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Full Review

2022 Norco Range C1

Words Ryan Walters
Photos Deniz Merdano
Date Nov 11, 2021
Reading time

We are living in strange times. No matter where you look, it feels like the world is coming apart at the seams. Covid-19, climate change, partisan politics, Yeti E-bikes - things just feel weirdly uncomfortable these days. With all the radical changes we’re experiencing, it’s nice to know that some traditions remain intact - Greg Minnaar is World Champ, people still go red in the face when discussing bottom bracket standards, and Norco is still pumping out innovative bikes that are burly enough to survive and indeed thrive on the North Shore. Arguably one of the most anticipated bikes of the year, the 2022 Norco Range is a departure from the norm in many ways, but the Norco fan club needn’t worry - this new Range brings all the Shore pedigree we’ve come to expect from Norco. I’ve been fortunate enough to thrash around on this coveted bike for the last few months, and you can check out my first impressions of it right here.

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The best direction to point a Range

My time spent on the Range led me to affectionately refer to it as “The Blackbird”, an homage to the SR-71 Blackbird, a military reconnaissance jet notorious for being big, black, expensive and just plain badass. It was also known to leak jet fuel all over the tarmac when at rest, which is one characteristic that I never experienced with the Range. But the big, black, expensive bike does share the SR-71’s most famous trait - the ability to cruise unreasonably fast overtop of pretty much everything else. The last few months have taught me that this is a bicycle best suited to a pilot who seeks the most direct route through the line of fire. Stepping away from the jet metaphor, it would be easy to categorize the Range as a “plow” bike, but that label is maybe too simplistic. I walked into this review with certain preconceived notions about the Range. Some of those notions proved to be correct, but it turns out that The Blackbird had a few tricks up its sleeve.

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Testing that MaxxGrip rubber

Getting up to get Down (aka: climbing - you probably may not care too much about this part)

Climbing on the Range is a relatively straightforward affair. The first step is to grasp the bike firmly by the fork lowers and seat mast, and making sure you bend at the knees, lift the bike up and over your mate’s tailgate. Hop in the cab and the climb will be over before you know it. Okay, but seriously though, I did do my fair share of climbing aboard the Range - probably more than is to be expected on a 38lb bicycle. It’s important to keep in mind that this is not a trail bike, and I’d even peg the Range at the very sharp end of enduro bikes when you look at the numbers. Lew Buchanan recently raced his Range at Redbull Hardline, undoubtedly the gnarliest DH race on the planet, so that should give you a pretty good idea of where this bike’s intentions lie. Climbing is really just a means to an end here, so if you’re looking for a bike to do all-day epics, Norco has far better options with the highly acclaimed Sight, or even the Optic. Those of us who’ve been around long enough to remember the Shore-worthy freeride rigs of yore are more likely to appreciate the small miracle that a bike like this can be climbed at all. So, while I do believe that the majority of prospective Range riders are not too concerned with its climbing manners, I thought it was important to get that disclaimer out of the way.

My first experience climbing the Range was in fact particularly “character-building.” Believe me when I say that virgin MaxxGrip rubber clawing its way up Old Buck on a hot summer afternoon is a special version of hell. I must have transported half the gravel trail surface to the top, stuck to my tires. In addition to that, it seems to me that the Range drivetrain has a bit of a break-in period. A fresh-out-of-the-box bike has all the tight tolerances, tight bearings and sticky chain that conspire to diminish your already feeble human power output. High pivot bikes like the Range are a bit of a worst-case-scenario in this regard. There are extra bearings, cogs, guides and chain links that add to this friction. While this extra friction won’t ever totally go away, I’m pleased to report that after a few rides, the Range drivetrain settled in a bit and the friction was noticeably diminished.

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Keen observers will note the dropout pivot location of the Range is on the “seatstay” of the bike, which is the secret to Norco’s “High Virtual Pivot”, allowing for superior braking characteristics over typical high single pivot designs. Think of it as an inverted Horst Link.

Once the drivetrain sorted itself out, the Range was a surprisingly good climber for a mega-travel mountain bike. You’re not going to set your hair on fire while opposing the force of gravity, but the upright body position was comfortable enough to just shift up to the pie plates and spin your way to the top. Grinding up smooth fire roads and tarmac was best handled at a slow and steady pace, and the shock lock-out definitely came in useful here. The Range is a very active bike, and it will bob quite a bit with the shock wide open. Flicking the DHX2 to firm mode noticeably calmed the bike down, and made for a far more pleasant climbing experience.

On more technical climbs, I still found myself reaching for the climb switch more often than not. I am torn on how I feel about the “firm” mode on the new generation Fox shocks. In my experience, I found the old climbing circuits to be quite a bit firmer - still not a full lock-out, but very firm, and ideal for long, smooth climbs. The new climb mode feels mellower, still allowing for really good traction in technical situations, but then necessarily allowing more suspension bob under power. This new circuit meant that I could run the firm mode in pretty much all climbing situations, regardless of how technical the terrain was. The slightly firmer suspension was still able to provide heaps of traction while billy-goating up the jank. I experimented a bit with climbing in the open mode, but found that the traction advantage was not worth the extra suspension bob in most situations. Furthermore, this bike is already quite low, and climbing with the shock open resulted in the rear end sitting deeper in its travel, raising the likelihood of pedal strikes. Climbing in the firm mode definitely resulted in better trail clearance at the bottom of the pedal stroke.

