The first thing B'Twin say about the Triban 520 is that it 'sets the benchmark yet again'. And they're right: 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. It's not just a good bike for the money, it's a good bike, full stop.
You get Shimano's excellent Sora gears, a good quality alloy frame, a carbon fork and decent finishing kit, and the bike is versatile and capable. I've tried everything from commuting to racing on it, and it's acquitted itself as well as bikes costing twice as much. It's a steal. There are a few minor issues, but overall this is a brilliant bike for the money.
The ride: assured, engaging
First things first: the Triban 520 is a fun bike to ride. If that box doesn't get ticked, then there's not much point comparing specs and prices. But tick it it does. From the off I've been very happy riding the Triban. The alloy frame and carbon-bladed fork are well made and finished, and they give the bike an assured feel.
There are no surprises in the geometry: our XL test bike has a 580mm effective top tube, with 73-degree angles at the seat tube and head tube. The 410mm chainstays give a (little) bit of extra room for bigger tyres (the bike will take up to 32mm rubber, or 28mm tyres and mudguards) and a 207mm head tube is firmly in sportive territory.
The frame has a fairly sharply sloped top tube, meaning that the seat tube is only 530mm; that means more exposed seatpost, which in turn means a bit of extra give at the rear. The beefy seatstays certainly don't look like they're designed to flex all that much. 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.
Spin the Triban 520 up to speed and it's pleasingly neutral, without feeling lazy in the turns. The fork is a straight-through 1 1/8in steerer but the Triban doesn't want for stiffness up front, it tracks very well. Even chucking it into the hairpins of the local Odd Down circuit in the heat of a Cat 3/4 race didn't unduly faze it, and carving long descents is a pleasant experience too.
Until you have to stop: the only real let-down are the brakes. Long-drop callipers are never the most powerful and that's certainly true of the non-series units you get on this Triban. Stock moulded pads don't help either; they'll stop you okay but you need to haul on the levers a bit. It's worth budgeting for some decent cartridge pads. I'd be tempted to make that swap straight away rather than wait for the original pads to wear out.
Shimano's fifth-tier Sora groupset takes care of the shifting, and as usual it was a trouble-free experience. I've reviewed the groupset in the past and everything I said then still holds true: you get much of the performance of more expensive groupsets – and proper Dual Control shifters – at a much reduced price.
The Triban 520 comes with a triple chainset (30/39/50) and a Sunrace 12-25 cassette. That gives a similar range to a 50/34 compact and an 11-28 cassette, but opens up the option to fit a much wider cassette; the mid cage rear mech will cope with an 11-32, which will give you plenty of winching gears if you decide to load up the Triban for touring.
The build: versatile, well considered
Speaking of touring, the Triban frame comes complete with mudguard and rack mounts front and rear. You could conceivably fit a full set of panniers, but most people will be looking for rear rack compatibility, and with two mounting eyelets on the rear dropout and rack mounts on the seatstays, adding full mudguards and a rack for commuting or touring is straightforward.
The stock wheels will cope with being loaded up; they're certainly not the lightest but they've been dependable and remained true with no play in the hubs. The 25mm Hutchinson Equinox tyres are a folding bead, which is good to see as it's an area where manufacturers often try to save a few quid with a cheap wire-bead tyre that adds weight and blunts performance. I found the tyres well behaved, but swapped them out for 28mm Continental GP4000s for much of the testing.
I swapped the wheels out too when I raced in the 3/4s, changing them for some carbon/alloy semi-deep ones from another test bike. They were a good deal lighter, and certainly improved the feel of the bike, which coped admirably with the stresses and strains of bunch racing. If nothing else it was an indication that the frame and fork are well worthy of an upgrade.
All the other kit on the bike is pretty standard stuff. The alloy bar and stem (the bar width changes with frame size) are perfectly functional, as is the seatpost. The saddle isn't the best I've tried but it was okay, and it's easily swapped out for whatever your favourite might be. Even the bar tape is good quality, another area often skimped on budget bikes that can seriously affect the ride.
Overall: a steal for the money
This isn't just a good bike for the money, it's a good bike, full stop. There are some compromises (heavy wheels, below-par brakes) but for £450 it's a compelling buy if you're looking to get into road riding. You can commute on it, do sportives on it, tour on it... even race on it if you want. It'll take mudguards and big tyres for winter, and it's fast enough to keep up in the summer.
It's certainly one of the best sub-£500 bikes out there. The Triban 540, at £600 with a 10-speed 105 groupset and Mavic Aksium wheels, shares the same frame and looks like it might be even more of a bargain if your budget will stretch. Certainly the frame and fork are easily good enough to wear the more expensive kit.
Fantastic value starter road bike that will cope with everything from commuting to racing
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road.cc test report
Make and model: B'Twin Triban 520
Size tested: 58cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
B'Twin say: “All new lifetime warranty Triban frame, Shimano Sora 9s groupset and carbon forks. Perfect road bike for commuting, outings or sportives. Without doubt, the new Triban 520 sets the benchmark yet again.”
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
New, sloping, 6061-T6 aluminium BTWIN SPORT frame with integrated headset socket. Short-frame geometry, 1.9 kg in size 57, strong, versatile frame: mudguard and front and rear-pannier racks can be mounted.
Fork / Suspension
BTWIN Sport fork with carbon blade and 1"1/8 aheadset aluminium pivot.
Inserts on blades for mounting a front-pannier rack
strong, lightweight and high-precision fork.
Accessories / equipment
Comes with front and rear-lighting kit and bell.
Shimano SORA shifters: Fast and accurate gear shifting.
Shimano Sora triple front derailleur
Shimano Sora 9-speed rear derailleur
Crankset / Cassette
SUNRACE 9-speed cassette 12x25 (12/13/14/15/17/19/21/23/25)
Shimano SORA 50X39X30 crankset
170 mm crank in XS/S/M
175 mm crank in L/XL
Long Dual Pivot Callipers: Reliability and power enable a mudguard to be mounted.
Handlebars / Stem / Steering
New, ergonomic BTWIN SPORT handlebars for a better grip and great comfort.
XXXS, XXS: 380 mm
XS, S: 400 mm
M; L: 420 mm
XL; XXL: 440 mm
BTWIN SPORT 32-spoke wheel
Aero 32 hub
25 C Hutchinson Equinox for higher performance and greater comfort.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Well built, decent finish, especially for the money.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
6061-T6 aluminium frame
Fork: carbon blade / alloy crown & steerer
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
580mm effective top tube
73° head angle
73° seat angle
207mm head tube
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Ride quality is good; it's not harsh, but it does feel direct.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Some derailleur rub under power at the front, but generally the bike feels responsive.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Good power transfer overall, some chainset flex.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Spot on for most uses, everything from commuting to racing was fine.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Saddle is fairly ordinary, but easily swapped.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
Triple chainset isn't the stiffest but does open up a wider range of uses.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
Heavy wheels take a while to spin up to speed.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
Basically a full Sora groupset at this price is a steal.
Wheels and tyres
Tyres are good, wheels are heavy.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes, a lot
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Absolutely
Use this box to explain your score
Full marks for value; they don't get any better value than this. The bike's not without a few minor issues, but they are minor, and it's a very good bike overall.
About the tester
Age: 42 Height: 189cm Weight: 91kg
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.