Sports megastore Decathlon has earned a solid reputation for delivering great value budget bikes under the B’Twin brand name – we named the Triban 500 SE our Budget Bike of the Year for 2014/15 and the Triban 540 our Sub-£1,000 Bike of the Year 2016-17. But there is more to the firm’s offering than that. As well as other versions of the Triban, the various setups of the Van Rysel range also cater for those looking for superior performance.
At the time of writing, Decathlon road bike prices range from £249 for the RC100, up to £3,499 for the top-of-the range Van Rysel Ultra CF Dura-Ace.
Seemingly overlapping price ranges for different-named bikes can make life confusing, particularly when you throw in the occasional whopping great discount for an end-of-the-line model. Fortunately, Decathlon usually (but not always) abides by the time-honoured naming convention of ‘bigger number, better bike,’ so this can give you a general idea of the hierarchy.
In simple terms:
- B'Twin and Triban are the entry-level ranges and Decathlon’s best-selling bikes by a country mile
- The Van Rysel performance bikes come in aluminium and carbon-fibre-framed versions; they're Grand Tour all-rounder or Ardennes classics specialists – designed to be smooth, light and responsive
To slightly complicate matters, Decathlon is dropping B'Twin from the names of most of its adult bikes. Starting with the two new Triban RC models that became available in October 2018, the less-expensive Decathlon road bikes will just be known as Triban from here on.
Decathlon's more expensive bikes, previously Ultra AF in aluminium and Ultra CF with carbon fibre frames, are now known as Van Rysel, which is Flemish for 'from Lille', a nod to Decathlon being based in the northern French town.
Pro tip: Finding the bargains
A quirk of Decathlon's website is that it greys out sizes that are not available via the website, even though they might be available to buy in some stores, and this happens most with discounted end-of-line bikes. To get round this, choose the size you're interested in anyway, even if it's greyed out, then click on 'Reserve in store' and pick your region, or one you're prepared to travel to. The site then shows you which stores have that model and size.
There are five models in this new range, billed as super-comfortable road bikes for commuting, day rides and light touring and featuring an entirely new frame in 6061 aluminium and fork with carbon fibre blades. We took a closer look here.
This is the base model Triban RC (it stands for 'road cycling' but as far as we can tell it's really only there to differentiate the new Tribans from the old B'Twin Tribans with similar model numbers). You don't get disc brakes at this level, but you do get eight-speed MicroShift gears with a very low bottom gear from the combination of an 11-34 cassette and 50/34 chainset. That'll make it straightforward to tackle just about any climb you'll find in the UK.
Like the other Triban RC bikes it has mounts for a rack and mudguards so you can easily set it up for commuting or touring.
Buy if: You want a budget all-rounder for commuting, fitness riding and weekend touring.
This is Decathlon's cheapest road bike with disk brakes, and one of the cheapest disc-brake road bikes around. As well as the improved brakes, it gets better wheels than the rim-braked RC120. They're tubeless-ready, so you can run them with compatible tyres and sealant for a better ride and fewer punctures.
Buy if: You want a budget all-rounder with the all-weather stopping power of disc brakes.
No longer the cheapest disc-braked bike from Decathlon, the RC 500 remains arguably the best value for money bike around £500, because unlike other budget road bikes it comes with Shimano's 9-speed Sora groupset. Other significant features include tubeless-ready wheels and Decathlon's own Resist+ 28mm tyres.
Decathlon clearly played a blinder with this bike. The first batch to arrive in the UK was supposed to keep Decathlon shops stocked for six months. It sold out in three months, but Decathlon tell us more are on their way.
Buy if: You want a great-value pothole-basher with the stopping assurance of disc brakes
Built around the same frame as the RC 500, the RC 520 gives you most of a Shimano 105 R7000 groupset for your extra £200 and TRP HY/RD disc brake calipers. These have a hydraulic stage to do the tricky bit of turning the braking force though 90° and are significantly more powerful and easier to modulate than cable-only disc brakes.
The Triban RC 520 also has upgraded, lighter wheels compared to the Triban RC 520 and shares that bike's puncture-resistant rubber.
Buy if: You want perhaps the best-value all-rounder on the market.
There's enough room in the RC5xx disc-compatible frame for fairly fat tyres, so if you want to go exploring dirt roads and easy trails, you can fit some yourself, or you can pick up this version of the RC520 with Hutchinson Overide 35mm tubeless ready tyres already fitted and a bar with a 16° flare for extra width and control on rough surfaces.