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In a surprise to no one, the DH oriented geometry required a bit of finesse from the pilot while navigating tight, uphill singletrack. As long as I planned my route accordingly, and well in advance, this low, long and slack bike could be navigated successfully through most situations. On a high-pivot bike like the Range where the rear-centre grows during suspension compression, the upright riding position helps keep the rear wheel weighted while in tractor mode. The 63.3* head tube angle was a handful on uphill switchbacks, but proved manageable as long as I remembered to set up as wide as possible on every turn.

Static geometry numbers on the Range are fairly close to my daily driver, so I quickly felt at home in the cockpit. Contact points included DMR Death Grips and the Ergon SM10 Enduro Comp saddle. The chunky boi Death Grips were not my cup of tea, as I personally prefer a very thin grip (I’d run hockey tape if my joints would tolerate it). The saddle, on the other hand, surprised me with how comfortable it was. The Ergon has a firm, angular appearance that might not scream comfort while staring at it on the showroom floor, but on the trail it went pretty much unnoticed - which is basically the best review I can give to a saddle. The Deity Skywire handlebar looks the business with slick graphics and a flex pattern that falls somewhere between “quite stiff” and “Good lord, is that really necessary?”. Weak wrists need not apply.

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Fat grips, stiff bars, powerful brakes

The Right Stuff

Now with all that “means to an end” nonsense out of the way, we can get down to going down. I won’t lie - I felt like a kid in a candy store on my first descent on the Range. I didn’t ease into it either - I picked one of my favourite local trails that most closely resembles a DH race course. It’s fast, rough AF, and includes steep sections where you kinda feel like you’re holding on for dear life - particularly if your bike is not up to the task. Even though my suspension settings were far from dialled at that point, I had a strong sense of what was in store when gravity was working in my favour and the speed went to plaid. Everything you’re told to expect from a high-pivot bike is accurate with the Range. This beast dispatches the hugest hits with ease, and all the while wants to accelerate while the trail blurs by beneath you. The rear end truly feels bottomless, no doubt thanks to the 170mm of coil-sprung, progressive suspension, as well as the massive bottom-out bumper of the revised DHX2. As good as the Fox 38 is, there were moments where it felt like the fork was struggling to keep up with the pace that the rear end demanded. With all the suspension dials on this bike, taking the time to bracket in the settings was key to getting the bike balanced and performing where it should.

Norco has a very slick online tool called the Ride Aligned Design System. It includes data for a slew of current Norco bikes. The system takes input like rider height, weight, gender and riding skill, then provides some baseline settings for everything from cockpit arrangement to suspension settings and even tire pressures. For the most part, these baselines were fairly close to where I settled - although the fork settings were way off the mark. Norco’s recommended pressure and token settings for the 38 were far too soft. But to be fair, the values suggested directly from Fox weren’t much closer - just something to keep in mind. It’s surprising that more bike companies aren’t offering a comprehensive tool like this. Even for a salty veteran like myself, bike setup can be a daunting task, so the Ride Aligned tool was very welcome and I applaud Norco for offering it.

For reference, here’s where I ultimately settled on suspension settings:

Rider weight = 190lbs

(all damper clicks from fully closed)

Fox 38

  • 113 PSI, 3 tokens 
  • HSC = 6
  • LSC = 7
  • HSR = 5
  • LSR = 4

Fox DHX2

  • 550lb spring
  • HSC = 6
  • LSC = 13
  • HSR = 4
  • LSR = 10

Once I got the fork sorted out, the Range really came alive. This is a bike that encourages you to pick the most direct route through a section, regardless of what’s in the way. Even though the Range carries its weight very well, it’s not a bike that rewards a “slice-and-dice” style. Switching directions wasn’t difficult, but was most efficiently done with wide, arcing turns. This bike is so good at handling what’s immediately beneath it, you barely have to think about it, allowing you to look further down the trail so you can pick those efficient lines that work best. If the Canyon Spectral I recently reviewed was a jackrabbit on the trail, the Range is more like the greyhound bred to chase it. Sprinting up to speed on mellow grades took some effort, but once up to speed, the Range was excellent at maintaining momentum, and didn’t care much for slowing down. When it came time to quickly bring the Blackbird back to subsonic speeds, the Code RSCs were consistent and reliable. You can’t go wrong with Codes, and these ones were excellent. If this were my own bike, I’d likely throw a 220mm rotor up front. With a gross vehicle weight over 230lbs, I need all the stopping power I can get.

After several rides and figuring out where my own limits lay with this bike, I started to get a sense that the Range usually had my back if I pushed things just a bit too far. I routinely had moments of carrying too much speed (for my skills anyway) into a section, eyes wide as saucers, praying for a painless outcome, only to have the Range answer those prayers and somehow keep the rubber side down. Norco set out to make this bike as forgiving as possible for exhausted enduro racers who are at the edge of bonking while maintaining DH race speeds at the end of a stage. I can personally vouch for the Range’s ability to pick up the slack and save the day when the pilot is crashing and burning.

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For a dedicated race machine, the Range sure felt comfortable on terrain you’d be unlikely to find in any race

It took quite a while, but after getting my fill on the roughest, steepest trails around, I started exploring some mellower options to see how the Range would fare. It was in these situations where the Range felt a bit out of its element. On flat or low-angle singletrack, the Range felt like a bazooka at a knife fight. It’s hard to believe a 38lb bike with DH geometry might feel awkward here (sarcasm alert!). The growing rear-centre effect further added to the cumbersome feel in the flats. Your best bet was to look way ahead down the trail and pick the lines that required the least amount of tight turns. Pumping rollers while minimizing braking and pedaling were good techniques to employ here as well. In any scenario, maintaining momentum is the key to success aboard the Range.

