We’ve got a 650B, alloy framed Norco Range in for test this week. It gets160mm of rear travel and 170mm forks, updated geometry and a cranking paintjob!
This year the Range is also available as a 29er, that bike gets 150mm of rear travel and 160mm forks, making both pretty big burly bikes in suspension terms. Our bike is also the bottom of the range model with smaller wheels. It’s the alloy framed A3 and comes in at £2,300. Evans, who sell Norco, aren’t, unfortunately, bringing in the bigger wheeled A3 so if you want a wagon wheeler you’ll need to shell out 500 quid more and get aboard the A2, which still has an alloy frame but better spec list.
For your dollar you get Rockshox Yari forks and Deluxe RL Rear Shock. To make the bike go you get a mix of Shimano SLX kit, a Sunrace 11-46T cassette and RaceFace chainring and cranks. It will be interesting to see if this mixed bag of kit works well together. I reckon the SunRace cassette is a good choice over the SLX alternative, the SunRace doesn’t have the big jump between the last two cogs like the Shimano cassette does. The Shimano cassette jumps from a 37t cog to the 46 whilst the SunRace one moves from a 36 to a 40 to the 46 tooth which should produce an easier transition between gears.
To stop the bike the Norco is specced with Tektro HD-M745 Hydraulic Disc Brakes, these are a 4 piston brake with reach adjust and are used on the Range with a 203mm rotor on the front and a 180 on the rear. I’ve not used a set of these brakes before so I’m keen to see how they perform compared to something like SRAM Guide R’s or Guide T’s.
Elsewhere, the range gets WTB 29mm internal width rims and Maxxis High Roller 2.4” Wide Trail tyres and, on this medium model a 125mm Trans X dropper post. All these different brands of kit used does mean that the bars are rather cluttered with a clamp for brakes, dropper and shifter, we think this might make set up a bit more niggly.
For 2018 its good to see the geometry of the range has been updated, its got longer, lower and slacker for a more stable ride. It is keeping up appearances with the rest of the ‘enduro’ crowd but it still appears to be falling behind when you look closely at the numbers. The bikes reach (on a medium bike) has moved from 412mm to 430mm and its half a degree slacker at the head angle this year at 65 degrees. It is good to see the seat tube has been steepened by near on 2 degrees now coming in a 74.5 so whilst it’s not super steep it will likely climb a lot better than last year’s bike. The combination of the steepened seat angle and the slightly increased reach has left the 2018 bike with just a 2mm longer effective top tube compared to 2017 meaning that this bike will feel pretty similar when seated.
One thing I really like about Norco bikes is the way the designers make the chainstays of the bike incrementally longer as the bike size increases. So my medium bike here has 430mm chainstays whilst the small bike’s chainstays measure 420mm and the large bikes measure 435mm. Norco calls this their Gravity Tune, it basically means that the front centre and rear centre ratios are similar across the entire size range, helping distribute rider weight evenly, keeps the rider centred on the bike and helps increase front wheel traction.
I’m off this weekend to get this bike covered in mud so I’ll be back soon with a full review which you will be able to read on the site soon!
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