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A brand new carbon-fibre road bike with a Shimano Ultegra spec for £2,000

B’Twin’s Ultra 920 is a brand new performance-orientated road bike that really impresses in combining frame rigidity with a comfortable ride.

We got the chance to ride the Ultra at the press launch in Valencia, Spain, last week. You can call it a junket if you like, we prefer the term ‘work’. Anyway, we were aboard the Ultra for about an hour and a half up some pretty big hills and down some really swoopy descents. It wasn’t masses of time, but just long enough to form some initial impressions. These are they…

The Ultra is designed for fast road riding: racing, if that’s your thing like, sportives maybe, or just ragging it around the roads with your mates. You know the deal.

The designers say that the bike has been designed in two halves. The lower part, which they call the Dynamic Structure, comprises the fork (including the steerer tube), down tube, bottom bracket, chainstays, and the rear wheel dropout. They’ve built these elements oversized for extra rigidity and efficiency.

The upper part, consisting of the top tube and seatstays, they call the Supporting Structure. These elements are thin, the idea being to absorb vibration and add comfort.

Obviously, that’s a gross oversimplification, but that’s the basic design philosophy. It actually sounds a lot like Lapierre’s Power Box concept to us – and like B’Twin, Lapierre is a French brand that sponsor’s FDJ.fr, so it could be that there’s a bit of a link there although, to be honest, it’s a fairly standard approach. Anyway, back to the design…

The most eye-catching part of the structure is the monster down tube made from intermediate-modulus and high-modulus carbon fibre. It’s very angular and very large. The head tube is tapered, as is the way on most performance bikes these days – 1 1/8in at the top, 1 1/2in at the bottom – and the bottom bracket is Press Fit with an 86.5mm shell.

Like ever more brands, B’Twin have gone for asymmetric chainstays to take account of the differing forces on either side of the bike, while the seatstays are very skinny by comparison. They’re part of the Supporting Structure rather than the Dynamic Structure, remember.

The other thing you’ll notice about the seatstays is that they’re not home to the rear brake. Instead, you get a direct mount brake positioned behind the bottom bracket for improved aerodynamics. That means there’s no need for a brake bridge between the seatstays, so B’Twin do without like Trek, for example, with their higher end Madones.

The carbon seatpost is held in place by an integrated wedge-style clamp and the fork is full-carbon. Lke the rear brake, the front brake is direct mount. A lot of manufacturers are switching to direct mount (where each brake arm is mounted to the frame or fork rather than via a central bolt) for extra rigidity and more power.

The Ultra’s geometry is race-orientated. I was on a large model with a 57cm top tube, a short but not nuts 17.5cm head tube, and 73/73.5° frame angles… so head-down and stretched rather than sit-up-and-beg, which is entirely appropriate for a bike like this.

B’Twin give a frame weight of 850g for a medium model, and a fork weight of 325g, both of which are very impressive.

The Ultra comes in two flavours: the Ultra 940 (€3600, £2,999.99), built up with a Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset and Mavic Ksyrium SLR wheels, and the Ultra 920 (€2600, £1,999.99), which was the one I rode. This has a mechanical Ultegra groupset and Ksyrium Elite S wheels. B’Twin don’t skimp on the details either.

Both versions get Fizik Arione saddles, Deda handlebar and stem, and even Look Keo 2 Max pedals, which is pretty much unheard of – hardly anyone includes decent pedals on high-end bikes.

 

The ride

B’Twin were worried that early versions of the new Ultra frame weren’t stiff enough. Based in Lille, they rocked up at the Roubaix track (it’s just down the road; you’ve seen it on the telly at the end of Paris-Roubaix, right?) with a power-based test protocol and a GoPro mounted to the bike to try things out. They added extra layers of carbon one at a time until the Ultra rode as they wanted it to.

The finished bike is certainly stiff, there’s no doubt about that. If I had to give one key feature here, frame rigidity would be it, and that applies to both the front end and to the power-transferring business end.

As I said early on, we hit some very twisty-turny descents on our ride, including a few hairpins, and the Ultra handled it all with confidence… even when I didn’t. Nothing vague or untoward there. Good wheels like the Ksyriums (I’ve always like Ksyriums for their stiffness and ability to withstand abuse) help on that score too.

And after the descents come the climbs – that’s pretty much how the world works – and the Ultra performs there too. B’Twin claim a bike weight (size medium, without pedals) of 7.1kg (I can’t verify that because I forgot to pack the scales… again) which is a very good weight rather than an exceptional one, but this bike doesn’t hang about on the hills or even wait to be asked, it just cracks right on. It loves a bit of uphill action.

