Decathlon unveils 2014 B'Twin road range

Value and technology from French-based sports megastore chain.

by John Stevenson   October 25, 2013  

Sports megastore chain Decathlon has unveiled its 2014 range of B’Twin road bikes. The new selection stretches from the Triban 300 - successor to the popular Triban 3 - at £350 all the way up to a new lightweight carbon fibre machine with Ultegra D12 for £3000. Highlights of the range include a Shimano 105-equipped bike for £700 on a new aluminium frame, two bikes with Campagnolo groups for £1300 and £1750 and an ultra-modern new carbon fibre frame.

One of the most notable things about the new B'Twin range is what's not in it: No Gran Fondo/sportive machine,  aero road bike, or a super light climber. B'Twin's design philosophy is very much based around racing. B'Twin's road bikes, the Alur, the Mach and their new range topper, the Ultra are designed to meet a set of performance criteria for different types of races and riders.

The Mach is built to be stiff and efficient for big powerful types bashing out the miles in spring classics type conditions while the Ultra is a the grand tour all-rounder or Ardennes classics specialist - designed to be smooth, light and responsive - oh and stiff, the sort of bike you can ride fast all day but without the sportive bike's longer head tube and shorter top tube combo. The Alur meanwhile is B'Twin's aluminium all-rounder designed to be both versatile and durable.

Decathlon product engineer Andrew Lorenzi talks us through the range. He joined Decathlon in 1993, and then spent five years working for Look, including a stint in the company’s Tunisian manufacturing plant. He rejoined Decathlon in 2011, and given the lead times of designing, testing and speccing a bike range, if seems likely we’re looking at some of his babies today.

Andrew starts with what might be the best-equipped sub-£400 bike of 2014, the Triban 300. For your £370 you get an aluminium frame, a triple chainset and rarely-seen MicroShift gears. The latter are an intriguing choice that Andrew says have proved more reliable than Shimano’s similarly-priced entry-level options.

Next up the Triban 500SE at £450 has a full Shimano Sora group. It’s a special edition for the UK, and therefore won’t be found in any of Decathlon’s European stores or elsewhere in a retail empire that now extends to Russia, India and China as well as the 14 UK shops.

The Triban range is Decathlon's biggest selling bike by a country mile, it's certainly their biggest UK seller, and a stalwart of the 'I ride' section road.cc user profiles. It's a bike that obviously inspires a great deal of fondness in those who ride it - there's a Triban owners club, (who had a representative at the launch asking all the best questions), we're struggling to think of many modern bikes with their own owners clubs - especially ones costing less than £500.

Alur 700 range

What would you expect to pay for a medium-weight aluminium frame with Shimano 105 gears and shifters and and a carbon fork? There are plenty of bikes like the new Alur 700 out there for over £900, which makes the £700 price tag of this bike distinctly eyebrow-raising. For your seven hundred notes you get frame with internal cable routing, press fit bottom bracket, clearance for 28mm tyres and Shimano’s direct-mount brakes, with the rear brake under the chainstays.

Andrew Lorenzi came back to the theme of direct-mount brakes several times. He’s a big fan, and both of B’Twin’s new frame platforms have them. They’re a “step-up in brake feel” he says. With the brake arms firmly mounted on the fork blades or chainstays, there’s certainly less to flex than with the spindly 6mm main pivot of most brakes.

The Alur 700 is even UCI-approved, should you decide to try your hand at racing, and comes with Look-compatible VP pedals. The frame weighs a claimed 1400g for a medium and the internal cable routing means it can be upgraded to Di2 if and when a cheaper Di2 becomes available, something B'Twin designer Andrew thinks is inevitable.

B'Twin Cyclo Cross

Between the Alur 700 and B’Twin’s carbon bikes we take a quick detour into the mud with the simply-named Cyclo Cross, of all the bikes we saw at the launch this is the one that is available to buy now, the rest will be in Decathlon stores in February.

The Cyclo Cross is an £800 crosser with Tektro Oryx cantilever brakes, Shimano 105 drivetrain and levers and Mavic Aksium wheels. Unlike most cyclo-cross bikes in this price range, this is a race-orientated rig, with no rear mudguard eyes, rack mounts or even bottle cage bosses. Great if you want to start racing ’cross on a budget, but perhaps a bit limiting if you want to use it as a bomb-proof pothole-basher, although there are always p-clips I suppose. Its racing DNA though does bestow one big advantage - it's relative lack of heft, Decathlon are claiming 9.9Kg for a 55 which makes it a chunk lighter than bikes costing a chunk more cash.

None more Mach

The three bikes in the Mach line up share a carbon fibre frame based on last year’s Facet frame. While the Mach platform is the same shape as the Facet, a new lay-up means the frame is 100g lighter  and the front end is a little more comfortable, according to Andrew. The base model Mach 700 is hung with Shimano 105 components, and while there are a handful of cheaper carbon-framed bikes with similar spec out there, few claim an 1115g frame and 360g fork at their heart.

