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PRESS RELEASE

After Months of Speculation, Norco's New 2022 Range Has Arrived 43

The long-travel 29er is more than just a bike with an idler as it features a high virtual pivot and size-specific everything.

After Months of Speculation, Norco's New 2022 Range Has Arrived

The secret is finally out! We're kidding. This bike is hardly a secret as forum sleuths picked up on dealer and editorial leaks, and anyone with eyeballs watching a World Cup has seen something odd under Blenkinsop. We digress. Here is the official press release from Norco along with some initial impressions after we fondled our test bike that showed up a few days ago.

Port Coquitlam, BC (June 23, 2021) – With the last major update to Norco’s long-travel 29er being back in 2018, the all new 2021 Range is a bike that should excite those with a focus on flat out speed. The first new bike launched under Norco‘s new brand image, they have taken a massive departure from previous year models and fully redesigned the frame from the ground up. Still built around 29-inch wheels but now with 170mm of rear travel, the new Range features a high virtual pivot suspension layout with updated, size specific geometry. With the level of anticipation surrounding this bike during its three years of development, Norco feels they’ve created the most capable Enduro and Big Mountain platform aimed at inspiring confidence when smashing into the unknown.

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Highlights

  • Intended Use: Enduro, Big Mountain
  • Full carbon frame
  • 29-inch wheels (all sizes: S, M, L, XL)
  • High virtual pivot suspension design
  • Ride Aligned Design System
  • 170mm (6.7-inches) of travel front and rear
  • Size-specific chainstay lengths, head tube angle and suspension links 
  • 2.35 - 2.5-inch tire width
  • Pressfit bottom bracket
  • Internal cable routing
  • Downtube, lower link and chain stay protection 
  • Integrated accessory mount
  • Water bottle mount
  • Compatible with long travel dropper posts (up to 200mm)
  • MSRP $5,999 - 8,999 USD

 

First introduced into the brand’s lineup in 2012, the original Range pre-dated Enduro racing but embodied everything the emerging sport demanded – mid-travel suspension, efficient pedaling, and stable, high speed agility on challenging trails. 10 years later, the Range is race breed employing an entirely new take on Enduro geometry. Developed using a completely new suspension design with Norco’s proprietary Ride Aligned (TM) Design System, each frame size has unique rear center lengths, seat tube angles and head tube angles to meet the unique demands of different size riders. 

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High Virtual Pivot Suspension Design

The most head turning aspect of Norco's new Range is the unique 170mm rear suspension platform. Using a High Virtual Pivot design, the pivot point is not fixed and moves as the suspension cycles creating a rearward axle path to maintain momentum on rough trails. By positioning suspension mass low in the frame, Norco claims the High Virtual Pivot design combines high-speed stability and agility with balanced support front and rear. Suspension remains fully active under braking and is precisely tunable for any rider using the Ride Aligned Setup Guide.

While Norco re-defined how riders perceive high-pivot bikes with the introduction of the Aurum HSP, technology has progressed since its release. The Range’s High Virtual Pivot design has a comparable rearward axle path to the HSP but allows the rear suspension to remain more active under braking than is normally possible with high single pivot designs. The new suspension design also features a strategically-positioned idler to control anti-squat for efficient pedaling. 

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Size-Specific Rear-Center Lengths, Geometry and Link Arms 

Maintaining proportional rear-center lengths across frame sizes is a key parameter of Norco’s Ride Aligned Design System. Rear-center length adjustment on the Range is accomplished with size-specific dropouts. Implementing rear-center adjustment in this way also requires an adjustment to pivot locations at the link arm to ensure the leverage curve is identical across all frame sizes. Without adjustment at the linkarm, the variation in rear-center length across sizes would alter the leverage curve and the ride characteristics of the bike.

For this reason, Norco designed the Range with size-specific linkarms that should not be interchanged between sizes. With so many “flip chip” suspension designs entering the marketplace, the temptation to mix and match is high, but doing so will compromise the ride characteristics of the bike and the accuracy of the recommended Ride Aligned suspension settings. Similarly, while a 27.5-inch wheel can theoretically fit the frame, Norco says doing so will have a significant effect on the geometry that was engineered specifically for the Range. And in order for a “mullet” bike to ride properly, the smaller rear wheel is ideally designed-in from the outset.  

