Leonardo Di Vinci said “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. I was reminded of this when riding the Norco Valence. We live in an age when the ‘best’ bikes must be super light, super stiff, aerodynamic ultra-engineered masterpieces, fitted with power meters, tracked by GPS, logged on Strava, and admired leaning against the cafe wall. The Valence ticks some of these boxes, but they soon became irrelevant when riding it, as I was taken back to the pure enjoyment of riding a bike. I simply embraced the feel of pushing against the wind, battling the gradient, and the sweet sense of efficiency on the way back when these elements work in your favour. Just a kid and his bike.
When reviewing a bike I like to fit my power meter to it, to get a sense of the efficiency and especially the climbing proclivity of the rig in question. With the Norco Valence, however, I felt this was unnecessary because that is not what this bike is about. The valence is not the lightest, sexiest, or fastest, nor indeed is it the most expensive bike. It measures ok in these metrics, but instead it prompted me to assess it on the fun factor; and it passed with flying colours. In the Valence, Norco has delivered a bike which gets on with the job without fuss and lets you enjoy the ride. The Ultegra Di2 shifting components go unnoticed, which is generally a sign of good performance. The Ultegra Di2 group set continues to impress in terms of performance to price ratio.
When riding the Valence, the frame geometry put me quickly at ease, with predictable smooth handling, assured cornering and a reasonable level of compliance to nullify the rougher roads. The marketing pitch from Norco about the Valence claims that: comfort and high performance coexist in a single package. This sort of claim is common, but I felt that in this case it was a fitting description. The Valence is not a race machine. The geometry and componentry mean the rider sits in a more relaxed position, but I didn’t feel that this slowed me particularly, but rather put me at ease in the saddle, and as I took to the hills I could just enjoy the journey.
Visually the bike is pleasing, but not particularly noteworthy. The ‘movistar’ style colouring works well and is a welcome variation to the mass of black or white bikes around. The reasonably upright style frame geometry is visually apparent, which I find less appealing compared to an aggressive looking frame with a slammed stem, but I guess the Valence is not pretending to be something other than the bike that it is.
When I saw the bike was fitted with Fulcrum 7 wheels, the entry point wheels from the Fulcrum range, I was expecting a less than scintillating ride. I was however, pleasantly surprised to find that the 7s offer a responsiveness and ride that belie their weight on the scales. Fitted with some 25mm Continental Grand Sport tyres, the wheel package performed admirably. The wider tyres definitely aided in the absorption of road vibrations—as did the saddle. The Fizik Strada saddle was quite comfortable; sometimes saddles with this amount of paddling can seem bulky and not engage directly with the sit bones. The Strada saddle was quite comfortable and is a good match for a bike like this, targeted at long hours of riding, with an emphasis on comfort.
While the Valence comes with Ultegra Di2 shifting componentry, it is fitted with a 105 crankset and cassette and is stopped via Shimano BR-R561 brakes. I was impressed by the power and the quality of the modulation the brakes delivered. Braking power was immediate and effective, quite impressive from the lower end Shimano range. The 105 crankset is not as aesthetically pleasing as the higher spec units, but is obviously a compromise to help reduce the overall cost. The gearing spec would allow for even the steepest gradients to be attacked at 90rpm. A compact front crank (50/34 tooth combination) is coupled with an 11-32 tooth cassette to give what is really quite an astonishing range of gears. I never got close to using the lowest gears. I think that the 11-32 tooth cassette coupled with a regular 39/53 chainset would give a better range, but in the end this depends highly on individual’s preference and the steepness of their local gradients.
The Valence frameset tips the scales, impressively, at less than 1000g, while including some good features such as an oversized headtube junction, large BB shell and internal cable routing. There are some specific design functions included in the fork and chain-stays, aiming to give extra absorption of road vibration. The seat stays feature a concave curve towards the bottom bracket in order to aid flexion and increase comfort. The forks utilise a similar curve which is accentuated by having the lugs drop down vertically right at the fork tip. It is difficult to tell during test rides whether these features are the source of the compliance, but the bike certainly delivered a very comfortable ride.
The Norco Valence retails at $3,199, which is very competitive for a quality 11 speed Di2 equipped bike. The hard core racer will not find the spec sheet overly alluring, but for someone who wants to simply jump on their bike and spend anywhere from 10 minutes to 10 hours on the road simply enjoying the ride, the Valence is a great prospect.
Whilst my encounter with the Norco Valence was brief, it has reminded me that riding my bike is about more than data, power, segment chasing, or even the sweet feeling of inflicting hurt on your mates up the hills. The Valence brought me back to that simple of enjoyment of turning the pedals over and not thinking much at all, but just being, on the bike and in the moment. It is bliss.
A high quality machine with little touches like an integrated chain keeper and chain stay guards. The bike exhibits and an overall sense of care and quality beyond the price tag’s suggestion.
A bike definitely aimed at the endurance market in terms of frame geometry. A stiff bottom bracket area compliments the compliant areas of the frame to deliver a bike which actually performs well across the board. Gear ratios could be a little too generous for those not tackling super steep hills on a weekly basis, but the componentry overall is well matched the overall intent of the bike.
A Di2 equipped bike with a thoughtfully designed frameset, which performs very well across a range of terrain. At an asking price of $3,199 the Valence is a very high value prospect, enough to be very tempting in a competitive area of the market. Compromises on crankset and wheels selection were cleverly done to allow the price to be lower than you might expect when first casting an eye over the bike.
A good value bike which delivers well across the board. The Valence offers a very good mix of performance and comfort which should suit many riders in the market for a rock solid training or sportif style bike.
Frame: Valence Mid-Modulus Carbon
Fork: Valence Mid-Modulus Full Carbon
Headset: Cane Creek 40-Series w/9mm Top Cover
Stem: Norco – Black w/Green
Saddle: Fizik Strada Mg – Black w/White
Seat Post: Norco Di2 Composite 27.2mm – UD w/Green
Wheels: Fulcrum Racing 7 Wide – Black
Tires: Continental Grand Sport Race w/NyTech – 25c
Shifters: Shimano Ultegra Di2 SL-6870 11spd
Front Derailleur: Shimano Ultegra Di2 FD-6870
Rear Derailleur: Shimano Ultegra Di2 RD-6870
Cassette: Shimano 105 CS-5800 11-32T 11 speed
Crankset: Shimano 105 FC-5800 11spd – 50/34T
Bottom Bracket: Shimano SM-BB71 Pressfit BB86
Chain: Shimano CN-HG600-11 11speed
Handlebar: Ritchey Comp Curve – Black
Brakes: Shimano BR-R561 – Black
Weight: 7.8kg 56cm
Distributor: Advance Traders www.advancetraders.com.au