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First Impressions

2022 Norco Range C1 VLT eMTB

Words Trevor Hansen
Photos Deniz Merdano
Date Jul 14, 2021
Reading time

Initial thoughts

When I first learned that I would be testing the new Norco Range VLT I was excited because I had seen some spy shots of the new Range with its high pulley and great looking design. When I eyed the electrified Range I was a bit disappointed that it did not look anything like its cousin without the electricity. Speaking of spy shots, I was testing the bike and I completed the ride near the infamous location of another spy shot that caused a bruhaha. One of my riding buddies said something to me as I attempted to hide the Range, "E bikes are ugly and nobody cares about the design of a new E bike enough to spy shot it.” Kinda harsh but that may be true for these parts when compared to mountain bikes. I think it's best to view an E bike as a separate entity on and off the trail, however I still cannot help comparing an E ride to a ride. The Range is a fun machine that rides well on all the terrain the North Shore has to offer. The ride is a great one but still a different one from a mountain bike. As E mountain bikes go, and I have only ridden 3 other models, this one is easily the best. It is at this point that I should quote from my Norco Range C2 my "long term review - sort of" about how I and NSMB.Cam feel about ebikes:

I love mountain bikes. I don't love e-bikes. I enjoy riding eMTBs because of what they offer; more speed climbing and more range, and sometimes rides that take less time so I can shoe-horn one in as a bonus. I am a mountain biker who sometimes likes to ride an eMTB, but mostly I prefer riding under my own meagre power. I reject the prediction I've seen in some other publications that eMTBs are going to make mountain bikes obsolete. I'll be turning the pedals with my own power for as long as I'm able, but I may continue to occasionally ride an electric bike off road.

If you don't like eMTBs, I'm fine with that. I only like them sheepishly anyway.

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New and improved electric fun.

Speaking, er writing, about Cam, he is currently testing the new Sight VLT. Like him with that bike, I'll give my initial impressions of the Range, its highlights, specs and pricing.

I have had about 10 rides on it ranging (see what I did there?) from quick under an hour rips to rides up to build/maintain trails then rip down to a full two mountain ride burning the giant 900 Wh battery out and having to push the beast up a big hill (it was a small hill - Ed.) to get back home (woe is me).

Highlights

  • FRAME MATERIAL CHOICE available in Carbon and Aluminum
  • 180mm Fox Factory Float 38 and 170mm Fox Factory DHX2 coil
  • BATTERY CAPACITY CHOICE With three proprietary battery options available: featuring future-proof 21700 lithium ion cells for maximum energy density, allowing you to custom-select your ideal capacity from 540Wh, 720Wh or massive, industry-leading 900Wh.
  • EASILY-REMOVABLE BATTERY Proprietary batteries remove and install in seconds with a single onboard tool.
  • SHIMANO EP8 DRIVE SYSTEM Shimano’s most advanced EP8 drive system is spec’d through the entire Gen 3 VLT lineup. It’s 380g lighter than previous models, features 85Nm of torque with increased efficiency, and is rider customizable using the E-Tube Project app.
  • E-OPTIMIZED COMPONENTS Every VLT is spec’d for the rigours and added mass of E-mountain biking, including E-certified forks, oversized 4-piston XT disc brakes, robust 29” wheels with reinforced spokes and freehubs, and grippy Assegai DD tires featuring supportive sidewalls.
  • RIDE ALIGNED™ Norco’s exclusive Ride Aligned™ Design System matches each VLT E-MTB to the human who rides it. Rider-first geometry and suspension kinematics combine with custom fit and suspension tuning using the Ride Aligned™ Setup Guide to provide personalized performance. Range VLT:

Removable batteries

One of the most impressive aspects of the new Range is how it is engineered around removable batteries. The engineers were able to make it easy to turn an 8mm bolt using a built-in removable tool and have the battery slide out for easy swaps or charging. The latter was handy for me when I wanted to charge the battery in my place while the bike stayed locked in my storage shed where there is no power. I have not had a chance to try the pack a battery for extra power feature but I will definitely try various ways of doing this during the long-term test.

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I brought the batteries to work (the gym that made Matt Dennison the sculpted Adonis he is today). The 900 topped out at 10 pounds and the 500 weighed in at 7 pounds on the ghetto scale from the 70's. Not super accurate but wow that's heavy. Actual weights from Norco: 540Wh = 3190g, 720Wh = 3880g, 900Wh = 4570g.

