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Trail Tested: The Norco Range Carbon 7.1

June 30, 2014
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Riders who have been into mountain biking for a number of years may still have trouble wrapping their minds around the latest crop of “all-mountain” bikes. For years, it was just a fact of life that any bike with 6 inches of travel or more was going to be a big compromise when it came to climbing. Thanks to huge advances in bike design and engineering, however, those days are nearly gone–and bikes like Norco’s Range Carbon are looking to end them once and for all.

WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
Whether it’s an epic trail ride in the mountains, battling the clock in an enduro race or simply getting rad on your local trails—the Range Carbon is designed for riders who seek out aggressive terrain but like to earn their turns by pedaling the climbs.

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WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
The Range rides on Norco’s Advanced Ride Technology (A.R.T.) four-bar rear suspension design with 6.3 inches of travel. It features 360 Lock pivots that ensure equal loading of the bearings to prevent binding and increase durability.

One of Norco’s key design philosophies is “Gravity Tune.” The idea of Gravity Tune is to maintain a balanced rider position on the bike, regardless of the frame size. To achieve this, as the frame sizes go up, Norco moves the bottom bracket forward to keep the ratio between the front-center and rear-center of the bike the same.

The carbon frame has a tapered headtube, PressFit 92 bottom bracket, Syntace X-12 rear thru-axle and ISCG tabs should you want to run a chain guide setup. All cables and housing are cleanly routed internally, allowing the sweeping lines of the frame to remain front and center.

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WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
While not the top-tier offering in the Range Carbon line, the 7.1 is still packed with drool-worthy components. RockShox’s Pike fork and Monarch Plus shock have proven to be leaders in the world of trail bike suspension—with the Pike recently earning the often elusive, 5-star rating from the wrecking crew. Along with the suspension, a RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post offers class-leading function without the eyesore of an externally routed remote housing.

SRAM’s X01 drivetrain has nearly all of the performance of its top-of-the-line XX1 group, but thanks to the aluminum crankset available to OEM partners, it’s able to pack an even better value for the rider.

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HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Moving out: Thanks to the sag gradient right on the fork stanchion and shock body, we easily set the bike to 30-percent sag front and rear and hit the trail. The Range’s rider position is fairly upright, with the rider’s weight feeling biased toward the rear wheel when seated. Our size medium came with a dialed cockpit set up for aggressive trail riding featuring a wide handlebar and short stem, both made by Kore.
Pedaling: The bike’s geometry puts the rider in a powerful position over the pedals for climbing, which is complimented by a well-designed rear suspension platform. The adjustment settings of the Monarch Plus shock proved to compliment the Range’s suspension design, allowing for three options that transition from plush to nearly locked out. There are instances, such as in especially loose or rough sections of trail, when pedaling in the wide-open setting will be your best bet; however, most riders will likely settle on the middle compression setting for their pedaling segments of the ride.
Climbing: Though 29.4-pounds, the Range is a bike that defies the number on the scale when climbing. Its controlled pedaling action and stiff chassis allow it to motor up the trail like lighter bikes with fewer inches of travel. That’s not to say the Range is going to match pace with a cross-country rig, but for the type of riding it is intended for, the Range is top-notch. The Range does a good job staying hooked up on technical climbs where a seated and steady approach pays off. Just let the bike do its thing. On the steepest climbs, however, the front wheel tended to feel a bit light. Keeping the bike pointed in the right direction required some body English over the front end and good line choice.
Cornering: The Range’s slack geometry invites an aggressive cornering approach with the rider putting plenty of emphasis over the front wheel. The bike feels quite planted in high-speed corners as the suspension and Maxxis High Roller tires keep the bike glued to the ground. Despite the aggressive stance of the bike, navigating tight corners is very doable on the Range, though it may require a bit of muscling the bike.

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Descending: The Range does a wonderful job balancing maneuverability and stability at speed. Many will be quick to attribute this to the 27.5-inch wheels, but that would be selling the Range short. As is apparent with the Gravity Tune design, Norco pays a lot of attention to where the rider’s weight is on the bike and it shows. The front end feels light when you want to pick up the front wheel or pop off a lip, while the longer front-center allows the rider to remain centered on the bike even through rough sections of trail. Launch a rock garden or smash through it; with it’s top-notch suspension spec, the Range is content with either approach.
Braking: The Avid Elixir 7 Trail brakes didn’t knock any of our socks off with sheer power, but they provided a modulated feel that offered plenty of control. Norco’s A.R.T. suspension did a nice job keeping the rear wheel plush under hard braking–as advertised.

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TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
First things first. Convert the tires and wheels to a tubeless setup. The Range is designed for aggressive riding, and pinch flats are bound to happen with a standard tube setup. Secondly, while the cockpit is nearly perfect, we didn’t get along well with the Ergon GA1 EVO grips. While the shape is fairly standard, the outside collar is oblong and interfered with riders who like to ride with their hands at the edge of the bar.

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BUYING ADVICE
Norco’s Range Carbon 7.1 is part of a new crop of ultra-capable trail bikes that seem to defy their appearance. The Range is burly enough to tackle some of the roughest descents at full-speed but is still a comfortable and efficient climber. For enduro racers, aggressive trail riders, or those who want a do-it-all bike they can take anywhere, Norco’s latest creation offers a wide range of possibilities.

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