Fresh on the back of last year’s excellent Valence endurance bike comes this new lighter Valance SL.
It’s something we are starting to see more and more – whereas bikes used to have a lower grade carbon frame as you moved down the model/price spectrum, Norco has opted to use the hi-mod carbon chassis on this cheaper model. It makes the bike suitably light for its price at 7.5kg for a 58cm.
Ride and handling: silky yet nimble
The lightness translates into a bike that’s happy to hit the hills. Norco has cleverly engineered in plenty of compliance too, so the SL feels super smooth on all but the very worst surfaces. The back end is particularly supple thanks to the low-slung top tube and huge expanse of unsupported carbon seat post, which only add to Norco’s ARC (Applied Road Compliance) rear-end design.
The back end has slender stays that gently curve inwards before flowing seamlessly into the top tube. The chainstays curve upwards towards the dropouts, effectively lengthening them.
Its longer wheelbase adds stability that counters the front ends sharpness creating a bike that’s suitably poised for long days in the saddle, but still nimble enough to allow you to cut through the bends and descend at speed.
The Valence corners nimbly
The low-slung sloping frame design makes for a bike that you can really move around underneath you.
Frame and equipment: so-so bar mars an otherwise sorted spec
The Valence may be classed as an endurance bike but it retains a classic 72.5/73 angle combination, a reasonable length reach and a stack height only around 10mm taller than an out-and-out race bike.
On an Ultegra-equipped bike at this price point we’d expect a few compromises, and the alarm bells rang when we saw the non-Shimano brakes. It’s a great surprise to find the Tektro Quartz brakes had heaps of power and rigidity and great pads. Lever feel is a little on the hard side, but you soon adapt.
The other area we normally see compromise is in the wheels. Norco scores here too, with the solid dependable (and reasonably light) Easton EA70s shod with excellent 25mm Continentals.
The bar, though we like the shape and the compact drop particularly, is just overly stiff when riding on poor surfaces. The rest of the bike is so, so, good it does make the bar stand out. An upgrade to something classy and carbon would set the SL up as one of the best performing endurance bikes around.
We’re already big fans of the standard Valence, and now with this SL makeover our admiration has only grown. It shaves a bunch of weight from what wasn’t exactly a porker of an endurance bike in the first place (it shaves half a kilo from the similarly priced but higher spec C1 we tested last year). It retains the fine handling and smooth riding nature too.