One idea I want to test is to stash a spare battery at the base of the mountain so I don’t lug the extra 7 pound beast with me. I have an image of riding with the spare battery in a Baby Bjorn while I am writing this and another from 1997 of me with a homemade headlight with a 9 pound lead acid battery in my Camelbak that caused me to fall backwards on a wheelie drop because of the weight. I could take Norco’s copy and the information I gleaned from a product knowledge meeting with all the main players in the Range VLT development and turn it into my own words but whoever wrote these next sentences did it so well I do not want to change them:

"To make the battery removable without compromising the integrity of the downtube, we rotated the front of the EP8 motor up. The rotated mount also provided additional ground clearance, drastically reducing the likelihood of impact damage. The re-positioned motor allowed us to re-think the suspension layout and kinematics from previous VLT rocker-style designs, resulting in the updated horizontal shock configuration, while further optimizing suspension kinematics. This new configuration also creates clearance for 2 water bottle mounts on the frame."

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I will comment on it though. Yes, the two water bottles came in handy, yes the removable battery works great but the reduced clearance and impact damage? Well I can tell you I was smashing it a fair bit during the first few rides, so much so that I broke the bottom protector plate causing the battery to pop out. Two or maybe three things caused this. One, according to Norco, I had the suspension set up too soft, two, the protection plate was a 3D printed makeshift plate made for the test whilst waiting for the proper alloy ones to come in and three, it’s still low and under-protected. I would think a proper chain guard from One Up would help with that. After adjusting the suspension, I also changed my riding style when I came to sharp “up and overs” unweighting more than I usually do on my Enduro and that seemed to help. I have only smashed the new plate a few times.

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The Range has been a lot of fun up (duh) and down (pleasantly surprising me).

Initial ride impressions

After 10 or so rides I can say this is a fun bike and it has me shifting away from sheepish e bike like toward unabashed like. In other words my E guilt is almost gone and I am beginning to appreciate this new style of riding and the potential it has. The Range does well on steep terrain, rock slabs, high speed bumps, flow trails, jank trails and even double track gravel connector trails. The bike’s design and weight allow it to stay planted and create confidence on steeps, loose corners and slippery roots. At first, I was a little worried dropping into a super steep trail I like. I feared the bike might get away from me or not be able to turn quickly but that was not the case. The only trails that it does not perform exceptionally well on are those with tight corners and those with jumps and optional side hits. Yes, it will go over all the jumps but it is an effort and it doesn’t feel as fun and poppy as my Enduro or the Nomad I tested. But this is where a paradigm shift is necessary; this is a different ride and a different kind of fun than the usual bike ride. I am hoping that with more time on the bike I will learn new ways to get some of my old ways working with the hefty weight of this thing.

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Excellent tracking on ridges, off-camber roots and everything in between.

Specs

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I am looking forward to really getting to know this bike by giving it a thorough testing over the long term. I have not had enough rides on it to make adjustments and to see how it performs on all the regular trails I ride but also what trails it will open up for me with the extra range. I plan to ride the Range exclusively for 30 days to see if I could be an N=E (only owning one bike for the mountains) kind of rider. More on that later this year.

Geometry

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Pricing

  • RANGE VLT C1 BLACK/SILVER 10,999 CAD 8,399 US
  • RANGE VLT C2 ORANGE/BLACK 8,499 CAD 6,499 US
  • RANGE VLT A1 GREY/BLACK 7,799 CAD 5,999 US
  • RANGE VLT A2 GREEN/ORANGE 6,799 CAD 5,299 US

Norco Range, Sight and Fluid VLT's will be available to select Norco dealers in Canada by the end of July and around the world later this fall. More info here.

Trevor Hansen

Age - 57

Height - 5'9"

Weight - 175lbs

Ape Index - 0.992

Inseam - 31"

Trail I've been stoked on lately - Bukwus

Bar Width - 780mm

Preferred Reach - 465-480mm

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Comments

ohio
+2 thaaad Dan
Marc Fenigstein  - July 14, 2021, 12:25 p.m.

On paper, it looks like they nailed it. Was wondering when bike cos were going to figure out what moto cos already know - once you have assisted propulsion, weight is almost irrelevant and often your friend. Pedalling efficiency is also a lot less important. Put the biggest pack you can in there, max out the travel, minimize pedal kickback, optimize geometry and rrrrriiiippp.

Reply

Jotegir
+2 Cam McRae Pete Roggeman
Lu Kz  - July 14, 2021, 1:45 p.m.

This comment is going to apply to all three of Norco's new Ebikes released today but I may as well leave it here:

I find it a bit odd they've chosen to add yet another suspension platform (or if you want to be technical, layout I suppose, as many of them are the same "platform") to their lineup after so many years of their homogenous horst link platform where nearly everything was pretty samey.

Now they still have the classic ART horst link, this horizontal horst link, the slightly different horizonal one found on their fluid kids bikes, the high single pivot, and the upside down high virtual pivot on the new range. Oh! And the high pivot, right way up horst link found on the shore, if you wanna count that one. I know you guys doubled your engineering staff a couple years ago, but dang!

