Jono reviews the 2022 Norco Range
Grabbing attention with its low-slung chassis and high virtual pivot suspension design, the new Norco Range arrived on the scene this year as a burly enduro race machine designed with a very specific purpose in mind. With its coil shock and downhill-adjacent geometry, it’s undoubtedly got a menacing look about it. But is this too much bike for Aussie trails? We’ve been testing the Norco Range for the past two months to find out.
Norco Range overview
Featuring 170mm of travel front and rear, the Norco Range is the Canadian brand’s thoroughbred enduro race bike. It sits in between the Sight (the 150mm All Mountain bike) and the Shore (the 180mm freeride bike).
The new Range has a much narrower focus than previous iterations, only being available in carbon and 29in wheels. That sees it following a similar trend to other race-focussed bikes on the market like the Cannondale Jekyll, Trek Slash, and Pivot Firebird.
The big story with the new Range is its Virtual High Pivot suspension design, which provides a significantly more rearward axle path for swallowing up square-edge hits. There’s an idler wheel to help manage chain growth, and the shock is placed low in the frame, where it’s driven by a linkage that rotates around the bottom bracket shell.
Also noteworthy is Norco’s size-specific approach to the Range’s geometry. The rear centre length changes across the four frame sizes, and so too does the head angle and seat angle. You can get more info on the frame design, geometry and specs in our first look article.
Norco Range price & specs
There are three Norco Range models available in Australia for 2022; all share the same carbon fibre frame and Fox DHX2 Factory Series coil shock. Pricing starts at $6,999 AUD for the Range C3 and goes up to $10,599 AUD for the Range C1.
The bike we’ve been testing is the Goldilocks option, the 2022 Norco Range C2.
2022 Norco Range C2
- Frame | Full Carbon, High Virtual Pivot Suspension Design, 170mm Travel
- Fork | RockShox ZEB Ultimate, Charger RC2 Damper, 44mm Offset, 170mm Travel
- Shock | Fox DHX2 Coil, Factory Series, 205x65mm
- Wheels | DT Swiss 350 Hubs & e*13 LG1 EN Alloy Rims, 30mm Inner Width
- Tyres | Maxxis Assegai DD 3C MaxxGrip 2.5in Front & Dissector DD 3C MaxxGrip 2.4in Rear
- Drivetrain | SRAM GX Eagle 1×12 w/GX Alloy 32T Crankset & 10-52T Cassette
- Brakes | SRAM Code R w/200mm Rotors
- Bar | Deity Ridgeline Alloy, 25mm Rise, 800mm Width
- Stem | Alloy, 35mm Clamp, 40mm Length
- Seatpost | TranzX Dropper, 34.9mm Diameter, Travel: 150mm (S), 170mm (M), 200mm (L-XL)
- Saddle | Ergon SM10 Enduro
- Confirmed Weight | 17.15kg
- RRP | $8,599 AUD
Norco Range sizing & geometry
Our resident Sasquatch, Jono Wade, has been testing the Norco Range C2 over the past two months.
At 185cm tall, Norco’s sizing calculator recommended an XL frame size for Jono. However, the XL features a gargantuan reach measurement of 510mm, which, combined with the 63° head angle, would have put the front wheel in an entirely different postcode.
Instead, Jono chose the Large frame size with a more reasonable 480mm reach and 63.25° head angle. It gets a 77° seat tube angle and a 442.5mm rear centre length.
The cockpit is configured with a 40mm stem, and an 800mm wide handlebar, and Jono has found both the rise and sweep profile to be plenty comfortable. However, the 35mm diameter bars are stiff, and the thin grips exacerbate general vibrations and trail feedback. There have been no such complaints from the Ergon saddle, though, which is plenty comfortable while being set up flat and in the middle of its rails.
Suspension & tyre setup
Norco’s online Ride Aligned calculator provides a useful starting point for pressures, damper settings, and even cockpit dimensions to assist with setup.
