The Range Killer B-1 is Norco’s top flight all-mountain machine, and for 2013 it comes rolling on 650b wheels only. In a market where fun often comes before fast, the absence of flick-able 26in wheels is certainly a bold move.
Bigger wheels may roll more easily over rough ground, but they can lack acceleration, be slower to turn, and you have to compromise geometry... Right?
Ride & handling: Great rollover performance on tight, technical trails
The Range really excels when things get tight and technical. The better rollover performance of the 650b wheels can be felt, but they’re not the only reason it outperforms other bikes when navigating down steep rocky, rooty trails.
Norco’s Gravity Tuned Geometry makes it feel more at home on 45-degree slopes than the flat, and the initial rearwards axle path of the progressive suspension setup makes light work of square edge hits. Not to mention the big-for-2.35in Hans Dampf tyres too.
When riding the Killer B-1 down our Alpine-style quarry trails it was seriously fun rather than furiously fast feeling. It skims over the top of razor sharp rocks smoothly, and the neutral, as opposed to fully committed, rider position it promotes, inspires you to confidently pop jumps and rail turns rather than tuck.
The dynamic feeling and extra grip gave us the courage to hit corners so hard we started to feel flex in the heavily machined RaceFace cranks and otherwise sturdy Sun Charger wheelset. On the climbs the Norco’s 13.8kg (30.4lb) chassis is deceiving as it cruises up with tank-like traction and ease.
Frame & equipment: 160mm of travel but with 650b wheels
Despite the bigger wheels, Norco have made some clever changes to squeeze a standard-for-all-mountain 160mm (6.3in) travel out of the Range frame, while maintaining confidence-inspiring modern geometry.
The short, slack tapered head tube helps keep the front end low
A stumpy tapered head tube at 66.5 degrees keeps the bars relatively low, and the front wheel far enough out in front for stable steering at high speeds. An intelligently set up rear end allows for short chainstays (427mm for medium), which makes snappy direction changes and popping the front wheel up effortless.
The Killer B-1 comes with a strong and easy to replace Syntace X-12 derailleur hanger, and wide 142x12mm bolt-through rear axle to help keep the rear end stiff. The ISCG-05 tabs are removable and bottom-bracket mounted, which isn’t a problem as the SRAM X9 Type 2 clutch-equipped derailleur easily takes care of chain retention if you want to ditch the guide.
Avid’s X0 Trail Brakes are downhill powerful and the only thing missing by 2013 standards is internal routing for a RockShox Reverb Stealth seatpost.