2022 ENDURO SHOOTOUT

NORCO RANGE REVIEW

Purpose-Built, Gravity Fiend

Photos by Dusten Ryen
Shootout Sponsored by Maxxis Tires & Fox Racing

With a bold new redesign that caused quite the stir in the industry, Norco’s newest Range is one of those bikes everybody has questions about. Now featuring a virtual high pivot with an idler, some of the most extreme geometry on test, and one of the most elaborate chassis designs we’ve seen, it’s certainly polarizing. As one of the hottest topics of 2022, we had to include the Range in our 2022 Enduro Bike Shootout. Some of our testers came away grinning, others with some complaints, but what’s the consensus?

We’d like to thank Fox Racing and Maxxis Tires for their support in making this series possible. Without their partnership these types of projects wouldn’t be possible, if you feel so inclined, offer them a thanks down below! And while you’re at it check out Fox’s new 2023 Product Line and Maxxis’ performance MTB tires here.

QUICK HITS

• 170mm High Virtual Pivot Suspension
• HTA 63.25
• STA 77 (effective)
• REACH 480mm (Large)

Price: $5,799 (C3) – $9,699 (C1)
Website: Norco.com

THE LAB

The Range is a bike with a very pointed design intent, made clear by the list of non-negotiable items on the chassis and build. The carbon-only frame provides 170mm of high virtual pivot travel that can only drive a coil shock, due to the specific kinematic achieved with the complex linkage. That frame only rolls on 29” wheels, and all but demands that you run one of the burliest forks available on the market – it can even manage a dual crown, if you’re so inclined.

Norco Range Review | 2022 Enduro Shootout

Using that virtual high pivot layout, with what is essentially an inverted Horst link, Norco has tuned the Range to have a very rearward axle path, with little to no chain feedback on the rider. This also allows them to tune the braking forces, in this case maintaining a pretty neutral feel with anti-rise sitting at 104% at sag, especially relative to other high pivot designs on the market. They’ve tuned the kinematic to provide solid anti-squat in the bigger cogs, hovering at around 100% at sag to give reasonable pedaling despite that 170mm of forgiving travel. However, these numbers drop off quite rapidly in the smaller rear cogs, losing efficiency for the finish line sprints in favor of improved bump-eating performance. The leverage progression sits at around 26% to give enough progression for the coil shocks it comes spec’d with. The linkage is located as low as possible on the bike, in order to keep the center of gravity planted – considering how much a factor the rider plays in this weight balance, it’s hard to say whether or not low weight on a frame really matters.

Speaking of that weight, the Range certainly packs on the pounds. Clocking in at over 38 pounds for the highest-end build package, there’s no doubt that the Range is a bike biased towards descending. That said, the parts package is well-chosen for that task, leaving little to upgrade once it shows up at your local shop. We spent our time testing the C1 build package, which retails for a whopping $9,699 – the most expensive bike on test. That duffel bag full of money gets you a pretty baller parts spec though, featuring an Onyx / WeAreOne wheelset, SRAM XO1 drivetrain and Code RSC brakes, Fox Factory 38, and a custom-tuned Fox DHX2 shock. Even the touchpoints are quality, brand-name parts, with an Ergon saddle, Deity Skywire Carbon bars, and a OneUp dropper with maximized travel per frame size. Shoot, it even has DoubleDown tires front and rear. By no means does this amount to a budget-friendly build, but there’s no doubt you’re getting everything you pay for, as no part is worth replacing off the bat.

Norco Range Review | 2022 Enduro Shootout

The geometry numbers on the Range are as progressive as you’d expect, with numbers that push the boundary of bikes you’ll see between the tape on a racecourse. The head angle sits at 63.25°, the seat angle at 77°, and the reach is a luckily middle-of-the-road 480mm in a size large. The rear-center starts at around 442mm for this size, but grows significantly as you compress the suspension, splaying the wheelbase out well beyond the 1285mm starting number. Thanks to Norco’s excellent Ride Aligned online calculator, you can enter all your rider info and get a detailed breakdown of sizing and setup recommendations. This is certainly the best attempt at this sort of service I’ve seen in the industry and makes setup much easier.

Norco Range Geo | Enduro Geo Chart Comparison
Norco Range Review | 2022 Enduro Shootout

THE DIRT

We’ve had this Range in our testing lineup for some time now, and it has a somewhat storied past that you can read about here. For the sake of a little update though, Dario took the Range home with him to Bellingham Washington, where he got to ride the bike in some of the gnarliest pedal access terrain one can find. Long story short, the consensus is that it feels very much at home in that kind of terrain, and nothing less, feeling a touch “too much” for the slightly less gnarly terrain in Oregon that formed the primary test zone for the 2022 Enduro Shootout.

It feels like the bike has directives for the rider: go fast, look up, and push through everything in your way. Most of us are used to bikes that require a bit more rider input like pre-hopping, shifting weight carefully, and having a lighter touch on the brakes, all of which matter a whole lot less on the Range. It’s impressive just how dumb you can ride this bike, be it through corners, rough sections, or big features. The long-to-longer wheelbase is extremely stable, and the forgiving suspension tracks wonderfully. All this is of course not without some downsides.