For Jono’s 80kg riding weight, Norco suggests just 56psi in the RockShox ZEB fork, significantly lower than the 64psi that RockShox recommends on its setup chart. Jono ended up in the middle at 58psi and decided to stick with the one Bottomless Token. Norco’s recommendations for compression damping proved to work well, but the rebound was sped up two clicks faster than recommended.
The Large frame comes fitted with a 500lb coil spring, which proved to suit his weight just fine. All of the clickers were initially set up as per the Ride Aligned guide, though as with the fork, we sped up rebound damping slightly to give the bike a more active feel through rougher sections. Unfortunately, on the note of rebound damping, the adjuster is annoyingly difficult to access without removing the shock.
Kudos to Norco for spec’ing proper Double Down casings for the stock Maxxis tyres. Even still, Jono ran slightly higher pressures than recommended, with 23psi in the front and 25psi in the rear.
Norco Range weight
The confirmed weight for our L Norco Range test bike is 17.15kg, without pedals and with the tyres setup tubeless. That is very hefty indeed. To put that number into context, here’s a brief comparison with some of the other enduro bikes we’ve tested;
- Trek Slash 9.9 – 14.56kg
- Pivot Firebird – 14.66kg
- Canyon Strive CFR 9 – 14.7kg
- Cannondale Jekyll – 16.14kg
- GT Force – 16.24kg
- Norco Range C2 – 17.15kg
Now bear in mind, those aren’t all apples-to-apples comparisons – both the Trek and Pivot are priced significantly higher than the Range C2. However, you’re still looking at around 16.8kg for the Norco Range C1, making it one of the heaviest enduro race bikes out there.
For further context, our Range test bike isn’t much lighter than an Orbea Rise M10 (18.38kg) or the Specialized Kenevo SL Expert (19.12kg). And yes, those are two e-MTBs carrying a motor and a battery.
What does the Range do well?
No doubt about it, the Norco Range is an absolute monster of a bike and one that lives for barrelling straight down the roughest, gnarliest and fastest trails you can point your stem at.
The Range picks up speed quickly and maintains an incredible amount of momentum through the chunder, with the rearward axle path ensuring the wheel doesn’t get hung up on any impacts. You soon learn that line choice is less critical, allowing you to take the shortest distance from point A to B with complete disregard for how rough it is. It excels on fast and wide-open terrain, where you can move between lines and let the Range do the work.
The Range’s ability to remain composed and carry speed on rough descents showed on the stopwatch also. Jono managed to snag multiple PR’s during testing on some of his roughest local trails.
Despite our Range C2 test bike mixing a coil-sprung Fox shock with an air-sprung RockShox fork, the suspension is beautifully balanced front to back. It’s quiet, effortless and supremely well-damped, providing a highly forgiving ride with endless amounts of grip.
The Fox DHX2 is incredibly supple, keeping you glued to the ground, and the ZEB is a brilliant fork with excellent small-bump sensitivity and a sturdy chassis. That allows you to barge over boulders and through bomb-holes knowing that it’ll soak up those impacts without any hint of tucking underneath you. In addition, the ZEB is a terrific match for the sturdy frame and supportive rear suspension, which helps to correct even the worst line choices and harshest compressions when a jump or drop goes slightly off-kilter.
There’s little concern of deflection or being bucked off-line, and once you fully understand what the Range is capable of, you’re able to enter those rougher sections with more speed and confidence, knowing that there’s not much that’ll slow you down. For that reason, we’re glad to see Norco spec powerful brakes and 200mm rotors, which have been getting a thorough workout on our test bike. The SRAM Code Rs may be the cheapest option in the Code line, but they’ve delivered plenty of power, modulation and consistency throughout testing. They’ve become a bit squishy and are due for a bleed, but there’s still ample bite.
What does it struggle with?
At 17.15kg, the Norco Range C2 is a heavy bike that takes a lot to get moving.
