Some of the WTB family went off on a deeper adventure last fall. Starting in Reno Nevada we climbed onto our Norco Search Adventure Bikes and headed west onto unpaved forestry roads.
…Actually, the destination was Mendocino California.
Adventure, we knew, was going to be lurking around every turn like a villain in a horror movie… an unpredictable, benign villain in a G-rated cartoon parody of a horror movie.
The route was to be mostly unpaved, about 60%, which according to math meant there was still going to be a substantial amount of pavement. This was the perfect sort of condition for an Adventure Bike.
As an experienced road rider I can’t stand riding a Rugged Terrain Bicycle(RTB) AKA “Mountain Bike” for more than a short time on pavement. It’s just too inefficient. Conversely as an experienced RTB’er, I know that riding a road bike on an off-road trail is slow and unenjoyable.
In general, “Hybrid” compromises can have substantial downsides when used in the extreme ends of their designed realms. The key to designing a successful hybrid bicycle is to narrow the spread of the intended usage. For example: A bike designed to handle both Downhill Mountain Bike Racing and Road Racing would win neither, there’s just too much opposition of required features. There’s a common need to be “fast” (relative to other contenders in the discipline), but going fast downhill on rugged terrain requires a different set of features from going fast on smooth pavement.
If you narrow the spread of intended use to say, from downhill RTB riding to cross-country RTB riding you have just re-invented the “All Mountain” bike. In Norco’s world that would be the Sight.
If you narrow the range from smooth pavement to cross-country RTB you have what is commonly called a Gravel Bike. Or in Norco’s parlance, an Adventure Bike.
Though we were expecting 60% “gravel”, it turned-out that a much more accurate term would have been “unpaved”.
The forestry roads were primarily dirt and there was definitely a lot of gravel, but also rock large enough to be called “rubble.”
The paved roads were in incredibly good shape, perfect for a skinny tired “go-fast” road bike.
The Search was such a good bike for this range of terrain. As smooth and fun on twisty paved descents as any road bike I’ve owned, and sturdy enough to take an incredible pounding on super rough, multi-mile, brake stressing, jackhammer descents of the forestry roads.
Watch the video below for a taste of the trip, but first a few highlights:
Day 1 was cold, it snowed!
I didn’t know you could be in California and feel like your were in the middle of nowhere.
Boy do they have trees!! In Ohio, we have scrub and bushes, but we call them trees.
They have things called “Goat heads” which are guaranteed to puncture your tires/tubes. We had tubeless tire set-ups… no flats.
We climbed a steep, unpaved hill (mountain) for 25miles!
One of the locals in a 4WD pick-up stopped to chat. He said he’s “never seen anyone try to ride a bike on these roads.” At the time we weren’t sure if we should feel pride or concern.
Here’s the video: