The Norco Search
I think the first point of a bike is to make you smile. The second point of a bicycle is getting you from one place to another. This Norco Search does both. Over the past couple weeks I’ve had the opportunity to ride a Norco Search from Auburn Bike Company to test out, but first, a few disclaimers. I’m 6’4” and this bike is a 58cm bike. The seat post allows for fine leg extension but the reach is a little short so I haven’t spent much time in the drops. I’m being compensated for my work by Auburn Bike Company. That being said, I’ll tell you what I really think of this bike because I wouldn’t want to lead you awry.
I was told to go beat on this bike and put it through its paces. I can do that. I was given two wheelsets, the first, WTB Ci24 650b rims laced to a Stans Ti3.30 hub with thin bladed spokes. The gear range on this wheelset is phenomenal with a 10-42 tooth cassette. It should be noted that with the drivetrain on the bike, the chain doesn’t fit in the 50-42t so the limit screws have been adjusted accordingly. I have not had a need for the 42t chainring in all the riding that I’ve done on the bike thus far. The second wheelset was the stock set that I admit, I never used. I was going to try them out but I never had a ride that I would have prefered a standard 700x32c tire. The Horizon 650bx47c tires were just that good.
I started by picking the bike up from Auburn Bike Company on a Friday night on my way up to Reno. The weather reports were ominous for the following day but that didn’t stop me from convincing two poor fools to join me for a loop around the Reno, Truckee, Tahoe area. I was curious to see how the Horizon 47c tires would handle the gravel heading up Henness pass. We left Reno all bundled up fighting the chill in the air. There was a layer of fog chilling us to the bone as we set off west out of town. My friends Patrick, and Camilo, some triathletes from Reno dared to go for a Will Ride. I had built a route on Strava using the global heatmap on some roads that I’d never been on but apparently went through. They agreed to join me for what would be their biggest days ever on cross bikes. After a stop in a breakfast cafe we headed out through Verdi, across an old bridge, and then up Henness Pass. The weather was on our side. The foretold torrential downpours were nowhere to be seen. The weather stayed nice and chilly all day as we climbed up near Verdi Peak and then descended down towards Boca Reservoir. I was blown away by the WTB Horizon 47c tires. They had a surprising amount of traction and rolled well out of town. When it came to the rocky gravel roads the tires were supple and I had no trouble bombing through rocky sections. I should mention I did rim strike a few times on some square edge rocks but the WTB Ci24 rims didn’t seem to care what I did to them. After descending down a forest service road at no brakes speed, hitting the wall rides on the mountain side of turns, and sending it off water bars, we arrived at the paved road along Boca reservoir. From there we rode south on the pavement, below 80, and into Truckee from the sweet bike path along the river. The guys were bonking and feeling the constant headwind in their legs so we stopped at 50/50 Brewing in Truckee. We ordered a large burger each and a large pizza to split between the three of us. We made it all disappear.
Due to the pace we had been making and how tired they were already, Patrick decided to throw in the towel. They were picked up from the brewery while I made an amendment to the route and rode up Old Donner Pass on a full stomach. Don’t do it. It’s the worst. We met at the tunnels where we explored a bit, grabbed a few pictures, and I played on the granite slabs. A few things to note, those granite slabs are pretty slippery when wet, and Horizon tires will surprise you with their traction. I suppose running hydro disk brakes helped a bit too. The air was chilly and a storm was blowing in over the top of the pass. I raced down and had them pick me up at the bottom of the pass because why would you ever get in a car to go down a pass? We returned to Reno and took some warm showers to feel alive again. Patrick and his girlfriend Tara were kind enough to feed me even more before I drove south that night down 395, through Hope Valley, and over Carson Pass. Driving over the pass, my truck was getting blown all over the place in the high winds and I was curious where I was going to be riding the following day. I camped out in the bed of my truck underneath the hard cover in one of my favorite camping spots right between Kirkwood and Silver Lake. I listened to the the wind pelt the trees, and the rain pelt my hard cover through the night.
I rolled out of camp at about 6am and drove down the mountain via Mormon Immigrant where I had to slow at times for visibility purposes and my wipers not being able to keep up. As I passed Sly Park in a torrential downpour I continued down the mountain to Placerville. Where I stopped for coffee and to wait out the weather. Now I know what you’re thinking, “Will, what about rule #5? “ To which I’ll respond, I didn’t want to destroy trails at Sly Park by riding them in sloppy conditions. I decided to check out the dirt east of Spanish Flat after much perusing of maps at a coffee shop.
I parked at the bottom of a hill knowing that I had a limited amount of time to explore trails between massive storms moving through the area. Near Spanish Flat there is a small picnic area just past a bridge and down by a creek. It’s very picturesque and was the perfect place to launch a quick escapade. The climb from the truck warmed me up and made me question my decision to bring a rain jacket, but the cool air balanced the temperature well. I started out onto a dirt road, not exactly sure where I was going but knowing that people had been there before… clearly, because it was a road. I’m not sure if it was my heavily caffeinated body, or the bike that made my fly up hills and rail slick corners, but it felt good. I kept pushing the bike a bit further, and further just to see where the tires would slip. They only slipped in greasy, snotty, mud that would cause any tire to slip. I found some singletrack after being turned around by multiple private property signs and rode up wet rocks and roots pretty smoothly. I was surprised how much traction I had over pine needles and how much these nearly bald tires would hook up. Nearing the top of the hill, heading east into the mountains, I heard a large crash that sounded like a large cannon going off on the other side of the hill. It was not a canon. It was actually thunder and a wall of rain heading up the hill towards me. It was time to turn around and see how well the Norco handled the descents. The hydro disk brakes were marvelous in the wet conditions with excellent modulation. I openly admit to giggling about being able to break late in wet conditions as well as being able to comfortably send it off roots and ledges in the road. I was airing out the tops of rolling hills on the way back down to my truck with a surge of adrenaline to keep me moving. It was exciting! I made it to my truck, completely drenched, cold, but grinning from ear to ear. I put the bike up on the rack to get washed by the rain, and changed into some warm, dry clothes. It was a good weekend and I was looking forward to the next few trips on the Norco Search.