Remember that MaxxGrip rubber I mentioned earlier? I’m gonna just come right out and say that I find this rubber compound to be a bit overkill on the back tire - unless you’re legitimately racing every weekend and/or riding around on skating rinks. The high rolling resistance is especially noticeable while climbing, when your weight is heavily biased to the rear tire. As mentioned earlier, the caveat here is that climbing efficiency is not the primary mission for the Range, and Norco does market it as a no-compromise, enduro race machine, so you can’t really fault them for the race-ready tires. After I erased the MaxxGrip Dissector, Norco was kind enough to send me a MaxxTerra replacement. This harder compound made a noticeable improvement to climbing with its lower rolling resistance. I expected the Dissector to disappoint me, but it’s not a terrible tire. It doesn’t have the straight-line braking bite that the Minion DHR II is famous for, but the side knobs provide predictable traction while cornering on hard-pack and semi-loose dirt. The smaller, sharper knobs found on the Dissector were noticeably shorter wearing than their DHR II counterparts, so overall I have a hard time recommending this tire over the tried-and-true Minion. The Assegai up front is basically North Vancouver dress code these days, so no surprises there. The World Champ’s tire is a favourite of mine, as it just seems to do everything really, really well.

On the trails, I was frequently asked about how often the lower link struck trail obstacles, and while this link does hang quite low on the bike, it swings out of the way of obstacles when the suspension compresses. It also comes equipped with a sturdy plastic skid plate that does a great job of warding off rock strikes. That said, if you’re the type of rider who frequently finds yourself on steep, slow-speed jank, you’ll definitely be putting that guard to good use.

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This is what the skid plate looks like when new. It doesn’t look like this anymore.

Taking flight

Just like the SR-71, the Range was all business when the wheels left the ground. I expected this high-pivot machine to be a lethargic jumper, as these designs can sometimes lack the snap and maneuverability that a more standard suspension is known for. I don’t know exactly what’s in the special sauce to make it such a competent jumper, but I like it a lot. It feels like Norco nailed it with the main pivot location, being high enough to reap the suspension benefits, but not so high that the bike feels like a reclining lawn chair when it leaves the ground. While it’s not an easy bike to make shapes with, the Range was eager to loft when required, and it had great stability in the air. Blowing well past ideal landing zones was common, but hardly an issue, as the suspension handled every touchdown with ease. Given its size and weight, the excellent jumping manners of the Range were probably the biggest surprise to me during this review. The ability to carry just a bit more speed into almost any DH scenario meant that I usually wasn’t worried about coming up short on anything worth airing over.

Occasionally when landing a bit sideways at high speeds, or when encountering very hard off-axis compressions, I did notice a small amount of lateral or torsional flex in the rear end of the bike. It was so infrequent that I honestly can’t say for sure whether it was the frame or the wheel. My gut tells me it might have been the wheel, as it felt an awful lot like the spokes were unloading and then loading again in the space of a split second. The Range allows for a level of recklessness that undoubtedly tortures the rest of the bike. The WeAreOne Unions were otherwise flawless, and while they have the expected cosmetic scars of doing battle on the Shore, they are still straight as an arrow.

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The Achilles heel. The bearing preload system on the Onyx Vesper hub proved to be a source of frustration throughout the test.

Technical bits and pieces

An $11,000 mountain bike shouldn’t include too many things to complain about, and the C1 build leaves little to be desired. But there were a few things worth mentioning. The Onyx Vesper rear hub was a source of aggravation throughout the test. This hub had issues from the start - first developing a large amount of side-to-side play after the first ride. Either the hub preload nuts weren’t tightened properly from the factory, or they had worked themselves loose. Either way, I feel that the jam-nut design that Onyx has gone with for bearing preload is going to be a weak link in this system. I appreciate the ability to adjust preload, but the jam-nuts used here are frustratingly hard to work with, and adjusting them was a very tedious affair. There are so many great non-adjustable hubs available; this was just a headache that I didn’t want to deal with. Additionally (and possibly related to the bearing preload), the sprag clutch freehub body on this particular hub had a noticeable amount of friction while coasting - so much so that it caused varying degrees of chain-suck during the review period. On big landings and compressions, the drive chain would go slack enough to get stuck in between the upper swingarm and the rear tire. And when the chain wasn’t getting jammed against the tire, it would sometimes rub and jam against adjacent cogs on the cassette. I can only assume that the sticky freehub wasn’t allowing the derailleur to take up the chain slack quickly enough. It’s entirely possible that the freehub issue was related to the hub bearing preload, but I could never completely eliminate the freehub friction even with the bearing preload set unreasonably loose. With the extra complication that a high-pivot bike brings to the drivetrain, it’s incredibly important for the freehub and the derailleur to work together to eliminate as much chain slack as possible. This means a smooth, frictionless freehub, and a derailleur with a strong return spring. I verified that the Vesper hub was the culprit by trying a different rear wheel, which eliminated all the issues. It’s too bad, because I absolutely loved how silent the Vesper was. I’m willing to accept that maybe this poorly performing hub was an exception to the norm, as the Vesper seems to have a lot of fans in mountain bike land. Nevertheless, a hub that costs and weighs this much should be the pinnacle of reliability, which was a far cry from my experience.

