How does the carbon version of Norco’s high-end enduro bike compare to its aluminium counterpart?
Need to know
- Enduro bike with 160mm travel and 650b wheels
- Carbon frame is 20 per cent lighter than aluminium version
- ‘Gravity Tune’ geometry sees effective chainstay length grow with each frame size
- Cane Creek DB Air shock has independent compression, rebound circuits and ‘Climb Switch’
British Columbia is home to some of the world’s best all-mountain riding, so Norco ought to know how to make a sorted enduro bike. Its 160mm-travel Range has been available in aluminium for a couple of years, but the new carbon version is the Canadian brand’s go-to, high-end race machine.
To test the Norco Range Carbon 7.1 in the terrain it was designed for, I headed to Alpe d’Huez, home of the Megavalanche, as well as plenty of other incredible trails. Before arriving, I took a a quick spin on a cheaper Range, which left me feeling a little underwhelmed, but rolling out of the cable car into a fast, braking bump-riddled bike park track, I was in for a big surprise on the deluxe 7.1 version.
Within minutes the ride quality and handling had blown away any of the preconceptions floating around in my head. The geometry isn’t particularly aggressive or slack, nor is the frame the stiffest out there, but the bike felt alive and perfectly balanced — the lighter, stiffer wheels and better suspension making for handling that’s worlds apart from the cheaper Norco Range 7.4.
Cane Creek’s Double Barrel shock is likely a big factor in the Norco’s playful character — it can be tuned perfectly to your taste, from floaty and easy to bottom, to tighter and more supportive, depending on how much air pressure and damping is dialled in.
Despite being a keen tweaker, I didn’t even open the air sleeve to check how many progression-increasing spacers were fitted, as the ramp-up in the shock felt perfect for my 82kg. Small-bump sensitivity and traction was as good as any other 160mm bike I’ve tried, and despite such supple suspension, the Range never exhibited too much wallow.
In fact, stamp on the cranks, or slam the bike in and out of berms, and the Range rewards you with significant acceleration and pump. It’s light over the rough stuff and fast and responsive when making sudden direction changes too.
If I’m being really picky, a couple of the parts adorning the Range are not to my taste. The Dual Position RockShox Pike is too divey, even if the active mid-stroke is a good match for the bottomless feel of the rear end.
Alpe D’Huez is an appropriate testing ground for bikes
And while SRAM’s carbon XX1 cranks are lightweight and a big tick for most, when using big, wide flat pedals they flex and take away some of the bike’s solidity. I’d also like to see a bigger 2.4in High Roller II on the front to maximise control at the high speeds the Range goads you into hitting.
You might have guessed by now that I can’t put this bike down. I had to tighten the main pivot after the first ride, but since then durability has been good. Probably the best compliment I can give the Range is that I felt so comfortable and safe on it, I rode harder and faster in the Alps this summer than I have for years.
I like it so much, I’m anticipating a bout of severe depression when I finally have to box it up and send it back to Evans.
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