A lot of riders, especially those who are new to the sport, tend to judge the value of a new bike on the spec list, so it would be easy to jump to the conclusion that the Van Rysel RR 900 AF has hit that £850 price point by being an average frameset draped in plenty of bling to make it a viable option. It really hasn't though. This is the full package: a proper race bike at a competitive price.
If you've been paying attention, you'll know that French sports superstore chain Decathlon has given its cycling range a bit of a revamp. B'Twin has been superseded by two new brands: Triban for its touring, commuting and sportive bikes, and the performance models now known as Van Rysel.
Split into carbon fibre and aluminium alloy frames, this RR 900 AF is the second-tier machine in the aluminium line-up.
While many bikes at this price point have an endurance bias when it comes to geometry, the RR 900 AF is a proper race bike. With steep angles, a lengthy top tube and reasonably short head tube, this is a bike for getting long and low on.
It's responsive too. There is plenty of stiffness around the bottom bracket and the front end feels tight in the bends. It's definitely a bike that likes to be ridden hard.
What I like most about it, though, is that it feels so planted. It's surefooted, which gives a rider confidence especially when the road surface is wet and greasy. Some of that is down to the weight – 8.98kg (19.8lb) isn't that svelte for a bike with this kit level, though it doesn't feel sluggish in any way.
Most of it comes from the fact that the frame and fork damp a lot of the road buzz so you can really feel what is going on beneath the tyres. There is loads of feedback which is impressive as the Mavic Yksion tyres aren't the most supple and communicative.
I enjoyed the Van Rysel the most when I was short of time. If I wanted to get out for a blast and make the most of the hour or whatever I had on offer, this was the bike I grabbed. I'd chuck a leg over and smash it about a bit and return home with a grin on my face and a feeling of a job well done.
The 73.5-degree seat angle puts you in a forward, aggressive position, and paired with a 73-degree head angle that offers quick handling, it's a bike that likes the technical sections.
You can really point this bike into a tight bend and know you are going to come out the other side without much issue. The front end tracks nicely and is backed up by the feedback from the fork, so you know exactly what is going on with the front tyre.
The steering has a feeling of directness to it – it's not the sharpest bike I've ridden, but you don't get any feelings of understeer from the fork when heavily loaded by steering forces, which allows you to push hard into the bends.
Should you go in a little deep, the Van Rysel responds well to your input whether that is a shift in bodyweight or a dab of the brakes.
On the whole, the handling is nicely weighted, just on the right side of twitchy.
If you want to head out for longer rides then the RR 900 AF delivers on the comfort front too. It's not quite as refined as the frame on the latest Specialized Allez Sprint Comp, for instance, but to get one of those with this level of kit you're looking at laying out £1,700.
I went out for a fair few three to four-hour rides on the Van Rysel and never came home feeling battered.
The RR 900 AF uses Van Rysel's Ultra RCR frame, with butted tubes to create comfort and reduce weight. Butting is where a manufacturer draws the tubes to differing wall thicknesses, typically thicker at the ends to resist stress and thinner in the middle to promote a bit of flex and therefore comfort.
For a medium model it has a quoted weight of 1,400g – not massively light but not exactly heavy either.
The welding is neat and tidy enough for the money, and the paint finish is certainly hardwearing. You also get a lifetime warranty on the frame, and two years for the fork.
Another thing that is impressive to see is that the cabling runs fully internally; often with alloy frames the cables are ejected at the bottom bracket shell, but here the cable for the rear mech runs right though the chainstay.
Being a race bike there is little in the way of mounts, with just a couple for attaching bottle cages. Tyre clearance is all right though: 25mm tyres are fitted as standard and there is plenty of room for 28s, which is plenty for the type of riding intended.
The fork is a mix of carbon fibre for the legs, with an aluminium alloy tapered steerer. It tips the scales around the 500g mark.
