We review the Norco Valence A1 road bike
Norco Valence A1
FRAME AND FORK
The Valence is a slender beast. It looks a little odd at first glance thanks to the narrow, flattened seatstays curving one way and the top tube the other, but there’s a certain grace to it. The untapered head tube is very long, at 210mm. The down tube isn’t huge by modern standards, although it’s heavily manipulated – vertical-teardrop shaped at the front to a flattened almost-hexagon at the bottom bracket.
Threaded gear cable stops with adjusters on the down tube are a neat touch, allowing on-the-fly transmission tweaking without in-line adjusters in the cables. It’s a small thing, but plenty of bikes come with no adjusters at all apart from one on the rear mech, making it impossible to tune out slight misalignments without stopping mid-ride.
The fork has an aluminium steerer and traditionally-shaped curved, tapered carbon fibre legs. Both fork and frame have eyelets and clearance for mudguards, and the seatstays have rack mounts too (although if you want to use a rack and ‘guards you’ll have to double up on the single set of eyes at the dropouts). As well as their downwards curve, the seatstays do an hourglass swoop inwards.
Make no mistake, the Valence is startling value for money. When we unwrapped the bars and saw Shimano’s 105 STI levers on them we thought we’d been sent a more expensive bike by mistake, but no, that’s what you get. They’ve got a slightly more solid feel than the usual Tiagra units, although the most important difference is the concealed cable routing for a much cleaner bar set-up. Norco has specced 105 derailleurs too, although the 12-30 cassette is a Tiagra-level item (not that you’d notice). The FSA Gossamer compact chainset and SRAM chains are the only non-Shimano transmission components.
Also from Shimano is an R500 wheelset, the same as found on the Kinesis TK3 but this time shod with 25mm Schwalbe Lugano tyres. The tyres are OK on weight and acceptably fast-rolling, but occasionally felt a little squirmy under braking, as delivered by the now commonly-seen Tektro long-drop callipers. Norco’s own carbon fibre seatpost is a nice touch at the price, and the stem is a Norco-branded item too. It holds a pair of Ritchey shallow-drop bars that were a substantial 46cm wide on the test bike – smaller sizes get narrower bars.
Norco pitches the Valence as an endurance road bike, and that’s an accurate description. Those slender frame tubes can be a bit overwhelmed under hard efforts, but that’s not really what the Norco’s about. Wind it up to speed and it rolls along beautifully, with a distinct smoothness not commonly associated with mid-range bikes. Somewhere between the skinny back end, small-diameter carbon seatpost and 25mm tyres, the Valence produces impressive comfort. If you want to get some big miles in, this is the place to do it, although the very firm saddle takes a little getting used to.
On flatter terrain, the wide-range cassette can feel a little gappy – we occasionally found ourselves flicking between two adjacent sprockets because neither of them was quite right. The big range does mean you can hold on to the 50T ring a bit longer, though, and there aren’t many hills that the 34/30T bottom gear won’t get you up.
Once we’d fiddled with spacers a bit to get the bars lower on the long head tube, the riding position was fine, if inevitably on the less aggressive side. We’re not sure if it’s Norco’s mountain bike heritage that leads to the Valence having wide 46cm bars, but combined with the slightly relaxed frame angles it’s a confident rather than agile ride. It’ll certainly go around corners just fine, but needs a firmer touch than some of its rivals. The upside is that the Norco demands little attention on straighter roads, a boon if you decide to race a tri on it.
The Valence offers an exceptionally compelling overall package. The frame may not be cutting-edge and heavy or aggressive riders might want something with a firmer feel, but the Norco is a versatile, well-equipped and comfortable bike that’s more than capable of delivering a satisfying and rewarding ride. Add mudguards and it’d be very at home as an all-conditions fast commuter or winter trainer, and in out-of-the-box specification it’s well suited for big training miles. It’s not going to embarrass you in a first race season, either
- Frame and fork
Size tested: 57cm
Sizes available: 45, 48, 51, 54, 57, 60cm
Weight: as tested 9.2kg / 30.3lb
Frame weight: 1,840g
Fork weight: 490g
Frame: Valence double-butted alloy
Fork: Norco carbon
Chainset: FSA Gossamer, 54/30T
Bottom bracket: FSA MegaExo
Cassette: Shimano Tiagra, 12-30T
Chain: SRAM PC1031
Derailleurs: Shimano 105
Shifters: Shimano 105
Front: Shimano R501
Rear: Shimano R501
Tyres: Scwalbe Lugano
Wheel weight: 1,360g front / 1,940g back
- Other components
Bars: Ritchey Comp Curve
Headset: FSA Orbit
Saddle: Selle Royal Seta
Seatpost: Norco composite
Brakes: Tektro R539
+ Great spec offers startling value for money
+ Impressively comfortable for long rides
– Long head tube limits bar height adjustability
– May not suit more aggressive riders