Feature: 2018 Norco Bicycles Search XR Carbon Gravel Bike

norco search xr carbon review

About Norco Bicycles

“Since 1964, we’ve been part of the bike industry for 50 incredible years. We are driven by a genuine passion for cycling in all its forms, and that passion is the foundation for everything we do.”

norco search xr carbon review

“Bert Lewis founded Norco Bicycles in 1964 with a simple vision: build better bikes. From our humble beginnings operating out of a converted chicken coop in small-town B.C., we’ve grown into a global brand delivering more than 125 different models to cyclists worldwide. We are proud of the role we’ve played in helping to shape the industry and the sport over the past five decades.”

norco search xr carbon review

Norco Search XR Carbon

If you’re a North American resident far from the southern side of the Canadian border, you could be excused if you’ve never heard of this well-established brand. Norco has been doing business across the globe for many years, but only recently has the brand been making a push beyond the Americano states that line up against the border of the Great White North.

norco search xr carbon review

Pictured above is the Norco Search XR Ultegra model. Also available is the XR Force 1 and XR Apex 1 bikes (both fitted with SRAM groupsets of the same name), along with a frame and fork only option.

norco search xr carbon review

According to Norco’s marketing, the Search XR offers five key benefits:

  1. Search XR Frame and Fork – “Lightweight carbon with Size-Scaled Tubing, SmoothCore, and ArmorLite resin for a stiff and durable frame. ARC Endurance system features bridgeless seat stays and curved, ovalized chainstays for improved vertical compliance.”
  2. Thru-Axles and Power Chassis – Front and rear 12mm thru axles plus an oversized head tube junction, downtube, BB shell and chain stays deliver lateral stiffness for maximum power transfer as well as control through rough terrain.
  3. Tire Compatibility – “Ample clearance for 27.5” x 2.1” or 700c x 28c-45c tires (up to 42c with full fenders).”
  4. Rack, Fender and Bottle Mounts – “Multiple bottle cage mounts on the frame and fork, custom removable fender bridge mount, and stealth rack and fender mounting points for maximum utility.”
  5. Gizmo Cable Management – “Prevents cable rattle and keeps debris out of the frame; offers riders a wide range of configuration options including full Di2 compatibility and 2×11 drivetrains with a stealth dropper post.”

norco search xr carbon review

Starting at the front end of the bike, Shimano’s excellent mechanical shifting / hydraulic brake levers.

norco search xr carbon review

Keeping with the adventure theme of this bike, Norco spec the Easton EA70 AX handlebar, which features a 16 degree flare. This is the aluminium version of the handlebar.  We are reviewing the EC70 AX carbon variant of the handlebar at the moment – stay tuned!

norco search xr carbon review

The Norco’s stem is a house-branded unit.

norco search xr carbon review

norco search xr carbon review

norco search xr carbon review

Norco refers to the fork as the Search XR Carbon. It is tapered, and we assume it follows the current standard of 1 1/8″ to 1 1/2″.

norco search xr carbon review

norco search xr carbon review

Note the fender and rack mounts on the fork.

norco search xr carbon review

The unique tip of the Search XR’s fork. We assume it is shaped in this manner to make for easier wheel changes? Front thru-axle is the 12mm size.

norco search xr carbon review

Above, a view of Norco’s “Gizmo cable routing”. Details on that earlier in this posting.

norco search xr carbon review

The entire cycling world hasn’t gone the way of the 1x / single drivetrain just yet. Norco has wisely chosen the Praxis Zayante crankset with 48 / 32 chainrings. Check out our review of the Zayante crankset, HERE. Sitting above the crankset is the latest variant of Shimano’s Ultegra front derailleur, the FD-R8000.

norco search xr carbon review

norco search xr carbon review

Above is Shimano’s new Ultegra 11-speed rear derailleur, the RD-R8000 GS (mid-cage). Almost identical to its pricier DuraAce brethren, the technology in this unit is a direct trickle down from the XTR mountain bike groupset.

norco search xr carbon review

An integrated chain keeper prevents the chain from dropping, and a port for wired electronic shifting.

norco search xr carbon review

norco search xr carbon review

Norco provides a third bottle cage mount beneath the downtube.

norco search xr carbon review

The Norco Search XR marks the fourth or fifth production bicycle utilizing the drive-side drop down chainstay. If only the company who rekindled this design was able to patent it…

norco search xr carbon review

norco search xr carbon review

Above is a Clement X’Plor MSO tyre in 700c x 40mm. There is a stack clearance between those chainstays.

norco search xr carbon review

The Norco Search XR is fitted with Shimano’s latest Ultegra flat-mount disc brake calipers.

norco search xr carbon review

Flat-mount brakes for the rear.

norco search xr carbon review

norco search xr carbon review

The distinctive Ultegra level disc brake rotors are a direct trickle down from the flagship DuraAce models. Shimano’s Ice / Freeza technologies rely on aluminium at the rotor core to help dissipate the heat of braking.

norco search xr carbon review
Photo by Norco.

