Lowdown: 2017 Norco Range C9.2
When rides focus on ripping descents through technical terrain and using the cranks to get back to the top, put the 2017 Norco Range on your short list. Its forgiving nature allows for maximum fun without needing to consider what lies ahead, preferring to keep its speed up and flow.
|Frame: 2017 Norco Range Carbon C9.2||Cassette: SRAM Eagle X01 10-50T|
|Fork: RockShox Lyric 160mm||Chain: SRAM X01 Eagle|
|Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe RC3||Bottom bracket: SRAM Pressfit BB92|
|Wheels: Race Face AR 30||Bars: Race Face Atlas 800mm|
|Hubs: SRAM MTH 746 Boost||Stem: Race Face Affect R 40mm|
|Tires: Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5/DHRII 2.4||Seatpost: Race Face Turbine 150mm|
|Brakes: SRAM Guide RS||Saddle: SDG Duster RL|
|Rotors: 180mm||Headtube angle: 65.5 degrees|
|Shifters: SRAM Eagle XO1||Chainstay length: 430/435/440 M/L/XL|
|Front Derailleur: N/A||Seat tube angle: 74.5/74.1/73.7 M/L/XL|
|Rear Derailleur: SRAM Eagle XO1||Weight: 31.1 pounds (size large, w/tubes)|
|Cable routing: Internal/External||Price: $5799|
|Crankset: SRAM Eagle 10-50||Rating: 4 Chilis-out-of-5|
Review: 2017 Norco Range C9.2
When you enjoy long rides highlighted by screaming downhill through mixed terrain, look at the 2017 Norco Range 29. Climbs went smoothly, punchy terrain became easier, and descents were fast and carefree.
The Mtbr First Ride Review describes the different build options and can be found here.
Since receiving the bike, Mtbr had the opportunity to shred for a couple of months. Most rides were grinding climbs to downhill trails, with some mixed terrain singletrack pedals thrown in for good measure. For context, the test rider was 6 feet tall and weighed 205 pounds. The size large frame fit quite well.
If you’re like me, a climb is something you want to get over with. That said, whether pedaling or pushing, we’re choosing to do the climb because it opens up vast amounts of terrain that sees relatively little use (and is a whole lot better than sweating in a gym). That style of riding seems to be exactly why the Norco Range exists: exploring terrain, pedaling to the top and rowdy fun on the way down.
The Range pedaled uphill well, having an upright riding position to reduce fatigue on long grinds. Some heel contact occurred with the seat stay, but that is a common occurrence between large feet and frames with boost rear hubs.
The RockShox Super Deluxe shock has a three position lever to select between open, trail and locked out modes. When the firm setting was selected, pedal bob was virtually eliminated yet the bike became fairly unresponsive to terrain, so square edges tended to bounce me off the saddle. The middle setting remedied the bucking, yet the additional bob felt like it sapped energy. I’m sure quite a bit of that is due to pedaling technique, being a bit of a masher. Overall preference was the firm setting for mostly smooth sections, just riding actively on occasional rough bits and using the middle setting for continuous bumpy and mixed-terrain pedaling. Fortunately, the switch is easily accessible.
When riding through rolling terrain, planning ahead is always smart but not mandatory. The 29er wheels ride high and reduce impact angles, helping the rider maintain momentum, going over rather than into the holes. When momentum faltered, it was easy to do a track-stand, pause, and continue. Even on no-speed rock drops, just pull back on the bars and squish, then continue on. Drama did not happen.
The bottom bracket is high enough that pedal strike simply did not happen, to the point of preparing for them when mistiming a stroke, yet contact did not occur. On trail sections through rock slides, where a line definitely exists yet is littered with holes, this is the bike I’d choose and have frequently missed since returning it.
“Boing, boing, boing,” is the playful thought I had every time when approaching a favorite rocky descent. That is even with a 300-foot cliff a few feet to the side. The 2017 Range lets you blissfully flow through rocks and roots in an athletic upright riding position. It immediately feels good.
Take a little time to get used to the bike though, because it gives the rider a wake-up call when exiting turns. The centered position also mandates getting your weight low, back and really bend at the hips to get power down out of turns. On more than one occasion I started to wash out, reminding me to bend at the hips and get low, low, low. Thankfully the Range was forgiving, reminded about the mistakes and highlighted when I got it right – rocketing forward. It helped to improve technique without tossing me into the rocks.
The riding position makes air time feel very natural. On many bikes, it feels like you’re slightly following the bike or a passenger driving a vehicle. The Range seems like your body is in the normal position you’d be in when jumping without a bike, then smoothly catches you. Full travel was used frequently, yet bottoming out was smooth and firm, exactly like it should be. Mid-stroke was supportive enough to ride actively and firmly pump. The rear shock was consistently full open when descending.
The centered position did seem to exacerbate an issue I’ve experienced on most 29ers. When slower descents are desired on really steep terrain, it was difficult to find traction and felt like my weight was a bit forward and high. The sweet spot between traction and forward rotation was very narrow. Sure, get off the darn brakes and let it flow! That said, it’s the only time I grumbled at the bike. For really steep stuff, I’d look towards the 27.5” version of this bike.
The drivetrain performed very well, zero issues. Yes, an upper guide is included and zero chain drops were experienced. During the first few rides I was amazed at the 50t cog in back, finding myself one cog short of the granny on most climbs. However, I quickly adapted to the range and would select a 30t chainring up front since I never spun out. Also, the alloy cranks might be a tad heavier than the carbon versions, yet they are very aesthetically pleasing and durable.
The wheels stayed true, amazingly. They are the AR series, similar to the ARC wheel but uses a sleeved joint instead of welded. Regardless, they required zero truing. Their only downfall seems to be being on the heavier side. Norco did riders a favor and wrapped them with the exact tires that I’d select, Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5 WT / DHR II 2.4 WT combination. The rider will need to convert over to tubeless, which is normal.
Both the fork and shock performed quite well and left little to be desired. The Maxle up front made removing the front wheel convenient, yet is a bit less stiff than tools-required alternatives. My initial concerns about cable routing along the shock stanchion proved to be a non-issue, with zero wear happening during our riding. The Race Face dropper post also performed flawlessly.
The Norco Range feels like it was built to withstand hard and frequent use, and proved to be exactly that. Countless laps were ridden down square edged rocky terrain with a Clydesdale driving and the Range was always ready for more.
During the test period, very few issues were encountered. On the first ride, I forgot to torque two of the cable port cover bolts and lost them, just additional items to keep an eye on during the pre-ride inspection process. Those port covers allow convenient access for routing, while securing the cables snugly. Just remember to tighten the bolts.
The only mechanical issue was with the SRAM Guide brakes, whose performance tanked after about a month of riding. Pads were not over worn, no contamination was present, but the power vanished . New pads were needed, well before expected. I’d also select a larger front rotor because there’s little reason not to.