Norco might be better known for mountain bikes. But its Valence road bike draws immediate design and ride parallels with some of the best all-rounder bikes in its category – and does so at a bargain price.
Highs: Excellent ergonomics but enthusiastic chassis with neat detailing and great spec
Lows: Tektro brakes can’t compete with the best Shimano SLR-EVs
Buy If: You want a really buoyant feeling, all weather all rounder that you can buy online or from a ‘real’ shop
You’ll find the first clue that Norco has been paying close attention to the shakers and movers in the road all-rounder or sportive/gran fondo category at the bottom end of the forks. The rolled backed ‘wrist’ just above the dropout slot section allows more forward rake for increased flex without altering actual wheel position and it’s straight out of the Cannondale Evo and Synapse design manual.
The very sloped tapering top tube with long, skinny carbon seatpost extension was pioneered in the mainstream by Giant nearly 20 years ago. There’s a lot about the ride feel of the Valence that reminds us of Giant’s Defy model too and that’s certainly no bad thing.
Costs are cut with the rs500 chainset: costs are cut with the rs500 chainset Immediate Media
Costs are cut with the RS500 crankset
While there’s a useful amount of shock and vibration damping through the skinny hourglass seatstays and kicked up tapered chainstays, the Valence is definitely more visceral and responsive than we expected from its ‘endurance’ bias. There’s a bit of bounce in the pedalling gait, particularly in the first few power strokes as you get the wheels turning, but once cadence picks up and the rhythm settles it builds into an impressively positive surge of speed.
That meant we never felt threatened by climbs – or by the lighter bikes we were riding with it – and it never struggled to push the pace even up tightly packed contours.
When it comes to kit the Valence scores well too. The Shimano 105 group is a clear cut above Tiagra in terms of shift feel. As it’s 11 rather than 10 speed, it also retains a very similar gap between most ratios despite Norco choosing a wide range 11-32 tooth cassette.
While it’s still a 105 chainset the RS500 comes from the previous Shimano generation and has solid arms and a 5 bolt chainring pattern. That makes finding economical spares easier but it’s heavier and not as stiff as the latest FC5800 chainsets on new 105.
Shimano’s RS010 wheels aren’t the lightest either, but they’re tight and responsive – and Continental’s Ultra Sport II 25mm clinchers are a great, surefooted and smooth yet speedy connection to the road.
Descents are a speedy and surefooted experience – just remember the brakes aren’t 105: descents are a speedy and surefooted experience – just remember the brakes aren’t 105 Steve Behr
Descents are a speedy and surefooted experience – just remember the brakes aren’t 105
A relaxed 72.5 degree steering angle is matched to a long wheelbase to create a naturally stable stance on the road that makes it easy to get the most from those Contis without undue worry. Again the frame has more authority and precision woven into its mid-modulus fibre and ArmorLite resin construction than you might think at first glance too – and it holds speed on descents confidently and comfortably.
You will, however, need to start working the Tektro brakes earlier than you would have done had Shimano 105 stoppers been included alongside the drivetrain.
The tall head tube means you’re likely to spend more times in the hooks of the handlebar to dodge the wind and pin the front wheel down. It’s not as radically “drops are the tops” high as bikes like Specialized’s Roubaix though, and the upright position will be appreciated by those with stiffer spines.
Even the steerer spacers show an impressive level of detail, with two carbon headset spacers sandwiching a silver grey anodised alloy spacer that matches the headset top cap. There are interchangeable frame mounted chain keeper tabs to suit compact or standard inner chainring sizes too, and the care pack also includes alternative frame plugs for Di2 electric shifting wires rather than conventional cables.
Both fork and frame have very discreet inside-edge mudguard stay mounts too, while the scooped seat tube back means generous tyre and mudguard clearance for UK utility use.