BIKE TEST: Norco Search Adventure

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With a catalog that includes a road race bike, an endurance road bike, a cyclocross bike, and a touring bike (to say nothing of their full line of mountain bikes), it was only a matter of time before Norco unveiled a new drop-bar line dedicated to the growing segment of dual-purpose riding. Meet the all-new Search. When describing it, Norco gloms onto the already frequently used vernacular by calling the Search an “all-road” bike. And, there’s not just a single bike, but six different models. Today, we take a look at the lowest-priced carbon version.

THE FRAME
Knowing that comfort would be a priority for a bike aimed at “all-road” riding, Norco gave the Search plenty of compliance in the form of its ARC Endurance system. ARC refers to a series of curvy shapes in the seatstays, seat tube and fork blades that are also featured most prominently on the brand’s Valence endurance road bike. A 27.2mm seatpost was also chosen to help add extra compliance. But in order to ensure that the Search wouldn’t be a slouch in the performance category, Norco also gifted it with its Power Chassis design. This is yet another collection of use-specific tube shapes that include a 1 1/8- to 1 1/2-inch  tapered head tube, a large triangular downtube, and chainstays that are relatively tall near the Press-Fit BB86 bottom bracket and taper towards the rear dropouts.

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Speaking of the dropouts, Norco gave the Search a 142x12mm rear thru-axle, while the fork has a 15mm thru-axle. Other details include internal cable routing, as well as tire clearance for up to 35mm rubber. And, of course, Norco opted for disc brakes on the Search.

THE PARTS
As the model name implies, the Search 105 features Shimano 105 shifters and derailleurs, along with a Shimano RS500 crankset. Rolling duties are handled by a pair of aluminum Alex clinchers laced to alloy hubs and a set of size-28mm Continental Contact tires. The cockpit components are all aluminum and, save for the Ritchey Comp Evo Curve handlebar, are Norco’s own, as is the plush saddle. Finally, the disc brakes are comprised of a set of Hayes CX Comp mechanical calipers with 160mm rotors.

For about $1000 more, the higher-end Search Carbon Ultegra includes Shimano Ultegra shifters and derailleurs paired with a 105 crankset, along with the same aluminum Alex clincher wheels and Continental tires. The top-of-the-line Search Carbon XR retails for $3700 and includes a full Shimano Ultegra 6800 groupset, along with a pair of Easton EA70 XCT wheels wrapped in size-35mm Clement X’Plor USH tires. In addition to the carbon version, Norco also offers a steel variety of the Search, which is available in three builds.

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THE RIDE
Our size-50.5cm test bike featured head and seat angles of 71.25 and 74.25 degrees, respectively, which contribute to the Search’s overall slack geometry. The 130mm-tall head tube is a fair bit longer than the average comparably sized road bike, allowing for a more upright handlebar position. At just over 20 pounds, our test bike was a bit heavier than some comparably priced bikes we’ve ridden over the past year, but the overall component selection was highly functional and gave us zero durability concerns.

On the road, the Search offers decent power transfer with stiffness that’s on par with most endurance road bikes at its price point, and the steering feel is incredibly solid—although one aggressive tester described its handling characteristics as “sluggish and not ideal for fast, technical descents.”

Taking the Search off the beaten path showcased its dual-purpose chops, and that solid steering feel, which is due in large part to the thru-axle fork, made for a stable and reasonably responsive front end on gravel paths and through soft terrain. The ARC compliance system, which we appreciated on a previous Valence test bike, again proved its chops in handling rough terrain, both on- and off-road. The Hayes CX Comp mechanically actuated disc brakes did their job well enough, but they’d be the first on our list of future upgrades.

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THE VERDICT
Being a dual-purpose bike, it’s no surprise that the Search split our field of testers in a few ways. Aesthetically, its matte green paint scheme had some testers raving, while others called it drab. Those who tend to ride exclusively on the road weren’t overly impressed by the Search’s stable steering, while those who split their time between asphalt and dirt considered it spot-on. Weight weenies looking to best their mates up a climb balked at the 20-plus-pound weight, while those more casually minded didn’t even think about weight. Ultimately, considering its intention as an all-road bike, the Search reflects Norco’s goals well in that it can handle any terrain in relative comfort.

PUNCH LINES
• Capable on- and off-road
• Brakes are underpowered
• A touch heavy for the price, but with stable handling

STATS
Price: $2110
Weight: 20.8 pounds (size 50.5cm)
Sizes: 48, 50.5, 53, 55.5, 58, 60.5cm

Visit norco.com for their full line for road and off-road bicycles

 

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