Field Tested: Norco Search XR

Norco’s Search line is new for this year, promising road-based adventure from asphalt to dirt. The carbon XR model reviewed here sits atop the heap at $3,700, with two more price points in carbon; $3,150 for ultegra and $2,110 for 105. three steel search models range in price from $1,525 to $885.


The frame

Search carbon frames utilize many of Norco’s high performance technologies. Size-scaled tubing yields larger diameter tubes on larger frame sizes, smaller tubes on smaller sizes. This maintains proportional stiffness that corresponds to rider weight. A burly downtube and sizeable chainstays resist pedaling forces, providing a chassis that transfers power well. But, both the fork and seatstays are tuned for a touch of vertical compliance and noticeably take the edge off road vibration. Thru axles front and rear contribute stiffness and security.

In carbon form, Search models lean toward the performance end of the adventure realm — think fast and light, not packhorse style. Convenient front and rear mounts ease fender installation, but the asymmetric rear mounts do not accommodate a rear rack. Multi-day adventures will require a rackless setup — not a bad thing as traveling light has its perks.

The XR model’s stock 35 mm-wide Clement X’plor USH tires have become a favorite around Bicycle Times headquarters for their versatility and capability on-road and off-road. On the Search these tires have plenty of breathing room for mud clearance or fenders. But, according to Norco, the maximum tire size is 35 mm.

The Xr’s Easton EA70 XCT wheels hail from the company’s mountain bike line, so they’ll certainly take all the abuse the search can throw their way. These wheels are tubeless compatible, though the tubeless cross tire selection is still pretty thin.

The ride

Like my previous experiences with Shimano’s Ultegra 11-speed drivetrain and hydraulic brakes, I continue to be amazed by how well these components perform. Shifts are instantaneous and the brakes are incredibly powerful while offering stellar modulation.

The Search’s handling falls on the quicker side of the mixed-surface equation with a 72-degree head tube angle. That’s similar to the Jamis Renegade, but quite a bit steeper than the more relaxed 70.5-degree head tube angle of Salsa’s Warbird carbon. If you’re looking for a bike that’s a tire-swap away from being a quick and agile road bike, the Search has you covered.

Parting shot

From spec to geometry to intended use, the Search and the Jamis Renegade (reviewed in issue #34) are very close competitors. The proliferation of this style of bike speaks volumes about the popularity of adventure seeking and mixed surface riding.

In reality, you can’t go wrong with either of these bikes, but it’s worth noting the Norco comes in $500 less expensive for virtually the same parts selection, though it is just over half a pound heavier as well. That price difference will replace quite a few worn out tires and chains, and have some change left over for a ton of road-side Twinkies to fuel your adventure.

  • Norco Search XR
  • Price as tested: $3,700
  • Weight: 19.1 pounds
  • Sizes: 48, 50.5, 53 (tested), 55.5, 58, 60.5 cm
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