The French-based sports supermarket chain Decathlon used to market its bikes under the B’Twin name – but it had a brand revision early in 2019. Its racier models now bear the Van Rysel moniker with its commuting and touring bikes now calling themselves Triban (which was the B’Twin model name).
While made in the Far East, the Van Rysels and Tribans are designed and tested in Flanders, and there’s a label on the RR 900 AF to remind you of that.
Bike of the Year 2020
The Van Rysel RR 900 AF 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.
Van Rysel RR 900 AF value
This Van Rysel is essentially a rebadged B’Twin Triban (confused yet?), but it’s a stunningly well-priced entry into the world of road cycling.
It not only has a Shimano 105 groupset but it pairs this with Mavic’s tough entry-level Aksium wheels.
The Van Rysel comes with Mavic’s tough entry-level Aksium wheels. David Caudery / Immediate Media
At its full retail price the arithmetic is startling. The newest R7000 version of Shimano 105 would cost £599 and those Mavics are £200 more, which leaves just £50 remaining for a frame, fork and cockpit components.
Somehow Decathlon still manages to offer this complete UCI-approved Van Rysel for just £849. But is it the bargain it looks to be? Does the ride rise above the super-modest price? Yes, and then some, in spades.
Van Rysel RR 900 AF specification
There is a full complement of 105 without any of the cost-cutting on the brakes and chainset. The brakes in particular are a highlight at this price, with 105 offering some of the best rim brakes around, especially the Van Rysel’s powerful direct-mount front stopper.
These were put to good use on an early test ride when a white van manoeuvred into my path without indicating, while I was descending at speed. A moment of panic was followed by a rapidly controlled, skid- and squeal-free stop.
This is one of a few bikes in our 2020 top ten that has a pro-compact 52/36 chainset, and here it’s paired with a more aggressive cassette than either the Ribble R872 Tiagra or the Giant Contend SL 1. Forget 11-34 or even 11-30, this has an 11-28 for the smallest jumps between gears that racier riders will appreciate.
For those of us who do like lower gears, this Van Rysel has a long cage rear derailleur that allows you to use a 32t sprocket. Very handy.
The tallish 34×28 bottom gear left me cranking out of the saddle on my steeper climbs – even my commute has short 11 per cent sections – rather than indulging my usual forte of sitting and spinning, but the gearing does complement the frame’s geometry.
Forget ‘sport’ or ‘endurance’, this Van Rysel’s geometry is all about a medium-length top tube, the racer’s classic 73-degree head angle, 73.5-degree seat angle, shortish 147.5mm head tube and compact 984mm wheelbase.
The 31.6mm seatpost offers a stable ride. David Caudery / Immediate Media
This equates to fast handling, a reasonably aggressive riding position and, thanks to the stiffness through the bottom bracket, there’s a great sense of efficiency too. And even though the carbon fork has an aluminium steerer there was great precision throwing this bike into corners, where the Mavic tyres were probably the most limiting factor.
The 25mm Yksions aren’t as supple or as grippy as some and they’re one of the few things I’d change on this Van Rysel.
The Aksium rims also clicked thanks to their slightly imperfect pinning. It’s annoying and goes away in time but it’s quite a familiar Mavic failing.
Van Rysel RR 900 AF ride impressions
The Ultra RCR aluminium frame is butted to keep the weight down and while at a shade under 9kg for my medium size model it’s not super light, that’s only 600g heavier than our lightest top ten bike.
The welds are chunky and unsmoothed, but the paint finish shrugged off knocks, while the internal cabling for the rear mech runs through the full length of the chainstay and exits neatly at the right dropout rather than at the bottom bracket.
The now rarely seen oversize 31.6mm seatpost contributes to a firm ride, but the Van Rysel’s contact points – especially the slightly flattened bar – are very good and it’s a delight to ride.
It’s fast, rewarding, handles accurately, doesn’t flex under out-of-the-saddle efforts and there are none of the kit shortcuts that most £1,000 bikes come with.
This has the kit and the ride of a more expensive bike, a quality aluminium frame and carbon fork and a price that makes it hard to believe how Decathlon can turn a profit on it.
And a final bonus is Van Rysel offers a lifetime guarantee on the frame, stem and handlebar – which in the case of the latter two is extremely unusual – and two years for the fork.
Looking for a first road bike for racy efforts, fast sportives and achieving new personal bests, all on a tight budget? This is a great place to start.
The Van Rysel has a Shimano 105 drivetrain with a pro-compact 52/36 chainset. David Caudery / Immediate Media
Van Rysel RR 900 AF geometry
Sizes (*tested): XS, S, M*, L, XL
Seat angle: 73.5 degrees
Head angle: 73 degrees
Seat tube: 53cm
Top tube: 54.8cm
Head tube: 14.75cm
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.