Norco is no stranger to the gravel movement, first introducing the Search family of adventure bikes into its lineup back in 2015. Since then the lineup has continued to swell as the category grows increasingly popular with riders wanting a bike capable of tackling, any road, anywhere, at any time.
Ahead of a long-form review due to release later this month over on CyclingTips, we picked the brain of Australian tech editor, Matt Wikstrom, to grab his initial thoughts on the super capable, steel framed Norco XR Steel gravel bike.
What is it?
One of the most popular categories in the cycling industry, gravel bikes are quickly emerging as a do-it-all option, capable of replacing a fleet of bikes a rider might have at their disposal. Complete with drop bars, clearance for wide knobby rubber and a rugged component list, put simply, a gravel bike is capable of tackling pavement, fire trails and everything in between. For more information on how they differ from a standard road bike, check out our brief guide to gravel bikes.
The Search Family
Just three short years after being introduced into the Norco product lineup, the "Search" family of gravel bikes has more than doubled its offering for consumers. With options in the range covering every facet of what was a once niche category, the Canadian brand's adaptation of the adventure bike has continued to evolve.
New for 2018, the XR series includes a range of bikepacking-friendly additions such as a revised endurance based geometry, increased tyre clearance as well as, fork and downtube mounts for bags, racks, and fenders. For those not wanting to take the road less traveled, the more tarmac focussed Search models remain in Norco’s product line-up featuring less tyre clearance, and a more aggressive geometry.
Build Kit and Fit Out
The build of the Norco Search XR is a retro-modern fit out of sorts. The frame is constructed from rugged Reynolds 725 CroMoly steel and is paired with a high-modulus gravel-specific carbon fibre fork.
Shifting comes courtesy of SRAM in the form of its proven Rival 1x groupset. With a 40t chainring fitted up front and a 10-42 cassette featuring outback, the gear range is plenty wide enough to suit a wide range of terrain, however, Wikstrom cautions “the 1x gearing is perfect for the unloaded bike, but anybody looking to use it for bikepacking will probably need to fit a smaller chainring.”
Rolling stock includes WTB 650b tubeless ready i23 rims and tubeless ready Clement X’Plor 42c rubber. Wikstrom notes, “ The rims are taped and tubeless valves are supplied with the bike, so all that is needed is sealant".
“It’s a well thought out bike that provides plenty of clearance for 700c and 650b wheels. There’s plenty of mounts for fenders, racks and bottle cages that should appeal to bike-packers“, tells Wikstrom. His size 53cm sample weighed in at 10.24kg without pedals or cages.
All up, the first impressions look solid with Wikstrom stating the Search XR Steel “is a tough, well-built bike that should be able to withstand a lot of heavy off-road use.” Not without its small in-discrepancies though with Wikstrom adding “The bike is heavy though, with the extra weight slowing it down when tackling steep climbs or accelerating out of tight corners."
“This is a bike for tortoises rather than hares: if you stay in the saddle and ride conservatively, then you’ll be able to enjoy the smooth, quiet ride that the steel frame provides all day long. In short, it’s perfect for bike-packing and/or meandering adventure rides”, summarised Wikstrom. Consider us interested.
*Keep your eyes peeled for a full review over on CyclingTips, due out in April. The Norco Search XR Steel is available in Australia right now and carries an RRP of AUD$2,999. *