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Norco Range brings High Virtual Pivot to enduro racing

Downhill-inspired tech in a very fast single-crown bike

When Norco rolled out the Aurum HSP DH race bike, the Canadian brand quickly realized the designs potential for use in a long travel enduro race bike. Three years later, that bike is here. The high-tech looking Norco Range is an all-out race bike, ready for the most challenging trails and enduro stages anywhere.

Read on for our early ride impressions of Norco’s new enduro sled, as well as all the details on the new linkage and full 2022 Range line

Norco Range 2021 2022

Range goes Racing

Norco’s put three years into developing the new Range to be an all-in enduro race and “big mountain” bike. With the very well received Sight covering the trail category, and edging into the type or riding the Range used to cover, Norco had the freedom to make a very specific vision of  what a race bike could be.

To suit the new purpose, the Range moves to faster-rolling 29″ wheels. There’s no mullet option at the moment, or in the near future from Norco. But, given that the Range platform is currently being customized to race World Cup downhill by the Factory Team riders, it’s not impossible that it could happen at some point.

Norco is only offering the 170-mm travel (front and rear) frame in carbon fibre, due to the complex shapes required for the new High Virtual Pivot (HVP) design. To accommodate its team riders interest in the platform, the Range can safely run a triple crown fork, up to 180-mm.

About that linkage – High Virtual Pivot

So, there is a lot going on in the back end of that Norco. The Virtual High Pivot and the idler pulley. The design builds on Norco’s Aurum HSP (High Suspension Pivot) downhill race bike. What initially started as a project to bring the High Pivot to an enduro platform has come full circle, though. The HVP design worked so well that the new Range is already being raced by Norco riders at World Cup downhills, with custom linkages for longer travel.

So, what is it? Why does it have an idler pulley?

Like the HSP, the Range uses a rearward axle path. This smooths out square edge hits and preserves momentum through rough trails. Norco moved from the HSP’s Horst link design to the new, more intricate virtual pivot to improve suspension performance under braking. Since the rearward axle path means the distance between the rear axle and bottom bracket grows as the Range moves through its travel, Norco adds the idler pulley to isolate suspension from the drivetrain. Essentially, it means the pedals won’t kick back at you as you move through the Range’s travel. This is good for control, but it also helps reduce rider fatigue over long runs.

Size-specific geometry – from axle to axle

Ride Aligned is Norco’s design philosophy – and online fitting system. For the Range, this gets even more advanced. Norco’s offered size-specific rear centers on its bikes for years. On the Range, there’s a different dropout and linkage for each frame size. That lets Norco use the same chain stay carbon piece, while still keeping the rider position consistent. There’s also size-specific seat stay angles, so every frame can keep a long-travel dropper post and comfortable seated pedaling position.

New for the Range is size-specific head tube angles. Despite “slacker” being the new cool, Norco found, through extensive testing, slightly steeper head tube angles helped shorter riders keep pressure on the front tire better, and stay better in control. It’s not a massive change – from 63.67 on a Small to 63.0 on the XL – but just enough to make the ride experience consistent across sizes.

Finally, to make sure this all performs consistently across all three Ranges, a top-end Fox Factory DHX2 Coil is spec on all three models. This shock is custom tuned to match the suspension curve of the fork, too. Why? So you can stay on the front wheel and in a stable, attacking position instead of having to shift your weight back on the bike to compensate for shifts in how the bike sits. Like the suspension, this helps reduce fatigue on long runs.

2022 Norco Range

Norco wants all riders to enjoy the HVP Range equally, so there’s a few interesting choices in the parts selection. The top end Range C1 is, as expected, a no-costs-spared pursuit of a EWS winning machine, starting from made in Canada carbon fibre rims from We Are One and Fox Factory 38 170-mm fork, down to lighter parts and carbon bits. This factory build starts at $11,000.

Next, the Range C2 we’re testing and the C3 keep the same Fox Factory DHX2 Coil shock as the pro-level C1, but keep the price more reasonable with smart parts selection. The C2 gets a RockShox Zeb Ultimate fork, SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain and Code R four-piston brakes, alloy Deity bar, and e*thirteen LG1 wheels with DT Swiss venerable 350 hub. Norco goes all out with the tires, speccing 2.5″ Maxxis Assegai front and 2.4″ Dissector out back for traction and speed, both in the race-ready Double Down casing and MaxxGrip rubber. That moves the C2 to $8,400.