Another £200 gets you a full Campagnolo group in the Centaur 10-equipped Mach 720, which even uses a Campagnolo crank and wheels. With the red highlights in the Campagnolo parts, it looks like it costs a lot more than £1300.

Speaking of looks, you might have noticed that there’s a lot of black in the B’Twin range this year. “It’s international and it never goes out of fashion,” says Andrew.

The Mach 740 is the bike ridden by the B’Twin Under-19 racing team and comes with Campagnolo Athena 11 including carbon brake levers and carbon crank for £1750. Andrew Lorenzi says that the 100,000 miles of training and racing the team clocked up in 2013 was invaluable testing; certainly you’d expect strong juniors who perhaps haven’t quite acquired the finesse of age to be hard on gear. To teach them a bit of respect and useful mechanical knowledge, each team member assembles their own bike.

In recent years Campagnolo components have become rare on production bikes, but from what we heard at this launch that may be about to change. The Italian parts maker has historically struggled to deliver OEM components on time and at prices that make them competitive with Shimano. That’s changing, says Andrew. Campagnolo have worked hard to sort out issues in their supply chain “and now there’s just a two month order time for Campagnolo parts. For Di2, it’s more like six months,” Andrew told us.

This range sees Campagnolo return to Decathlon's bikes after an absence of several years. It also sees the company dropping SRAM in favour of Shimano across the rest of the line-up. Because Decathlon’s stores are all linked back to HQ in Lille, product managers can see what components are presenting problems and choose accordingly. That’s a powerful tool for a company that sells four million own-brand bikes per year. Crunching the numbers revealed a much higher rate of return for SRAM than Shimano.

Age of Ultra

According to the B'Twin press pack the Ultra, B’Twin’s second new platform for 2014 is a "light, dynamic, fireball." Yes, we asked for one in on test.

The Ultra is an 850g carbon frame with a 325g fork that’s available in two versions with either mechanical or electronic Shimano Ultegra 11-speed shifting.

Aesthetically these bikes have lots in common with the Alur aluminium frame, with the same gently curved top tube and angular, shaped frame members. But using carbon fibre means the Ultra can take it up a couple of notches with features like a concealed seatpost clamp, custom seat post and, once again, direct-mount brakes, which Andrew Lorenzi says B’Twin chose for both their looks and their stopping power.

The £2000 Ultra 920 has a complete mechanical Shimano Ultegra 11 group with direct-mount brakes, the rear brake once again tucked under the chainstays. There’s plenty of brand-name icing on the cake here too: Deda bar and stem, Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheels with Yksion tyres, fi’zi:k Arione saddle and Look Keo Max pedals.

“Di2 and EPS are the future,” says Andrew, name-checking Shimano and Campagnolo’s electronic shifting systems as he introduces the top bike in the B’Twin range, the £3000 Ultra 940.

“In a few years all bikes from £1,000 up will be Di2,” as the price of the currently-spendy technology comes down. He thinks Campagnolo have some catching up to do, though. “Second generation Di2 is a step above. Campagnolo will have to bring in new features.”

Mind you that much anticipated drop in price is not just around the corner if the thousand pound price gap between the Ultra 720 with mechanical Ultegra groupset and its range toping sibling the Ultra 940 is anything to go by. The Ultra 940 will sell for a penny shy of three grand while the 920 will go for the same amount under two thousand pounds, but you could do that sum.

Andrew likes Di2’s programmability, and the new battery shapes that allow a manufacturer to hide the battery in the frame. The Ultra 940 has the battery tucked into the seat tube and is charged via the control unit under the stem.

He and B’Twin were aiming for a clean, minimal look with the Ultra 940, and the lack of a seatstay brake, and concealed wires certainly add to that.

Given the company’s renewed relationship with Campagnolo, will there be an EPS-equipped Ultra in the future? “When the new battery becomes available,” says Andrew.

You might think of Decathlon as those slightly quirky budget sports stores you drive past on your way to the Alps, but since opening its first shop complex at London’s Canada Water in 1999 it has quietly become a significant player. Look around any town that has a Decathlon and you see lots of Triban bikes in the streets, as well as Decathlon townies and hybrids.

Iniital impressions of the new range are that, with the possible exception of the Di2 bike, B'Twin are certainly delivering a lot of bike for the money. How do they do it? Well they've got two big advantages. Selling four million bikes a year delivers some significant economies of scale - especially when they are all black; and the fact that they are both manufacturer and retailer means there is no distributor margin to include in the retail price.

Decathlon's bikes have been ridden with distinction in the pro peloton but the new Ultra and Alur platforms in particular represent a significant upping of the technical ante by the French outfit, and from what we were hearing yesterday there's a lot more to come yet.