It pedals well enough, with minimal bobbing from the suspension and no perceivable drag from the idler wheel. Thanks to the steep seat angle and low gearing, it’s also a comfortable and cruise climber. Just shift into the lowest gear, find your rhythm, and plod on.
However, the high weight and soft MaxxGrip tyres are noticeable on long climbs up dirt access roads, sapping energy from the rider throughout a ride. If you’re racking up the elevation, it doesn’t take long to cook your goose and decide against doing those extra couple of laps. Indeed the general trend with the Range over the test period has been for shorter rides than usual.
If you’ve got the legs for it, though, the Range is surprisingly adept at clearing more technical singletrack climbs. The gearing is low enough, the seated position helps push more of your weight onto the front wheel to reduce lifting, and traction is foolproof through the rear tyre. As long as you’ve got the power to keep it moving, the Range will crawl its way up to some seriously rough trails.
Well, that is until you get to tight switchbacks, where it takes careful consideration to keep it in check. But, of course, that’s to be expected given the long wheelbase and 63° head angle, which wouldn’t have looked out of place on a World Cup DH bike from a year or two ago.
The lack of agility is also present on tight descending trails, especially on low-speed switchbacks and sharp berms. You’ve got to put a lot of effort into slowing down and throwing the bike around to change direction, partly due to the high weight and raked-out front end. It’s also due to the rear centre length, which grows as you push through the travel. This makes it difficult to dive in on the inside and square up a turn, where the Range prefers to take a wider and more predetermined arc.
Component highs & lows
One of the most impressive aspects of the Norco Range is how quiet it is. The cable routing isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing, though it is secure, and there’s also no chain slap to speak of. The Star Ratchet mechanism inside the rear DT Swiss 350 hub offers a stealthy rumble, and there’s no pinging from the J-bend spokes. The frame is also suitably armoured for rock strike protection, with the bash plate on the low-hanging linkage proving its worth on some of our rockier test trails.
The GX Eagle drivetrain isn’t overly fancy, and it has a more clunky mechanical feel to the shifting than the pricier X01 version, but it gets the job done. And despite the unconventional high pivot design and idler wheel, we’ve not encountered any miss-shifts or chain drops throughout testing.
The biggest letdown on our test bike has been the wheels, with the e*13 rims proving to be quite soft when it comes to more significant impacts. The rear wheel looks particularly haggard with multiple flat spots, and several spokes have come loose throughout testing. Given the speeds this bike is capable of carrying through rock gardens, we’d expect a more robust and higher quality wheelset to stand up to the inevitable punishment.
Given the rim damage, we’ve been thankful for the Maxxis Double Down tyres, which have only suffered a single puncture. The soft MaxxGrip compound may increase overall rolling resistance. Still, there’s no arguing with the insane traction it delivers, particularly with the Assegai up front, which allows you to push the limits of both you and the bike.
The Norco Range is an astoundingly capable bike that oozes control and confidence. Equipped with aggressive tyres, a long wheelbase and its high pivot suspension design, the Range has an insatiable appetite for devouring rough terrain. Indeed its ability to wallop down the ugliest of trails and steepest of descents will have you questioning how anyone who’s not a sponsored racer could justify owning a downhill bike.
There’s no denying that this is one seriously heavy bike though, and that makes it a real slog on long, grinding climbs. So if you’ve got no intention of ever using a shuttle or a chairlift, this may not be the bike for you. Instead, this is a bike for someone who’s aiming to make regular trips to Thredbo and Maydena, where you can make the most of its capabilities.
Still, it has to be said that the Range will be overkill for a lot of Aussie trails. Yes, it’s an incredible descender, but with our rides being cut shorter due to its sluggish performance on the climbs, we’re not sure if the tradeoff is worth it. That’s left us wondering whether Norco will incorporate the high pivot suspension design into something lighter with a bit less travel – like the Sight. Given just how impressive the suspension is on this Range, we are very intrigued.