It's otherwise identical to the regular RC520 which, it has to be said, makes it a shade expensive in comparison to that bike. You could achieve the same thing by fitting a pair of 35mm tyres and a new bar for less than £100.
The B'Twin and Triban ranges comprise the B'Twin RC100, two women-specific bikes and three remaining members of the old Triban range, the Triban 500, 520, and 540, all with aluminium frames.
The entry-level model in Decathlon’s road range, the RC100 is built around a 6061 aluminium frame with a geometry that’s designed for comfort. The top tube is shorter than that of a traditional road bike and the head tube is longer so the ride position is a little more relaxed, putting less strain on your back and neck. A sloping top tube reduces the standover height.
The fork is high tensile steel rather than lighter weight aluminium or carbon, although you have to expect that on a bike of this price.
The RC100 comes with a single chainring and a 7-speed Shimano cassette. You don’t get the range of gears that you do with the more expensive models in the Triban range but the Shimano A050 rocker shifter mounted next to the stem provides easy, reliable changes.
The B'Twin 700 wheels are fitted with 32mm-wide tyres that are designed to provide plenty of comfort both on road and on smoother paths, and you get eyelets for fitting mudguards and a rear rack which could come in handy if you want to use the bike for commuting.
Buy if: You’re looking for a no-frills entry-level road bike.
This bike is essentially the women's version of the men's RC100, with details tweaked to accommodate a female anatomy. There's a woman's saddle, shorter stem and narrow bars, plus extra levers on the tops of the handlebar for braking from an upright position. Its name's not exactly imaginative, but it's excellent value for money
Buy if: You’re a woman (or a small man) looking for a no-frills entry-level road bike.
With a similar frame to the men's RC120, and Shimano's excellent nine-speed Sora components, this might just be the best-value women's bike available. Like the beginner bike, above, it has a woman's saddle, shorter stem and narrow bars, and the reach-adjustable brake levers provide easier stopping for a woman's smaller hands.
Buy if: You're a woman or a small man wanting a great-value bike for commuting or weekend riding
The Triban 500 is built around the same 6016 aluminium frame as the RC100 (above) but it’s a very different bike with a carbon-legged fork and a triple chainset. The choice of three different chainrings (50/39/30-tooth) and an 8-speed (12-25-tooth) cassette gives you a wide spread of gears including some low options for getting up the climbs.
Like most higher-level bikes, the Triban 500 comes with combined brake lever and gear shifter units – in this case they’re from MicroShift. It’s a different shift system from more popular Shimano, but it works just fine.
The tyres are 25mm wide, which has become the norm for road bikes over the past few years, and you get the relevant eyelets for fitting mudguards and a rack.
The Triban 500 has lighter wheels than the Triban 500 SE (above).
B’Twin also offers a Triban 500 with a flat handlebar for £260. You still get a triple chainset and a 7-speed cassette but the spec is quite different.
Buy if: You’re after a versatile aluminium road bike that'll get you up the climbs.
The B’Twin Triban 520 was our Bargain Bike of the Year 2015-16.
“If you're starting out in road cycling and you've got less than £500 to spend, then this bike is one you should be chucking your hard-earned cash at,” we said in our review. “It's not just a good bike for the money, it's a good bike, full stop.”
The Triban 520 is a fun bike to ride. The alloy frame is lighter than the 500's. That frame and the carbon-bladed fork are well made and finished, and they give the bike an assured feel.
The bike's not as stiff as a carbon race frame, and you can eke out some derailleur rub in the bottom bracket area if you put the hammer down, but it's well within the acceptable range. The fork has a straight-through 1 1/8in steerer but the Triban doesn't want for stiffness up front, it tracks very well.
Shimano's fifth-tier Sora groupset takes care of the shifting, and as usual it was a trouble-free experience. You get much of the performance of more expensive groupsets – and proper Dual Control shifters – at a much reduced price.
Reviewer Dave tried everything from commuting to racing on the Triban 520 and it acquitted itself as well as bikes costing twice as much. It's a steal. This is a brilliant bike for the money, and B'Twin tell us they've upgraded the brakes since we reviewed it, which should deal with the biggest flaw we found.