 

20 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

The Ultra looks very competitive. Be interesting to see how it rides.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1319 posts]
25th October 2013 - 11:22

25 Likes

That £700 alu roadie - concealed brakes and internal cables? Really? I mean, that's really impressive.

Although the lack of a brake bridge does mean it will be well-nigh impossible to fit mudguards to it.

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

Gizmo_'s picture

posted by Gizmo_ [1069 posts]
25th October 2013 - 11:47

24 Likes

We have a small brace of Decathlon/Btwin bikes both old and new, in Britain and stuffed in our caravan in France. Admittedly I don't usually get excited when looking at their bike selection but........wow........these look....well cool Cool Shame about the colour though........son no.2 has the Triban 3 (red). Much nicer Love Struck
Decathlon have used Campagnolo parts on their bikes in the past. Nice to see them back again. Smile

Kind Regards

Jono

JonoB's picture

posted by JonoB [46 posts]
25th October 2013 - 11:48

25 Likes

Love the 'Age of Ultra' subhead. Props to whoever slipped that in. Applause

nostromo's picture

posted by nostromo [65 posts]
25th October 2013 - 12:12

34 Likes

Kysrium SLR shown not elites...?

posted by darranmoore [34 posts]
25th October 2013 - 12:26

37 Likes

An owners club for a cheap road bike is pretty impressive. I had never even thought of the concept of an "owners" club before

posted by jarredscycling [457 posts]
25th October 2013 - 13:36

34 Likes

So no disc brakes from Decathlon (for good or bad) in 2014.

I love my bike's picture

posted by I love my bike [60 posts]
25th October 2013 - 14:04

29 Likes

I got a picture from Amsterdam a while back of my £250 2003 model bike which is still going strong.

Ok, it weighed a ton, but that's still impressive going.

jimmythecuckoo's picture

posted by jimmythecuckoo [1316 posts]
25th October 2013 - 15:06

26 Likes

I reckon the Microshift is a major plus over the sora/2300 mess. It would be my main fault with the triban 3 along with the tyres and saddle. Put microshift centos on another bike of mine and it is brilliant. Fair play on entire range

posted by kevinMaum [1 posts]
25th October 2013 - 17:46

22 Likes

darranmoore wrote:
Kysrium SLR shown not elites...?

Elites on the Ultra 920; SLRs on the 940.

John Stevenson's picture

posted by John Stevenson [1367 posts]
25th October 2013 - 18:01

25 Likes

nostromo wrote:
Love the 'Age of Ultra' subhead. Props to whoever slipped that in. Applause

Thanks! We try, and it's nice when it's noticed.

John Stevenson's picture

posted by John Stevenson [1367 posts]
25th October 2013 - 18:02

24 Likes

Interested in the Sram comment, so it isn't just Avid brakes that have a QC problem by the sounds of it.

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1537 posts]
25th October 2013 - 18:07

27 Likes

The Ultra really does look stunning, interested to here how good it rides.

posted by belgravedave [239 posts]
25th October 2013 - 18:32

29 Likes

Velly Interesting though I don't much like the look of the Mach frame + brakes down in the wet at the back only time will tell!! Thinking

Alex7

Baldy1alex's picture

posted by Baldy1alex [52 posts]
27th October 2013 - 1:55

21 Likes

saw these at roc d azur, honestly i was blown away by the quality and the design

posted by Roadiegeek [3 posts]
27th October 2013 - 19:54

21 Likes

I would seriously consider buying the Ultra as a frameset in it's own right - really classy looking. Another plus is seeing Campy in the range - would be nice to see parts in the local Decathlon as they tend to be expensive in the LBS's

posted by s_lim [144 posts]
28th October 2013 - 16:02

17 Likes

Most seem to be using Pro wheel cranks now though, Think I will stick with my 'old' Triban and it's tiagra.

posted by Stefano1970 [11 posts]
29th October 2013 - 9:18

24 Likes

Very much keen to see these in the stores, any word on when they'll be on sale?

I started out road cycling on a Triban 3 last year and I'm in the market for an upgrade. The Canyon Roadlite Al 6.0 at ~£900 delivered was on my wishlist but that Alur 700 may just take its place. The £150 saved would nicely fund a wheel upgrade to match the Canyon's Mavic Akisums... Day Dreaming Thinking

posted by Cantab [62 posts]
22nd February 2014 - 10:10

31 Likes

The Alur has Btwin's own aero wheels, heavier but also more sturdy then the Mavic Aksium, you might not even have to change them Smile

posted by robgoetheer [1 posts]
4th July 2014 - 21:13

0 Likes

Resurrecting this from the archive. I see the Ultra has finally hit the shops - have you managed to get one in for review yet?

posted by s_lim [144 posts]
16th October 2014 - 12:54

0 Likes