If I can complain about something else, I’ll pick on the rather unsophisticated cable routing. The lack of tube-in-tube routing on a bike this expensive in 2021 is almost criminal. The cables banging around inside the frame ruined an otherwise perfectly quiet bike - and I don’t envy the mechanic who ultimately has to deal with replacing said cables. The routing itself is a bit quirky as well, so if ever there was a bike that begged to be draped in AXS, it’s this one.

Finally, towards the end of the review, the OneUp dropper post developed a slight up-and-down knock. With the post completely topped out, the knock went away. It wasn’t noticeable while riding, but still a concern that I didn’t have a chance to dig into before returning the bike. 

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While still lacking tube-in-tube internal routing, Norco’s cable management has improved over previous versions.

Final thoughts

So, the $11,000 question is: Who exactly is this bike for? To say that it’s a niche bike may be a bit of an understatement. Its singular focus is blistering, downhill speed, and it’s not happy doing anything less. If, like me, you've ever pined for a proper DH bike that can also be pedaled up the mountain, it’s hard to argue that the Range doesn’t check that box. For a bike that was developed as a no-holds-barred enduro race machine, it should come as no surprise that I believe the Range best fits someone who regularly finds themselves between the tape. While I think its heft and trophy truck suspension might make it “too much bike” for smaller riders or mellower tracks, the Range would be a formidable weapon in the hands of a strong and aggressive racer who can play to its strengths. Ironically, this niche bike has proven to be quite the all-rounder when it comes to gravity competition all over the world. In various trims and travels, the Range has already been piloted to impressive results at Red Bull Psychosis, Red Bull Hardline, the EWS circuit, and even the WC DH circuit.

My personal experience with the Range was soured a little bit by the troublesome rear hub, as it caused a significant amount of drama. The optimist in me wants to believe the wonky hub was an isolated incident, and when I consider the performance of the bike without those problems, the Range becomes an outstanding gravity-focused machine. Historically, I’ve always had a DH bike and a trail bike, but these days I’m big into the idea of “quiver-killers,” and while the Range comes pretty damn close for me, the weight is the only hard pill to swallow. I’m generally not too concerned with weight, but if this were my own ride, I’d be flirting with the 40lb mark after I added the requisite tire inserts and big boy rotors. That said, the Range is possibly the stoutest bike I’ve ridden in recent memory, and I get the impression that this burly carbon frame will survive a shit ton of abuse. If you’re a gravity-addicted bike smasher, and are hellbent on joining the high pivot party - the Range just might be the perfect bike for you.

Range C1: $10,999 CAD $8,999 USD

Range C2: $8,399 CAD $6,999 USD

Range C3: $6,799 CAD $5,599 USD

Range C Frame Kit: $4,499 CAD $3,799 USD.  

Norco Bikes

rwalters
Ryan Walters

Age : 40

Height : 1803mm

Weight : 86kg

Ape Index : 1.03

Inseam : 787mm

Bar Width : 780mm

Preferred Reach : Pretty comfy at 487mm these days.

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Comments

jan
+4 holmesslice kcy4130 Alex Durant Pete Roggeman
Jan  - Nov. 11, 2021, 7:32 a.m.

I have had a similar experience with my Vesper on my G1. After ~6 months of fiddling with the preload nut I was able to dial in an appropriate preload with the rotor removed and the bike in-stand while freewheeling. That nut position would last a few rides until self-loosening, but ultimately held position with some blue loctite. Those 6 months of hub faff likely contributed to early bearing failures.

Tangentially, I'm currently mid-warranty with Onyx about a similar chain suck/freewheel friction issue. I believe the elastomer cage of the sprag assembly failed and tiny pieces of elastomer became lodged between the sprags and the inner race. Have you pulled out the driver to check on the condition of the sprags? 

Its pretty disappointing, particularly considering this hub was a new replacement after a spoke somehow managed to pull through the flange material this time last year. Ever seen a hub flange shear before a J bend? 

It's been a hefty price to pay for the sound of silence.

Reply

craw
+5 Pete Roggeman Jan Vik Banerjee Ryan Walters imnotdanny
Cr4w  - Nov. 11, 2021, 7:38 a.m.

I was so close to grabbing the new Onyx last year when I bought new wheels but was advised strongly against it as I'm tall and strong. Not only was I assured that I would hate the 'soft feel' of the sprag engagement but bigger riders tend to chew them up. I ended up on I9 Hydras and have been super happy with the crisp quick engagement even though I still wish they were silent.

Reply

morgan-heater
0
Morgan Heater  - Nov. 11, 2021, 2:15 p.m.

I am another data point of a larger thighed human blowing up an onyx hub.

Reply

el_jefe
0
el_jefe  - Nov. 14, 2021, 8:43 p.m.

Vesper? If so, just get Classic.

Reply

monsieurgage
0
Gage Wright  - Dec. 1, 2021, 6:21 p.m.

Which one? Vesper or Onyx?  I'm 160lbs with gear and the Vespers were destroyed in <15 rides.

Reply

andrewbikeguide
+3 tdmsurfguy andyf Vernon Anderson
AndrewR  - Nov. 11, 2021, 3:55 p.m.

The Dumond grease (rather than the oil) and a quick clean and re-grease every 3-500 km keeps them almost silent.

