If you’re a tech sniffer looking for an entry-level enduro bargain, Norco's Range Carbon 7.4 scores straight away with a full carbon mainframe and single piece carbon seatstay.
This puts the Range 7.4 in a different materials class to its metallic peers, such as Canyon’s Strive 6.0 Race.
Frame and equipment: carbon pros and cons
It certainly looks a decent chassis on the surface too, with belly guard, chrome chain protectors, chain guide mounts and even a spare gear hanger bolt for the Syntace X12 rear dropout all built into the yarn and resin resumé.
The external dropper post routing along the top tube looks untidy now, but there is internal routing if you upgrade later. The external dropper post isn’t the only component downgrade though – and that’s where the wisdom of carbon bling blindness starts to come into question.
We’ve no complaints per se about the extended durability of the Shimano Deore stop, go and hub equipment. Some riders still like the spinnable granny gear of a double chainset for steep climbs, and the reinforced tip RaceFace cranks can certainly handle big hits on the descents you’ve winched to the top of.
The whole collection weighs a ton though, making the Norco a weighty proposition despite that carbon frame. The X-Fusion fork and shock pairing doesn’t have the cachet of a RockShox or Fox setup, either.
Once you've got them broken in, the X-Fusion fork and shock combo perform strongly
Ride and handling: solidly reliable but short of a cutting edge
In more ways than one though, you shouldn’t be too quick to judge X-Fusion suspension, though, which it always takes a good few hours of riding to loosen up and get into it’s stride.
Even if it never becomes as smooth and control boostingly compliant as a Pike, the Sweep fork is a solidly reliable unit with a controlled and stable carving character that suits aggressive riders on groomed trails.
The naturally firm low speed compression feel of the 2 R rear shock works really well to calm the pedal bob that we’ve experienced on other more supple shock Range models too. Maxxis High Roller II treads on wide WTB tubeless ready rims underline the Norco with serious grip and add supple smoothness that the suspension lacks.
While the geometry and cockpit put your hands and wheels just where you want them for maximum control, the weight and slow rolling High Rollers noticeably harm flatland or power assisted potential.
The Norco Range Carbon 7.4's chassis makes it a tempting offer on paper, but things don't quite stack up on the trail
Even with the X-Fusion shock keeping it stable when you stomp the pedals, the frame also sucks up significant amounts of your wattage. It’s similarly soft when you start carving corners and pushing the pace on the trail.
This makes for a sticky, high traction safety net if you’re learning the ropes, but it lacks the precision and feedback needed to ride the ragged edge and there’s little incentive to hop and pop despite what should be an agile short back end.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.