The industry’s first batch of gravel, or mixed surface bikes, were adapted from ‘cross bikes on one side and endurance bikes on the other. The latest generation of these bikes are tailor made from the ground up for mixed surface challenges with none of the twitchy geometry or limited tire clearance of their forefathers – Gravel 2.0, if you will. The new Norco Search XR is firmly a member of this Gravel 2.0 family.

PELOTON / Images courtesy Norco

The first thing that struck us about the new Search was the paint. We know, we’re not supposed to be distracted by such aesthetic concerns, but the deep, smokey blue fade is sublime. It stands out, yet remains subtle and timeless.

Norco decided to up the bike’s fun factor, which meant improving its handling with a dose of performance. The bike is more aggressive in the cockpit, lower and longer than its predecessor, which balances rider weight better and should provide sharper, more precise control at the bars. But at the same time, the head tube is slacker, for more stability in soupy gravel or nasty rock gardens.

After the gorgeous color, the next visually striking feature is the chain stays. Significantly dropped, and significantly asymmetrical, the stays allow for a 42mm tire on a 700c wheel or 2.1″ on a 650b. It’s similar to the rear end of the OPEN U.P. or 3T Exploro designed by Gerard Vroomen.

When it comes to added value, Norco spent a lot of time ensuring the bike can adapt to whatever a rider can dream up. Its cable routing system is designed to handle 2x, 1x, mechanical, electronic and even a dropper post – all internally. On the SRAM Force1 build Norco has included a dropper post and uses a modified left hand FD shifter to activate the post. Our test build is a 2x Shimano Ultegra set up so unfortunately we won’t get to try that particular hack.

To create huge gear range Norco has even designed a front derailleur bracket that allows you to run a Shimano XTR Di2 group. Norco won’t sell you the bracket, but you can download the plans and 3D print your own. With the bike’s tire volume, stability and gearing potential the Search XR is a solid bike packing choice. It accepts fenders, racks and even has fork mounts, plus three water bottle mounts.

Our 58cm test bike is the Norco Search XR Ultegra build with a Praxis Zayante 48/32 crank set, turning an 11/34 cassette. Its got Clement USHUAiA wheels with 142/12mm and 100/12mm through axles rear and front and Clement X’Plor MSO tires. The cockpit features a Norco alloy stem with Easton’s great EA70 AX flared bars. Seat post and saddle are both from Norco. The bike weighs 9kg or 19.8lbs and costs $3800.

We’ll be putting our test bike through its paces over the next few weeks, including campaigning it at our own gravel event, the PELOTON Gravel Mob. For more info about our ride, click here, for more from Norco head to norco.com.