The Valence Carbon 4 is the cheapest of Norco’s carbon fibre ‘endurance road’ bikes, and shares a frame with the more expensive Valence Carbon 3 and Carbon 2. The top-of-the-range Carbon 1 and Di2 versions look the same but use higher-strength carbon to deliver a reduced frame weight.
Ride & handling: Solid pedalling feel, more momentum than acceleration
On paper, the Norco has an interesting combination of numbers. The head tube and chainstays are relatively long, as you’d expect from a bike with the ‘endurance’ tag. But the head angle is fairly steep and the top tube is fairly long, too. It all hangs together, though, offering a comfortable yet purposeful riding position.
The Norco looks as though it ought to be a sprint weapon, with all that volume around the bottom bracket and chainstays. But the Valence’s character is more relaxed than that.
It’s significantly heavier than some similarly priced competitors, for a start, and the long head tube is great for comfort but less so for putting the power down. Chassis stiffness is fine, but the Norco is one for winding up to speed gradually rather than hammering.
Deep chainstays are combined with curved, flattened seatstays
Once it has gathered momentum, though, the Valence is reluctant to let it go – in a good way. It rolls along with considerable enthusiasm and impressive levels of comfort.
The 25mm Conti tyres have a lot to do with that, but the Valence’s slender, flattened, curved seatstays take some of the credit too. If you’re after a bike that chews through the miles and aren’t that interested in changes of pace, the Valence should be high on your list.
Frame & equipment: Good value spec but heavier than some
The Norco has a distinctive chassis that manages to be both fat and thin at the same time. There’s masses of volume in the backbone of the frame, running from the long, tapered head tube, through the large down tube to the straight-sided bottom bracket shell and out along the hugely deep chainstays.
Heading north, there’s a heavily flared seat tube, with a flattened, curved top tube completing the front triangle. The substantial bottom bracket area is built around a PressFit 30 shell; this SRAM-developed system uses the same 30mm crank spindle and oversize bearings as the BB30 standard but with the bearings contained in nylon cups that push into the frame.
The final piece of the frame puzzle is the seatstays, which in profile are amazingly thin compared with the rest of the frame. The flattened, curved tubes are – in common with most bikes of this ilk – designed to deliver a bit of shock absorption for added comfort. All the bigness makes for a suitably sturdy pedalling platform, although the penalty is a couple of hundred grams of additional frame weight compared to the lightest bikes in this category.
One detail we were very pleased to see is the presence of mudguard mounts on the frame and fork. The ability to fit proper mudguards may not be at the forefront of all buyers’ minds, but if you don’t have the luxury of separate summer and winter bikes then you (and your riding buddies) will be glad of the option come the bad weather. That’s especially true if the bike’s likely to get pressed into daily commuting service, too. It’s a useful extra dose of versatility with essentially no downside.
Shimano Tiagra takes care of shifting and braking duties but the cranks are from FSA
Despite being relatively cheap, the Norco still manages to rustle up a competitive spec. You get a Shimano Tiagra 2x10 transmission, teamed with an FSA Omega chainset – Shimano don’t offer cranks for the PressFit 30 standard developed by their biggest rival, SRAM, so a Tiagra full house was never going to happen here.
The Japanese company don’t get a look-in with the wheels either, with Norco speccing their own hubs laced to Alex rims with slender 1.8mm spokes to save a bit of weight.
The tyres are Continental Ultra Sports, in the cushy 25mm size. The Norco name is found on the bar, stem, saddle and seatpost too, and while those parts may not have the shop floor appeal of third-party brands, it’s all perfectly competent stuff.
This article was originally published in Triathlon Plus magazine, available on Zinio.