The Search is Canadian brand Norco’s contender in the increasingly popular adventure road segment. For those not in the know, adventure road bikes – or gravel bikes, as they're often referred to – are a fresh breed of steed that offer more versatility than traditional rides.
Designed to perform well both on and off the tarmac, adventure road bikes often sport wider, larger volume tyres and big frame clearances. They also use relaxed frame geometry and disc brakes are very much the norm.
You can think of them as being somewhere between an endurance road bike and a cyclocross racer.
Norco is a company best known for its mountain bikes. As well as the MTB kudos the brand brings, the Search is full of little details that hint at the company’s mastery of all things muddy.
This model, the £2,100/US$3,150 Search Ultegra/105, sits between two other carbon framed bikes of the same range and, as the names suggests, uses a mixture of Shimano’s Ultegra and 105 kit.
Norco knows how to make a good looking bike
You only have to glance at a side-on profile of the carbon framed Search to see where Norco has deployed comfort measures. Slim, bowed seatstays intersect with a seat tube that houses a 27.2mm seat post. It’s the same story up the front, with the carbon fork of the Search featuring a pronounced rake and trailing dropouts.
Take a look at the down tube and bottom bracket area and it’s a different story – one of outright efficiency. Oversized frame sections are used from behind the head tube right back to the rear axle.
Talking of axles, this is where Norco sticks to what it knows works well. By opting for a 15mm Maxle at the fork and a 142x12mm part at the rear, Norco has chosen to run with dimensions that are the norm among trail focused mountain bikes.
The Maxles might not look svelte but they’re convenient to operate. Just as in the world of mountain bikes, they go hand in hand with the Search’s hydraulic disc brakes.
The beefy 15mm maxle and 160mm disc rotor are a nod to Norco's mountain bike heritage
The braking setup on the Search consists of Shimano's BR785 and ST-R785 dual control lever, which neatly integrates hydraulic braking and 11-speed mechanical shifting. Norco has chosen to spec regular six-bolt 160mm disc rotors to the Search, a big cost saving over the costly Freeza finned items used by some of the competition.
Similarly, the standard brake pads are not Shimano's IceTech items, with their heat dissipating cooling fins. We've no immediate concern over such compromises – after all, the setup is very similar to that used on many mountain bikes that weigh almost twice as much as this 9.1kg/20.1lb Search.
The transmission mostly consists of Ultegra 6800 componentry, including an 11-32t cassette and front and rear derailleurs. The chainset takes a step down to Shimano 105 level, but the 50/34t part is a proven item and its handsome look fits in with the rest of the transmission.
Norco has also decided to fit an own brand chain catcher on the Search. It's a nice touch that should keep the PF86 bottom bracket shell from ever being damaged by a derailed chain.
The Alex tubeless ready rims are ready to accept wider rubber than the standard fit 28c items from Continental
The Search rolls on an Alex ATD470 disc specific wheelset. The rims are tubeless ready and boast a generous 17mm internal width, meaning they're capable of running far wider rubber than the standard Continental Contact II 28c tyres. In fact, Norco says it'll be happy with up to 35c of rubber at each end.
Norco has also managed to include proper mudguard (that's fender, international readers) mounts on both the frame and fork without spoiling the appearance of the bike. All cables and hoses are contained within the frame, further adding to that slick look.
The finishing kit hasn't been skimped on either. There's a quality alloy cockpit from Ritchey up front, and Norco's own carbon seat post and a specially colour-coded Fizik Tundra M5 to sit on.
This Search will be staying with us as a long-term test ride, so stay tuned for further updates.