This article is part of the Mtbr’s Enduro Compare-O. See all the stories in this special section here–http://reviews.mtbr.com/category/enduro-compare-o-2014
Born in 2011 as a 26-inch, all-mountain sled, and inspired by the steep and technical trails of Vancouver, BC’s North Shore, the Norco Range has progressed to reflect the design necessities of the day—namely 27.5-inch wheels and a slack, forgiving geometry. Along the way, the Range also got some carbon fiber siblings, but we’ll be taking a ride on the current version of the aluminum original, the $3,150 Range Alloy 7.1.
After our First Look overview of the Range 7.1 a couple weeks, interest in this value-minded all-mountain sled has spiked. It’s burly attitude, eye-catching orange paint and low-cost seems to have struck a chord, and—as our test rides revealed—with good reason.
ART is the Heart
Norco uses what they call Advance Ride Technology (ART) to optimize the placement points of the Range’s rear suspension design by moving the rear pivot lower and slightly forward of the traditional four-bar Horst-link location. According to Norco this does four things—it increases square edge bump compliance, improves braking performance, enhances pedaling efficiency, and promotes a more progressive suspension.
We can attest to the square edge bump compliance and improved braking which is handled by a Fox 34 Float Evolution fork up front and a Fox Evolution Float CTD LV high-volume shock in the rear. Over square edge hits and stutter bumps, the Range absorbs impacts in a smooth, controlled manner that encouraged deeper and deeper corner braking. The active suspension design stayed supple without packing up.
The Range soaked up all we could throw at it, remaining compliant for small- to mid-sized hits, and never bottoming-out on jumps and drops. The suspension action compensated for our lack of finesse even on flatter-than -preferred landings. This speaks to one of the strengths of the Range—it’s point-and-shoot-ability. This isn’t to say that the Range won’t follow the flow with the best of them, because it will. It just has the capability to rip, as one of our test riders attested.
“The Range instills such confidence,” he said. “I’d love to thrash it for a weekend up at Northstar (Bike Park).”
Though ART provides an efficient pedaling platform—better than past iterations of the 26-inch-wheeled Range—the suspension remains active when climbing. Compared to other bikes in our test, however, the Range was not as efficient as some of the other suspension designs. That’s not to say that it’s a bad climber—and some riders may prefer an active rear end on climbs—but for prolonged climbs you’ll want to flip the suspension into Climb mode.
Photo by Tyler Frasca.
Another attribute that holds back the Range’s climbing ability is its weight. At just under 32 pounds, the Norco is one of the heavier bikes in our comparison. But the news isn’t all bad.
“For its weight, the Range pedaled lighter than expected,” said one test rider. “During out-of-the-saddle efforts, the rear wheel stayed planted surprisingly well.”