mm/60mm
– Handlebar: Race Face Next 35 Carbon 760mm/10mm Rise
– Brakes: SRAM Level TLM (180mm front, 160mm rear)
– Brake Cable Housing: SRAM Hydraulic
– Hubs: DT Swiss 350 (150×15 front, 97×12 CL rear)
– Rims: Sun Mulefut 80SL 26″ 32H”
– Tires: Kenda Juggernaut Pro 26 x 4.5 (Tubeless)
– Rear Shifter: SRAM X1 11spd
– Rear Derailleur: SRAM X01 11spd Carbon Cage
– Cassette: SRAM XG1175 10/42 11spd
– Crankset: Race Face Next Carbon 28T
– Bottom Bracket: Race Face PF92 Fat Bike BB
$6,099 (Canadian MSRP)
And here, as promised, are the Norco Ithaqua’s Five Cs of Awesomeness:
The Ithaqua’s frame is a thing of beauty,and you can’t get any sweeter than a carbon bike, but it doesn’t end there. The fork is carbon, the handle bars, crank, and seatpost are carbon (Raceface Next). Rides awesome, looks awesome, and lasts awesome. Carbon. Oh, and when it’s cold, you can lick carbon and your tongue won’t stick to it. I mean, you know, if you’re inclined to—no judgement from Team Colin.
The cranking performance of this bike is phenomenal, The driveTRAIN is a grinder. Focus on the word TRAIN, because the Ithaqua’s 1×11 is unstoppable. The 28 x 10/42 gearing is going to haunt my bike upgrade dreams for a while. It took a beating at high speed, or at low cadence while hammering up a steep climb. The Ithaqua doesn’t purr, it howls, and the drivetrain is designed for some serious forward movement.
The build of the 6.1 is exceptional: DT Swiss 350 thru-axle hubs, Mulefut rims, and Kenda Juggernaut Pro tires: Awesome. Race Face Turbine stem: whatever, it’s just a stem—but it’s stubby, it rocks, and with 760mm bars the bike handles nimbly, and solidly. Every detail on the bike is meant to help win a race. Even the SDG Duster seat is sweet (and it has orange accents to match the frame, natch). Norco jams an exceptional pile of high end components on their bikes, and this one is no exception. Seriously though, 76cm wide bars? A w e s o m e.
Oh, and they’ve got these new, screw fit internal cabling ports that keep cables super snug. Sweet.
Braking isn’t usually a review section (and “c’braking” isn’t even a word) but the SRAM Level TLM brakes are a work of art and deserve some love here. They use DOT 5.1 fluid, instead of mineral oil, which will give awesome, consistent, braking in extreme conditions—and especially the cold. Plus, the TLM upgrade even has something called “Bleeding Edge” to make quick, RIDER, maintenance a snap. Put together, and with the giant rotors, these brakes could stop a, wait for it, TRAIN.
Yeah, this word is a stretch, but I promised five Cs. Any way you slice it, this bike performs. Aside from the components and c’braking, I think the fit and feel of the frame is what really sings. And I mean SING. Sure, the components on the 6.1 are going to make a few things easier, and they may even win a race for someone who wins races, but the frame is the star here, and it is spectacular. The low top tube brings the centre of the bike pretty low, and gives is a zippy feel when cornering, and the head tube is steep and sharp. Norco says: “…the bike features Gravity Tune, our unique geometry philosophy that adjusts the rear centre length in proportion with the front centre, giving riders of all sizes equal weight distribution over the bike”. The name “Gravity Tune” may be a brainchild of an engineer and/or marketing guru, but whatever you want to call it, it’s awesomely sweet.
Okay, made up words aside, when the “Five Cs of Awesomeness “ are put together, the Norco Ithaqua is a stunning, race-ready beast.
Kevin at Norco made me promise to find a few problems with the bike. So, to appease him, here goes. The first major problem with the bike is—I’m kidding, seriously, there’s nothing wrong with the Ithaqua. At over 6 grand, how could anything possibly be wrong? Honestly, if Norco couldn’t get it right (and boy, did they ever get it right) at this dollar figure, they’d be out of business. Which I guess is the only problem. It sure costs a lot to get this level of perfection. Are you happy Kevin? Instead of being critical, I’m just outing myself as a big ol’ cheapo.
If I had to really search for something critical, I think I’d like to see a dropper seatpost. Given the cost of the bike, it would have been a nice addition, and given the size of the bike I think it might be handy. Also, I wonder how it’ll perform in the deep snow–especially when you have to dismount–and whether a dropper might make climbing and dismounting a bit easier. Wait, is it just me who often has to shoulder his bike on a trail…
If price is an issue, you can drop to the other models, the Ihtaqua 6.2 or the 6.3. You lose a few things, like those sweet carbon components, but it’s the same frame, and I really think the frame is all the difference. Plus, all models have SRAM Level brakes, and you’ve still got the same tires and wheels (although you take a bit of a hit on the hubs–which I don’t think is a big problem). Finally, you get a lesser drivetrain, but I think the only disadvantage is the loss of a bit of durability, not performance. And all of this for almost half the price. I gotta say that $3,600 for an entry level Ithaqua, is still expensive, but I don’t think Norco is trying to appeal to the average, looking-for-fun, fatbike rider. I think they’re appealing to the racing, RESULTS-DRIVEN racer, hardcore racing, fatbike RACER.
And they’re probably looking for the average, looking-for-fun, fatbike rider as well. Just one who carries buckets of money in their jersey pocket.
It’s plain and simple, the Ithaqua is a racing fatbike, and to get this level of performance, it’ll cost some serious cheddar. When I compare the bike to my Norco Bigfoot, it’s 10 times better, but only three times the price. Hey, with that kind of economic justification, I think I may have just found a way to attack the N+ discussion with my wife. It would actually be like losing money if I didn’t consider buying one…
What an awesome demo weekend. It was Team Colin’s first legitimate demo, and one that’s going to be tough to top.
The Ithaqua has the heart of a race bike, wrapped in a fatbike shell, with the soul of a monster. AND IT’S REALLY FUN TO RIDE! Awesome.