Reply

Vikb
0
Vik Banerjee  - Nov. 11, 2021, 4:50 p.m.

I've been tempted by Onyx hubs, but I keep my hubs such a long time I just wasn't ready to date anyone new. Seems like that might not have been a bad thing.

Reply

velocipedestrian
0
Velocipedestrian  - Nov. 11, 2021, 6:43 p.m.

Me too. Silence would be golden, but reliability is king.

Reply

olaa
0
olaa  - Nov. 12, 2021, 4:24 a.m.

Try Newmen hubs, they are almost completely silent and I have yet to hear any complaints about them. Not too outrageously expensive, light enough and seriously well-built.

Only complaint might be a that they lack a bit of bling :)

Reply

grimwood
+8 Ryan Walters Metacomet Vik Banerjee Cr4w Alex Durant Adrian White el_jefe Pete Roggeman
grimwood  - Nov. 11, 2021, 5:11 p.m.

You dodged a bullet. The OG Onyx are/were awesome. The Vesper is hot garbage. But at least it’s expensive? I haven’t talked to anyone in person that hasn’t had real issues with the Vesper. 

Ryan, I really liked the review. And those moves pictured are super spicy. Well done!

Reply

metacomet
+3 Vik Banerjee Ryan Walters Pete Roggeman
Metacomet  - Nov. 12, 2021, 6:11 a.m.

I have more Onyx hubs than I care to say, but I don´t have any Vespers (actually I put one on my wife´s road bike) and I dont use any of the alloy freehub bodies after having a few issues with those, including ripping one clean in half.  Classic, and Stainless freehub body all the way.  Very durable, and a better design on the preload adjustment, but if there were one/two things I would change it would be to just get rid of the bearing preload adjustment all together, and use press-on end caps.  The classic hubs also use two full rows of sprags, so the engagement is Very solid without the clang of a normal pawl/star-ratchet setup.

Reply

monsieurgage
0
Gage Wright  - Dec. 1, 2021, 6:22 p.m.

I wish I had known this 6 months ago.

Reply

rwalters
+1 Cr4w
Ryan Walters  - Nov. 11, 2021, 5:28 p.m.

I didn’t notice the “soft” feel of the sprag clutch so much while riding, but it’s noticeable when you do things like track stands in the parking lot, etc. An odd feeling for sure, feels almost like the chain is stretching.

Reply

craw
0
Cr4w  - Nov. 12, 2021, 7:53 a.m.

Sounds like something that might actually be kind of nice that you'd get used to, is maybe even a benefit in some situations.

Reply

metacomet
0
Metacomet  - Nov. 12, 2021, 9:06 a.m.

I really prefer the engagement feeling of an Onyx over anything else.  That has honestly been one of the biggest drawbacks of riding them, is that I pretty much HATE the feeling and the sound of anything else now at this point, and I have to swallow that $$$ whenever looking at building a new wheelset.  They are not cheap hubs but they have all represented a solid long-term investment to me because they provide the dead solid durability and the performance/ride feel I really honestly love.  If you have an opportunity, give one of the classics a try with the steel freehub body. 

I remember when I saw in the announcements that they were speccing Onyx and WA1 as stock on this bike I was stoked, but then was concerned when I saw it was the Vesper.  I don´t think that was the greatest choice, but I understand the trappings of wanting to offer the latest and lightest version.

Reply

tdmsurfguy
+2 AndrewR Vernon Anderson
tdmsurfguy  - Nov. 12, 2021, 8:19 a.m.

I tried some dumonde tech grease in my hydra and it made a significant difference decreasing the I9 buzz. The hubs are so easy to pull apart and clean/lube.

Reply

IslandLife
+1 Carmel
IslandLife  - Nov. 12, 2021, 10:54 a.m.

Local wheel and hub builder/designer Tairin wheels was developing a silent hub with a very similar design.  After a year of testing, he abandoned the design due to reliability and inevitable wear that would lead to failure over a fairly short timespan.

He has a new version that should drop very soon... and with it you'll be able to switch between silent and noisy whenever you want... supposedly with none of the drawbacks of the Onyx style.

You can follow the design progression through their Instagram here - https://www.instagram.com/tairinwheels/

Reply

el_jefe
+2 Pete Roggeman Chad K
el_jefe  - Nov. 14, 2021, 8:42 p.m.

Vespers simply cannot handle big dudes and steep AF climbs (ie like here in Whis) - went through 2 that would slip at the steepest pitches; no fix worked 

HOWEVER, Classic Onyx hub version (which I had previous to Vesper and now have switched back to) have been flawless for me in long term use. Just get the Classic and all good. Damn, I love the silence and momentum that they carry....

Reply

monsieurgage
0
Gage Wright  - Dec. 1, 2021, 6:20 p.m.

Tarin is releasing the Mugen (Spring-Summer 2021) which is so easy to maintain (it uses a quarter to as a tool to help take apart the driver/internals) and is cheaper.  Review coming NSMB?

Onyx needs to fix the Vesper or end that line of products.  You simply cannot sell MTBers hubs at that price and have them turn to garbage in a matter of rides. 

I have had the Onyx Classics for four years and serviced them once after three years of heavy use.  The Vespers on the other hand/wheel, less than 15 rides and the whole internals rusted out leading to the sprag clutch slipping under load.  Again not what I expected based on previous experience with the company or what I expect when I drop $500-$600 on a hub.

