2022 Norco Range C2 Reviewed
Those that know me, know that I have not jumped on the 29er bandwagon yet. For some reason, they have never really spoken to my riding style and although I've tried some shorter travel 29-inch-wheeled bikes and enjoyed them, I have always felt like a long travel 29er is overkill for what I want out of a bike. I've been stuck in my ways for years now, dodging all opportunities to purchase one. Even now with most bikes being very difficult to acquire, I refuse to buy one. I fear change.
So when I got the chance to review the new 29" long travel 2022 Norco Range C2 before it even launched, curiosity got the best of me. I got an insider look at the media package and got to talk with the engineers who designed it and I was excited to try this bike. Getting my hands on the Norco Range before the official release was both scary and fun at the same time; I felt so smug having this eagerly anticipated bike in my possession yet a little terrified because I had to keep it away from the public eye. I quickly learned that having this bike was much like having the cutest puppy at the dog park; everyone wanted to ogle it, and touch it and generally ooh and ahh over it. Keeping the Range under wraps was not going to be easy.
I had been explicitly told not to take it to Whistler Bike Park yet, so I did the responsible thing and brought it to Coast Gravity Park instead to smash out some shuttle assisted, flowy park laps. That's when all the questions started and would continue all summer long...
"Whoa! Is that new Range?"
The 2022 Norco Range C2 was engineered with the needs of Enduro racers in mind. An enormous amount of time and effort went into the development of this bike. Working with engineers and athletes alike, this new ride is the culmination of the efforts of many great minds over the course of more than three years. It's built to be fast and to handle some seriously challenging terrain. It boasts a full carbon frame with a 170mm RockShox ZEB Ultimate up front and a Fox DHX2 Coil giving the rear a 170mm of travel. The Range C2 comes equipped with a SRAM GX drivetrain, Code R brakes, 200mm rotors front and rear and a TranzX 170mm dropper post (with tool-free height adjustment). The Range is built around 29-inch e*thirteen LG1 rims laced to DT Swiss 350 hubs, with no mullets allowed as per Norco engineers specifications. Find more detailed specs here. The price tag on the Range C2 is $8,999.00 CAD.
Norco's Ride Aligned Design System, allows you to find the perfect fit with ideal cockpit and suspension settings. By entering your height, weight and sex into the system, it will determine your ideal frame size, add a few details about your riding ability and position and it will give you a personalized formula that includes tire pressure, bar width, stem configuration and the best starting point for fork and shock settings. Try it out for yourself.
Another innovative feature with the new Norco Range is the size-specific geometry; most notably the different head tube angles for every frame size. This is to help smaller riders stay centered on the bike and keep pressure on the front wheel so the smaller the frame, the steeper the angle. Basically it provides the same fit and experience for taller and shorter riders alike.
I have been riding a Medium Range, at 5'9" (and 3/4!) I typically toe the line between a Medium and Large. Despite falling squarely into the Large category according the the Norco website I was sent a Medium which may have been due to availability but I'm not sure. I was originally a bit worried that with this being a long travel 29er, I would have a hard time handling the Large so I was perfectly happy to get the Medium. Aside from a slight deviation in bar width and a slightly higher tire psi than was suggested, I kept all settings as recommended. These actually didn't change all season, but admittedly I am a "set it and forget it" kind of rider unless something feels terribly wrong which in this case it never did.
I was a bit curious to explore the different settings that Ride Aligned suggests based on whether you are male or female so I input the same info but just changed sex. As far as I can see, it only affects the fork pressure by 2 psi.
What is up with the shock position?
Perhaps the most noticeable part of this bike is how the shock has been tucked low into the frame thus keeping the mass of the bike low to the ground and providing better stability and balance. This is a pretty cool design feature and is all part of the High Virtual Pivot suspension system. I'm not sure my explanation of what a High Virtual Pivot is will do any justice to the incredible design of the Range but I can certainly dive into what it does.
The High Virtual Pivot does enables the bike to absolutely demolish bumps of all sizes. The suspension creates a rearward axle path, which translates to an incredibly smooth and stable ride. The bike does not get slowed down by awkward, square-edged rocks and roots, it just glides right over them. I use the word "glides" with purpose because that's exactly how it feels. While the suspension is busy doing its thing, the rider has the sensation of literally gliding over rough terrain. The chain is quiet and stays put thanks in part to the idler pulley and the cockpit feels unaffected by any variation in terrain. The bike feels like it is glued to the ground while exceeding all speed expectations. The suspension keeps working even when it's time to shut 'er down and maintains incredible traction and control while under heavy braking forces on technical terrain. I've spent many years as an instructor teaching riders to find safe braking zones to avoid skidding and the Norco Range takes those rules and throws them out the window. It was really fun forcing myself to brake at inappropriate times and seeing the bike respond in such a commanding way. It was equally interesting choosing lines that would normally have me bucking around like I was in a rodeo and seeing how the Range translated them into an absolute walk in the park.
If this explanation leaves you wanting a more technical breakdown, fellow NSMB reviewer Ryan Walters did an amazing job of it in his First Impression Review.
I've spent many years as an instructor teaching riders to find safe braking zones to avoid skidding and the Norco Range takes those rules and throws them out the window.
How does it climb?