Norco Range Review | 2022 Enduro Shootout

Those drawbacks arise in the more awkward and slow-speed sections of trail, since much of riding – especially enduro racing – features tech that is meant to trip you up and force some skill to surface. When things get tight, that long wheelbase and growing rear end can feel a bit gangly, especially given the fact that the rear grows in a way that can be hard to predict when you’re preloading the bike to hop or pump sections. We’ve come to describe this as the bungee sensation, as the back wheel can feel like it’s hooked onto that last compression you hit with an elastic cord; the bike isn’t slowing down, but part of it is still sitting behind you longer than expected. The other complaint is with the positioning of the lower linkage, as it hangs well below the bottom bracket unless you’ve really started compressing deep into the travel. On a few occasions some of us had this hang up on slow techy sections we’d already ridden a few times, just because there’s more down there than on any other bikes in the test. Luckily, they’ve provisioned for this, and there’s ample protection for all the sensitive components down there, but it’s still not ideal to be ramming your frame into something on trail.

One critique you hear thrown at the Range pretty often is how it climbs. Dario is one to temper that a little bit, and say that while it’s not a great climber, it does the job just fine. He’s been riding this bike for the past month; with every ride he’s taken it on falling somewhere in the 3000’-6000’ climbing range. Part of the beauty of having a pedal-friendly DH bike is that you get to take it down the biggest descents around, so it’s worth getting it up to the top, and you may end up less fatigued at the bottom of them. Most of these rides are part of his regular testing circuit, so he has a pretty good gauge of the effort required to complete the laps. The Range does take more effort to ascend than something like the Enduro or Rallon, but it’s not a whole lot worse than any durably built enduro sled these days. The upside to the super active suspension is that it climbs bony tech very well, as you can just crawl over anything in your way. Don’t go racing XC on it, but also don’t worry about getting to the top of your favorite descents.

There are a couple ownership notes worth considering if you’re going to be riding and racing a Range long-term. First is the increased maintenance that all idler bikes require, as the drivetrain always seems to get a bit grittier and noisier faster than your traditional setup. Second is the cable routing on this bike; the sleek fighter jet chassis forces some insane twists and bends into your shift and brake lines and can even affect the quality of shifting if done sloppily. Third, the shock position on this frame makes it difficult to access certain adjustments like high speed rebound and spring rate (if you’re running a Sprindex, which makes setting correct rates much smoother). Again, not a deal breaker, but a bit annoying if you’re hoping to tweak things to suit a certain track mid-ride. Lastly, it’s worth noting just how many model-specific small parts and linkage bearings this bike requires. From an ease of maintenance perspective, these factors make it all the more likely that a given owner will just neglect the upkeep that actually warrants owning such a nice bike, negating all those benefits Norco has designed into the Range. This is somewhat the case with any bike, but the sheer complexity of the Range’s frame makes that battle just a little bit more difficult. The complexity may be worth it to many but won’t suit everyone.

Norco Range Review | 2022 Enduro Shootout

The Wolf’s Last Word

As a whole, the Range is decidedly a downhill-focused machine, with an emphasis on speed and composure over the roughest tracks out there. We have been regularly impressed with how much it can smooth out sections of trail, and just how much speed you can carry through tough sections of trail. That comes at the cost of agility and slow-speed handling, but that’s to be expected. If your ride style is to push through everything and truck over terrain, or if you’re running laps on some truly burly tracks, then this bike could be the one. A focused weapon, but oh so good at its intended use case.

Price: $9,699
Weight: 37.8 lbs
Website: Norco.com

VISIT NORCO BIKES TO GET YOURS!

SPECIFICATIONS

CHASSIS
Frame: Full Carbon, Ride Aligned | 170mm

Fork: Fox Factory 38, Grip 2, FLOAT | 170mm
Shock: FOX DHX2 Factory Coil

COCKPIT
Brakes: SRAM Code RSC | 200/200mm

Shifter: SRAM XO1 Eagle | 12-speed
Handlebar: Deity Skywire Carbon | 800mm
Stem: Alloy | 40mm Length
Saddle: Ergon SM10 Enduro Comp
Seatpost: OneUp Adjustable Dropper
Seatpost Size: 150mm (S), 180mm (M), 210mm (L, XL)

WHEELS
Wheels: We Are One Union Enduro 29″ Carbon Wheelset | Onyx Vesper Hubs

Front Tire: Maxxis Assegai 2.5″, DD, 3C MaxxGrip, TR
Rear Tire: Maxxis Dissector 2.4″, WT, DD, 3C MaxxGrip, TR

DRIVETRAIN
Bottom Bracket: SRAM DUB PF92

Cassette: SRAM Eagle XG 1275, 10-52T
Cranks: SRAM X01 Eagle Carbon, DUB, 32T, 170mm
Derailleur: SRAM X01 Eagle, 12-Speed

We Dig

All-out speed
Smooth ride over rough trails
Excellent traction
Extends rider comfort and confidence
Confident on the gnarliest terrain

We Don’t

Not for everyone
Lengthening rear end on slow drops
Handlebar spec
Not the best climber

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