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.
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.