Norco are introducing 650B wheels to their line in 2013 with a complete commitment to the wheel size for the Range, and adding it as an option to the otherwise 26-inch wheeled Sight. The “Killer B” models - as Norco is calling their 650B versions - get a complete geometrical overhaul to properly accommodate the wheels.
The Range and the Sight feature Norco’s Gravity Tune, which essentially makes minor tweaks around the bottom bracket of the front triangle to adjust virtual chainstay length for a more consistent feel throughout different model sizes. For instance, a small Range will have a 419mm center-to-center measurement, with an XL stretching out to 435mm. The shock pivot point does change slightly from frame size to frame size, but Norco claims it doesn’t affect the ride quality.
The only thing carried over from 2012 on the Range and Sight are the head tubes, said Norco’s PR marketing coordinator Dustan Sept. A new set of hydroformed tubes make up a lighter and stiffer main triangle up front, and asymmetrical chainstays improve stiffness out back. Tying the two together is the beefier, yet lighter, Holloform link arm, which again improves frame rigidity while reducing girth, Norco says.
Some call it 27.5in, some call in 650B. Norco calls the mid-size wheel Killer B
For Killer B versions, the FSR pivot point drops further down from the axle, and gets pushed forward as well. While each frame is slightly tweaked for Gravity Tune geometry, the rear triangles are the same on all sizes of both the Range and Sight.
Also new for 2013 are cable/housing routing, and a direct-mount front derailleur. Last year’s guides are replaced with X-style guides, which hold housing cleanly with a little bit more style than the average zip tie (or as the Norco guys would say, “zap strap”). There is also an added guide route for dropper posts on both the Sight and Range for ’13, too.
Cool improvements to the Aurum
Also noteworthy from the Vancouver-based company’s 2013 line are two small tweaks to the Aurum. Up front, the frame-saving bumpers get more surface area to accommodate various forks, and are said to allow a better turning radius via lower profile bumpers made out of a more shock-absorbing material. And near the middle, a subtle variation of housing guides should keep the link arm from getting rubbed raw - a common problem on the 2012 Aurum.
We were able to get a full day of downhill runs in on the new Aurum 1. The bike was about as predictable and stable as they come, even on the gnarliest double-black runs that Whistler Bike Park had to offer. Manitou’s Dorado was impressively supple in the small stuff, yet took big hits and drops without much feedback.
The 2013 Aurum rode great on Whistler's gnarliest trails
Frame-wise, the smallish downtube didn’t equate to any type of notable frame flex, and the geometry was spot-on with a great combination of stability at speed while maintaining enough playfulness to really get thrown around in the tight and twisty stuff.
Cane Creek’s Double Barrel rear shock provided plenty of adjustability, and held its feel consistently from the top of Whistler all the way down to the village. Hopefully we’ll get our hands on one of the new Aurums for a long-term review to put it through the more familiar paces of our local trails, but until then, the first impression is a definite thumb’s up.