The smoothest descender in town
Norco Range A3 is an economically viable enduro option from the Canadian big hitters. Eats up rough ground, stops confidently with good composure.
Norco Range A3 need to know
- Norco’s affordable aluminium enduro rig is built tough for ripping downhill
- RockShox suspension uses latest Trunnion Mount Metric shock with 160mm travel, paired to a 170mm Yari fork
- Trans X 125mm dropper and Tektro Orion 4-piston brakes are lesser known brands, but still very effective
- Comes in four frame sizes but the reach measurements aren’t as progressive as some other 2018 enduro rigs
Norco’s Range A3 is the cheapest way to get your hands on the Canadian brand’s latest enduro machine. Its aluminium frame shares geometry and suspension layout with the most expensive carbon models and also know-how from the Norco Aurum DH race bike to make it “as reliable and dependable as possible” for the abuse modern enduro bikes typically face.
Reach measurements on the Range now goes up to 475mm on the size XL, with a marginally steeper seat tube to shift the rider forward for climbing. Norco’s signature ‘Gravity Tune’ geometry runs thought all four frame sizes the maintain rider weight distribution. The frame is relatively slack angled, but with a 452mm reach measurement on the size L it’s still pretty short for a new bike.
The oversized hydroformed frame has a chunky, bolted-together rocker link driving the shock and it ramps up more than previously. This, combined with a different chainstay pivot location, alters the axle wheel path and reduces chain growth (that can inhibit free suspension movement).
Taken together the changes to the suspension deliver a very plush back end, balanced by slightly more travel up front. The stiff 170mm Yari RC has a DebonAir spring with bigger negative air chamber to track better and smooth out terrain, but the Motion Control damper inside is a bit slower to react to repeated hits and less refined than more expensive RockShox units.
A latest generation, Metric-sized, Rock Shox Deluxe RL shock pumps out 160mm, rotates on a sealed bearing ‘trunnion’ mount for excellent sensitivity and has shock taming lever for climbing. The rear suspension continually feels very smooth and composed, even when the going gets really hard.
In the midst of winter it’s a proper effort getting to the top of my local steep test tracks, and it was immediately noticeable that the heavy Range made it more of a slog than normal. It’s overweight, rather than excessively active or unstable under power, but, even with a 46-tooth cassette, the A3 is hard work uphill.
Some heavy parts like the WTB i29 rims don’t help either – they’re wide enough, but accelerate slowly and blunt the ride, especially given the basic High Roller II EXO tyres should be faster than the grippier 3C versions I use day in, day out. The extra effort needed to generate speed is noticeable on flowier, mellower trail sections as well as climbing.
Unsurprisingly, heading downhill fast or steeply, the Range makes a lot more sense. The whole package is smooth, calm and quiet, and the suspension is planted with good bump absorption. The bike needs plenty of encouragement to shift direction quickly or pick wheels up to pump terrain for speed, and the BB feels a fraction high in the active sag position too and less eager to snap round tighter turns or dart in and out of berms.
So the Range A3 really eats up rough ground, stops confidently and has good stability and composure. Down the steepest, puzzle-like tracks or jumpy sections of trail it isn’t as agile or lively as the similarly priced Whyte G170 S or Nukeproof Mega 275 Comp though, and it’s hard to say whether it needs more than just a diet to morph into a more versatile beast.