For braking, it uses a direct mount fitment where the specific calliper is bolted into each fork leg rather than just a central bolt at the crown like most dual pivots. The idea is to create more stiffness in the calliper to cope with the braking forces, but it really is negligible. The 105 callipers are great, so it's not really a criticism.
As I mentioned earlier, the Van Rysel is very well specced for the money.
While many brands at this price scrimp on the brake callipers or the chainset to save money, Decathlon has gone for a full Shimano 105 R7000 groupset.
The gearing comprises a semi-compact 52/36 crankset and an 11-28 cassette, which is pretty much spot on for the type of riding the RR 900 AF is designed for.
What I also like is that Decathlon has specced a long cage rear mech, which means if you want to swap in a cassette with a 32-tooth large sprocket you can without any changes needed.
The 105 groupset offers some of the best performance for your money when it comes to braking and gear shifting, so it is no surprise that I had no issues here.
Whether going for a lazy gear change or a snap shift through the block, 105 always delivers, and the performance is so close to Ultegra that you'll only notice it when riding the two side by side.
The handlebar, stem, seatpost and saddle are all in-house branded and do a decent enough job.
You're never going to get overly excited about it, but there is no real need to upgrade either.
The bar has a compact design, which gives you plenty of choice for hand positions without being too extreme, and I was quite a fan of the saddle. It's firm for fast, hard riding and I liked the narrow nose.
Wheel-wise, the Van Rysel comes with a set of Mavic Aksiums and Yksion tyres.
I've ridden them thousands of miles on various test bikes over the years, and while they're a little weighty you can't really knock them. They'll take plenty of abuse and offer decent levels of stiffness.
The tyres have improved over the years, having been quite puncture prone in their earlier guises, and they don't feel quite as wooden as they first did.
Suppleness and feedback still isn't up there with the latest tyres on the market, though, so once they wear they are definitely worth an upgrade.
This, quite frankly, is where the Van Rysel delivers its killer blow. Comparing it to other bikes I've ridden, the RR 900 AF could easily be twice the price and still be considered good value for the money.
Something like the Tresca TCA-1 105 has a very similar build. True, it's a much smaller company so doesn't have the benefit of the buying power of something like Decathlon, but it offers a similar ride. The Tresca has slightly sharper handling but the Van Rysel wins on comfort. It's marginal in both instances, but the RR 900 AF is £750 cheaper.
Even Canyon can't compete! Its Endurace AL 7.0 with a 105 groupset will set you back £999, highlighting just what great value for money the Van Rysel is.
I also mentioned earlier that I'm a big fan of the Specialized Allez when it comes to alloy frames. Admittedly, the new model is less racy than its predecessor and the Van Rysel, but it offers a great ride. The Elite model that I tested last year has a similar build spec to the RR 900 AF, and will also cost £999 at rrp.
If you are starting out in the sport or fancy an entry-level race bike, then £850 is still a lot of money, but I can promise you it will not be wasted if you were to go for the Van Rysel. It offers a great ride, comes with an impressive spec list and the frame is ripe for upgrading as you make gains in performance and grow in confidence.
Quality frameset with an impressive spec list that also delivers in performance
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Van Rysel RR 900 AF
Size tested: Large
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
Decathlon provides these details:
Our new Van Rysel Ultra RCR frame is derived from Evo Vario technology. Aluminium is an ideal choice for obtaining an excellent propulsion-to-comfort ratio. The variable thickness tubes considerably reduce the weight.
The cables are built into the frame.
This frame is UCI-approved.
Weight: 1400g in size M.
Di2 compatible frame.
FORK / SUSPENSION
VanRysel Ultra Evo Vario fork mounted exclusively on the VanRysel RCR Ultra Evo Vario frame. The combination of carbon and aluminium is the ideal choice for perfect synergy for the VanRysel Ultra Evo Vario frame.
Brake located as close as possible to the fork.
HANDLEBAR / STEM / STEERING
The compact 6061 T6 aluminium VanRysel handlebar is sized to the bike.
