When Norco launched the new Range 2022, we weren’t at all surprised to see that their latest enduro bike relies on a high pivot rear suspension design. After all, the Canadians were among the first brands to recognise the high pivot hype and have already released several downhill and freeride bikes with the same system. Not only has the new Range inherited the high pivot suspension from its burlier siblings but also many of their character traits. But can the Range C3 convince on the trail despite the cheaper components?
The Range C3 2022 is the enduro bike in Norco’s portfolio. While the new Range was already launched back in June 2021, the current bottlenecks in the supply chain made it impossible for us to test the bike any sooner. This also explains why Norco’s latest enduro rig isn’t featured in our big 2022 enduro group test. Finally, the Canadian manufacturer was able to send us the new Range C3 2022, which rolls on 29 ”wheels and generates a whopping 170 mm travel. With their long-travel freeride bruiser, the Shore, Norco have already proved that they know how to build a bad-ass high pivot bike. The Range relies on a virtual high-pivot rear suspension design, in which the seat stay and front triangle are connected high above the bottom bracket. Upon impact with an obstacle, the high pivot point results in a more rearward axle path, resulting in chainstay length and wheelbase increasing or decreasing as the suspension compresses or extends. To minimise the pedal kickback that this causes, the chain is guided around an idler pulley. Needless to say, the additional idler pulley ensures a very eccentric look. The new Range also employs Norco’s Ride-Aligned System, which adjusts the geometry and kinematics of the bike to the respective frame size, thus ensuring consistent handling across all sizes. Norco offer the new Range in three build variants, from the entry-level C3 in this test to the C1 flagship model, with prices ranging between € 6,199 (C3) and € 9,999 (C1) as well as a frame kit, which retails at € 3,799. All spec variants share the same carbon frame while an alloy model hasn’t been announced yet.
The Norco Range C3 2022 in detail
On the new Norco Range C3 2022, all cables are routed internally and securely clamped at the cable ports, ensuring a clean look and quiet ride. Particularly striking is the position of the chain and seat stay protectors, which are attached to the top of the seatstay and the bottom of the chain stay, respectively. While this may look weird, the high pivot suspension system makes it necessary, because the chain is in a different position compared to conventional suspension designs. Moreover, a generously-sized shuttle guard protects the frame from stray rocks and prevents scuffs to the paint when you throw your bike on the back of a pickup – we dig Canada style! The front triangle of the Range offers enough room for a big water bottle and features an additional mounting point for a tool strap. However, if you want to use a tool strap with a mounting plate, like some High Above models, we recommend using an extra washer to ensure better access and prevent the plate from damaging the paint.
With the suspension fully extended, the lower rocker link sits deep under the bottom bracket. During our test, we smashed the link into rocks and ledges several times, especially when rolling over obstacles at slow speed. During our test we had a few problems with the dropout adapter on the chainstay: after removing the rear wheel axle and the safety catch a few times, the axle kept coming loose on the trail – and that’s despite using a torque wrench to tighten the axle! When we contacted Norco about this issue, they told us that the safety catch is coated in LOCTITE, which has to be reapplied on a regular basis. A few drops of fresh Loctite solved the problem for us. We recommend checking this and applying a fresh coat of thread lock every time you undo the rear axle.
The spec of the Norco Range C3 2022
For this test, Norco sent the entry-level C3 model, which weighs 18.2 kg and retails for € 6,199. The C3 comes equipped with a basic RockShox Zeb fork with Charger R damper, which only allows you to set the rebound speed. Of course, you can adapt the progression of the fork to your riding style by adding or removing volume spacers. At the rear, the C3 shares the same FOX DHX2 Factory coil shock as the superior C1 and C2 models and thus offers the same rear suspension performance as its high-end siblings. Regardless of the spec variant, suspension kinematics are optimised for coil shocks. However, Norco won’t let you choose the spring rate, delivering each frame size with a predetermined spring rate instead. If your weight is below or above the standard for your height, or if you have a particular riding style, you’ll have to buy a separate spring. On top of that, the high-speed rebound dial of the shock is hidden in the frame where it’s hard to reach. However, once you’ve got it dialed, you don’t have to think about it anymore.
The Range C3 comes equipped with Shimano BR MT520 four-piston brakes and 200 mm rotors front and rear. Unfortunately, the brake levers don’t feature a tool free reach adjust and forgo a bite point dial altogether. Despite the big 200 mm rotors, the brakes deliver poor performance and don’t do justice to the bike’s potential. Depending on your budget, we recommend either upgrading the whole brake or swapping the 200 mm rotors for bigger 220 mm discs. Shifting is taken care of by a Shimano SLX derailleur and matching shifter, which has to make do without the practical multi release function of the more expensive XT and XTR shifters. The rear derailleur and shifter are combined with a Shimano Deore 10-51 cassette, which is heavier than its SLX counterpart. A TransX YSP-105 dropper post offers a whopping 200 mm travel, thus ensuring sufficient freedom of movement on the bike. Furthermore, the travel of the dropper post can be reduced in 5 mm intervals by up to 25 mm without tools. That being said, the remote for the dropper post is stiff and requires strong fingers. However, upgrading the remote is relatively inexpensive, with some remotes, like Shimano’s MT500, costing just € 20. Unfortunately, Norco renounced Shimano’s I-Spec clamps, which connect the brake lever and shifter. As a result, the handlebars are scattered with different clamps which, together with the cables, make for a rather crowded and untidy cockpit. On the other hand, the Range comes standard with a bashguard and minimalist chain guide as well as an additional guide on the idler pulley, which prevents the chain from falling off.