If there's one thing that the Range and I have in common, it's that neither of us are amazing climbers. Sadly these two things don't cancel each other out, they compound. Although this was my least favourite part about the bike, I will give some credit where it's due. The first being that the geometry of this bike makes it incredibly comfortable to pedal. The steep seat tube angle (76.75 degrees) makes for a nice, powerful pedaling position. The second being that the cockpit is designed to make the rider feel like they are sitting in the bike as opposed to on top of it so it makes for a comfortable, upright back position while still keeping the front wheel on the ground through rougher climbs. Sure, when the climbing gets much steeper and more technical, you'll still need to lean forward to keep the front wheel tracking but that's to be expected. The Fox DHX2 comes with a handy dial to adjust the firmness of the shock and does a good job of reducing the amount of pedal bob that naturally occurs. Despite being on the heavier side, this bike glides through uphill technical terrain as well as it does down as long as you've got the legs and lungs for it. It really is a lot of fun for technical climbing and that low center of mass really plays into that.
"Do you ever take it off any sweet jumps?"
Although the Norco Range may be advertised as a high-speed, race machine, don't be fooled, this bike can jump! I had the Range in a couple different bike parks to test out its jumping capabilities and it was so fun to get into the air. It was as stable up there as it feels on the ground, which gave me the confidence to play around with some tricks and clear some bigger jumps. The rearward axle path may not lend itself to helping the bike "pop" off the lip of a jump but the design delivers a stomped landing. It all goes back to that low, centered, glued to the ground feeling that the bike excels at. Outside of the bike park, on some rougher and jankier jumps and drops is when the Range really performed. The roughest landings felt like landing in a foam pit; there was no sketchy rebound, no twitchiness, the bike just went straight back to work tracking a smooth straight line down the trail.
I had this bike in the Whistler Bike Park and Coast Gravity Park on a variety of smooth jump trails both big and small, and I could have sworn I was aboard a downhill bike - the suspension felt bottomless and stable even when I would case a bigger jump. I also tested it out on some of Roberts Creek's finest trails such as DNZ, Mach Chicken, and Jumps all of which have some gaps and jumps of all shapes and sizes and found myself going for some of the gaps that used to scare me a bit, without hesitation.
"Do you think I should get one?"
Initially when Norco launched the 2022 Range, it was being pushed hard as an Enduro race bike for that small percentage of riders wanting to push their limit. It made me a bit worried that they may have alienated their market but after riding this bike for a number of months, I can confidently say that this bike suits any rider looking for a longer travel trail bike. Though this bike is ideal for an aggressive rider that wants to go fast, the Range would also suit a newer rider looking to gain confidence. I couldn't stop thinking about how the low center of mass on this bike would allow tentative riders the chance to tackle terrain that is scary to them with an ideal riding position. Newer riders tend to ride with their weight further back than it should be but the way the Range is designed can help eliminate poor body position. Norco's Size Specific Geometry ensures that riders are centered on their bike, encouraging a centered position. In other words, it's hard not to be in the sweet spot on the Range.
Cornering and maneuvering this bike might be a little more challenging for a newer rider but for some this may be a small price to pay in order to level up their riding. If you are an average to above average climber this bike will set you back in terms of speed maybe, but the payoff for the descent is worth the few extra minutes on the climb. If, like me, you are below average at getting yourself and your bike up the hill, I would think long and hard about how important the ability to climb quickly is to you versus being able to smash the downs. If you are looking to increase confidence on technical trails and/or go faster than you ever thought possible then I would highly recommend the Range.
"How do you like it?" - aka V's Verdict
The 2022 Norco Range C2 was an absolute joy to ride. While it wasn't necessarily the bike I would reach for when heading out for a longer pedal, it was a favourite for a park day or shuttle day. Never have I experienced such a solid, quiet and smooth ride. The Range is an absolute weapon when descendin. No line is too gnarly and obstacles just don't exist. I might age myself here but every time I pointed this bike down chunky terrain, I kept thinking of the racing snail in The Neverending Story. As I mentioned before, this bike seems to attach itself to the ground and just stay there, gliding through the roughest terrain like it's nothing. By no means does this allow the rider to be complacent however. I found that when cornering, I had to have laser focus as it would very quickly get away from me at higher speeds. If I wasn't concentrating on my technique, the bike would start tracking elsewhere but when I was on, the Range was on.
It also performed beautifully on some of my favourite Squamish slab trails like Boney Elbows and Hueso, making the often tricky transition from rock to dirt completely seamless. Though I'm not generally a fan of SRAM brakes, the Code Rs surprised me with their dependable stopping power and control on steeper slabs. One other negative for me was the fact that the e*thirteen rims didn't make it through three laps at Coast Gravity Park before denting considerably. For a bike that has built its suspension platform around its ability to carry speed over square-edged obstacles, I would kindly request rims that can withstand a hit. Speaking of hits, the way the lower link hangs below the bottom bracket invites all sorts of unplanned contacts with obstacles. The link itself swings out of the way when loaded and is well-protected with a burly bash guard but regardless, I found plenty of places to smash it especially at slower speeds but we can chalk that up to lazy riding more than anything.
The 2022 Norco Range C2 was unlike any bike I've ever ridden. It kind of blew my mind and for that I have to give major kudos to the entire design team for creating a very special, high performance bike.