French sports giant Decathlon have a new range of road bikes and I was lucky enough to get to try out their Triban RC520 model.
Decathlon have a relatively large range of road bikes encompassing three brands. They have B’twin as entry level, Triban as mid range, and the new Van Rysel as the flagship models (some stunning bikes in here). The RC520 fits almost slap bang in the middle of all of it.
After sparking up a conversation over Instagram with Decathlon in Poole I ended up organising to pick up a press bike. I’ve respected Decathlons value for money/performance at best price approach for a while (have a fair few bits of their kit, just received a running hydration vest for my birthday) and if there’s a nationality that should know how to make a bicycle its the French. I was quite excited to put some miles on it.
The Triban RC520 is a new frame design for Decathlon, one they have designed for comfort. It has more compact geometry (slightly sorter top tube and wheelbase, with more upright riding position) and introduces a sloping top tube and dropped seat stays. Both of these can help to reduce road vibrations. The sloping top tube exposes more seat post and uses the (although limited with aluminium) flex of the smaller diameter 27.2mm post to reduce buzz, and the dropped seat stays transfers road buzz into a section of tube both further away from the seat post and not reinforced by the top tube i.e extra rigidity where its not needed. Now aluminium frames are not known for there amazing compliance or vibration munching qualities but I think Decathlon have done a good job here. This is down to the sum of all those little things adding up matched to the bikes carbon bladed fork and 28mm tyres.
The finishing kit on the RC520 is another big tick. The groupset is mostly Shimano. The mechs, levers, chain and chainset are 105 level with the cassette by microshift. It’s nice to see an external bottom bracket on a bike at this price point, the 24mm axle and wide bearing spacing really increases drivetrain stiffness. Another benefit to this level group is that it’s all 11 speed, another front runner at this price. Most equivalent bikes would be coming equipped with 10 speed Shimano Tiagra sub £1k.
Braking is taken care of via TRP HyRoad cable actuated hydraulic disc brakes. My preconceptions were these would be a bit of a fad, their performance proved otherwise. They had near identical lever feel to a good rim brake with both plenty of modulation and power. If anyone has a road/gravel bike with poor cable operated discs and can’t stump up a new hydraulic group set, I would recommend these as long as your bike runs standard ISO disc mounts. They may not be the prettiest (most hydraulic road disc callipers are direct fit to the frame making them very sleek) but they work very well.
Wheels and tyres are another great all rounder. Wheels are decathlon’s own brand Triban tubeless ready Light wheels, built on sealed bearing hubs with 28 spokes front and rear. Yep tubeless ready at this price! You need to buy tubeless tyres and conversion kit but the ability is built in. The light part of the wheel name is a bit optimistic though with the wheels weighing in at 2kg dead, a fair whack of that will be located in the hubs though with the disc mounts. The tyres are decathlons 28mm Triban Resist+ that have a 1mm nylon anti puncture strip built into the carcass, I’m guessing this worked as I had no punctures in my time on the bike both on and off road. There is obviously a bit of a weight penalty here with the tyres weighing in at 410g a wheel. Overall I found the wheel set super stiff and they rolled well, but I noticed the extra bit of weight up the hills.
The bike is finished off with more of decathlon’s in house Triban kit, but that doesn’t mean it’s not perfectly functional. The bars are a good shape making transition from hoods to drops easy and the seatpost is easily adjusted. As for contact points, the bars are wrapped with a quality foam bar tape, pedals are basic flats (most will replace with pedals of their choice), and the saddle is an in house Triban ergo fit. Saddles are again quite a personal choice but I found this great out of the box. The central relief channel, padding, and width were very well balanced for me.
I rode the RC520 on a mixture of surfaces, in fact I probably gave the bike a 50/50 split on and off road. Yes I know that this is supposed to be a road bike but after about ten minutes on it I got the feeling that it was rugged enough to handle a more than just the uks garbage road surfaces. Living right next to the New Forest I have access to some of the best recreational gravel cycling in the country so the perfect proving ground for a rugged road bike. The RC520 coped really well on the forest paths and fire roads, and even with the thorn and flint littered tracks I suffered no punctures. Despite only having 28mm tyres it handled well off road, I think this is mainly down to the bikes relaxed and confidence inspiring geometry, but there were obvious limits to the levels of adhesion on gravel with slick tyres. One of the best features of this bike were the brakes, they were very predictable. Riding this off road they had a good drenching through fords and mud but the performance did not fade, they had plenty of modulation and felt good through the levers. They would really be a benefit to anyone who was using this bike as either a winter trainer or all year commuter, and with all the hydraulics encapsulated in one block they are low maintenance as well. On road the bike ate up our poor road surfaces, again handling was predicable and relaxed (its not a race bike) and it rolled well. Its easy to get up to speed but being a little heavier than what I’m used to (6kg bike with 50mm aero wheels) I noticed it up the hills. That being said it’s not a slouch and my other bike would fall to bits/throw me off if I tried to ride the same mix of surfaces. The spec of the bike works fantastically well for most surfaces off the shelf, although thats not to say that you couldn’t improve it further to make it more versatile. My suggested upgrades would be a carbon seat post and handlebars to smooth out vibrations and shave a few hundred grams, and maybe some larger volume gravel tyres if you plan on hitting up the loose stuff.
I think the RC520 is fantastic value for money. Not just because of the level of kit you get for £729, but for its competence over different surfaces. It would make an awesome commuter, a weekend explorer, a winter road bike, or even a tourer with a few extra accessories. Decathlon, well done the industry big boys need to be looking at their value for money.