Review: Threshold C1By Joe Pinzone | Published Jun 10, 2014
Right Out of the Box
The graphics are simple but visually eye-catching. The frame is a matt carbon grey with subtle accents and just a splash of color. You won’t be able to miss that the bike is a Norco, however, as the name is splashed all over the frame in a lighter gray color. I have to say, it’s striking to see in person. I’ve ridden quite a few bikes, but this is one that draws the attention and comments of your fellow riders (and to be clear – they weren’t looking at my legs!).
Road Test Ride
The Pacific Northwest is anything but Kansas flat (no insult intended to any Jayhawk fans out there). Finding some pretty decent rollers and steeps out here is pretty easy. One of my favorite places to go hill climbing is out by Larch Mountain. The average grade is 6%, but there are quite a few sections where you get to have some fun with 13-16% slopes. One section has a 17% grade although it is quite possible that the lactate welling up in my quads made it all the way to my eyes and distorted my vision. Swapping out the stock wheels/tires for a set of Dura Ace clinchers made a long road ride, well, pleasant. With that said, the Threshold climbed pretty well given that it’s not a road bike and the wheel base is longer than a standard road bike. The frame was also stiff enough that there wasn’t a lot of sway when standing up and getting out of the saddle.
Cornering and Handling
Descending was a lot of fun as it was predictable and smooth in tracking the contour and curves of the road. That is, until you came to a really tight turn at high speeds – where I felt a bit of twitchiness and excitement (more on this a bit later). Fortunately, you’re unlikely to be traveling that fast in a cross race – and if you are – cornering is probably not going to be an issue for you.
The Threshold is a lot of fun to ride. The carbon frame is a pleasant balance between stiffness and comfort. You won’t waste a lot of energy when turning the screws and you won’t feel like you went a few rounds with your local MMA fighter after a long ride. This translates into longer and better training rides; which in turn, will help you perform better on race day.
Dirt Test Ride
Well, you’re not buying this bike because of your love for asphalt; you’re buying this bike because you’re serious about cross. When it comes to dirt, this bike does not disappoint. Climbing is dependable and confident. With proper weight balance in combination with the Threshold’s geometry, spin-outs are unlikely. The Clement Crusade tires grip all types of terrain really well and more importantly, move you through it. Descending on the Threshold is a pure rush of adrenaline - and will leave you screaming, “more, more, more”; unfortunately the hills usually leave me hyperventilating, “less, less, less” (through no fault of the bike mind you).
The Threshold will bring a big smile to your face in fast sweeping corners and leave you breathless in fast tight corners. The Threshold’s geometry has a slightly smaller bottom bracket drop than other cross bikes. This means that it’s very responsive (some may say twitchy) and requires you to be on your “A” game anytime you enter a fast or loose material corner lest you end up exciting the crowd with an untimely spill. Of course, with superior handling skills this is less of an issue.
Handling and Ride Feel
The Threshold is made for mud, grass and gravel. The nastier the conditions the better it performs. The geometry combined with the right tire pressure in the tires and this bike will get you from point ‘A’ to ‘B’ with speed and confidence. The hydraulic disc brakes modulate well and allow you to travel at high speeds with the confidence that you will be able to take a corner without locking up the tires and sliding out. The Threshold soaks up gravel and ruts without pummeling you into submission. There is a particular trail section that I like to ride where, on other cross bikes, I’ve been nearly bounced off the handle bars due to the steep decent and ruts in the trail; not so with the Threshold. My knuckles are still white, but I no longer have to pray before entering that particular section. This bike will increase your confidence in your race abilities - plain and simple.
Trainer Test Ride
Why would you ever use this bike on a trainer? Rain or shine, get out there and hit a trail. If a bike could get hives from being indoors, this might just be the one.
Race Test Ride
Ok, time to put up or shut up. After taking the Threshold on a variety of road and dirt rides I was curious on how it would work for me on race day. Maybe I should train like I was racing, but there is something about the real adrenaline of race day that always gets me going. So, I get called up to the front (always a good feeling) and while the officials are going over last minute announcements, all I can hear is the riffing of the guitar in AC/DC’s Thunderstruck in my head and that just set the tone for the rest of the day. This bike reeks of pure aggression and expects to be ridden hard – and it doesn’t disappoint. Truth be told, the Threshold brought more capability than I did to race day. It held its line and was true in the sand and mud, its quick and responsive cornering allowed me to make adjustments with confidence, even on the off camber stuff and even dealing with the obstacles was enjoyable – as represented by the dirt stuck to my teeth due to my constant smiling. I took second place at this particular Cross Crusade race and I truly believe that it was in no small part due to this bike. Thanks Norco!
Riding with aggression – this bike will not appreciate being ridden by the timid nor will you get your money’s worth if that is your riding style. The carbon frame, tapered head tube and fork maximize front end stiffness and are highly responsive and when coupled with the SRAM hydraulic brakes (with their superior modulation) you get a solid and high performing bike component fit out. Furthermore, disc brakes allow for better clearance and give the rider maximum control riding through mud, sand, snow, grass and gravel – which is a good thing. The Easton bar and stem post combination are also a nice touch and speak to Norco’s approach of not putting off-brand or cheap components on a serious cross bike.
We Didn't Like
There isn’t much to not like about this bike. The low bottom bracket drop has both advantages and disadvantages. It allows the bike to be very responsive and at the same time feel a bit twitchy. Depending on your riding style and capability this may or may not prove to be a concern. This bike also features internal cable routing (which is a good thing in the muddy cross environment) except when it came to the front derailleur cables. I don’t understand this as they obviously considered internally routing the cables to be important (I personally feel this is important in a high end cross bike and certainly one at this price point) but they weren’t consistent in that approach. Hopefully this gets addressed in their next version.
Another issue is that for a 59, it’s a bit short with a 57 top tube, which is similar to that of a Ridley, and adds to the twitchiness of the handling.
The bike comes with what I would consider a set of training wheels – so upgrading those for racing is a given. The only other upgrade choice comes down to preference on whether you should upgrade the drivetrain or the cockpit. My opinion would be to upgrade the drivetrain next, but that is more personal preference.
The Final Say
The Norco Threshold is testosterone made solid. It is a race bike pure and simple; it’s not for the faint of heart or for those who don’t like pushing the envelope. Its eye catching in a subtle way and will attract the attention of your fellow riders. Norco’s proprietary carbon cyclocross frame is engineered to be highly responsive and stable over a variety of terrain – it’s lightweight, stiff and strong. It comes with pretty decent componentry and only the wheels are in need of serious upgrade. If you’re serious about racing and want a machine that will deliver on your demands – then the Norco Threshold is the cross bike for you.
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- First Impressions
- On the Road
- On the Dirt
- Race Performance
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