2022 Norco Vary enduro bike rocks Excessive Digital Pivot suspension on 29″ wheels
The 2022 Norco Range is entirely unrecognizable, redeveloped from the ground up with a new high virtual pivot suspension design. Such a grand departure from the Range of years gone by would’ve surely warranted a new name for this fast as hell looking 29er race machine. But, let’s not get hung up on nomenclature. Here we dive into the what, where and, most importantly… why?
2022 Norco Range
Norco make no bones about it; they claim the full carbon Norco Range will be the fastest bike at the Enduro World Series this year. A very bold claim, given that Sam Hill makes his comeback at Val di Fassa today. Regardless, the 2022 Range looks like an extremely capable race bike; its full carbon frame rolls on 29″ wheels with 170mm of rear wheel travel guided through a rearward axle path by Norco’s new high virtual pivot suspension.
- Intention: Enduro Racing
- Wheel Size: 29″ Front and Rear
- Frame Material: Carbon
- Fork Travel: 170mm
- Rear Wheel Travel: 170mm
- Starting Price (Complete Bike): $5,599 USD
Why the High Virtual Pivot?
This is not the first high pivot mountain bike we’ve seen from Norco; the Norco Shore freeride bike makes use of a high pivot, albeit worked into a Horst Link layout. More notably perhaps, the Aurum DH bike runs a High Single Pivot platform to deliver 200mm of rear wheel travel. Why not put that technology, developed after years of testing with Norco’s DH athletes, into the new Range enduro bike?
Norco were clear that they definitely wanted the rearward axle path permitted by the high single pivot of the Aurum, in the knowledge that it helps a bike maintain momentum in rough terrain. However, they also knew that, to meet the demands of enduro, they had to tweak the layout to keep that rear wheel travel more active under braking.
So, how does the high virtual pivot on the 2022 Norco Range achieve that? Well, unlike other high pivot suspension designs, the rear wheel moves about a pivot whose location is not fixed in space. Rather, it changes throughout the arc, with the layout resulting in lower levels of anti-rise than would be possible with a high single pivot layout of similar axle path.
As the rear wheel is pushed through its travel, the swingarm is pushed up and back; up, because of the pivot that is concentric to the chain idler; back, because of the unique layout of the lower link. A massive pivot, concentric to the bottom bracket, is central to the movement of the lower link. As the rear wheel pushes through, that lower link extends rearward, elongating the bike’s rear centre, lengthening the bike’s wheelbase too.
Norco Range Size-Specific Leverage Curves
“The Range is the result of the largest-scale team effort of anything we’ve ever produced. It took absolutely everything we have to create; Inventing a whole new way of developing frame geometry, countless hours obsessing over suspension design and kinematics, then trail-testing ’til we knew we’d got it just right” – Norco Bikes.
The vast majority of mountain bikes on the market today use the same swingarm across the frame size range. That results in different leverage ratios, a different ride feel and thus, a different experience depending on what size bike you ride. And, as you can well imagine, the measurements aren’t optimized for the smaller and larger ends of the spectrum.
Norco are one of few brands rejecting this take on mountain bike design, opting instead for a proportional approach (more on this here) where compromise simply isn’t acceptable. This is part of their Ride Aligned philosophy, which you can read more about here.
With the 2022 Range, Norco have taken their Ride Aligned philosophy one step further. Across the four frame sizes, the engineers have tailored the suspension kinematic to what they feel is the optimum for each size.
With size-specific dropouts and size-specific lower links. As the front-centre measurement (and thus, reach) grows through the frame sizes, as does the rear-centre length.
Where’s the flip-chip to allow riders to tweak it to their personal taste? There isn’t one. Norco are confident in their engineering stating that “the new Range’s suspension is highly
calibrated with a custom-tuned shock and size-specific leverage curve“. Norco say the drop-outs and links should not be switched between frame sizes, as this would compromise the ride characteristics of the bike and the accuracy of the recommended Ride Aligned suspension settings.
Each of the 2022 Norco Range models (C1, C2 and C3) come with a FOX DHX2 Factory Coil Shock with a custom damper tune for each frame size specified by Norco. The frame itself is tuned specifically to run with the linear spring rate of a coil shock so air shocks aren’t recommended. It will also take 2021-22 RockShox Super Deluxe Coil shocks, but there’s no guarantee that coil shocks from other brands will actually fit. That said, we do know Lewis Buchanan has successfully put a DVO Jade Coil Shock on his (more on that to come).
2022 Norco Range Geometry
That preamble was necessary for us to appreciate the 2022 Norco Range geometry chart. You’ll notice that, across the S-XL frame size range, it isn’t only the reach, rear-centre lengths and seat tube lengths that change; the seat tube and head tube angles change too, albeit very subtly.
The HA is slackest in XL at 63°, getting steeper in 0.25° increments as frames get smaller to 63.75° in Small. This is something seen very rarely, so what’s Norco’s justification for it? They say that while slack head angles offer riders good stability at high speed in rough terrain, they can make it tough for smaller riders to keep their weight over the front tire.
Reach stretches from 420mm in Small to 510mm in XL, with rear-centre lengths growing accordingly. The S and M frames get a 440mm rear end while the L and XL frames get a 442.5mm and 447.5mm rear-centre, respectively.
Across all frame sizes, the bottom bracket drops 20mm to a height of 355mm. Seat tubes are refreshingly short, with the large sitting at 410mm. This will allow all riders to reap the benefits of running a long travel dropper seat post.
The Boost rear end allows clearance for up to 2.5″ wide tires on a 29″ wheel. Though you could, theoretically, run a 27.5″ wheel in the rear for a mullet setup, Norco don’t recommend you do as it will completely change the bike’s geometry and ride feel, and not for the better.
Why is the Range only available in Carbon?
Given that Norco have historically always offered their trail and downhill bikes in aluminium, you may be wondering why the 2022 Range is carbon only. Norco say, “The shapes and profiles of tubes and frame components used to achieve the Range’s High Virtual Pivot suspension design, carbon fibre construction is the ideal material to achieve the strength, durability and performance”.
Can the Range run a dual-crown fork?
Maybe you spotted the Norco DH prototype at Crankworx last summer (with water bottle bosses)? The 2022 Norco Range is rated for use with a 180mm travel fork, in both single and dual-crown configurations. Norco have confirmed that the DH prototype evolved from the development of the new Range enduro bike, not vice-versa as you might expect.
Pricing & Availability
Pricing for the 2022 Norco Range starts at $3,799 USD for the frame and shock only. The entry-level C3 model retails at $5,599; that money gets you a RockShox ZEB Charger R fork and FOX DHX2 Factory Coil Shock. In fact, all three models get that top-end coil shock with a custom damper tune. It also features Shimano BR-MT520 4-piston brakes with 203mm rotors front and rear, and a Shimano SLX derailleur and shifter paired with Deore level cassette, cranks and chainring.
Middle of the range is the C2 model, priced at $6,999. The extra cash gets you an upgrade to to a ZEB Ultimate RC2 fork, SRAM Code R 4-piston brakes, SRAM GX Eagle groupset and e*thirteen LG1 EN wheels with DT350 hubset.
The top-level Range C1 retails at $8,999 USD. This all-singing all-dancing build specification includes a Fox Factory 38 Fork with GRIP2 damper, SRAM Code RSC brakes, SRAM XO1 Eagle drivetrain, and We Are One Union carbon wheels with Onyx hubs (not the DT wheelset pictured).