The handlebar weighs 320g in size 420mm.
XS, S 400mm.
M, L 420mm.
VR oversize aluminium stem
Weight of 140 g in size 110 mm.
XS 80 mm
S 90 mm
M 100 mm
L 110 mm
XL 120 mm
Sealed bearings; diameter is 11 1/8" at the top and 1 1/4" at the bottom.
New Shimano 105 R7000 11-speed drivetrain.
Shimano 105 SS double front derailleur.
Shimano 105 11-speed rear derailleur.
Shimano 105 double compact chainset.
CRANKSET / CASSETTE
Shimano 105 52 x 36 chainset.
Crank length varies according to size of bike:
XS / S: 170mm.
M: 172.5 mm.
L / XL: 175mm.
SHIMANO 105 11S 11 x 28.
Shimano 105 Direct Mount brakes on the fork: their dual-pivot technology offers precision and power. Stays perfectly centred thanks to DPB technology.
Brakes made from cast aluminium and covered with powder paint that withstands frequent washing.
New Mavic Aksium 17c wheels.
Wider rim so you can use wider, more comfortable tyres.
ETRTO dimension: 622 x 17c.
Pair, without tyres: 1880g.
Mavic Yksion tyre ensures a good connection with the Aksium 17c rim.
700 x 25.
SADDLE / SEAT POST
VanRysel Comp Ergo Chromo saddle: chosen for its comfort and efficiency.
VanRysel racing aluminium seat post.
Length: 350 mm.
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?
Decathlon says, "The Van Rysel RR 900 AF is ideal for getting started with sport cycling. Developed by our engineers for sport cycling and intensive riding, this performance bike has a quality aluminium frame that offers the perfect balance between comfort and lightness. Versatile and reliable, it can handle all inclines and all distances."
I think the Van Rysel is a very good bike and not just for the money. You are getting a quality frameset that delivers on performance and comfort.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
Above this model is the RR 920 AF which comes with a Shimano Ultegra groupset for £1,199.99 and a women's model equipped with Shimano Tiagra for £649.99.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The paint job is hardy and will stand up to plenty of abuse.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The frame is made from butted aluminium tubes, while the fork has carbon fibre legs and an alloy steerer.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The geometry is race orientated with a long top tube and a short head tube plus steep angles. There are full details for the five sizes on the website.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
This large model has a stack and reach of 572mm and 401mm, giving a ratio of 1.42. Spot on with what I'd expect for a bike with speed at its heart.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Yes. It isn't the most refined aluminium frame out there but it still delivers a comfortable ride.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
No issues with stiffness at all. The bottom bracket area is tight, as is the front end.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Yes. Considering the weight I never found the bike to be sluggish – stamp on the pedals and it certainly shifts.
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? Responsive and sharp without being twitchy.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
I've ridden faster and more direct bikes, but considering the Van Rysel is likely to be ridden by those new to racing I'd say the handling is absolutely spot on. There is loads of feedback which lets you know what the bike is up to regardless of your ability.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I was a big fan of the saddle. Firm padding while still soaking up the bumps.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
Shimano's 105 crankset offers plenty of stiffness when paired to the bottom bracket junction of the RR 900 AF.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
At a later date I'd upgrade the wheels and tyres to exploit the performance of the frameset.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
The 105 groupset can't really be faulted when it comes to performance for the money.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?
The Mavic Aksiums are good wheels but if performance is your goal then it's worth swapping them out for something lighter.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?
The Mavic Yksion tyres are decent performers but they lack feel, which detracts from the overall ride.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
It's basic componentry but when you look at what else you are getting for the money, you can't really complain.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
There are very few bikes out there that can deliver this kind of spec list and ride quality for the money. Specialized's Allez Elite will cost you a grand, and so will Canyon's Endurace 7.0 AL.
Use this box to explain your overall score
There are better alloy framesets out there when it comes to refinement but you really can't fault the Van Rysel's performance and spec list for the money.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!