If you saw this bike’s frankly ridiculous spec sheet there’s no way that you’d peg it at 600 quid. It's based mainly around 10-speed Shimano 105, with impressively lightweight Mavic Aksium wheels here and branded tyres also part of the package – and that’s before you consider the new multi-butted 6061 aluminium frame and carbon fork.
The frame mixes a slender, squared-off top-tube with a box-section down tube that morphs from a square connection at the head tube to a rounded-off horizontal rectangular profile where it meets the bottom bracket shell.
A forgiving riding position and decent handling is ideal for the customer the Triban 540 is designed for
The novice-friendly geometry is well suited to endurance riding, and its long 410mm chainstays add to its confident road manner. The 177.5mm head tube gives a position that's a long way from racy aggression, but is a well-considered design aimed squarely at the kind of customer who’s likely to be in the market for a £600 bike. The Triban also has fixtures for mudguards and a rear rack – sensible on a bike that a lot of people will commute on.
The drivetrain is based around 10-speed 105, which delivers consistent shifting and a positive lever action. The ProWheel crankset had us worried, but it performed impeccably. The crank arms are stiff and the deep teeth hold the chain superbly; upshifts are a little slower than with Shimano, but it’s consistently secure and snag free.
Strong stopping power
Braking on budget road bikes is often disappointing, but not here. The design of the own-brand brakes is very similar to that of the last generation of FSA units: they come with proper cartridge pads and offer plenty of feel. They were impressive in the dry and excelled on testing descents during one particularly torrential downpour.
The Hutchinson Equinox 2 tyres weren’t quite so good in the wet. Their slick, slightly waxy surface resulting in the dreaded slip-then-drift through sodden corners far sooner than we’d have liked.
B'Twin’s own brakes are an exception to the 105 kit – but they're very good nonetheless
The ride itself is lively enough, helped hugely by the Aksium wheels and Hutchinson tyres, an impressive level of kit at this price (did we mention that?). On the hills the endurance geometry and the excellent ergobar, which has a Ritchey-like rearward sweep, give you an upright position that makes it easy to fill your lungs and concentrate on cresting that rise.
The comfort isn’t quite up to the level of the spec. The ride position is well suited to long-distance riding and the Ergofit saddle, with its subtle channel and high-density padding, proved a hit. But the front end transmits lots of vibration through to your hands, and at times we found ourselves easing off the pedals to stretch our fingers, to stop the tingling generated by poor road surfaces.
A change of tyres may help, as while the Equinox 2s are nominally 25mm, they’re on the slim side. The frame will happily take much bigger tyres and would benefit from softer rubber. At this price it shouldn’t be too hard on the wallet to make the upgrade.
All in all, B'Twin has delivered a product likely to challenge cycling’s big hitters when it comes to that all-important first ‘serious’ road bike.