The Norco Range Ride Report:
On Day 2, I was assigned the 160mm Norco Range as we ventured out for my first North Shore experience. My bike had a stubby stem and wide 780 mm bars, again with the trusty Rockshox Reverb dropping post. This particular bike had Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires and I was a little apprehensive that it didn’t have the Hans Dampfs.
We went to the Fromme trails of the North Shore and I foolishly joined the A group as they climbed up to the Executioner trail. Ryan Leech and Jay Hoots led the charge up the hill and I then realized that the crew of 20 was whittled down to a select group of downhill journalists, Norco employees and pro riders. And there I was, Mr. XC rider on his first North Shore experience.
It is worth noting that the bike climbed like a champ. We started with a steep road and followed up with a long gradual fire road and the 28.5 lb Range climbed with ease. The 40mm stem was a bit short and the 160 mm fork high but I pushed that Talas fork down to 120mm and all was well. The rear hardly bobbed as the rearward travel of the suspension was held static by my consistent pedal input.
So the Executioner trail started with a sequence of drop after drop on roots. I rode down braking, bouncing, braking, bouncing and the Norco guy behind me said, “Just relax and let the bike go. Nothing on this trail can stop that bike.” That was the confidence boost that I needed and I learned to let the bike go through the gnarliest terrain I’ve ridden to date. What was daunting was not the steep pitches with roots. But rather, it was a series of sections in series, usually with some technical twists and turns in between them. Control was necessary and maneuverability in tight spaces was required. The Norco Range 650b was the right tool for this job. It seemed to have just the right amount of travel and tire diameter to tackle all these obstacles. The bike rolled over all these obstacles and it was still easy to maneuver around all the trees. When the trail opened up a little bit, the bike carved through the corners confidently. The rear of the bike was extremely stiff laterally and it held a line with ease.
I rode everything the trail had to offer and got down to the bottom safely. The Norco Range demonstrated some of the true potential of this new wheel size. I can’t wait to do a long term test on these bikes. Would I go for the Sight or the Range? Well the Range has more flair and style but I would probably start with the 140 mm Sight for the trails of Norcal. It felt like it has 150mm of travel and it seemed ready for all I could throw at it. The Sight is probably the ideal ‘one’ bike stable while the 160 mm Range can complement a 29er hardtail second bike.
It’s just a first impression but I can see why the folks at Norco are so excited about their new bikes.