The B’Twin Mach 740 comes from European sports megastore Decathlon, which has a reputation for competitive prices. It sells a massive range of sports goods, from darts to weight-lifting equipment, so it’s something of a surprise that they invest quite so much into their in-house cycle brand B’Twin.
Unlike many sports stores, they haven’t just gone for cheap bikes with budget kit. Instead they’ve recruited a full design team, based in France, to create bikes that can hold a candle to any independent brand.
HIGHS: Value packed race machine
LOWS: The ride is very firm
The Mach range is based on last year’s Facet. With its angular shapes and stealth bomber-style flats (not to mention the understated matt grey and matt black finish), the Mach certainly stands out from the crowd.
The chief product engineer Andrew Lorenzi worked at Look prior to joining B’Twin, and the 740 displays plenty of influence from the French super bike brand.
The remit for the Mach was to create a stiff, lightweight and efficient machine for pro riders. The Mach is actually the bike of choice for Decathlon’s own under-19 pro development team. While the Mach shares the same shaping as last year’s Facet, the layup of the carbon fibre has been optimised, leading to 100g reduction in frame weight. That means the frame now weighs a very respectable 1kg, which is impressive for a bike at this price – or any price, really.
Add a fork that’s just 350g and you have a very light chassis on which to base a bike.
B’Twin’s team are sponsored by Campagnolo, so it’s no surprise to see Campagnolo on its premium bikes. For your £1,699 you get a full Campag Athena 11-speed groupset – and not just the standard model. The Mach 740 is equipped with the upgraded groupset, which boasts carbon ergo-levers and a carbon chainset.
The Athena has positive snap to its shifting, and feels quicker than 105 across the block. With a sweep of the lever, it flies through multiple cogs easily.
The brakes also offer a great level of feel; the powerful dual-pivot front brake does most of the work, as you’d expect, the rear is a lighter, less powerful single-pivot design. Together they work well but the rear is prone to slipping off-centre, which causes the pad to rub unless you seriously tighten the centre anchor bolt.
The price includes a pair of composite-bodied B’Twin Look Keo compatible pedals, which really up the value stakes. They perform as well as Look’s originals as far as engagement and release goes.
When we got the Mach 740 on the road, it was clear that the Mach is an all-out race bike. The aggressive front end and long, low position are all about going quickly. The gearing is aimed at racing too, with a 52/39 ring pairing and an 11-27 cassette. This combination makes for a truly excellent running gear on a £1,699 bike.
The Mach is a capable climber too – on longer rides and more extended climbs we would prefer a compact chainset upfront, but that says more about us than the bike.
The wheelset, also from Campagnolo, is the latest Sirocco 35. The wheels have an aero profiled 35mm deep rim, bladed spokes and excellent quality hubs. At 1,725g, they’re lighter than most wheels you get at this price, and are shod with the lightweight and top quality Michelin Pro4 SC tyres.
We love just how responsive the 740 is. It’s quick to respond to direction changes and its feels totally solid when sprinting hard out of the saddle. The downside is that the ride is rather firm.
The ProLogo Nago Evo saddle is a favourite of our testers but the back end of the frame isn’t exactly compliant. Most of the vibrations from the road are transmitted through to you, which can become a little wearing a couple of hours into a ride on rougher surfaces.
The frame and fork do an excellent job of tracking straight, but again, vibration is transmitted up into the alloy cockpit and the thin leather-like bar tape doesn’t do anything to help dissipate bumps and noisy road surfaces.
If you’re an aspiring racer looking for a competitive steed, then the B’Twin Mach 740 should definitely make your shortlist. To make the 740 more sportive-friendly, you’d want to a least fit thicker bar tape such as Specialized’s Bar Phat or Fi’zi:k’s gel padded wraps. Ideally you’d fit a quality carbon bar too.
This article forms part of Cycling Plus magazine’s Bike of the Year 2014 Awards, which will be published on 3 March 2014. Cycling Plus is available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.