The rider’s ride
Norco Valence SL 2016, £1,600, evanscycles.com
This incarnation of Norco’s top-flight endurance bike is now sadly discontinued, usurped by the unstoppable stopping power of disc brakes. While I can’t tell you what the new disc brake Valence is like, if it shares anything with this Valence SL rim version, Norco is on to a winner. Because here I found a very reasonably priced bicycle indeed, in full Shimano Ultegra spec with Easton’s excellent EA90 SLX tubeless-ready wheelset, quality Continental rubber and even a branded saddle in the form of a Fizik Antares.
The head angle is relatively slack and the head tube relatively high to satisfy the ‘endurance’ moniker, but thanks to a compact frame reminiscent of Mike Burrows’ pioneering geometry for Giant, the Valence felt stiff (shorter tubes make stiffer frames) and highly flickable through the corners. With plenty of seatpost on show the Valence is springy enough in the rear to be comfortable, but if I had to be picky I’d change out the alloy bars for something more compliant.
Its silhouette is very pronounced and won’t be for everyone, and the lack of a prestige marque might put some people off. Others, though, will rejoice in such a good bike at a great price.