If you needed proof of the way aluminium has percolated down the price range, how's this: a few years ago, Trek's equivalent model to the 3500, the 800 Sport, was all steel. Today, the 3500 has an aluminium frame and it's a pound lighter than its predecessor.
Frame and cockpit
The Trek has a short reach, courtesy of a shorter effective top tube length and an 80mm stem. That stem is of the older-style quill variety (that drops into a threaded headset), made from traditional steel. This offers more height adjustment than a threadless stem, but it's heavier and doesn't clamp the steerer tube as firmly.
The aluminium frame has a gusset at the head tube, and the down tube is ovalised vertically at the head tube and horizontally at the bottom bracket to boost stiffness in those planes. While there are mudguard and rack mounts, there are no disc mounts, but that's to be expected on a £200 bike.
The 3500 will go off-road. It's harder work than some rivals though, not so much for its greater weight - but for the lack of choice in low gears. It handles well enough, and 31lb isn't so heavy that you get the dead feel of the catalogue-shop iron donkey.
Gearing is 21-speed, pretty standar fare. Again, while this requires a threaded hub rather than a Freehub, it's a QR hub rather than a heavier bolt-on one. The Tourney derailleur is again par for the course, the freewheel uses a 13-34T Megadrive unit. (Sunrace's version of Megarange.) That 34T bottom cog gives a reasonable climbing gear, even with a 28T chainring It's very much a bailout gear. You've got six sprockets from 13- 24T, then a huge 10-tooth jump to the 34T. You can go from struggling to pedalling air. The 22-32-42 and 11-32 combo of the Specialized allows much more even cadence pedalling, with a bigger choice of low gears, as well as a lower bottom gear.
Equipment and wheels
Wheels are reasonable alloy hoops, with 36 spokes apiece. With no suspension to soften the bumps, more spokes is a good way to make a cheap factory- built wheel that bit stronger. The Bontrager tyres have a reasonable amount of tread, plus a centre-rolling strip for faster Tarmac performance. They're okay for summer or occasional off-road use, but aren't meant for thick, plothery mud.
Cutbacks have been made with the bars and stem to keep the price at £200. Both are steel, and the latter's even heavier because it's a quill type. However, on a bike at this price, it's only realistic to upgrade the bars unless you're also replacing the fork, as you can't swap a quill stem for a threadless one without an Ahead converter, which will cost around £18-£20 and won't save you much weight.
BIKE ABOUT TOWN
At 31lb, the 3500 isn't light for a rigid aluminium bike. The hi-ten fork, steel bars and steel quill stem all weigh against it. The lack of a threadless stem means that it's not as upgradeable as the Revolution, and the only extras it's really worth investing in are things like mudguards, rack and lights. It's still £200-worth of bike that you could get plenty of use of as a town bike and occasional off-road bike.