I'd like to welcome you to this new long-term test format on BikeRadar, where staffers like myself will be introducing the bikes we will be spending plenty of time on over the next few months. Served in a blog-like format with regular updates, you can expect more detail and a lot more insight into where our two wheels take us. We'll also be looking forward to more interactions with yourselves, and we'll be asking for your suggestions on future upgrades or places to ride.
Each of our writers will have the opportunity to choose their own bikes so you can expect a whole variety of machines, riding styles and preferences. Honestly, it's going to be great!
My pick for a long-term test bike for the road is this Norco Search, and it was far from a random choice. I wanted a bike that wouldn't intimidate with its price, and the alloy frame manages that nicely coming in at £1,399 complete. Remember, that's now less than half of the price of certain carbon gravel frames.
What swung it for me, though, was a positive previous experience with Norco's gravel offering, specifically a carbon frame Norco Search that I used throughout a majority of 2015. You can read about that bike here.
Versatility was also key as I wanted a bike that could lend a hand to some occasional off-road exploits yet wouldn't be a chore for daily commuting. Its spec, which you can take a closer look at in the chart below, holds no obvious holes, either.
There's a good looking alloy frame from a brand with a superb heritage in mountain bikes, a thru-axle carbon fork and flat-mount hydraulic discs from Shimano. Its 11-speed Shimano 105 drivetrain might be lacking the attractive four arm chainset but the parts that remain are all solid and proven.
Shimano's RS505 shifters are famed for their ungainly looks but I'm curious to find out how they'll compare to the RS685 parts that I've used on a couple of bikes now. The comically named Shinnigrims wheels (complete with a cheeky Shimano-esque font) don't inspire as much confidence but at least the high spoke count and generous rim width seem encouraging.
The fact this bike arrives with 35mm tyres in place suits me too, and is a big shift from the 28mm tyres in place on the previous generation bike, though I've not had any previous experience with the Schwalbe Tyragos fitted.
Another standout part from the spec sheet is Norco's own brand handlebar which, like the part fitted to GT's Grade gravel bike, is wide and aggressively flared.
The bike was a doddle to assemble, arriving 95% complete from distributor Evans Cycles. Once together, I fitted a Spurcycle bell, which along with being astonishingly expensive has a reputation as being one of the best bicycle bells out there, so I'll be sure to post a full review once I've had enough time with it.
Last but by no means least was Bontrager's compact Ion 100 R/Flare R City light set which I fitted to the Norco's handlebar and seatpost. These excellent lights are optimised for daytime running and I've found them invaluable for negotiating the sleepy drivers of Bristol.
I'll be posting a first ride update over the next few days so stay tuned for that.
Costs this month
- Norco Search Alloy 105 Hydro £1,399 / $1,799 / AU$2,299 – Buy now from Evans Cycles
- Spurcycle Bell £49.99 / US $49 – Buy now from SJS Cycles
- Bontrager Ion 100 R/Flare R City light set £59.99 / $69.99 – Buy now from Evans Cycles
Mileage this month
- Mileage clocked: 0 to date
- Most enjoyable ride: is yet to happen
Norco Search Alloy 105 Hydro specification
- Frame: Norco Search X6 double butted aluminium, Size 60.5cm
- Fork: Search mid-mod full carbon disc
- Crankset: Shimano FC-S500 50/34t
- Front derailleur: Shimano 105 FD-5800
- Rear derailleur: Shimano 105 RD-5800 GS
- Shifters: Shimano SL-RS505
- Brakes: Shimano BR-RS785 calipers with 160mm rotors
- Front hub: Alloy 15x100mm thru-axle 28h
- Rear hub: Alloy cartridge bearing 28h QR
- Rims: Aero double wall alloy
- Tyres: Schwalbe Tyrago 700x35c
- Handlebar: Norco Flare 44cm
- Handlebar tape: Norco Ultra Comfort 3mm
- Headset: Angular sealed cartridge bearings - tapered
- Stem: Norco 120mm
- Seatpost: Norco composite 27.2mm
- Saddle: Norco
- Weight (actual): 10.48kg/23.1lbs (without pedals)