Norco also realized during development that not only does each frame size benefit from different rear-center lengths and seat tube angles, but riders benefit from successively steeper angles as frame sizes get smaller. Slack head tube angles offer riders a great deal of protection for rough terrain, but they make it tough for smaller riders to keep their weight over the front tire. Range headtube angles vary from 63.75 degrees for size small frames down to 63 degrees on size XL frames.

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Rear Shock Compatibility

The Range is optimized and tuned to match the linear rate of a coil spring, and the frame is optimized to fit the structure of 2021-22 FOX DHX2 and 2021-22 RockShox Super Deluxe Coil shocks. It’s possible that other aftermarket shocks simply will not fit on the Range, whether coil or air. Also, because the stock FOX DHX2 shock features a linear spring rate with a custom damping tune, mounting other coil or air sprung shocks will negatively affect the ride quality and precision Norco says they've engineered in. Possibly a limitation to some riders, we do like seeing the FOX Factory DHX2 coil shock standard across all build kit levels.

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Vital Has a Range C1 - Our Initial Impressions

While we recently received new Range, we do not have any significant ride impressions to report just yet. As you'll see in our photos, the wheels are not what will be spec'd on the Range. Our bike was sent with some lighter-weight wheels that let us get in a couple laps, but new We Are One wheels with Onyx Vesper hubs are on the way. The WAO/Onyx combo is what will be spec'd for customers buying a Range C1. That's rad.

We'd seen the leaked photos and have had the press kit for a bit, but in person, the bike is a sight (pun) to behold, if not visually and mechanically over-the-top. Out of the box, the frame aesthetic immediately screams speed with slick lines and a low-mounted shock cleanly nestled within the downtube. The 2022 Range is a significant departure from the standard Horst link design found throughout most of Norco’s lineup. The frame lines are blockier and straighter while the suspension design has a look all its own with plenty of pivots and bolts that are neatly tucked low and centered within the frame. And we mean tucked. Some of the cable guides are tucked in hard-to-reach places, directly behind the idler and on the inside of the shock tunnel.

Note the bike is upside down in the photos below

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The idler pulley grabs the eye first, but there is a lot more to the Range than that. In total, there is the main, high pivot behind the seat tube, a pivot that ties the chainstays and seat stays together in front of the rear dropouts, a concentric pivot around the bottom bracket and a bearing-driven yoke mounted off of the rear shock eyelet. The Pressfit bottom bracket is housed in a keyed sleeve that works with the concentric pivot. The sum of these links and pivots appears to provide a very planted and stable ride experience on trail, but we are equally curious how well this design will hold up to abuse from the elements and wear-and-tear over time. There are A LOT of nooks and crannies to potentially creak once dirt and grime find their way in.

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Size-specific dropouts to create different chainstay lengths across sizes and size-specific links to keep kinematics consistent across all frame sizes is very impressive. We will be testing an X-Large Range that, on paper, should compliment our tester's 6'3" height. Many brands are offering size-specific chainstay lengths nowadays, but it’s great to see Norco doing the same, plus more with specific link sizes and even size-specific head angles.

We like that Norco is spec'ing a FOX Factory DHX2 Coil shock on every Range model. Although we are testing the highest end C1 build, riders who choose one of the other two models should theoretically have a frame with rear suspension that will perform as well as the highest end build. The biggest spec slight of our almost $9,000 bike is the use of a GX cassette. We get times are tough, but that stings a bit for those paying attention.



The rear triangle is protected by full length molded rubber along the top of the drive-side seat stay and both bottom sides of the chain stay. There is also nice molded rubber protection on the downtube for both trail debris and abrasive tailgates, as well as a hard plastic lower link guard.    

We noticed the sharp angle made by the shifter cable as it exits the front triangle, entering the seat stay behind the idler pulley. Not always problematic, but we are curious to see if this housing curve effects shifting performance. Lastly, the use of a 3mm allen pinch bolt on the rear axle seems like a small bolt option for the task at hand.

A full review is on the books with Vital tester, Jonny Simonetti, who is eager to let off the brakes and see how far he can push this enduro beast. Meanwhile enjoy a couple clips from him rallying it at Bogus Basin this past weekend. He says he was being "gentle" on those XC wheels. Liar!

Builds Kits

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Engineered in four frame sizes from S to XL the Range is available in three complete models and as a Frame Kit. 

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

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

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

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

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For a complete list of build specifications and details for each Range model take a look at our Product Guide.    

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