Above, “Ninja” aka Not Instantly Noticeable Junk Attachments.

“NINJA threaded inserts add another level of functionality to the frame, allowing full fender capability, while remaining inconspicuous when unused.”

norco search xr carbon review

Clement’s excellent Ushuaia wheelset is provided with the Ultegra-equipped Norco Search XR. Please check out our review of the Ushuaia wheelset, HERE.

norco search xr carbon review

Above, “Das Boot” is a seatclamp cover that prevents water and muck from entering the frame.

norco search xr carbon review
Photo by Norco.

Above is “SASSY”. Secret Attachable Seat Yoke.

 

“To make the Search XR more comfortable on long rides, we removed the seat-stay bridge. This helps increase vertical compliance and the bike’s overall ability to absorb road chatter. Without a seat stay bridge however, we needed to find a new way to mount fenders on our most versatile road bike. So we created the SASSY – a custom plastic bridge that fits into place to provide a fender mounting point when needed.”

Search XR Carbon Models

  • Search XR Force 1 – $US 4,199.00
  • Search XR Ultegra – $US 3,799.00
  • Search XR Apex 1 – $US 2,899.00
  • Search XR Frame and Fork – $US 1,999.00

Norco Bicycles

14 comments on “Feature: 2018 Norco Bicycles Search XR Carbon Gravel Bike

  1. I like the versatility of this frame, it lets you adjust depending on the mix of surfaces you ride on and to changing tech. The frameset price is reasonable but I’d still want to know that I would be able to keep it a long time which means needing to be able to upgrade it.

    What type of BB does it have? I could not find this bike on their web site.

    1. Found it — it’s not in their menus yet, but lower on their main page.

      BB is pressfit86 unfortunately by my way of thinking.

  2. I read elsewhere that the Ultegra came in at just under 20 lbs… definitely on my watch list but seems a bit steep in price to me. Thread together bottom bracket and I’ll forgive BB86…

  3. I just received my Force-1 build Norco Search XR. Only one short ride so far, but it’s everything I hoped for.

    This version came with SRAM Force 1, 650B WTB Wheels and a dropper seatpost controlled by the left shifter.

    It also has the Quarq Prime “Power Ready” crankset, which accepts a relatively inexpensive Quarq DZERO Spider power meter.

    Looking forward to crushing some gravel in the great pacific northwest with this back this coming spring and summer!

  4. Wife and I just purchased matching Search XR Carbons from Project Bike in Bend OR. Owner John Frey is great. Ours are custom builds with Force 1 drive train, 38T Front and 10/42 rear, and Praxis carbon 700c wheel sets. Having identical builds helps with DIY maintenance and reducing spare part inventory.

    Wife’s bike weighed in a 17lbs w/out pedals. She is 5’6″ and the 49.5 fit perfect, with 80mm stem and 15mm offset seat. I’m just under 6’1″ and I fit perfect on the 58cm with same stem and offset. I could have also fit the 55.5cm but at age 56 I like a bit more stack height and upright position.

    We just took delivery, and so far just one 30 mile gravel ride that indicates these are going to be awesome bikes. We’ve ridden thousands of Gravel miles on our steel Salsa Vayas, which while being very comfortable and stable off road, are heavy and not the greatest climbing machines. We also have nice carbon road race bikes.

    We travel in an RV for long periods and wanted one bike to cover numerous riding conditions. With an extra set of wheels set up with road tires and a 40T chain ring swap, the Search will replace both our Vaya’s and the road bikes. Ultimately, we’ll have a set of 650b x 2.0 wheel/tires sets, and bike packing and single track will also be in the realm. I’ll come back here with a ride report after we’ve got a few hundred miles on them.

    This year these bikes will be ridden on several 100 mile Gravel events, PNW Bike Tour, some overnight bikepacking in the Cascades, Rebeccas Private Idaho, and California Death Ride. So far I think Norco hit it out of the park on this bike.