Warranty claim is in and I am awaiting customer service reply.  So far the damage comes down to lost time, the cost of a set of bearings in the hubs and the fact that the damn things are laced to my brand new WR1 rims.

Reply

D_C_
+2 Cr4w Pete Roggeman
DMVancouver  - Nov. 11, 2021, 7:50 a.m.

Interesting comment on the MG Dissector. I’ve found it to be a good winter Shore tire, with sticky rubber that grips rocks and roots, but a faster tread profile that isn’t painful to pedal like a MG DHR II. I’ve only ridden it over the past couple of months, when weather got cooler, so it might feel slower in the summer when the rubber is warm and even softer.

Reply

Andeh
0
Andeh  - Nov. 11, 2021, 10:19 a.m.

Yeah, even in MG, a DD Dissector pedals a lot better than a MT DHR.  Where I live, the ground is a lot harder, so I find the brake knobs on a DHR actually wear out faster than the Dissector too, although the smaller Dissector side knobs start undercutting a lot earlier.

Reply

rwalters
0
Ryan Walters  - Nov. 12, 2021, 11:34 a.m.

I’ve had the opposite experience on our local trails. Anything MG on the back just feels like suction cups on the local climbs. I think the main reason I wore out the Dissector so quick is that it was much likelier to lock up and skid when compared to DHR2.

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cxfahrer
+3 Timer holmesslice Ryan Walters
cxfahrer  - Nov. 11, 2021, 8:09 a.m.

How do you measure yourself by the millimeter?

Consequently the data of the bike should be in milligrams.

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rwalters
+3 Tim Coleman DadStillRides Alex Durant
Ryan Walters  - Nov. 11, 2021, 5:32 p.m.

Lol, people are really hung up about my stats in mm. It’s mostly a joke on my part that no one seems to find very funny.

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Timmigrant
+2 Greg Bly Ryan Walters
Tim Coleman  - Nov. 11, 2021, 7:26 p.m.

Seems perfectly logical to me, we live in a metric country!

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Jotegir
0 Ryan Walters thaaad
Lu Kz  - Nov. 11, 2021, 8:21 a.m.

After bashing a range at bike parks for an entire summer and most of a fall, I can say with confidence that the front end of the bike cannot keep up with the back. This thing screams for a dual crown and it's one of the only things holding it back. I think this is one of the reasons I was never as truly confident on the Range as I felt on my Aurum HSP, even though the Range is noticeably better on the absolute steepest of tracks.

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moraucf
+1 Jcmonty
moraucf  - Nov. 11, 2021, 8:46 a.m.

Where you also on a Fox 38? TBH I think fox missed the mark on the compression tune for it. Just got one on my Kenevo SL and there really is just not enough compression dampening. Feels great at slower speeds and the small bump is seriously impressive, but as soon as you hit ragged stuff, it goes through it's travel soooo fast even with HSC completely closed. It's frustrating considering VVC was supposed to give us a good tuning range.

Will be swapping it out for a trusty Mezzer. Have a bushing burnishing tool for it which makes it's small bump close to on par while having what feels like twice the support of the 38.

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craw
+1 thaaad
Cr4w  - Nov. 11, 2021, 9:09 a.m.

Why not just get the compression damping revalved? If the rest of the fork works for you why not just get this customization done and save yourself the hassle of a re and re.

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mammal
+2 moraucf Cr4w
Mammal  - Nov. 11, 2021, 9:59 a.m.

Just second-hand info, but according to my suspension shop buddies, the new Fox fork dampers are all-port designs, and lack the tuning capabilities of shim-based designs. So basically, even the pros are riding the same "tune" as the customer, but they can't really be honed in. I was very surprised when I heard that. Edit: I should have replied to Cr4w.

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craw
+1 Mammal
Cr4w  - Nov. 12, 2021, 7:54 a.m.

Another reason I don't ride Fox. I'm way outside of the parameters for which those forks are optimized and now that they've removed the possibility of custom valving I guess I'm 100% gone.

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Jcmonty
0
Jcmonty  - Nov. 11, 2021, 11:59 a.m.

Funny - I have the KSL and the 38.  I have opposite experience and think it has pretty good mid-stroke.  I am struggling using the top 1/3 of the travel (with stock tokens, correct sag,  light compression).   It also has struggled on high speed chattering (bike park speeds and braking bumps, washboards, etc).  Overall, I like the fork,  but I am thinking of adding a Secus and getting rid of a token or two.

I have a Mezzer on my hardtrail (previously on a full suspension), which has been great as well.  I think it's worse on small bump as you indicated, but I don't have it burnished.  Did you make the tool yourself?  I would be keen on trying one out.

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moraucf
+1 Jcmonty
moraucf  - Nov. 11, 2021, 1:52 p.m.

Might not be opposite experience. Will say that air spring support is pretty darn good on the 38 and significantly better than what I felt on a 36 I used to have.

Top 1/3 of travel I've been particularly impressed with but I will say I'm running rebound faster (especially HSR) than recommended. Felt like it was packing in chatter, like you mentioned you may be feeling. Something to try.

Beyond that it might be personal preference. I'm a relatively aggressive rider who has a preference for a well damped feel. For reference, I run +3 clicks out from open on HSC on Mezzer and have e-storia on the way for my KSL due to my awesome experience with it on my other bike (ext are known for heavy dampening).