B’Twin also offers the Triban 520 with a flat handlebar for £429. That version also comes with a Shimano Sora groupset although the chainset is downgraded to a Prowheel Ounce instead.
Buy if: You’re looking for a road bike that delivers a great ride and stunning versatility for an exceptional price.
The B’Twin Triban 540 was the road.cc Sub-£1,000 Bike of the Year 2016-17.
When we reviewed it, we said that it was a real joy to ride with an incredible spec for its price.
With a triple-butted aluminium frame (which it shares with the Triban 520) it feels fast, comfortable and responsive without much of the buzzy feeling you sometimes get from aluminium. The carbon-legged fork also effectively absorbs bumps in the road. There's little to complain about, comfort-wise. It has front and rear rack and mudguard mounts, so you can load it up for weekend tours or all-year-round commuting.
The Triban 540 is a pleasure to pilot, whether you're on smooth new tarmac, decaying and rough road surfaces or even over cobbles.
B’Twin hasn't gone down the route of oversizing the bottom bracket junction, but the frame doesn't lack anything because of it. The slim seatstays offer some flex, and while steering feels easy and relaxed when you're cruising, it's responsive when you need it to be.
The groupset is Shimano’s mid-level 105, which is excellent value on a bike of this price, although the chainset is Shimano RS500 with 52/36-tooth chainrings. Decathlon's own-brand dual-pivot rim brakes (made by Tektro) perform well, including for sudden stops – no complaints there.
The Mavic Aksium One wheels are fitted with 25mm Hutchinson Equinox tyres which roll well and offer a decent amount of grip. When they do wear out, the frame has enough clearance for 32mm tyres (without mudguards) – which would increase comfort further.
Overall, this is a great buy for those new to road bikes and those looking to their next cycling challenge, and Decathlon offers a lifetime warranty on the frame, fork, stem and handlebar.
Buy if: You’re looking for a capable aluminium road bike with a strong spec.
Van Rysel/B'Twin Ultra AF
The Ultra AF series are aluminium framed bikes with carbon forks. They're going through a change of branding from B'Twin to Van Rysel, but the Van Rysel bikes are mostly identical to their B'Twin predecessors.
The top model in Decathlon's trio of women's road bikes, the Ultra AF Women's gets the same frame as the Van Rysel Ultra AF bikes, with a full suite of contact points tailored for a woman's anatomy, and Shimano's super-reliable Tiagra groupset.
The latest Decathlon model to use the 1,400g Ultra AF triple butted 6061 aluminium frame, the Ultra 105 RCR AF replaces the previous Ultra 900 AF. The frame is the same as the Ultra 700 AF (no longer available) that we reviewed a while ago, but the rear brake has moved to the seatstays.
The geometry is fairly sporty – firmly in fast-endurance kind of territory. That means you can ride the Ultra AF at a real old lick without having to scrunch yourself up into a ball to get into an aero position. It's a quick bike too, with very impressive stiffness for an entry-level alloy frame.
Decathlon hasn't gone down the route of oversizing the bottom bracket junction, keeping with a standard sized press-fit unit, but the frame doesn't seem to lack anything because of it. Really stamping on the pedals on a steep climb or in full-on sprint mode will find the smallest hint of flex at the BB, but we are talking minor amounts here and not something you'll pick up on unless you're really looking for it.
They have oversized the front end, though, using the now pretty standard tapered head tube – 1 1/8in at the top flaring to 1 1/4in at the bottom. It's all about adding stiffness by increasing the cross sectional area.
As a result, the handling on the Ultra AF is direct with a positive feel to it, something it manages without being overly twitchy at the front end. The steering has a neutral feel while still being responsive, which is ideal on a bike that's likely to be bought by those getting into the sport.
For those with a bit more experience, or riders who just like a bit of an adrenaline hit, the Ultra AF maintains that positivity as the speed increase. It may not have the precision of some thoroughbred race bikes but it's not going to be found wanting until you are absolutely pushing it to its limits.
Comfort is often cited as a reason to avoid aluminium alloy bikes and it's true, the Ultra AF can feel a little on the harsh side at times, though it is still far from uncomfortable. It's just not as refined as some, but still manages to tame road buzz to a minimum.
With the latest Shimano 105 groupset and Mavic Aksium wheels, the Van Rysel Ultra 105 RCR AF is excellent value.