B’Twin spec compact (50/34-tooth) chainsets on both versions of the Ultra, which might sound a bit tame to some big-gear lovers but compacts will keep you moving on just about anything. The cassette fitted goes up to a 25-tooth sprocket but you get a long cage mech that could actually take a 32T if you wanted, which is one of the reasons why B’Twin have stopped fitting triple chainsets to their road range now.

To be honest, comfort is a bit harder to gauge on a ride of 90 minutes over unfamiliar roads. I can tell you that there’s certainly not a lot of judder at the front end, the Fizik Arione saddle is a winner, and the ride feels smooth, but I simply can’t say how this bike would feel at the end of a five-hour stint in the saddle because I didn’t spend that long on it. The indications were good, though. Nothing here made me think that a big ride would be a difficult experience.

 

To sum up...

I’d say that the B’Twin Ultra 920 is a stiff and light performance-orientated bike with a great spec for the cash. If you have £2,000 to spend and you’re after something that’ll reward your effort with plenty of speed, do yourself a favour and consider this bike seriously. It goes on sale in April at Decathlon stores and via www.decathlon.co.uk.

Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over the past 20 years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for seven years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.

30 comments

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Flying Scot [918 posts] 2 years ago
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A very impressive and good looking machine for the money, the big brands would have cheapo finishing kit at this money.

My kids ride BTwins as do a few friends, some are even all Campag, all were a bargain and have a lifetime warranty from a 'real' shop.

The upgrade to Di2 seems expensive though, as there isn't anything like a grand between the two at trade prices / 11 speed.

Would like a Chorus version offered too.

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KiwiMike [1225 posts] 2 years ago
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Is it just me or does that paintwork look like it's 10 years old, sun-faded and chipped to hell?

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lolol [199 posts] 2 years ago
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KiwiMike wrote:

Is it just me or does that paintwork look like it's 10 years old, sun-faded and chipped to hell?

I would think that it just the Sun getting into the carbon fibres. The bike looks really good value.

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neildmoss [306 posts] 2 years ago
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@KiwiMike - not just you....

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dave atkinson [6250 posts] 2 years ago
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There's no paint on it. it's clear lacquer over the carbon. looks like there's no modesty layer in the layup either

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Wookie [242 posts] 2 years ago
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I want one  4

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KiwiMike [1225 posts] 2 years ago
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Dave Atkinson wrote:

There's no paint on it. it's clear lacquer over the carbon. looks like there's no modesty layer in the layup either

If I'd just spent £2-3k on a bike I'd want it looking nicer than that. FWIW it does look great value - if you're OK with a bike that looks like that. Maybe they are pitching at the commuter market who don't want to cover a high-end frame in stickers or fake rust?

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markfireblade [49 posts] 2 years ago
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Maybe a pre - production test bike, not yet in retail finish? Good value anyway, though I'd go for a KTM for another £250 ish...

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Simmo72 [609 posts] 2 years ago
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As I get older I get more set in my ways.
This bike is ugly, I would rather be 10 seconds slower over 40 miles and look good on a classic looking design than riding this.

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David Arthur @d... [699 posts] 2 years ago
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If they added a coat of paint it's not going to weigh 850g though is it

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jollygoodvelo [1468 posts] 2 years ago
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Similar thoughts about the finish, looks like a prototype. I do love B-Twin's distinctive angular frames though, you won't mistake it for anything else... which is unusually brave for a 'value' brand.

In fact the only real problem with this bike is the Boardman Pro Carbon SLR... and the Boardman is £200 cheaper even before various discounts start coming into play...

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phy2sll [34 posts] 2 years ago
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Clear coated UD carbon frames often come out looking like that in close-up photographs.

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belgravedave [269 posts] 2 years ago
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Each to their own but I think the finish perfectly matches the frame, sort of retro industrial.
Wouldn't look right with anything else.
Oh and would look amazing with some unbranded deep sections.

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carlosjenno [44 posts] 2 years ago
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Planet-X Carbon Ultegra for half the price and better looking? £200 more for internal routing on an RT-57. No brainer?

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Yennings [237 posts] 2 years ago
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This just underlines how times have changed. I bought my Focus Cayo from Wiggle in 2007 for £950 including full carbon frame, Mavic Aksium Race wheels, full Ultegra... Now we are talking more like £2K for that kind of spec, depressing really...

