If you like riding and racing long distances, there’s a very good chance you’ve got a keen eye for cyclocross too. While a ‘cross race bike is a race tuned machine, other ‘cross bikes can also be great for long road miles on beaten up roads and forest trails. They are a brilliant tool for adventure as well as cross training. But one ‘cross bike is not like another.
The Norco Threshold is a performance series of ‘cross bikes from the Canadian MTB company. I was lucky enough to take one of the new Threshold bikes for a spin on my local trails, and felt remarkably at ease on such an agile bike. This model is the highest in the range, with the 990 gram frame using Norco’s SL carbon. I actually rode the model below, with a 1150 gram frame and Force CX 1, and without the carbon wheels. The geometry is the same, and it’s designed as an aggressive cyclocross racing geometry – not as a commuter. The frames are UCI legal as well.
The tubing on Norco frames are tailored to a given size. So bigger bikes get a heavier carbon layup, and it’s more svelte for smaller frames. That makes so much sense! What I couldn’t help but notice was the overbuilt fork – it’s two long blades of carbon running to a 15mm through axle. The steering is really direct, but not nervous. it also meant that when riding on some singletrack which wasn’t baby bum smooth, the steering remained really precise, without noticeable fork twist and deflection.
Norco have opted to use a 12mm through axle out back too, and this ties in with their idea about keeping the sub frame (chainstays and downtube) as stiff as possible, to keep the seat stays and top tube with a lighter build for ride compliance. The chainstays are massive, and the bike really accelerated when on the gas. Through axles have done wonders in the mountain bike world, so it makes sense that they are on other off road bikes too.
The frame is finished very neatly, even down to things like the cable exit ports. These are sealed with a two part plug of hard plastic and soft rubber, which seals out elements and keeps everything in place.
The two tone paint job on this model is eye catching – and this view from the front of the bike really shows how overbuilt the fork crown and head tube are. Even better though, is the amount of clearance the frame has for mud. Or you could squeeze some larger tyres in there if you’re not racing UCI ‘cross races.
Norco are really proud of their Canadian heritage – and all their bikes are designed right in Canada, and the company is still owned by two Canadian families. And the feedback on the bikes comes from their Factory team.
But how did it ride?
When I took the Threshold for a spin, I’d recently ridden my old 2009 era alloy CX bike. So it was a good reminder about what has improved since then. The Threshold felt as agile as my road bike when riding up a gravel road, and in the drops I was more than happy riding a singletrack descent that was full of corners. One thing that helped was the geometry, it just wasn’t too high in the front. I much prefer to ride a CX bike in the drops, especially when descending. You have more braking control, and keep more weight on your minimal front contact patch. IN this regard, the hydraulic disc brakes were fantastic, with no audible rub either, thanks to the through axles.
The frame still had that lovely muted feel that a good carbon frame gives, and I was pretty sure the wheels on the test bike had been setup tubeless. Until I pinch flatted.
The CX1 group was faultless, giving a good range and smooth shifting through the range. The frame has Di2 ports and when SyncroShift comes to road Di2 – that will be a game changer for ‘cross.
Comfort on a bike comes down to fit, and I was lucky that Norco have a model with my own Goldilocks tope tube length: 55.5cm. but from the short ride I took on the Threshold, I’d happily pull one into by stable of bikes if the opportunity arose. It is a super fast and comfortable CX race bike, that I’d happily use for my road bike too with a tyre change if I wasn’t racing.
And that’s where this bike fits. It’s probably not an adventure bike for loading up with frame bags or for touring. It’s got too much of a performance geometry for that. But if you’re after something for ‘cross racing or just plain riding hard on old roads and smooth trails – this is one to look at.
For more details on Norco cyclocross bikes head to their website. 2016 model information should be online in September. As an example, this model sells for less than $AUD5000.