I find myself riding more timidly when hitting rough stuff at speed with the 38 because I'm scared of using too much travel plus just a general feel of loss of composure. This is after tuning and running more PSI than recommended as well. Don't feel this at all with my Mezzer. I'm nitpicking though and 38 is more than rideable. 

I bought a burnishing tool from Oliver at Blue Liquid Labs. Highly recommended. Massive bang for the buck. Should be first step in improving fork performance before other aftermarket upgrades IMO.

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Jcmonty
0
Jcmonty  - Nov. 11, 2021, 3:39 p.m.

Thanks for the feedback!  I really should do some real bracket testing on the 38, but I may try your suggestion as well.

I have been eye-balling the e-storia as well, because the X2 is just ok IMO.  I had a Storia on a previous bike, and it was great in the rough.  Definitely was heavier on the damping, and I would push them to be lighter on that this round.  Would love to hear how it goes for you

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LWK
0
LWK  - Nov. 11, 2021, 6:49 p.m.

what is this burnishing tool???  I've never heard of that and have a Mezzer on order.

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mnihiser
+2 moraucf roil
mnihiser  - Nov. 11, 2021, 9:45 p.m.

roil
0
roil  - Nov. 12, 2021, 7:47 a.m.

I suggest you read the linked MTBR thread on how to test your bushings before you go buying one of these tools.

Jotegir
+1 moraucf
Lu Kz  - Nov. 11, 2021, 12:16 p.m.

I tried it with both a Zeb and a 36 (because the ZEB was broken) as well as a lap on one with a 38 (not mine).  Same feeling for all of em' really, although I was probably riding substantially more chill on the 38 because it wasn't mine.

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Bad-Sean
+1 Ryan Walters
Sean Chee  - Nov. 11, 2021, 8:25 a.m.

Thanks for the insight. I’ve been interested in this bike for a while. Long travel downduro bike that is dual crown approved. The perfect bike for me on paper. 

The playfulness was one of the things holding me back from ordering one but it’s great to know it’s still there. I would expect it to be seeing the massive wraps the antidote dark matter got, as the bike that has clearly “influenced” the range design. 

I’m still probably not going to get one as a few details bother me. The lack of internal cable guides, and the problematic rear mech cable routing are big ones. They’re the kind of issues that make me question what other compromises have been made in the quest for production “efficiency”? Weight is another issue. I fully expect my bikes to end up heavy but they usually start from a lighter build. There is also my preference for an air shock, mainly due to my weight. 

I’m now leaning towards a propain spindrift. The fact that they’re available with smaller wheels is just the icing on the cake for me. Although I will probably end up with whatever is replacing the canyon torque soon.

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BenHD
+8 Timer Ryan Walters LWK Tim Coleman DadStillRides Cr4w Todd Hellinga Pete Roggeman
BenHD  - Nov. 11, 2021, 11:57 a.m.

Highly entertaining writing style, again wonderful photos. It´s good to read some differentiated and critial lines in reviews. Not something a reader gets often these days on the big mtb websites.

Keep going, I love what you guys are doing over here at nsmb lately.

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rwalters
0
Ryan Walters  - Nov. 11, 2021, 5:40 p.m.

Thanks a lot, I appreciate it! The Range is a super fun bike, and will definitely make a lot of people very happy. I seemed to enjoy it more and more as time went on. I’m spoiled that my personal ride is such a great fit for me. I’d say the Range is a very close second.

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maximum-radness
+3 Lu Kz Ryan Walters Pete Roggeman
Maximum Radness  - Nov. 11, 2021, 1:27 p.m.

This bike screams plaid. 

Unfortunately, it also screams spaceball one. 

I am already salivating for the range v2. 

Norco is really pushing things on a cool, interesting, progressive direction lately. For that, I will always consider being a Norco owner next, high on my list.

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andrewbikeguide
+3 Ryan Walters Cr4w Pete Roggeman
AndrewR  - Nov. 11, 2021, 4:03 p.m.

"The chunky boi Death Grips were not my cup of tea, as I personally prefer a very thin grip (I’d run hockey tape if my joints would tolerate it)." - Agree totally with the XL Death Grips - thanks for assuming that a rider on an L or XL had catcher's mittens for hands! 

The slimmest awesome grips currently available are called LoamLab grips - you're welcome.

"The Deity Skywire handlebar looks the business with slick graphics and a flex pattern that falls somewhere between “quite stiff” and “Good lord, is that really necessary?”." - my experience exactly. Another attempt at a fan boi pleasing 35 mm handlebar that might be suitable for a WC level DH racer who only has to hold on for 3-6 minutes.

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rwalters
0
Ryan Walters  - Nov. 11, 2021, 5:43 p.m.

My personal fave grips are a lock on from Serfas. Don’t know the model. They are fantastic. Thin and gummy.

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sansarret
+3 Ryan Walters Tim Coleman Pete Roggeman
sansarret  - Nov. 11, 2021, 5:18 p.m.

I like Ryan’s bike reviews, very thorough and entertaining.

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rwalters
+1 Pete Roggeman
Ryan Walters  - Nov. 11, 2021, 5:45 p.m.

Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it! Bikes are pretty fun - writing about them also fun!

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Frorider
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Frorider  - Nov. 12, 2021, 9:16 a.m.

On the subject of rear hubs…the Project 321 with the ‘silent’ pawl version is in my experience the best combo of engagement, reliability, insanely low resistance.   The light weight is an added bonus.  The preload system has been faultless on my two sets.   My experience is with CK, Hope, DT, I9…several others…I’ve avoided Onyx however.