Norco Range 2021 2022 Fox DHX2 Factory

The C3 somes with RockShox Zeb, Shimano Deore 12-speed drivetrain and BR-MT520 four-piston brakes, Stan’s Flow D rims and Shimano hubs, to bring the price tag down to $6,800. For that, you still get the same Fox Factory Coil shock and Maxxis DD MaxxGrip tires as the C1, and same TransX YSP-105 adjustable dropper post as the C2.

Finally, if you want to build up your own Range, a frame-only option comes in at $4,500.

Norco Range 2021 2022

Free Range: First impressions of Norco’s Range C2

Some bikes feel fast, other bikes go fast. The Range goes very fast, without that out-of-control feeling. As the pace picks up, it has a calm, settled feeling that makes it easy to get up to speed and comfortable on the bike quickly. Once you’re on pace, that controlled feeling the HVP suspension lends the Range lets you stay at that speed for longer without fatiguing.

The benefits of HVP suspension are apparent on any technical or fast trail. Any bike with 170-mm of coil-driven suspension and 29″ wheels can be expected to smooth out rough sections of roots and rocks, but the Range goes further. You don’t always realize how much work the bike is doing until you realize you’re going faster through sections, but still in control. The bike doesn’t skitter around on the trail – a benefit of its extra heft – and the HVP’s traction under braking is impressive.

When the trails get more serious, this planted feeling remains. Landing drops and jumps, the Range immediately feels composed and in control. There’s no bounce or harshness, it just eats up the landing. This lets you look ahead more, keeping your speed up and stay in control.

There are some quirks to the design, and the Range isn’t light. If you don’t keep the drivetrain clean, you’ll hear a quiet rubbing in the larger cogs by the end of  ride. There’s also some noise through chatter, since the chain runs so close to the seat stays. The noise-dampening rubber guards help, but there’s only so much they can do. That mean’s the Range isn’t a silent bike, but it’s a small cost for the performance benefits.

Norco Range 2021 2022

Anyone looking closely at the HVP linkage will likely notice that it hangs below the chainring guard. At sag, that linkage tucks up behind the MRP bashguard. But, I did catch the linkage’s own hard plastic guard once, while on a weird technical climb. That’s not likely to come up too often, and I only hit it once in 170km of test riding, but a factor if you ride really technical trails often.

Norco does spec all three ranges with a “firm” switch on the Fox DHX2 coil. For long climbs, this is a huge help. With its weight, the Range is, in line with the enduro race format, more about getting to the top at a steady pace to maximize your descents than, say, a fun bike to climb. Norco has optimized the location of the idler pulley to get the best pedalling platform in the Range’s largest cogs. That means the bike is more efficient when climbing and more active when you shift through the cassette to head back downhill.

Given the Range’s purpose, a bit more effort climbing for seriously fast descending is a trade-off Norco, and most riders interested in the Range, are happy to make. There’s also a shuttle guard, so you can safely toss the Range over a tailgate for extra laps if you get tired of pedalling it up.

Norco Range 2021 2022

Norco Range HVP – Go fast without having to take chances

Norco set out to make a purebred enduro race bike that would go fast for its pro athletes and make any rider feel more confident on their local trails. The Canadian brand’s choices in the range – favouring durability over a low weight and a HVP over a simple suspension design – reflect this purpose. That design comes with some quirks, and it will be interesting to see how they develop over time, but the first impressions are that the Range uses its distinctive features to its advantage.

So who will the Range appeal to? Racers, or anyone who likes going fast, is the most obvious answer, but not the only one. Feeling in control and composed as trails and speed get more challenging should appeal to any rider looking to push their riding to the next level, to harder trails or bigger features.

The Range may not be light, or an all-rounder. But for an aggressive rider, it does what it does very well. It is still fun to ride, though. Especially when the speeds pick up or the grades get steep.

Add in smart parts builds and Norco delivers the range  race-ready out of the box, including Fox Factory DHX2 shock and Maxxis DD tires for all three bikes.

The all-new Norco Range is available now through Norco and Norco dealers.