The Valence C1 is a sportive bike that’s close to best in class, combining plush comfort with enough stiffness to handle powerful sprints without twisting or flexing. It’s responsive and sprightly, and has one of the best specs for the money, which includes Ultegra 11-speed (and FSA BB30 Energy chainset) and Ultegra brakes.
Based in British Columbia and famed for its off-road and full-suspension bikes, Norco isn't the first name that springs to mind when it comes to lightweight carbon machines. The 2014 version of the Valence endurance bike could go some way to changing that. The frame is built using 24 ton-rated carbon fibre, and while the head-tube is a little taller than an out and out race bike 185mm on our test bike, the longer top-tube and seat/head angles – steeper than usual by a degree each – keep the steering response pleasingly snappy.
The wheelbase is a little over a metre, adding an element of stability and balancing out well with the responsive front end. What sets the Norco apart though, and pushes it into the realms of the best endurance frames around, is the amount it reduces vibration from poor road surfaces.
The C1’s combination of highly bowed seatstays and slender lightweight carbon post makes for a back end that's just wonderfully plush. Up front the forks isolate the bars from road buzz with an equal amount of conviction. Thankfully none of that plush feel comes at the detriment of stiffness where you want it, because through the oversized BB30 bottom bracket and deep chainstays the Valence is solid as a rock. It handles powerful sprints without twisting or flexing under pressure.
Through twists and turns the Valence is sprightly and responsive, and at the absolute limit it comes to close to the best in class. It’s a little softer than Cannondale’s Synapse, Giant’s Defy, the Cervelo R3 and Trek's Madone. That said it’s still very much a sportive bike – with the emphasis on 'sport'.
On climbs the low overall weight of the C1 certainly helps; it’s no doubt assisted by high-grade running gear too. The Fulcrum Racing 5 wheels are a level above what most of the competition are running, and they're shod with some seriously classy rubber: Vittoria Diamante Radiale tyres, in a comfort-friendly 24c, are super supple. This is down to the way they’re constructed – rather than using crossed, overlaid plies, the Radiale uses parallel strands running radially. It thus enables the casing to deform more easily. The tyres combine class-leading comfort and light weight – and they certainly feel very, very quick.
Switching to decent, lightweight tyres will flatter any frame, and the Diamantes certainly do so. The only downside we found is a tendency to punctures – we've run Radiales in the summer without any problems, but sadly on grimy, wet January roads they fell foul of flints and thorns on more than one occasion.
The level of equipment on the Valence is also among the very best at the price: Ultegra 11-speed gears and Ultegra brakes combine with an FSA BB30 Energy chainset. Energy isn’t at the same level as Ultegra, though it shifts well and is amply stiff. Our only criticism is that the large white and red graphics printed on the crank arms wear easily – after just one ride we’d managed to completely scrub off the A of FSA on the non drive side crank arm.
Up front a nice, stiff own brand stem meets a super shallow drop bar, while out back a slender unidirectional carbon fibre seat post is topped with a quality micro-adjust clamp (very reminiscent of Syntace’s brilliant P6) holding a quality Fi'zi:k Antares saddle. It's all quality stuff, that's truly impressive a bike in this price bracket.
It’s always good when a bike comes out of left field and takes you by surprise, and Norco with the Valence has done exactly that. The C1 is a quite brilliant all-rounder, and if you favour comfort above handling and stiffness it’s an excellent option. Take into account a superb spec and the reasons to buy the Valence become compelling.