First Ride: The Norco Search XR

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On a practical level, the Search XR is equipped for whatever two-wheeled schemes you dream up. Want to flank it with five water bottles and go hunting for the Jersey Devil deep in the Pine Barrens? It’s outfitted with enough bottle mounts—two in the main triangle, one underneath the down tube, and two on the fork—to pack more water than a dromedary. Take advantage of the myriad rack mounts to strap on frame-packs and panniers and go bikepacking for the weekend.

You don’t have to fret over the terrain you’ll traverse. Even fully loaded, the new Shimano BR-R8020 hydraulic disc brakes provide smooth, confident speed modulation and braking with just the squeeze of a finger. Singletrack on the menu? No sweat. The Search’s fork and low, curved chainstays make room for 27.5” x 2.1” or 700c x 45c tires with ample mud clearance to spare.

Handling-wise, the Search XR is up for nearly anything. Norco slackened the head tube to make the bike a little longer and lower, which I appreciated as I could put all the weight I needed onto the front wheel for maximum control down twisty, chattery descents. Yet that doesn’t mean it’s so slacked out that it feels sluggish. Anything but, actually—even fully dressed with a fat set of 40 x 700c Clement XPlor MSO tires, the handling felt very responsive.

 

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I’ll admit that I expected this adventure bike would be confident and comfortable, but slower than I prefer, especially on the climbs. But the tires and tubeless-ready Clement USHUAiA adventure wheels roll remarkably quickly, even on pavement, and the relatively tight rear triangle delivers plenty of snap and climbing performance. I was happy to see a couple of Strava crowns on the hardest hills when I uploaded my ride. I’m sure the Praxis Zayante 48/32T adventure gearing with 11-34T cassette helped a bit in that regard.

The Search’s 12mm thru axles in the front and rear offered added (and quite welcome) stiffness as well as steering precision for bombing along cratered backcountry farm roads. My one niggle is that Norco Tooled Thru-Axles require an Allen key to remove. Obviously, you should always pack tools for adventure riding, but for daily use, it’s nice to be able to get the wheels on and off tool free.

Both frame and fork are high-modulus carbon. The tubes are smoothed out on the inside and scaled to size so every rider gets the lightest, stiffest Search possible. Because…

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