Road bikes are lots for fun for sunny days zooming round the lanes and belting to the office, but not everyone likes drop handlebars. B'Twin's Triban 540 promises that road bike zip with the more upright position of a flat bar so you can sit up and admire the view or keep an eye out for random taxis.
New tube shapes, low-key colour scheme and tidy welding
Part of the bike range at sport store chain Decathlon, the £500 B'Twin Triban 540 strikes a balance between speed and practicality. On the speed side, well, at heart it's a road bike. Skinny tyres, narrow saddle, seat a bit higher than the bars. On the other hand, it's got a flat bar, with gears controlled by mountain bike-style triggers so you never need move your hands away from the brakes.
25mm tyres from Hutchinson have a smooth tread pattern for speed
The Hutchinson Equinox tyres aren't super-skinny at 25mm, and there's room in the frame for fatter rubber for more grip and comfort. There's also space and the necessary mounting points for mudguards and racks, so the Triban 540 can be used for a spot of light touring too.
If you want a comfier ride there's room in the frame for fatter tyres. It'll take tyres up to 32mm wide without mudguards, or 28mm with them, which should make it an ideal fast pothole-basher too.
Shimano's Tiagra trigger shifters come easily to hand
Its versatility makes a bike like this especially attractive. You're not going to race it, but there's no reason you couldn't do a shorter sportive on the Triban 540. As well as the road applications we've already mentioned, you could also use it on dirt roads, though you'd definitely want to fit the fattest tyres you can fit for that.
Hybrids tend to be a bit weighty, but at a claimed 9.3kg (20,4lb) without pedals, the Triban 540 is a respectable weight for a £500 bike. That's down to the aluminium frame, which Decathlon claims weighs 1.9kg (4.2lb) in a size 57cm, carbon fibre fork and sensible selection of components especially the Shimano Tiagra transmission.
The combination of 50/34 compact chainrings and 11-28 sprockets gives a wide range of gears for the hills
Tiagra sits in the middle of Shimano's line-up. It's good stuff — reliable, easy to use and nicely styled.
Decathlon have gone for a double chainset to keep things simple. It's a compact configuration so you won't be struggling on hills with the kind of high gears only a pro racer can turn. Rather, there's a wide gear selection that covers the range from zooming down hills to getting back up them without having to toil too much.
The aluminium frame is newly designed for the Triban 540 and its stablemates
First riding impressions are good. The gears click easily into place, and our tester reports the climb of Bristol's ominously named Two Mile Hill on his journey home is a lot easier than on his previous bike.
He also likes the upright riding position, and is even finding the toeclips easy to get used to.
Plenty of room for fatter tyres and mudguards thanks to the long-reach brake calipers
The Triban 540 is one of four new models in Decathlon's range that we looked at when they were launched in May.
All four use the same new 6061 aluminium frame and carbon fibre fork. The frame has all-new tube profiles, with a rounded square shape, and a larger down tube. The geometry has been updated too. The new Tribans have been designed less for racing and more for those cyclists wanting a versatile and comfortable bike for tackling sportives or riding to work.
The fork has fittings midway down the blades for a low-rider front rack. You can carry even quite large panniers in this position and they'll affect the ride and handling less than if they're on the back. This was the set up used by adventurer Nick Sanders when he rode round the world in 80 days back in the late 80s.
Our tester is finding the own-brand saddle is a comfy place for his bum
As we've come to expect from Decathlon, the Triban 540 is great value for money. The Shimano Tiagra components are of a quality usually found on road bikes up to around £1,000, so to find them on a £500 bike is a real bonus. That's partly down to a flat bar not needing expensive STI brake/shift levers, but largely down to Decathlon's huge buying power and the fact that there's no distribution layer in the chain between you and the factory.
For riders who shy away from drop handlebars, the Triban 540 would be a great first 'serious' bike or a step up from the kind of budget hybrids we looked at in our guide to cheap transport recently.
The carbon fibre fork has mounts for a low-rider front rack.
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.