    1. Nicely done!, and 17lbs is so light for a gravel machine. It sounds like you and your wife have quite the #rvlife going on there. Keep living the dream!

    2. Sounds like a nice setup. Two pairs of wheels seems like the right idea to me. I would put a tighter spaced cassette on the road wheels and see if I could skip the chainring swap. I’ve found 42:12 is all I need these days, and that still has me spinning out at over 30 MPH, so I think a 38t with an 11t would be plenty for the top end. I like tightly spaced gears in my road cruising range, so I might consider making a custom cassette with a lower bailout gear if I was somewhere other than MN.

  5. Review Update: I’ve now got 500+ miles on my Norco Search XR that I mentioned in a previous post and I thought I’d share some of my observations. I’ve spent about 300 of those miles on mostly gravel and forest roads with 40c Rambler tires set up tubeless at roughly 30psi. The bike is as smooth and comfortable as I can imagine a rigid carbon,, drop bar bike with similar tires to be. My steel Salsa Vaya is still smoother in chatter and bumps but the weight and efficiency give away is too much.

    The Search is very, very smooth and also very efficient pedaling. It really responds to pedal input, and also handles very stable in gravel, and still snappy and responsive to steering input. Among the gravel miles I’ve done, two of the rides were 80 mile plus one day gravel grinder events….so I can attest to it’s endurance comfort. One of those days was a course I’ve ridden 3 times now and I can tell you I came feeling very fresh after 80 miles of random levels of bumpy pavement and gravel roads.

    I’ve also put about 200 miles on the bike with a set of Enve 3.4 carbon wheels with 25/27 Specialized road tires set up with tubes at 85psi. Nearly all of those miles were done in a two day mini tour from Santa Cruz to Paso Robles. I carried a extra clothes in a revelate style seat pack and having 3 bottle cages on the frame was a big plus for a 60 mile stretch that had no water or services. In my opinion the Search is an excellent road bike replacement, especially if you’re seeking an endurance road bike. I’ve ridden the newer Specialized Roubaix with the future shock, and also the Trek Domane with it’s suspension features and the Search is just as comfortable and just as snappy. Although, I do have the RedShift Shock Stop stem on my search so that does help with comfort. I think the Shock Stop stem is a better solution than Specialized or Trek’s efforts. It’s light, simple, cheap and works on any modern bike/fork/frame.

    Things I really like about the Search XR Carbon: Light, snappy, comfortable. Highly versatile with multiple wheel options and clever and stealth rack and fender mounts and multiple bottle racks, but also easy to strip the bike down to road bike appearance. Three Bottles on the frame is great for remote long rides in hot weather.

    Things I’m so-so on: My jury is still out on the 1X Force drivetrain…I like how quiet and well suited it is for bumpy terrain, compared to say Ultegra, but it certainly doesn’t shift as smooth as the Ultegra 11sp I had on previous Stigmatta. And even with a 10/42 cassette it’s still lacking in range…I plan to try out the 9/46 cassette from e-Thirteen. Also, I initially had some trouble with the press fit BB. It was creaking loudly after 100 miles…a couple attempts to remedy finally worked by pressing out the bearings and applying Green Label Locktite before re-installing. 200 miles since that fix and no further issues (knocking on wood). I get the that press fit BB solves some issues like q-factor and tire clearance, but it’s a bit out of place IMO on an adventure bike, but perhaps it will be fine.

    Prior to buying the Search XR’s we looked at the Hakka MX, the newest Warbird, the Open UP, Salsa Cutthroat, and a few others. Overall, the wife and I are really thrilled with the Search XR and highly recommend it.

    1. One other comment: we’ve taken the Search XR on some moderately buff single track in Bend as well as some Santa Cruz area riding like Wilder Ranch, Emma McCrary and Nisene with the 40c Ramblers and they really handle great. My next review will be after we get and try out the 650b wheels and tires on these bikes.

  6. If that locktite does not work, try Loctite #609 Retaining Compound, which is designed to fill gaps that the regular thread lockers are not designed to do. They even sell a level up from this one that will fill even larger gaps (these are pro, not consumer line products). I’ve been fighting with some wheel bearing cartridges that regular thread locker would not fix. Only have one ride on it so far (we got 21 inches of snow over the weekend) but so far so good.

    Thanks for the comparison with the Domane and Roubaix vs the Shock Stop stem.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *