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Triban RC500 and RC520: First ride review

21 Sep 2018
Verdict:

A total redesign provides disc brakes and adds comfort to Decathlon’s well-loved Triban RC500 and RC520 bikes

Price: 
RC500 - £529 ; RC520 - £729

Previously known as B’Twin, Decathlon’s high-end road bikes will now be sold under the Triban brand. Launching with two bikes starting with the £529 Shimano Sora equipped RC500 and Shimano 105 equipped RC520, both models now benefit from disc brakes and tubeless compatible wheels, along with an entirely redesigned aluminium frames.

Comfort is the key criteria, with all design choices supposedly stemming from this desire.

Featuring clearance for up to 38mm tyres or mudguards, a low-hanging chassis leaves plenty of standover along with enough seatpost extension to add some dampening.

With both models employing a carbon fork, Decathlon reckons they’re the comfiest bikes it’s ever produced.

These new bikes will replace the brand’s existing models. With the current Microshift equipped Triban 500 and Shimano Sora equipped 520 retailing for £350 and £500 respectively, both have frequently been held as the perfect entry-level bike.

Shifting in massive numbers, they’ve been many rider’s first ‘proper’ road bike. Nevertheless, despite their popularity, both have grown a little outdated.

Most notably in their use of narrow tyres and triple chainsets. It’s therefore good to see these areas addressed, even if the new bikes have jumped up in cost.

Anyway, Decathlon will still continue to provide some alternative and cheaper drop bar models.

Keen to get the first spin, we popped down to the brand’s Surrey Quays store to take a look.

Triban RC500

The lower spec RC500 costs £529 and uses mechanical Promax discs and a Shimano Sora 9-speed groupset. With the cables running under the handlebar tape and employing slimline shifters, Shimano’s entry-level parts still look and feel very neat.

Pleasingly clunky and definitive in their shifting, the gaps between gears are a little noticeable towards the easier end of the cassette.

Still with both bikes using a compact 50/34t chainset and wide 11-32 cassette the range of gears is huge.

Triban RC520

By comparison, the £729 Triban RC520 uses Shimano’s just released R7000 mechanical 105 groupset. Given the price this is bonkers.

The shifters alone retail for £200. With a shadow rear derailleur design and 11-gears, it’s phenomenal. You can find full specs here.

In order to marry this with the hydraulic disc brakes and not blow the budget, the RC520 employs TRP’s Hy/Rd hybrid callipers. These use a standard mechanical cable to actuate a hydraulic system whose reservoir is located atop the brake.

Unlike many makers who try and sneak in a cut-price chainset, Triban also cough up for proper Shimano models with external bottom brackets on both bikes.

On the road

Despite being a French company the new Triban bikes have been designed both for British conditions and to suit British riders’ progressive tastes.

This is evident in the relaxed handling, broad tyres, and wide gearing.

Off the bat, the rebranded bikes both look slickly put together. Fitting with their comfort billing, the geometry is decently upright and not too stretched.

Hopping on, the result is a bike that’s likely to be as easy to keep a hold of on a hundred-mile ride as it proved to be on a quick blast.

Coming with 28c width tyres as standard, these are fitted to tubeless-ready rims. With space for up to 38c tyres, the option to fit wider models, or squeeze on additional mudguards, are both possible.

There’s even the capacity to go gravel riding, with rumours of a dedicated model to follow in the medium term.

So they look good, but how do they ride? On my initial trip out it was hard to identify a weak link in either machine. Crucially the wheels didn’t sandbag the bike.

Often a stumbling point on cheaper models, their low weight, 1,800 grams on the RC520 and 2,000 grams on the RC500, meant both fairly raced along.

With quality bearings, wide rims, and tubeless compatibility they more than hold their own.

Fitted to them, the wide 28c tyres made jaunts across cobbles or light off-road stretches fun. Despite being on the chunkier side, they proved grippy and should be puncture resistant.

The contact points, shared between both bikes, are also massively improved. The bars are a comfy shape and stiff, while the redesigned saddle is a huge step up from those previously fitted to Decathlon’s Triban models.

At both price points, the respective Shimano groupsets represent great value. Braking on both models was also good.

On the cheaper RC500, the Promax brakes proved the equal of a standard calliper, possibly a little more powerful. They’ll also drastically cut maintenance thanks to longer-lasting pads.

The RC520 was noticeably faster to stop thanks to its hybrid mechanical/hydraulic callipers. With power well above most solely mechanical systems, along with aesthetically and ergonomically pleasing levers, I'm a big fan. I'll even forgive the slightly lumpy looks of the brake itself.

Used on both bikes, the frame is nicely detailed. Although the cables run externally, their stops have been moved up the downtube to help keep them away from contaminating grit and grime.

The heavily worked tube profiles probably do something towards the eternal goal of being laterally stiff and vertically compliant, but of more interest to the average rider, they look like they’ve been pinched from a much more expensive bike.

Integration of the brake callipers is cleanly achieved using a post-mount fixing. All the bosses for mudguards and racks are present, including ones on the front fork blades.

In the interests of simplicity and budget, the wheels employ standard quick releases.

Conclusion

Long after the novelty of Aldi and Lidl has worn off, going into Decathlon still feels like being on a free European holiday.

Its huge, hanger-like space is filled with every conceivable accoutrement for every sport imaginable. It’s very easy to wander in looking for an innertube and leave with an inflatable kayak and an archery set.

As a company, its stated aim is to get more people into sport. With the new Triban models it’s offering proper road bikes with modern design features in a package that’s silly value.

The brand should definitely achieve that aim. Composed, easy to ride, likely to be low maintenance, and highly adaptable, my quick spin had me loving the ride and scratching my head at the price.

Launching into stores in early October, there'll be an in-depth test in the near future.

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