NORCO VFR Disc 2009, £600, www.norco.com

There's a touch of the boy racer about the gloss finish and red go-faster stripes on our review sample, even though the lines are clean enough and black is at least the most understated colour Norco could have chosen.

The spec comprises aluminium frame and fork, 700c wheelset, Shimano Alivio drivetrain, and Avid hydraulic disc brakes.

The first ride around South London didn't set the world alight, with a few anthropometric niggles to sort fix: out went the vanilla pedals for a pair of BMX-style flats, and we swapped the 650mm Ritchey riser bar for something rather narrower.

With the bike feeling much more secure in hand and under foot, the Norco started to hold its own rather well around town.

However, it truly came into its own on a day trip to the Hampshire hills. The bike feels reasonably light, and fairly eats up the hills with its 27-speed drive-train.

Gearing is suited to steepness, with enough low ratios to play with, while those Avid Juicy 3s are simply phenomenal, giving the confidence to scythe down hills at a ridiculous rate of knots.

The tyres are a good compromise for country excursions too. They're a tad wider than many hybrid rubber, with a touch of tread to add stability when needed, such as when a wrong turning took us down a stony bridleway. The Norco easily clung on where a companion's flat-bar racer had to be pushed.

Overall, this is a speedy cruiser that makes journeys around the city or country lanes a pleasure.

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