Buy if: You’d like a sporty aluminium road bike in an excellent build for the price.
The Ultra 920 AF is built around the same 6061 aluminium frame (1,400g claimed weight) and carbon/aluminium fork (550g claimed weight) as the Van Rysel Ultra 105 RCR AF.
The difference is in the choice of components, the Ultra 920 AF coming with the new Shimano R8000 Ultegra groupset – a level higher than the Ultra 920 AF’s 105 – Mavic Cosmic Elite wheels and a very good Fizik Arione saddle.
Decathlon has just dropped the price of the Ultra 920 AF from £1,200, so it's a bit of a bargain at the moment.
Buy if: You’d like a road bike that offers an exciting ride and excellent value.
The Ultra 500 AF GF is an aluminium framed (hence the AF) bike designed for gran fondos (hence the GF) and other endurance ventures. It's one of a pair of bike with disc brakes, in this case cable discs to keep the price under control.
The frame geometry is a bit shorter and taller than that of the Ultra AF aluminium bikes (above) so you get a more relaxed riding position. The GF model also has a more sloped top tube for a lower standover height.
The frame, which has a claimed weight of 1,470g, has a tapered head tube (1 1/8in upper bearing, 1 1/2in lower bearing) and, like the fork (a claimed 430g), it’s thru axle (with closed rather than open-ended dropouts) and takes Flat Mount disc brakes.
Buy if: You want a disc-braked endurance bike under the Cycle To Work Scheme threshold.
The Ultra 520 AF GF is the upmarket version of the Ultra AF GF platform and currently the only road bike in the B’Twin lineup to come with full hydraulic disc brakes
The Ultra 520 AF GF is built up with a full SRAM Rival HRD groupset, Mavic Ksyrium Disc wheels, Deda bars and stem and a Fizik saddle. It's a very solid spec for the money.
Buy if: You want an aluminium endurance bike with the all-weather performance of hydraulic disc brakes.
Van Rysel Ultra CF
The Ultra CF is a carbon-fibre road bike which is available with a variety of mechanical gears. It is a stiff, light performance bike with internal cabling, built around B'Twin's Ultra Evo Dynamic carbon fibre frame, which Decathlon claims the weighs just 850g in a size Medium, and the fork 320g. Those are impressive numbers for the frame of bikes in this price range.
The most eye-catching part of the carbon-fibre frame is the large and angular down tube. The head tube is tapered, the bottom bracket is Press Fit 86, and the carbon seatpost is held in place by an integrated wedge-style clamp.
The Ultra CF 105 is made to a race geometry and is built up with Shimano’s mid-level 11-speed 105 groupset. 105 is slightly heavier than Shimano Dura-Ace and Ultegra but not by much, and the level of performance is excellent.It was previously known as the B’Twin Ultra 900 CF 105.
Our Stu Kerton loved the Ultra 900 CF. "The ride is sublime, absorbing pretty much everything the road surface can chuck at it, so you just waft along at a very impressive pace, smashing mile after mile without effort," he wrote.
Mavic’s Aksium One wheels offer very good value too.
B’Twin provides branded components right across the board with a handlebar and stem from Deda and a Fizik Antares saddle.
Buy if: You'd like a carbon-fibre road bike with a solid, reliable groupset.
This is the previous version of the Van Rysel Ultra CF 105, with Shimano 105 5800 components instead of the current bike's Shimano 105 R7000.
The Van Rysel Ultra 920 CF Ultegra is a very good deal given its high-quality finishing kit (Deda bar and stem, Fizik saddle) and Mavic Cosmic Carbon wheels.
The Ultegra R8000 groupset is a solid performer, and Decathlon has gone for a performance-orientated set-up with a 52/36 chainset and 11-28 cassette.
Buy if: You want a light, fast bike at a very sensible price
The Ultra 920 CF Ultegra is the previous incarnation of the Van Rysel Ultra 920 CF Ultegra.
For the flagship model in the range, B'Twin hangs a compete Dura-Ace groupset on the Ultra carbon frame and throws in a pair of Mavic's new Pro Carbon SL UST wheels and tyres and Yksion Pro tyres, and a Deda carbon handlebar. The three and a half grand RRP isn't cheap by anyone's standards, but it's still excellent value for money.
Buy if: You want Dura-Ace and Zipp wheels without too outrageous a price tag.
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Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.