The newest re-re-invention of the bicycle wheel, the 650B, is a classic retelling of the story of Goldilocks. Like the heroine in the memorable folktale, mountain bikers are always searching for that something better.
For those of us with big paws (and large lycra collections), only papa bears big wheels will do, and for those that want to get rowdy – it’s little wheels or bust. Then there’s everyone else, the kind of person that wants a bike that’s a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll.
So is the new Norco 650B Range just right?
The Norco Range is a dedicated 650b shredder and the ride is tuned towards the aggressive all mountain segment. The plush 160mm of travel, slack 66.5° headtube angle, and short 423 mm (16.65”) chain stays speak for themselves.
Despite the slack geometry and generous travel, the Norco Range is a true all around ripper. My time riding was limited to 2-3 hours of mostly moderate descending on loose natural flowing trails, with a few short rocky shoots, and lots of skinnies , punctuated by several brief technical climbs (at which I don’t excel).
I had some suspension and brake issues early into my ride, but once those where sorted, there wasn’t anything I didn’t like about the Range. My preference in bicycles leans towards the more playful side of things, and I’m always on the lookout for little boostables. While the Range required more effort to bunny hop in comparison to the shorter travel rigs I prefer, the rear end was playful, and the bike shot forward when pumping the terrain.
At 5’7, the theoretical 572mm (22.5”) top tube, paired with a standard 50mm stem, and 780 mm wide bar was spot on for the kind of climbing and descending the rig was intended for. The Range is equipped with a 160/120 34mm CTD Talas, matching CTD RP23, and Reverb for ultimate adjustability. Despite the dozens of possible combinations of adjustments, I left the bike in descend mode and rode it. The abrupt mix of up and down made it difficult to adjust the suspension on the fly, but the dropper post was greatly appreciated.
While climbing, even with the suspension set at 160mm and in descend mode, the ride didn’t suffer from any excessive pedal bob. While seated and cranking up while standing, the Range was a surprisingly well mannered machine.
Pointed downhill, the bike floated everything in its path. While turning, either because of the larger wheels, dry conditions, or the geometry, it felt like I was riding way over the front in order to achieve optimal handling. Acclimating to the more forward riding position came quickly and naturally. The Range turned easily and nimbly picked its way through rock gardens. The only time the larger wheels where really noticeable where on those rocky root filled descents. The Norco A.R.T. suspension has a really bottomless feel and the marginally larger wheels accentuated that characteristic.
The Norco Range is a great confidence-inspiring bike. Like your best friend, it’s down to get wild, and always there to save you when things get a little out of control. The wheel size might contribute to this winning formula, but it’s not the dominate take away. Coming from a 26” (and 20”) background, with some brief flirtation with 29” wheels, the 650B didn’t make a huge difference. This newly heralded “just right” option doesn’t feel that dissimilar to a standard 26” rig.
The Range is a dedicated 650B bike, so I wasn’t able to test it back to back with my default wheel size, but aside from marginally improved handling through rock gardens, and a slight increase in overall traction, it just didn’t feel that different. For those expecting the life altering improvements between the 26″ and 29″ wheel sizes, prepare to be disappointed.
For anyone not hung up on wheelsize, the Norco Range is one fun bike.
For more visit Norco.com