I’m going to start calling my Norco Range, the Honey Badger. It simply doesn’t care. It doesn’t care where you point it, what you smash it into, or how fast you’re going. It just keeps asking for more. As expected, the Norco Range ticks all the boxes for being a brute of a bike. But, it has a few tricks hidden up its sleeve. Stick around to see what those are.
Before the new Range was released, I was curious to see what Norco would do with their enduro platform, especially after I had ridden the smaller Sight last year. Even the Sight had some pretty long, low, and slack geometry. It was a bit of a brawler itself. Norco went full send on their new Rane. It has 170mm of travel front and back, as well as an increasingly popular high pivot suspension platform. We will get into more about Norco’s High Virtual Pivot later, but know, for now, it can make a lot of travel feel like a lot more. The Range has size-specific geometry to give every rider, large or small, the same ride experience. My XL Range came in with a 63° head tube angle and a 77.25° seat tube angle. The wheelbase is an astonishing 1329mm.
Let’s address the elephant in the room. My XL Range came in at 39.6lb out of the box (with tubes installed). After making a few upgrades, Enve M7 carbon bars and AM 30 wheels, TRP DH-R Evo brakes, and a Sram GX AXS drivetrain, I got the weight down to just under 38lb. Although losing 2lb felt like a win, 38lb is still pretty heavy for a bike without a motor. I personally don’t freak out too much over bike weight. I think many folks care way too much about how heavy their bike is. That said, the weight on this thing is noticeable. I’ll stop crying about it now so we can talk about how it rides.
Norco Range Ride Impressions
Let’s start this off with a bit of a disclaimer. All bikes make sacrifices — whether it be heavier tires for better flat resistance or lighter weight suspension for a faster climbing bike. All bikes make these kinds of tradeoffs. The Norco Range ends up making pretty much all the tradeoffs it can in order to maximize descending performance. It has a coil shock, heavy Maxxis Double Down casing tires, a 38mm stanchion fork, big brakes, and rotors — you get the idea. I don’t want this part of the article to sound harsh or like I’m being unfair. I don’t make a habit of sugar coating things and I would hate for that to be mistaken as me being harsh. Just being honest. I want you to know what you’re getting into.
The Norco Range isn’t a great climber — big surprise. It’s pretty heavy and slow uphill. Now the question I want to answer is, is it too slow for how good of a descender it is? Let’s talk about that.
I was actually rather surprised by the pedaling platform during my rides on the Range. It pedals better than I thought it would. It doesn’t have that trail bike energetic feel, but it doesn’t just bob up and down the entire time your climbing. In fact, I never really felt the need to use the lockout lever. It did well enough. That’s one of the saving graces for the bike’s uphill performance.
The Seat tube angle is very steep at 77.25 degrees. Not only does this put you in a comfortable and upright position, but it also keeps your weight from hanging too far off the back. I think this helps reduce pedal bob to a degree and it certainly helps keep the ultra slack front end weighted and on the ground.
An idler pulley is needed to take out slack in the Range’s incredibly long chain. Why is the chain so long? With the high pivot suspension design, the rear wheel moves rearward as well as upward. If you didn’t have a long enough chain to allow the wheel to move rearward, the universe would explode. Or your chain would snap, the wheel wouldn’t move, or your pedals would get pulled backward with every bump. Either way, you need a long chain to let the rear wheel do its thing. Before riding the Range, I had heard a bunch of complaints about the extra drag in the idler pulley. I noticed it seldomly and only when I was paying attention to it. It never called attention to itself.
Overall the Range does well enough uphill to not make you completely hate life on the climbs. It’s not great but that’s not where it’s meant to shine. For how well this thing goes downhill, I think it climbs plenty well. I mean it climbs a lot better than a downhill bike, and that’s basically how it descends.
Oh boy. Where do we even start? I looked up “amazing” in the thesaurus. I’m going to try to use every one of those words in the next few paragraphs.
First, let’s talk about suspension performance. If you’ve been living under a rock for the last year, you might have an excuse for not hearing about high pivot suspension bikes. Basically, with a high pivot, the rear wheel is able to move rearward as well as upward when it encounters an obstacle. The idea behind this is that a rearward axle path keeps the wheel from getting hung up on square edges hits and trail chatter. The Range’s back wheel moves 170mm with a significant portion of that being rearward. You can imagine as your bike moves forward through rough and rocky terrain, that a rearward axle path would be beneficial. It also makes the bike longer, read: more stable, when it moves through its suspension. I’ve never ridden a bike that so stoically plows through rocks, roots, and nasty terrain. It’s pretty incredible. It doesn’t even seem to flinch when you run over rocks. It certainly doesn’t slow down. It keeps motoring forward, ready for the next obstacle.
There can be some downsides to a rearward axle path as well. As the bike compresses into its suspension say in a corner, the wheelbase is effectively longer. A longer bike, generally has a little tougher time getting through a tight corner than a shorter one. I have noticed some difficulty in corners on the Range. Partly due to the really long bike, but maybe even more so by the shocking amount of speed I’m carrying out of the straights and into the corners. My cornering skills are going to have to improve to match the unbelievable speed the Range wants to go.
Before I rode the Range, I incorrectly assumed the suspension would feel similar to jumping up and down on a water bed. Surprisingly, it feels rather firm and supportive. It never felt harsh or stiff, just supportive. I think that goes a long way in making the bike feel a bit more manageable. If it was a complete ground hugger, it could feel pretty lazy and cumbersome. With its firmer suspension, you’re able to pump and jump easier. I wouldn’t go as far as calling it poppy, but it’s certainly not dead. You’re actually able to jump and bunnyhop without a gargantuan effort.
Overall, the Range simply makes the trail less scary. It almost feels like obstacles are coming at you in slow motion. I can assure you they’re not. This bike makes it so easy to go fast. Have you ever gone from a little sedan like a Corolla to a big truck with a lot of power? You can find yourself speeding pretty easily — you just don’t feel the speed. Then you go back to the Corolla and are scared to go faster than 55 on the freeway. That’s how riding the Range feels. It’s the big burly truck that goes fast without you feeling it.
Marvelous, wonderful, prodigious. There, I got all the words from the thesaurus.
Who is The Norco Range for?
If you like riding rough terrain with big features and the opportunity for lots of eye-watering speed, you’re going to dig the Range. It’s not the bike for cruising blues and greens or racing your friends uphill. It’s for Kanye-like levels of confidence when everyone else in your group is backing down from terrifying features.
The Bottom Line
The Norco Range doesn’t care what you smash it into, where you point it, or even what you’re doing on the bike. It just wants to get downhill as fast as possible — usually, that’s the straightest and steepest line around.