Looking for a bargain winter, commuting and day-touring bike? Pop into your local Decathlon from today and you’ll be able to pick up one of the French sports megastore chain’s two new disc-braked Triban bikes for as little £530.
These bikes have been bubbling under for a while, but they’re finally here, and we recently got to take the Triban RC 520 for a spin. Let’s take a look at them.
The £530 Triban RC 500 and £730 Triban RC 520 share the new Evo 18 6061 aluminium frame, with a tall head tube, steeply sloping top tube, fittings for racks and mudguards and clearance for tyres up to 40mm wide. With a claimed weight of 1,780g for a size medium frame, it’s no featherweight, but that’s still a decent number for a robust pothole-basher; getting you to work in comfort is one of many uses Decathlon sees for the bike UK cycling sector manager Peter Lazarus describes as “a bit of a Swiss Army knife.”
These are deeply practical bikes, but they’re not unexciting. It might take a little while to wind them up to speed but once there, and especially on descents they boom along very nicely as I found when I got fed up with a driver who was farting around in front of our ride group on one of Greenwich’s descents and cheerfully zoomed past him.
That said, the theme of the new Tribans is definitely comfort. They’re both shod with Decathlon’s new 28mm Triban Resist+ puncture-resistant tyres, the fork has carbon blades (with rack mounts), and you’re invited to park your bum on the new Triban ergofit saddle which, on a short ride at least, I found surprisingly comfy.
In a very welcome bit of attention to detail both bikes have tubeless-ready wheels. That’s still unusual on bikes under a grand; it’s unheard-of on a bike round £500.
The cheaper of the two models has a spec centred on Shimano’s Sora R3000 nine-speed groupset. There’s a 50/34 chainset and 11-32 cassette to get you up hills and Promax 300R mechanical disc brakes to slow you down on the descents.
The Triban RC500 rolls on the heavier of Decathlon’s two new tubeless-ready wheelsets. At a claimed 2,200g a pair, they’re clearly built with pointing and laughing at potholes as a major design objective.
All in all, it’s an impressive spec for £530. The Sora components look far better than you’d expect for their modest price, and the details are all well thought-out.
For £730, the Triban RC 520’s combination of a mostly Shimano 105 R7000 transmission and TRP’s excellent HY/RD disc brakes is startlingly good. The brakes in particular are an order of magnitude better than the all-mechanical units you usually find at this price, and the inclusion of the new 105 R7000 GS rear mech means you can fit super-low gears if you’re willing to ignore Shimano’s rules (think of them more like guidelines).
The chainset is a 50/34, but it’s Shimano’s ‘non-series’ FC-RS510 unit rather than the considerably lighter and better-looking 105 R7000 set. Still, it’s not an unreasonable way to keep the cost of the bike down. Like the RC 500, the RC 520 has an 11-32 cassette for a wide, low gear range. Being eleven-speed rather than nine means the jumps between gears are closer though.
The RC 520’s wheels are a lighter version of the Triban tubeless-ready wheels used on the RC 500. The rims here have a welded rather than a pinned joint, and the wheels are 200g lighter.
I spent an hour and a half or so riding the Triban RC 520 round the streets of Greenwich and Blackheath which aside from the spots of hideous snarly traffic is pretty good place to get the feel of a bike like this. There are quiet streets, cycleways, cobbles and even some trails across the heath, plus the slopes around and through Greenwich Park are an excellent test of a bike’s climbing and descending mettle.
This is one steady bike, which is exactly as it should be for the uses Decathlon intends for it. Commuting in particular needs a bike that isn’t constantly demanding your attention, and that isn’t whacked off line by the slightest bump in the road. The Triban RC 520 fits the bill perfectly.
It’s not dull though. It’s a hoot on descents, where that steadiness translates into the ability to plummet as fast as your nerves and skill allow, while on climbs it certainly didn’t slow down the rest of the group as they left me behind. (Memo to self, serious turbo time needed this winter.)
The brakes are the standout feature and source of a lot of the Triban RC 520’s confidence. A fully hydraulic brake system would blow the price up significantly, so Decathlon have gone for the next best thing and fitted TRP HY/RD calipers, which are actuated by standard cables but have a hydraulic stage to handle the tricky bit, turning the braking force through 90°. They’re smooth and powerful stoppers, with the oomph you need when a driver decides to cut in front of you without warning.
I’m looking forward to spending more time with the Triban RC 520 on my home roads. I want to slap on some fatter tyres and find out how it goes on Cambridgeshire’s drove roads, and I want to see if my first impression of a bike that’ll be comfortable for long days out is confirmed by, er, taking it for some long days out. The Triban RC 520 could easily turn out to be a very reasonably-priced example of the ‘one bike to do everything’ genre, especially with a second set of wheels so you can easily tailor it for the day’s surfaces.
One of the entertaining things about Decathlon product launches is that their product managers cheerfully drop mentions of bikes they have in development. Following on from these two new Tribans, we can expect to see a posh version, working name Triban 900, in the near future. That bike will be aimed at experienced riders doing rides of over 100km.
There’ll be a gravel-orientated version of the Triban RC 520 in early 2019; the Decathlon team is currently arguing about what chainset it should have. A big vote from us for 46/30 please, and while you’re at it persuade Shimano to make an SGS rear mech that will officially handle a 40-tooth sprocket.
Sometime around March there’ll be a flat-bar version of the Triban RC series and the current Triban 500 will be replaced by the Triban RC 120 which will be available in a disc-braked version.
Hints were also dropped of lightweight, high-end gravel bikes, but don’t hold your breath: those are in the pipeline for 2020 and beyond.
For the moment though, if you’re looking for a disc-braked all-rounder and in particular for a great-value bike to see you through the winter months, you could do a lot worse than either of the new Triban bikes.
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.