Bible Review: Norco Range C2 29

A DH rider's almost-not-DH bike

The Range C2 29 descends like a downhill bike. It also climbs like a downhill bike. The second statement is not entirely fair because the Range is an adequate climber, but as one tester noted, "Definitely a sit-and-spinner." Part of this can be attributed to the priority placed on burly parts. The heavily reinforced e*thirteen TRSr and TRS+ tires are paired to their matching no-nonsense TRS 30-millimeter alloy rims. A pinned SRAM XG 1150 GX-level Eagle cassette is bolted onto solid, reliable DT Swiss 350 hubs, and a SRAM Descendant alloy crankset robustly rounds out the rotational weight. The parts are meant for unflappable abuse, and they certainly seem to match the Range's capable character.

Saying this is a capable bike doesn’t really capture the extent of it. Ryan Cleek finds out just how far it can be pushed.

This capability favors strong DH-oriented riders who enjoy forcefully putting their bikes where they need to go. "I am not a strong enough descender to give this bike what it wants," admitted one tester. Our test loop included one lengthy chute splattered with poppy rock outcrops, fall-away off-camber turns, small to mid-sized ledges peppered in with smaller doubles--medium-speed constantly varying and involved terrain. The faster the Range went, the happier it became. The more forceful the pumping, preloading and body English, the more reciprocal the Range became in manner, and the bike wholeheartedly came to life. On our higher-speed, root stutter and long line-of-sight descent, it was rock solid, unperturbed with a steadiness that could not be bothered. Tight and twisty climbing? Not so happy. A gradual grade upward without any quick surprises? Much better for the Range.

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Value can be difficult to judge as everything invariably is somewhat of a compromise and reflection of priority. So, was the Range a good value? Testers thought so--but, it's also a telltale of an emphasis placed on performance parts, particularly descending-oriented, and less so on drivetrain. The Range C2 comes with the most adjustable and highest-end Lyrik, the RCT3. It also sports a Super Deluxe Trunnion-mounted metric rear shock and the robust e*thirteen TRSr and TRS+ tires. There is excitement surrounding RockShox's new lever on the Reverb, you get that too. All this goes in the Hot Sauce category. The GX Eagle drivetrain along with heavyweight crank might make the trail-pedally-minded whimper. At $5,400 should we see a GX/X01 Eagle medley? Perhaps, but we'd most likely see sacrifices to the Lyrik RCT3 and other top-notch performance parts.

So who's at Home on the Range? A sender. Not to be confused with ascender. Somebody who wants the utmost in downhill prowess and is willing to sacrifice overall bike weight and sprightly climbing to achieve that.--W.R.


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Q&A with David Cox, bicycle design engineer at Norco Bicycles

The Sight is an incredibly capable trail/all-mountain bike, many of our testers had a hard time finding its limit, it did everything well. Considering the Sight's capability, what type of rider are you envisioning for the Range--what are they looking for in the Range that the Sight doesn't offer?

The Range is the Sight’s big brother. Really big brother.

The Sight is a much more versatile bike for long days in the backcountry and everyday riding. It can be taken in some enduro races, but for someone who is looking to focus on racing, the Range is going to be the bike of choice. The latest version of the Range is longer, lower and slacker which makes it a real speed machine. The Range has much more control and stability at high speeds than the Sight. The Range has some design inspiration from our downhill race bike, the Aurum, including the same derailleur hanger, and is the go-to bike when the terrain is downhill focused. Most enduro races are essentially like doing five or more downhill races over the course of a day, while also having to pedal to the top of each stage. The Range is the bike of choice to get through those big days with lots of gnarly, high-speed bike park stages.

There are quite a lot of options today for buying bikes - 26+, 27.5+, 29+, 2.8-inch versus 3.0, 'normal tires,' 'wide' tires, now 2.6-inch tires. With a sea of wheel size and tire width options confronting purchasing decisions, why add yet more choices by offering the same model in different wheel sizes?  Along those lines, why alter the travel and angles when bouncing from 650B to 29-inch options?

We want to offer choice to consumers who feel strongly about one wheel size or another. Bigger wheels feel like they have more travel, therefore our 29ers have 10 millimeters less travel front and rear than their 650b siblings. We also have 0.5 degree steeper head tube angle on the 29er to keep the trail number in check. The 29er has more rotational weight and gyroscopic effect so these changes makes the handling similar between both wheel sizes. We also have different stem lengths between the two wheel sizes. While the traditional reach and stack numbers may be different between the 650b and 29er, we believe that stem length should be incorporated into reach and stack measurements since it has a significant influence on steering characteristics. 'Reach Plus' and 'Stack Plus' factor in the stem length and rise, which allow us to achieve optimal fit and handling across each wheel and frame size combination. Varying stem lengths between 650b and 29er help to balance out the inherent handling differences of different sized wheels in addition to head angles and fork offsets.

A lot of brands are touting very short chainstays these days. Looking at the Range's geometry chart, chainstay length increases as frame size increases. Can you walk us through the advantage of this, as well as the thought process behind Gravity Tune?

For all the Range can do on the down, it can still get you to the top. It might require a little extra effort, but it will get you there.

Traditional frame design disregards rear-center lengths when changing size, leading to sub-optimal riding positions for some riders. Gravity Tune fixes the front-center/rear-center ratio and weight balance across all frame sizes, effectively optimizing geometry and rider weight distribution for every bike in the line. We optimize the weight balance for the intended use. There are not many brands touting short chainstays, actually the trends show the opposite.