The French sports megastore Decathlon has a deserved reputation for producing quality bikes – including Tour de France-level machines – at prices undercutting just about everybody else’s out there.
The newest incarnation of Decathlon’s Triban’s RC 520, a bike I’ve rated very highly in the past, has lost the B’Twin branding and ratchets up a notch. Or deux.
This is the least expensive of our top 10 2020 £1,000 Road Bike of the Year contenders, although there’s no evidence of that from the RC 520’s components – and unlike some value-packed bikes it’s not an online-only purchase either. You can see the Triban in the flesh and part with your cash at a ‘real’ bike shop.
So, has Decathlon cut corners speccing this Triban? Not at all. The shifting and drivetrain are based around Shimano 105 and, at this price, it’s easy to forgive the non-series Shimano RS510 chainset and Microshift cassette that are presumably there to trim a little cost.
Bike of the Year 2020
The Triban RC 520 Disc is part of our annual Bike of the Year test.
Head to our Bike of the Year hub for the full list of winners, categories and shortlisted bikes, as well as the latest reviews – or read our behind-the-scenes feature on how we tested Bike of the Year 2020.
Triban RC 520 Disc features
Decathlon has really gone to town on the brakes, upgrading from rim to discs. The TRP HY/RD are a clever mechanical-hydraulic hybrid design, pairing Shimano’s standard drop-bar levers and cables that actuate hydraulic pistons.
These brakes are normally the province of gravel and adventure bikes costing well over £1,000.
The drivetrain on the Triban RC 520 Disc is based around the Shimano 105. David Caudery / Immediate Media
Another distinctive feature of the Triban RC 520 Disc is the geometry. Other bikes in our top 10, such as the Boardman, Specialized and Canyon, emphasise their ‘endurance’ leanings, but the Triban really goes to town on moving away from sharp race-bike angles.
If you are looking for an aggressive point-and-shoot bike, your attention should be cast elsewhere. But I racked up the miles on this in comfort, the noticeably more upright position perfect for long-distance commuting, inner-city riding and unsurfaced tracks and towpaths.
The head tube is taller than most, the top tube shorter, the handling less responsive than the likes of the 105-equipped Specialized and Cannondale bikes, but this is a very different beast.
It’s excellent for day-to-day riding, commuting and lightweight, credit-card touring for which it has braze-ons for a rear rack, though “does not recommend overloading it with larger travel bags on the rear pannier”.
There are also mudguard fittings, with bags of clearance, and the usual twin bottle bosses.
The compact frame sees a more exposed 27.2mm post. David Caudery / Immediate Media
Decathlon reckons this is the most comfortable ride it has ever designed, and this model features numerous comfort-boosting design features.
Decathlon’s designers have radically dropped the seatstays on the compact frame and have ditched its predecessor’s 31.6mm seatpost, which still features on the RR 900 from Decathlon’s more race-flavoured Van Rysel range.
The slimmer 27.2mm is more comfortable, and the compact frame means a lot more of the post is exposed, adding further plushness to the ride.
Triban RC 520 Disc spec
The Triban RC 520 Disc’s rims are tubeless-ready. David Caudery / Immediate Media
The 28mm tyres offer more cushioning than the previous model’s 25mm tyres and there’s even room for 36mm rubber, so you could fit gravel-specific tyres and hit the rough stuff.
Unusually for a bike at this price, the rims are tubeless-ready and you can go down that route if you buy a conversion kit.
The tyres are pretty weighty affairs but offer good grip in addition to their comfort, and their extra size allows you to drop the pressure a little too.
The drops are short and easy to reach. David Caudery / Immediate Media
The handlebar and stem are pretty standard own-brand stuff, but the drops are short and easy to reach and the tops slightly ovalised for a lovely, comfortable handhold. Decent gel-backed bar tape rounds off the cockpit nicely.
All the cabling is routed externally, which makes DIY servicing easier and is fair enough at this price. And to be honest, while I’d have liked the 105 chainset, I couldn’t detect any performance differences between the Triban’s non-series Shimano and 105 – shifting was consistently smooth and accurate – and this chainset does at least echo the new 105’s aesthetics.
In an ideal world, thru-axles – normal companions to disc brakes – would have been good, but even with the standard quick releases there was no brake rub evident when riding out of the saddle.
The TRP hybrid disc brakes worked well. They’re not drastically better than the best all-mechanical systems, but offer consistent power and control in all weathers and are as good as anything you’ll find on a drop-bar road bike at this price.
Yes, full hydraulics would have been nice, but this system is the next best thing and would still cost you more than £200 for the pair.
While a little on the weighty side, the tyres still offer good grip and comfort. David Caudery / Immediate Media
This all brings us to the Triban 520 Disc’s astonishing value for money.
The brakes, levers, derailleurs and chainset would come to £623 – and all this on a bike costing just £106.99 more than that – and then Decathlon throws in a frame, carbon-bladed fork, wheels, tyres, cables and cockpit.
Oh, and the frame comes with a lifetime guarantee, with the fork and ‘peripheral components’ having a two-year guarantee. This is a fantastic achievement in anybody’s book.
The negatives are few and minor. It’s carrying a little more weight than some of the other bikes it’s up against, at 10.77kg in a medium, but, in practice, you rarely notice this except on steeper climbs, when the 34/32 gearing comes to your aid.
Relaxed frame angles mean it doesn’t have the zing and dynamism of Specialized’s Allez and Cannondale’s CAAD, but what it lacks there it more than makes up for in its comfort, versatility, practicality and value.
Triban RC 520 Disc bottom line
The consensus in the BikeRadar office is that Decathlon’s much less costly Triban 500 looks better than the somewhat dull-looking navy-blue 520 disc, but these points are just nit-picking.
The Triban 520 Disc is a bike you can use for day-to-day riding, weekends away and more. It’s superbly specced, a lot of fun, a lot of bike and all for not that much money.
With thanks to…
BikeRadar would like to thank 100%, Q36.5, Lazer, Garmin and Facom for their support during our Bike of the Year test.