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hotlapz
+2 Ryan Walters DadStillRides
hotlapz  - Nov. 12, 2021, 9:44 a.m.

Thanks for this review. I'm really hoping to see a shootout between the Dreadnought, Range, and the Spartan.

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rwalters
+1 hotlapz
Ryan Walters  - Nov. 12, 2021, 6:53 p.m.

I know for a fact that there is an imminent review coming up for at least one of those bikes. 😉

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Rikvan
+1 Ryan Walters
Rik Van Egdom  - Nov. 14, 2021, 11:36 a.m.

Been riding a C2 since the mid summer, upgraded to AXS Eagle, We Are One, 220mm rotor up front and a 38 Factory. 

Was able to get rid of both my trail bike and Aurum HSP. The “quiver killer” comment is perfect. 

Have to admit though, living at the base of Fromme and trying to lug it up the climbing trail 2 or 3 days a week is an effort, especially with Cush Core and double down max grip. But, riding faster, gnarlier, and bigger lines than I ever have before with way more confidence.

38 still need more time to sort out, so many dials and knobs, so easy to screw up what you had with tokens and pressure changes. Getting close, but still feels slightly off.

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rwalters
0
Ryan Walters  - Nov. 15, 2021, 2:46 p.m.

The Grip2 damper takes some patience to set up, but it's all worth it when you get it dialed. I even find I need to adjust the damper slightly depending on the temperature - my personal rule of thumb is I open up each compression circuit one click in cold weather.

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hbelly13
+2 Ryan Walters Pete Roggeman
Raymond Epstein  - Nov. 15, 2021, 6 a.m.

There are certain sounds on a bike that are insufferable: creaks, repetitive clicks while pedaling or from suspension cycling, drivetrain sounding like a nest of baby mice. However, I feel like I am the one weirdo that actually loves the sound of loud hubs. I am particularly fond of the sound of Factors (sound like the original I-9 Torch hubs), but I have a WTB-branded (I think it's actually a Formula) hub that roars that makes me giggle when I hear its cacophony. As for grips, I think the best going are PNW's Loam. They have a nice Goldilocks feel and are a deal.

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rwalters
+1 Raymond Epstein
Ryan Walters  - Nov. 15, 2021, 7:22 a.m.

Haha, I love the idea of a loud freehub body drowning out all the other "bad" sounds on a bike.

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EvanBlackwell
+1 Ryan Walters
Evan Blackwell  - Nov. 15, 2021, 10:58 a.m.

Great review. I have the same build and totally agree with pretty much everything. Fork recommendations are too soft, climb switch is necessary anytime the bike is going up the hill, technical or not. 

I will also add I found the front end to be pretty high. I swapped out the top cap for a 0mm rise one and have a lower rise bar to lower the front end on a medium (and I am not typically a slammed front end kind of guy). 

I haven't had any issues yet with my Vesper hub, but I'm becoming a bit concerned after reading these comments! I often wonder why any bike is specced with a hub that is not a DT 350? They are relatively inexpensive and pretty much bulletproof in my experience.

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rwalters
0
Ryan Walters  - Nov. 15, 2021, 1:06 p.m.

You're totally right on the front end stack height - the head tube on the Range is quite long. My test bike came with a fair amount of spacers under the stem as well, so it was far higher than I'm used to. While I did lower the stem a little bit, I came to really like the higher front end - so much so that I actually raised the front end on my personal ride as well. I find it gives you way more confidence when really attacking steep and fast terrain, and I think it helps get your weight distribution right inside a long wheelbase 29'er.

I used to go for the lowest front end possible, and I think this technique worked best for old-school geometry with shorter reach and wheelbase. But I have the Range to thank for forcing me to go a bit higher, and seeing how it positively affects the ride on these modern bikes.

I'm a huge fan of the DT350, and am currently running one on my own bike. I've heard anecdotally that the latest version has issues though - huge bummer!

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EvanBlackwell
+1 Ryan Walters
Evan Blackwell  - Nov. 15, 2021, 1:33 p.m.

Interesting to hear! I might experiment a bit with a higher front end, but weirdly I've never really found the benefits of a higher front end on steeper trails. For me, it feels like there is a "correct" bar height and all the other options just feel wrong, haha. The Range is the first bike the "correct" height has involved removing all the spacers, but I do wonder if I could run the bars a bit higher given the rear end grows and puts more weight onto the front end.

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rwalters
0
Ryan Walters  - Nov. 15, 2021, 2:35 p.m.

Definitely experiment a bit! I was testing a large Range, and the stock bar height (with spacers) was more than an inch higher than on my Enduro (same fork travel). It took a few rides, but I was surprised how good it felt - and that same feel translated to my Enduro. It almost feels like you're more "behind" the bars, rather than "on top" of the bars. Feels like the higher bar helps get your weight further back.

I'm now running my bars about 15mm higher on my Enduro and it feels great.

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dorkweed
0
dorkweed  - Nov. 18, 2021, 9:13 p.m.

I’m late to the party and it’s an admittedly small nit to pick, but what is this bikes best result in an EWS? My only recollections are Jill Kintner not making the transfers in Finale and abandoning, and Lewis Buchanan perhaps similarly fading on day 2 of actual pedaling after a solid day 1 pro stage result in Scotland. It seems the bikes weak point might be the very thing it was designed to do.

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