Heading into the race season I was in need of a reliable winter steed to carry me through the dreary winter months of road riding in Victoria. I could have repurposed my race bike, but instead opted to go out and get a dedicated winter bike to tackle the wet and grimy roads of the lower island. A quick shopping trip to Oak Bay Bikes landed me a Norco Valence disc 105, fully decked out for winter riding with a custom fender kit. Norco bikes often are value driven, and I was impressed that I got a full carbon frame and 105 grouppo at the price point of this bike.
The bike looked great. The matte finish on the carbon with nearly matching decals gave it a very clean, no-nonsense appearance while the subtle accents of blue matched the Victoria Wheelers’ team colours well.
I chose a 58cm frame with a Shimano 105 grouppo and wheels. I was a bit surprised that it weighed in at just over 10kg with fenders (added about 1kg – they are huge). I made a couple of minor changes in that I swapped in a Dura Ace stages crank and my preferred saddle, but other then that I rode it stock.
The first ride was great.
The bike felt very comfortable and was quite smooth and quiet over the bumps. This was not surprising as the Valence is Norco’s endurance style road machine. It has slack(er) head and seat tube angles, a much longer wheelbase, shorter top tube and ARC technology to mitigate road vibration and bumps. The basic premise of the ARC system centers around the seat stays being quite thin and slightly arc’ed to allow for flex that absorbs bumps but keeps the frame stiff. This is coupled with Norco’s power transfer engineering that channels all force applied by the rider through the downtube and chainstays to the rear wheel, making the frame feel pretty stiff and quick while maintaining the comfort of an endurance bike.
These are great qualities of the Valence and I think Norco has found a good compromise with this frameset. Norco also uses size specific engineering with all their carbon bikes tubes, meaning that each size frame the tube shape and diameter has been optimized for each frame. Basically, every frame size has slight variations on tube diameter and thickness to ensure that the larger size frames feel every bit as stiff as smaller ones.
Another great feature of this frameset is that it comes with built in fender and/or panier mounts. Installing fenders can be done in minutes. No rubs, no rattles and looks pro. And tons of tire clearance. I can run 32c tires with the fenders on! Obviously being a disc frame the limiting factors are frame clearance and Norco has engineered this bike to take up to a 38c I believe. I am really excited about putting on some larger tires and possibly going gravel on this thing. I have no doubt that this bike would eat up a Leechtown excursion or even some light cross trails with the right tires on.
After logging about 3000km since December on the Valence I feel I know this bike well enough to judge it. I was impressed with the performance of the 105 Grouppo. When it was new it shifted and did everything just like the Dura Ace on my race bike. The shifters are a bit big, but they are comfy and work well. This model came with a compact 50/34 crank and 28-11 cassette so it has gears for almost every climb. The road discs are great. My Valence 105 model is hydraulic and I would suggest that if anyone is considering discs, make sure to get hydraulic ones. Better modulation, brake feel and overall power.
The bike came equipped with Shimano CX10, which is the most entry level disc wheel Shimano makes. This wheelset is totally suited to taking a beating on the grimy roads as it is a cross wheelset, but they are dreadfully heavy. Hard to find a number from Shimano, but I’m thinking 2000g. These wheels coupled with a wire bead continental tire proved to be the weakest link in the package. So after an early flat on the rear I swapped in some Conti GP4Season folding clinchers which really improved overall performance. One thing I never cheap out on is tires. Tires are crucial.
On the road, the Valence is a great ride. I logged many 3-4 hour rides over the last 8 weeks and the comfort of the Valence is great. It’s nice to get home after a longer ride and not feel even a bit beaten by your machine. The higher handlebar height does make for a comfortable cockpit and the ergonova handlebars have a nice flatter top part for easy cruising. I found with the shorter top tube the drops maybe not as comfortable on longer hauls, but I think a slightly longer stem would help. The Valence also came built with a couple spacers under the bar so there is quite a bit of adjustability for the bar height. Maybe I’ll slam the stem for the summer.
So the Valence is great for longer hauls and endurance riding, but it did feel a little out of its element when the hot sauce is being applied. The Valence offers a comfortable and reliable platform for road and adventure riding with considerable flexibility for tire choice and rider position on the bike. The bike handles very predictably and without any twitchy feeling. The sloping top tube also allows for a super slick aero tuck which feels surprisingly stable on this machine.
Norco was aiming at the Fondo crowd with this bike and I think they came pretty close to the mark. If you are looking for a comfortable road bike to train on or race recreationally, the Norco Valence is well suited to that. The frame is stiff enough for speed, but compliant enough to give a considerably more comfortable ride then a standard race bike. Going disc with this model was a big win in my opinion.
Overall I really like the Norco Valence. Really nice looking design that has a truly functional side. I think a meaningful wheel upgrade would be the only thing I’d do different if I bought again as I think the frame and components deserve better than what was equipped on the stock bike. Nonetheless, I love my Norco’s (this is my 10th) and I like where Norco has gone with this model. It does many things quite well and offers considerable value for the buyer.
Enjoy the ride!
Eugene, Victoria Wheelers
Eugene Hahn is a long time member of the Victoria Wheelers Race Team and masters racer. This year he’s on the Norco Valence for the wet days and the Norco Tactic for his race season.