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Norco Valence SL review

10 Dec 2015
Verdict:

Endurance is the name but value is the game. Does the Norco Valence SL have the kit where it counts?

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
Great value
Against 
Poor handlebars

Exclusively distributed in the UK by Evans Cycles, the Canadian Norco Valence SL is aimed squarely at the endurance market, with frame geometry and design created for those of us who prefer a longer ride at perhaps a steadier pace, with damping and efficiency at the heart of its design. Alongside the Vitus, it’s the only other bike here to use an Ultegra chainset to match its shifters. What else is there to get excited about? ‘Laterally stiff yet vertically compliant,’ says the marketing blurb. OK, we’ll see about that!

Frame

Norco Valence SL frame

The defining features of the Norco Valence SL’s frame design are extreme slopes and fluid stay shapes. The sharply angled top tube provides substantial standover height and, meeting a super-short 133mm head tube, helps  minimise losses through flex.

A very short seat tube gives the 27.2mm carbon seatpost take a more of a vibration-damping role, too. The Valence’s conservative 71° head angle marks this out as a bike designed for ache-free performance over distance – a fact further backed up by the bike’s 982mm wheelbase. Easy handling and all-day comfort are the name of the Valence’s game.

Groupset

Ultegra rocks up on the 50/34 chainset, shifters, and front and rear derailleurs. A 105 chain and 11-32 cassette complete the drivetrain, while Tektro brakes and 170mm cranks make great options too. The 11-32 cassette offers the widest range of gears of all four of these bikes, and when combined with the 50/34 chainset, provides the most comfortable route up a climb.

Gear shifts are performed with predictable crispness across the cassette, although our preference would be for a closer-ratio block on the rear, for really smooth shifting with less of a jump between gears. An 11-28 or 12-25 11-speed option is available for 105 cassettes, and both offer smaller gaps between ratios at the bigger end of the block. 

Finishing kit

Norco Valence SL headtube

Norco’s own alloy finishing kit is used for the stem and handlebars, the latter of which, as mentioned, is decidedly free of flex in the drops. The skinny carbon seatpost should help to isolate any road vibrations.

The only thing getting in the way of comfort on pitted roads are the own-brand alloy handlebars. Notwithstanding the cheap-feeling, almost padding-free bar tape they’re wrapped with, they’re way too stiff to offer the kind of comfort you need on this country’s back roads. Yes, that’s a bonus for on-the-drops sprints and climbs, but if you plan to spend more than a few hours in the saddle, you should swap them out for something with a little more built-in flex – such as Zipp’s sub-£50 alloy Service Course SL bars, if opting for high-end carbon is out of your budget.

A very welcome addition to the set-up is a set of Easton EA70 alloy clinchers. Far from bargain basement, they’re very decent training wheels, and carry the advantage of a 22mm external, 17.5mm internal diameter, which gives the 25c Continental Grand Sport Race tyres a slightly wider contact patch with the road and allows lower pressure to be used for maximum riding comfort. Continental’s 25c tyres are a huge bonus, and serve to improve riding comfort and cornering confidence further. 

Riding position

Norco Valence SL groupset

From the moment we first stood out of the saddle and powered up a climb, the Valence’s frame make-up became an obvious boon. The sloping tubes give the impression of a bike that you can really heave around beneath you, with the feeling of a low centre of gravity despite its fairly standard bottom bracket drop of 70mm. The bike’s all-up weight of 7.42kg (the lightest on test by 300g) obviously helps here, too. The stiff bars and rear end give a solid feel to the bike as you power skyward. But riding uphill – which you’re obviously going to encounter during any good sportive, and what this bike is designed for – is only half the story.

On the road 

If covering big distances is your thing, the Norco is a banker. Cornering isn’t a frantic affair, thanks to the long wheebase of the SL, but this gives a more relaxed ride for longer. The design of the rear stays really helps with all-day comfort, and the great length of exposed carbon seatpost helps keep road vibes at bay. We’re also big fans of Fizik’s Aliante perch, which comes as part of the Valence’s standard build. For long days in the saddle, it offers just the right amount of padding where it matters.

Norco Valence SL review

If this all gives the impression of a spongy ride, that’s not the case. The Norco acquits itself admirably over rolling terrain when you’re really putting the hammer down. There’s also enough precision from the low front end, which employs a tapered steerer, to entertain and still make fast cornering something you can be confident of.

In short, the Valence has distance riding just about nailed, with a smooth ride quality allied to punchy response and light weight. A few component swaps, notably the bars, would turn this good bike into a truly excellent one.

Geometry

Geometry chart
Claimed Measured
Top Tube (TT) 525mm 525mm
Seat Tube (ST) 450mm 455mm
Down Tube (DT) 615mm
Fork Length (FL) 375mm 376mm
Head Tube (HT) 135mm 133mm
Head Angle (HA) 71.75 71
Seat Angle (SA) 74 73.8
Wheelbase (WB) 987mm 982mm
BB drop (BB) 72.5mm 70mm

Spec

Norco Valence SL
Frame Valence SL high-modulus carbon frame and fork
Groupset Shimano Ultegra
Brakes Tektro Quartz R741
Chainset Shimano Ultegra, 50/34
Cassette Shimano 105, 11-32
Bars Norco compact lite, alloy
Stem Norco Lite, alloy
Seatpost Norco Lite carbon, 27.2mm
Wheels Easton EA70
Tyres Continental Grand Sport Race, 25c
Saddle Fizik Antares
Contact evanscycles.com
Price: 
£1,600

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