For the tires, Norco combine a MAXXIS ASSEGAI at the front and DISSECTOR at the rear, both with robust DoubleDown casing and soft MaxxGrip rubber compound. This combination ensures excellent puncture protection and good traction. The cockpit consists of an eThirteen stem and Norco’s in-house 800 mm alloy handlebars with 25 mm rise. While the huge spacer stack under the stem of our test bike takes some getting used to, it allows for countless adjustments.
Norco Range C3 2022
Fork RockShox ZEB Charger R 170 mm
Rear Shock FOX DHX2 Factory 170 mm
Seatpost TranzX YSP105 200 mm
Brakes Shimano BR MT520 200/200 mm
Drivetrain Shimano SLX 1x12
Stem E*thirteen Base 40 mm
Handlebar Norco 6061 Aluminum 800 mm
Wheelset Stans Flow D / Shimano HB MT-410 29
Tires MAXXIS ASSEGAI/DISSECTOR DD MaxxGrip 2,5/2,4
Size S M L XL
Weight 18,2 kg
The other spec variants of the Norco Range 2022
Alongside the entry-level C3 version, Norco offer two more models, the C1 (€ 9,999) and C2 (€ 7,499). All three spec options share the same shock and rely on the same tire combination.
The C1 model features a FOX 38 Factory fork with GRIP2 damper and powerful SRAM Code RSC four-piston brakes with 200 mm rotors front and rear. A SRAM X01 12-speed drivetrain ensures smooth and accurate shifting while a 210 mm OneUp Components V2 dropper post provides sufficient freedom of movement on the bike.
The C2 is the model we would recommend buying. The spec includes a RockShox ZEB Ultimate fork with Charger damper, which offers both high and low-speed compression settings and is more responsive than the R model of the C1 spec variant. SRAM Code R four-piston brakes with 200 mm rotors do stopping duties. This model shars the same callipers as the RSC variant, but forgos the Contact Point Adjust and SwingLink lever technology. Shifting is taken care of by a SRAM GX 12-speed drivetrain, which is only marginally heavier but offers the same performance as the more expensive X01 or XX1 models. Like the C3, the C2 relies on a TransX YSP 105 dropper post with 200 mm travel. Once again, we recommend upgrading the dropper remote.
The geometry of the Norco Range 2022
Norco’s comprehensive setup guide not only guides you through the basic bike setup (suspension, tire pressure and cockpit adjustments), but also helps you choose the right frame size. The Norco Range 2022 is available in four frame sizes, S to XL. According to the setup guide, our test riders measuring between 186 cm and 189 cm should ride a size XL. However, we all got on well with our test bike in size L and wouldn’t want to swap it for the recommended XL frame – which was also the case with the Norco Shore. The size L bike already has a moderate reach of 480 mm and high front (641 mm stack height). The super short 410 mm seat tube together with the 200 mm dropper post, which can be fully inserted into the frame, offer sufficient freedom of movement and allow you to choose the frame size based on the desired reach. Chainstay length is 442.5 mm in L and changes with the frame size.
The geometry of the Norco Range 2022 in detail
The Norco Range C3 2022 on the trail
Uphill, the pedalling position is comfortably upright and doesn’t put any pressure on the hands, making the Range suitable for long rides. However, the rear suspension tends to wallow on long monotone uphill sections, so we recommend activating the climb switch on long fire road climbs. When setting off from a standstill and negotiating technical climbs, the heavy weight and huge amounts of travel are clearly noticeable, making the Range more of a relaxed and comfortable uphill companion than an efficient climbing rocket. Talking of company, the idler pulley will entertain you with a constant whirring noise throughout the entire climb.
NPoint its nose downhill and the Norco Range feels like a small downhill bike. The high front ensures a central and upright riding position and integrates you deep into the bike, inspiring huge amounts of confidence. This encourages you to plough through anything that gets in your way. The faster and steeper the trail gets, the more comfortable the Range feels. The rear suspension generates sufficient traction under braking and in open corners and still provides enough pop to catch air and pull off ledges. However, the fork lacks sensitivity and the harsh response not only leads to arm pump faster, but also requires you to actively weight the front to generate sufficient traction, particularly in open corners. On narrow trails, the Range requires an active riding style and great physical effort to circle around corners and pull over ledges. The Norco Range 2022 suits particularly fast riders who prefer to shred their way back into the valley at mach 10, preferably in a straight line. Flat and slow trails are just too boring for the Range.
The Norco Range C3 2022 – Our conclusions
Reaping all the benefits of the Virtual High Pivot rear suspension, the Norco Range C3 2022 delivers an impressive performance on the trail, particularly on steep, fast and rough sections. Here it instills huge amounts of confidence and almost feels like a mini-downhill rig. However, the spec limits the trail performance significantly and doesn’t entirely do justice to the potential of the bike.
- inspires lots of security on steep terrain
- excellent composure and plush rear suspension
- plenty of freedom of movement
- spec doesn't do justice to the potential of the bike
- sluggish on narrow and slow trails
Tuning Tipp: replace dropper remote | bigger 220 mm brake rotors
Did you enjoy this article? If so, we would be stoked if you decide to support us with a monthly contribution. By becoming a supporter of ENDURO, you will help secure a sustainable future for high-quality mountain bike journalism. Click here to learn more.
Words: Peter Walker Photos: Peter Walker