Sports megastore Decathlon has earned a solid reputation for delivering great value budget bikes, but there is more to the firm’s offering than that. As well as the super-popular Triban models, the Van Rysel range caters for those looking for superior performance.
At the time of writing, Decathlon road bike prices range from £249 for the Triban 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:
To slightly complicate matters, all Decathlon road bikes used to be called B'Twin, and some models still carry that name on the down tube.
There are eight models in this range, billed as super-comfortable road bikes for commuting, day rides and light touring. The more recent models feature an entirely new frame in 6061 aluminium and fork with carbon fibre blades. We took a closer look here.
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.
It's an older model, so this bike still has the B'Twin logo.
Buy if: You’re looking for a no-frills entry-level road bike.
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.
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.
Decathlon has recently added a women's version of the RC520 for the same price, with tweaked contact points.
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.
There are two women-specific bikes in the Triban range, .
This bike is essentially the women's version of the men's Triban 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
Van Rysel — the name means 'from Lille' after the location of Decathlon's global headquarters — is Decathlon's performance range. There are two sub-ranges: the AF series are aluminium framed bikes with carbon forks while the CF bikes have carbon fibre frames.
For the fairly modest prices, the CF bikes have a surprisingly nice frame. Decathlon's Ultra Evo Dynamic carbon fibre frame, which Decathlon claims weighs just 850g in a size Medium, and the fork 320g, builds into stiff, light performance bikes with internal cabling. Those frame and fork weights are impressive for 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.
Like the Tribans you'll still find some older models in B'Twin livery, but the transition to the Van Rysel name is more complete with these performance models.
The latest Decathlon model to use the 1,400g Ultra AF triple butted 6061 aluminium frame, the Van Rysel RR 900 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 Van Rysel RR 920 AF Ultegra is built around the same 6061 aluminium frame (1,400g claimed weight) and carbon/aluminium fork (550g claimed weight) as the Van Rysel RR 900 AF.
The difference is in the choice of components, the RR 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.
Buy if: You’d like a road bike that offers an exciting ride and excellent value.
The Van Rysel RR 900 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 it. "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.
Decathlon 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.
The Van Rysel RR 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
When we first rode Decathlon's carbon fibre platform we described it as “a performance-orientated road bike that really impresses in combining frame rigidity with a comfortable ride”.
The design has changed a little since then but the RR 920 CF is still focused on fast road riding: racing, if that’s your thing, sportives maybe, or just ragging it around the roads with your mates. The geometry is race-orientated – head-down and stretched rather than sit-up-and-beg, which is entirely appropriate for a bike like this.
Rather than the Shimano Ultegra-based spec of the RR 920 CF Ultegra, the RR 920 CF Potenza is decked out in Potenza components, Campagnolo's answer to Shimano Ultegra.
The wheels are from the Campagnolo lineup too: Zondas with aluminium rims. You’re getting excellent value here.
Buy if: You want a stiff and light performance-orientated bike with a great spec for the cash.
The flagship Van Rysel RR 940 CF comes in two variants: this one, with Shimano's electronic Ultegra Di2 gear shifting, and the mechanical Dura-Ace version, below. Aside from the groupset they're identical, with Mavic's Pro Carbon SL UST wheels and tyres and Yksion Pro tyres, and a Deda carbon handlebar on both bikes.
Unusually for Decathlon, this isn't inexpensive for a Di2-equipped bike, but the carbon fibre wheels and handlebar stand it apart from similarly priced bikes with the same groupset.
Buy if: You want a great package with whirr-clicky electronic gear shifting
For the top mechanical-shifting model in the range, Decathlon 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 Pro Carbon SL wheels without too outrageous a price tag.
For the flagship model, Decathlon pulls out all the stops and goes for the electronic version of Shimano's pro-quality Dura-Ace shifting. There's usually a much bigger gap than this between the mechanical and electronic versions of top-end bikes, and while some of that is often accounted for by high-zoot wheels on the spendier bike, getting Di2 for just £500 more than mechanical Dura-Ace does make this bike amazing value for money
Buy if: You want a great-riding road bike that's also a bargain for the spec
The top model in Decathlon's trio of aluminium-framed women's road bikes, the Ultra AF Women's gets the same frame as the Van Rysel RR AF bikes, with a full suite of contact points tailored for a woman's anatomy, and Shimano's super-reliable Tiagra groupset.
Buy if: You're a woman who wants to go fast for a very reasonable amount of money
Like the Ultra AF Women's, the carbon fibre version gets women-specific contact points — saddle, stem and handlebar — on its Ultra Evo Dynamic frame. It's available in three sizes, XXS, XS and S, and the black edition here is a terrific deal at just £1,100. It's also available in white for another £200.
Buy if: You're a woman who wants a go-faster carbon fibre bargain
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Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.