Review: Norco Range Killer B-Three 650b/27.5 All Mountain Bike

27.5 Enduro Pro Reviews
Frame Design

The Range is a basic four-bar aluminum frame. Noteworthy styling details include curved down tubes, generous top tube clearance, a beefy one-piece welded linkage joining a rocker arm that’s positioned low on the bike. Pivots are on sealed ball bearings, with other nice frame touches including machined clevis-type pivots at seat stays, expanding collets against the inner race of bearings (theoretically putting even load on bearings thus increasing longevity), and a Syntace thru-axle 142mm rear-end with breakaway bolt plus a spare breakaway bolt integrated on the frame.

Range non-drive side rocker link; the sleeper part that you can’t buy from Norco — seat collar with integrated dropper post cable routing; pivots on bearings with expanding collets applying even pressure against the bearings (a hidden but elegant touch)

Syntace X12 thru axle with breakaway bolt

The Range uses Norco’s A.R.T. suspension which moves the location of the pivot, tilting the rear link lower and slightly forward from more traditional Horst Link designs. Developed in 2011, A.R.T is a variation of the Horst Link that had four main goals: increase pedaling efficiency (i.e. less wallowing and bob while pedaling); improve leverage curve (i.e.. more progressive feel to the suspension); increase square edge bump compliance (i.e. smoother ride when encountering obstacles); and improve braking performance (i.e. suspension performs even while under braking).

Components

Spec on this bike is workmanlike and what you’d expect at this price point (house brand parts, wide handlebars, short stem, no dropper post).

The X-fusion Vengeance R fork and X-Fusion 02 RL shock provides suspension for the Range Three. It’s a curious thing for X-Fusion suspension to be spec’ed on the lowest end Range, as I view the offerings to be comparable if not better in performance to the under-damped Fox 2013 CTD that are spec’ed on the Range One and Two.

Like all other X-Fusion forks I’ve tried, the Vengeance R in particular is incredibly smooth and sensitive yet beautifully damped. Being their lowest end only-for-OE offering (and not even listed on their website) the Vengeance R has no ability to adjust low or high speed compression; all you can do is set the air spring, adjust fork oil level in the lowers and set rebound.

If you’re like me and fortunate enough to be in the sweet spot for the stock settings (rider-weight of 140-170lbs ) you will find yourself to be in suspension heaven. If you’re outside this range you’ll need to change the stock spring or purchase an upgrade to get the X-Fusion HLR damper which gives you high and low speed compression settings.

X-fusion suspension is the heart of the Norco Range Killer B Three. Schwalbe Hans Dampfs are good tires.

Note that the Vengeance R can be modified to increase travel to 170mm (credit to DirtyMartini).





The hard-to-find Schwalbe Hans Dampf tires in 2.35 casing are OE with the Range. My last Schwalbe offerings were the traitorous Nobby Nics which would flat at every opportunity. The Hans Dampf has restored my faith in German rubber. Predictable and with pretty decent braking power. Their only downside is that they are wearing reasonably quickly. But such is the tradeoff of sticky “Trailstar” compounds.

At 1040g per tire they’re not for weight-weenies but the Range is not a lightweight bike. (More about the Schwalbes in my colleague Brian Mullin’s review here, and from Francis’s review here.)

The SRAM X-5group is noteworthy in its un-noteworthiness providing crisp predictable shifts even when I get sloppy. I used a similar lower end SRAM group on a Norco Shinobi that I pounded on last year and it was flawless. It’s assumed that higher-end groups tend to prove their worth in the long term. I’ve only had 16 rides on the X5 group this year, so I can’t comment on whether or not it’ll work just as well a 100 rides later but so far so good. I’ll check in on this group as the season wears on.


Unfortunately the Avid brakes are noteworthy in their lamentable mediocrity. Inconsistency and loud shrieking are the hallmarks throughout the line of every Avid Elixir offering and the Elixir 1 is no exception. Only after multiple bleeds following the SRAM video tips are these brakes passable. These brakes provide substandard modulation and provide excitement and adventure whenever they are used. What kind of lever throw will one get? Its simply amazing that Avid can’t get these brakes right after so many years.

Detailed Component Specs:

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About the author: Lee Lau

Lee Lau calls North Vancouver and Whistler BC home. He's had over 15 years experience riding bikes mainly in western North America and in Europe. Unlike many people who learned to ride bikes on North Shore trails, he actually enjoys riding (and sometimes bushwhacking) uphill.


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  • Izzy says:

    “If you’re outside this range you’ll need to change the stock spring”
    Huh? You mean add/remove air???
    Where’s Francis’ video as mentioned on the last page?
    How does the Sight Killer-B’s climbing performance compare to the Range’s? Particularly the way the suspension behaves?

  • LeeL says:

    Sloppy on my part – Francis’s video is here http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=1EnL5wf2MOM

    Actually check out the X-Fusion site via the link and the other link in the story re the mod. There’s a coil spring and an air spring. You actually have to change the stock coil spring. IMO if you’re going through that trouble spring the extra 300 and get the HLR damper which gets you HSC and LSC

    Sight Killer B pedals better with substantially less bob particularly in the small ring

  • Maple says:

    Lee,

    How’s it compare with the RM Altitude? Like you I’m more of climber, which would you prefer on a trail like Pipeline (Fromme), or Cardiac (Bby), or Salamander (Seymour), or Franks (Burke)… as a wide assortment of trails?

  • Oscar says:

    Which trail on Fromme is that jump on? (If it’s not a secret) Looks like fun!

    • Paul Snyder says:

      Oscar – all the trails in this video are on Seymour. None of them are secret. They are listed (not in order of appearance) under the video on Vimeo.

  • LeeL says:

    Maple – the Altitude is more comparable to the Sight. The Ranges quality of suspension is more plush and better for absorption of small hits and/or multiple hits than the Altitude/Sight but IMO the Altitude and Sight are better climbing bikes

  • Angel says:

    What size bike are you riding on these video ?

  • Lee Lau says:

    Angel – I’m on a size Medium

  • M@ says:

    Do you feel that the M was the best fit at 5’11? I’ve always landed in the middle of sizing charts at 5’8″. Curious if the small would be a better fit or throw a 40/50 stem on a M. Ordered my 2014

    • Lee Lau says:

      M@ – I thought the Med was a good fit for me but I tend to prefer smaller sizes. You’ve got a tough problem – I tend to think that you might be a S but that’s a guess

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