The Range is simply too short to be a confident, comfortable race bike
When we tested the alloy Range in April 2013 it was one of the very first 27.5in enduro bikes. We were instantly impressed by the Range’s ability to devour steep, nasty terrain and still pedal efficiently enough to make light work of the climbs.
A lot has changed in those three years since, however, and delays in production meant the carbon Range was late to market. The question is, has it remained relevant, given how much the competition has moved on?
By far the biggest shift has been the widespread adoption of SRAM’s 1x drivetrains — the benefits of which need no further discussion. What’s rarely discussed, however, is how switching to a single chainring impacts suspension performance.
So while the other bikes benefit from swapping to a smaller 30t chainring, the Norco doesn’t as its already high level of chain growth and pedal kick-back are further increased.
2016 sees Norco swap the 160mm Pike for a 170mm Lyrik, a move that slackens the head angle a touch and raises the bottom bracket a hair, all the while boosting stiffness up front.
The action of the Lyrik differs from the Pike too; the increased negative spring volume making it much more sensitive to small bumps. It’s easier to set up than the Pike too, as upping the air pressure seems to be a more effective way of increasing support than adding Bottomless Tokens, making to easier to adjust trailside.
The same, however, can’t be said of the Cane Creek DB Air rear shock. With the recommended damping settings, the 160mm travel rear suspension felt too sluggish in rebound and harsh in compression, and it would buck you on big square-edge hits.
Opening up the low-speed damping wasn’t enough to resuscitate the rear suspension completely, and we suspect that the increased pedal kick-back plays a part in the back wheel’s tendency to rear up.
In keeping with the stiffer fork, Norco has fitted a 35mm diameter Race Face Atlas bar and matching stem to shore up the front end — no bad thing when the handlebar is 800mm wide. SRAM’s XX1 carbon chainset isn’t the stiffest, but it’s great to see Norco fitting the 170mm version so you can keep the pedals revving on off-camber trails and technical climbs.
The stock Schwalbe tyres — a super-soft VertStar Magic Mary up front, and the stiffer Super Gravity casing on the rear — are perfect for chair lift-assisted, high-alpine bombing, but painfully slow for most UK-based enduro racing.
Without gravity on our side, or a tailwind giving us a gentle push, the Norco Range C7.2 felt slow and lifeless, which it why it’s so important to keep those 170mm cranks spinning at all times. Even swapping the heavy-duty Schwalbe Magic Mary tyres for harder compound Maxxis rubber wasn’t enough to inject a sense of urgency into the Norco.
It still felt painfully slow on all but the steepest trails. Here, the Norco showed flashes of brilliance — it’s very composed under braking, and the carbon front end has a nice damped feeling to it.
Unfortunately, the gravity-fed trails where the Norco’s suspension started to come to life also served to highlight just how much frame sizing has moved forward in the last three years. The size large Norco Range is simply too short.
Given that we had almost an inch and a half of exposed seatpost on the large, and knowing what we know now, we’d instantly upsize to the XL to gain more reach.
The real elephant in the room, however, is that Norco has produced a carbon enduro bike that’s a pound and half heavier than the aluminium Giant Reign, and sizing up to the XL will only make it heavier still.
Norco was an early adopter of 27.5in wheels, but progress on the Range C7.2 has stalled when it comes to sizing. As such, the Range is simply too short to be a confident, comfortable race bike. The rear suspension needs work too, and perhaps a more lively shock like a Monarch Plus would unlock its potential. At 14.1kg (31.1lb) with our lighter control tyres fitted, the Range is also carrying way too much timber. It’s probably why Norco fitted the 30t chainring to help stop you gassing out so quickly on the climbs. A diet would be a more effective cure for oxygen debt though.