I also think it's odd they're going to sell this as the E-Range alongside the regular, now substantially different looking HVP Range, especially considering Norco has such a long history of long travel freeride-ish bikes they could pull names from. I guess they figure nobody has fond memories of their Truaxes hey?

I think long term a bike like this is going to end up in my stable/quiver/garage. I ride a ton of bike park and the season is pretty short in the interior away from Whistler. Now cry as you might about increased wear on the trails, but it probably doesn't make a huge difference to my group of friends - we spend a lot of time and gas money shuttling trails in the spring and fall when the parks close (we all pedal plenty too, we're just... core riders, we'll say?). The idea that if we all eventually pick these up in the 900w variety, we can get our shuttle laps in without burning that much gas, plus the added ability to commute and kick around town? Seems like a major plus at some time. If only I had more friends who were thinking about these. I'm pretty sure the main thing stopping me myself is hubris.

My goodness though, I think I'll wait a bit and hope prices trickle down some. I know COVID trend has only pushed stuff the other way, but when I'm looking at the quality of gear I'd come to expect on my regular bikes and then combine that with the big battery and proper engineering and stuff on the e-bike? Ouch.

Reply

muldman
+1 4Runner1
muldman  - July 14, 2021, 1:58 p.m.

Should I be worried that no one is willing to throw one of these on a scale and tell the world how much it actually weighs? Are we talking about a 60lb bike here with the mid-size battery? At some point I am going to need to hike-a-bike and the weight of some eMTBs is getting out of hand.

Reply

Jotegir
+1 Dan
Lu Kz  - July 14, 2021, 2:03 p.m.

Well, they have walk mode in them for a reason, I guess. So long as its not the hike-a-bike that involves the bike going on your shoulders.

I wouldn't be surprised if the 60 pound estimate isn't far off for the 900 watt version.

Reply

xy9ine
+1 Dan
Perry Schebel  - July 14, 2021, 2:05 p.m.

the sight is 57lbs, so that's probably in the ballpark for the range. better work on your squats if you plan to lift these.

Reply

muldman
0
muldman  - July 14, 2021, 3:43 p.m.

So 7-10 lbs more than a Santa Cruz Bullit. Sure, the (720Wh) battery is 15% larger, and the FOX 38 is 180mm vs 170mm. But the other specs seem quite similar. Where is that weight hiding?

(Picking the Bullit because Santa Cruz is one of the few companies that seems to publish bike weight.)

Reply

Jotegir
+1 Cam McRae
Lu Kz  - July 14, 2021, 3:55 p.m.

Norco bike tax. My new non-ebike Range is over 40 pounds and my Optic with absurdly light parts (for a trail bike) is 31 lbs. The bike I swapped the parts off of except the saddle, frame, seat collar, and shock was 26 lbs.

Reply

muldman
0
muldman  - July 14, 2021, 3:43 p.m.

This comment has been removed.

muldman
0
muldman  - July 14, 2021, 3:43 p.m.

This comment has been removed.

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - July 16, 2021, 6:17 p.m.

That was 57lbs with the heaviest inserts available so closer to 55 with the 740wh battery.

Reply

Tbone
+2 muldman Dan Pete Roggeman thaaad
Trevor Hansen  - July 14, 2021, 6:32 p.m.

I thought about hoisting it up on the scale then I thought about my back. Weight schmeight I didn't even notice weight riding this beast. The only time was getting it in trucks and on bike racks. As for the walk mode it pushed up steep hikes very well. Unlike the previous Range VLT I tested last year, I never had to hike this thing on my back.

Reply

muldman
+1 Dan
muldman  - July 14, 2021, 7:03 p.m.

I sure wish I could test ride one of these before dropping $10k plus, but it really seems to check all the boxes...

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - July 16, 2021, 11:35 a.m.

Demo days have gotta be coming back again soon.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - July 16, 2021, 11:35 a.m.

Worth noting that Trevor doesn't drive a truck, so you load it on them often enough but take it from me - any e-bike weighs a lot when you're lifting it 5 ft in the air to get it on your tailgate. For smaller riders or those with a little less upper body strength, it's something to consider. I guess for folks in that situation, time to start using a moto ramp.

Reply

DangerousDave
+1 thaaad
DangerousDave  - July 14, 2021, 10:12 p.m.

What size are you testing?

Reply

Tbone
0
Trevor Hansen  - July 14, 2021, 11:09 p.m.

Large

Reply

Shoreloamer
0
Greg Bly  - July 17, 2021, noon

Heard they have more powerful motors this year! And next year. Even more powerful motors. ;)

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