-170mm travel front and rear
-High Pivot suspension design
-Uncompromising speed and control
-Size specific geometry
Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
If there was one bike that served as our polarizing benchmark for this round of Beta Tests, it was the Norco Range. I know what you’re thinking: How could a bike that holds the coveted title of Bike of the Year from our good friends at Pinkbike be polarizing?
Well, the Range asks a lot from you as a rider. It seems limitless in what it’s capable of. The harder you push it the better it gets, so it has a way of putting you square in the “I’ve never hit something like that so fast” territory. And maybe that all-out, holy-shit-fast ride experience isn’t for everyone. That’s OK. But for me personally, that’s right where I want to be when I hop on a bike like this.
The polarizing effect that the Range had on our testers came down to that feeling. The bike is so purpose-built for speed that it became the benchmark for how all the other high-pivot bikes would measure up in our test, for all-out bump-flattening capability, at least.
The Range exhibited the most pronounced high-pivot effect of the wheel getting up and out of the way. And with the rearward axle path provided by the high pivot, the wheel not only gets out of the way more effectively, the wheelbase lengthens through the travel. This keeps you so balanced in the center of the bike no matter what you seem to be hitting, and that balance translates into control when you’re in the flow state of speed aboard the Range. The speeds that are achievable aboard the Range don’t feel out of control or reckless. When it came to that benchmark of what bike was the fastest over the roughest terrain, the Range undoubtedly held top spot in our test.
However, it didn’t come without compromise. Perhaps no surprise, when the speeds where slower, in tighter, more technical terrain, the Range didn’t feel as agile as some of the more highly praised all-round performers. The same can be said in the corners. It certainly doesn’t make you feel like you’re snapping in and out of turns. It’s actually somewhat the opposite. The Range locks you into a turn and makes you work hard to break traction on the rear wheel. Also, the wheelbase lengthens as the bike compresses into hard-loading corners, giving the sensation that the rear wheel is more behind than underneath you, and you lose that rear-wheel-steering effect that some riders love. In other words, it can be a handful in tight cornering scenarios. Again, a polarizing characteristic that isn’t going to be for everyone.
I was lucky enough to have this bike in my quiver for the few months leading up to this Beta Test. A comment among our testers was that this felt so purpose-built for speed that it’s hard to imagine it being a daily driver. I can see that perspective, but I also rode it as my daily driver for couple months. I’ll admit, it doesn’t have the spriteliest personality on the climbs. Even though the suspension design inherently has quite a bit of anti-squat, the tendency for the rear wheel to feel glued to the ground over any kind of terrain does give it a bit of a sluggish personality when climbing. So, it did take a bit of getting used to when the Range took on the role of daily driver.
Of all the bikes in the test, the Range was the toughest for testers to get to the top. It’s more biased for descending than any of the other bikes in the test. So, while it can be a rider’s one and only bike, that rider should be aware that nobody on planet earth would categorized this bike an “excellent all-rounder.”
Which is of course our main criticism of the Range. At the same time, it’s the bike’s greatest strength. Norco set out to make the best, fastest, most-capable descender—and that’s precisely what they did. They have created a no-compromise platform for all-out speed and control. The Range was the benchmark for speed and set the bar for traction and control among the high-pivot bikes in our test. But other bikes, like the Devinci Spartan for example, came damn close and climbed much more efficiently. In a world where there are several do-everything long-travel bikes to choose from, the Range feels a bit pigeonholed.
Norco’s unapologetic approach to the new Range didn’t win over everyone in our test crew, but it’s a bold and respectable move. Norco has plenty of other bikes to choose from, and this bike will appeal to a certain type of rider. It might not be for the rider looking for the quiver-killer, do-everything bike. But for those looking for face-melting speed, the Range is the best option.
Studio Photos: Ryan Palmer