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Sniffer [314 posts] 2 years ago
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I think I bought the same bike as Yennings, though a 2008 model - £1,150 I paid.

I would say we probably did not pay anything like RRP though. My purchase was a Christmas one day offer. I'd been looking at the bike for weeks and when the offer popped up I pressed the button and delivery was Christmas Eve.

I suspect we are not comparing like with like RRP v end of season internet only special offer.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the bike though and although n+1 emotions rise up regularly, the common sense part of me says it is a good bike why 'upgrade'.

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robthehungrymonkey [153 posts] 2 years ago
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I've got an Isaac frame with parts of bare carbon on it. Photos badly, in reality it's really nice!

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bendertherobot [1145 posts] 2 years ago
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I'm confused. Why wouldn't I get a Canyon with Ultegra DI2 for less?

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Flying Scot [918 posts] 2 years ago
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bendertherobot wrote:

I'm confused. Why wouldn't I get a Canyon with Ultegra DI2 for less?

Ehhhh because it's more expensive? Unless there is a sale on, an SL with mechanical 11 speed ultegra costs more then the B'Twin.

And you can't try it out for size etc. or take it back to the shop if it goes wrong.

I like it, but would probably go with Canyon myself for the Campag options.

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bendertherobot [1145 posts] 2 years ago
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Flying Scot wrote:
bendertherobot wrote:

I'm confused. Why wouldn't I get a Canyon with Ultegra DI2 for less?

Ehhhh because it's more expensive? Unless there is a sale on, an SL with mechanical 11 speed ultegra costs more then the B'Twin.

And you can't try it out for size etc. or take it back to the shop if it goes wrong.

I like it, but would probably go with Canyon myself for the Campag options.

So, the £1800 di2 canyon is more than the £2000 mechanical b twin?

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Flying Scot [918 posts] 2 years ago
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bendertherobot wrote:
Flying Scot wrote:
bendertherobot wrote:

I'm confused. Why wouldn't I get a Canyon with Ultegra DI2 for less?

Ehhhh because it's more expensive? Unless there is a sale on, an SL with mechanical 11 speed ultegra costs more then the B'Twin.

And you can't try it out for size etc. or take it back to the shop if it goes wrong.

I like it, but would probably go with Canyon myself for the Campag options.

So, the £1800 di2 canyon is more than the £2000 mechanical b twin?

I don't doubt you, but I was on Canyons website and couldn't find it!

Have you a link? , I know a man that's interested.

I could only an aluminium one for1900 or a carbon one for 3k

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bendertherobot [1145 posts] 2 years ago
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Doh! My bad. Looks like I misread it. Still, I'm still not convinced that Ultegra and Carbon for 2k is that good.

Here's a Rose with Force 22 £1800 odd
http://www.rosebikes.co.uk/bike/rose-xeon-crs-4400-2014/aid:672573

and one with Ultegra £1689
http://www.rosebikes.co.uk/bike/rose-xeon-crs-3000-2014/aid:674118

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Flying Scot [918 posts] 2 years ago
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Double post.

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matthewn5 [809 posts] 2 years ago
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@carlosjenno

If you mean the Planet X SL Pro, it's no comparison. Mine was a festival of flexy.

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JohnnyRemo [156 posts] 2 years ago
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Seriously fugly! Anyone else reminded of Pace mountain bikes from the '90s?

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Flying Scot [918 posts] 2 years ago
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Maybe just me, but I like the look, if it had Campag, I would seriously consider it, but it doesn't, so I won't!

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GerardR [124 posts] 2 years ago
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Ah, but with you riding it, who's going to look at the bike as you flash past?

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Brianr56 [9 posts] 2 years ago
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A bit of education for this Yank please - how is the name of this bike maker pronounced? Bee-Twin? BuhTwin? Or something else? Just curious - doubt I can get one over here anyway - we're pretty much stuck with one of the mega brands or a full-blown custom.

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carlosjenno [44 posts] 2 years ago
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drmatthewhardy wrote:

@carlosjenno

If you mean the Planet X SL Pro, it's no comparison. Mine was a festival of flexy.

Nope, Pro-Carbon Ultegra. Mine don't bend.

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SimonT1971 [35 posts] 2 years ago
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Go with your gut Dude - 'Bee-Twin'. Although i guess if we lived in Annecy (would be nice) then it would be 'beh-twan'