BTwin Triban 520 road bike - review - Road Cycling UK

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BTwin Triban 520 road bike – review

How much do you have to spend to get a 'good' first road bike? Here's the answer. In fact, it's very good...

How much do you have to spend to get a ‘good’ first road bike? Here’s a clue – £450. In fact, the BTwin Triban 520 is a cracking bike for the money, combining a smart, versatile aluminium frame and carbon/alloy fork with a Shimano Sora groupset.

BTwin is the in-house bike brand of sports mega-retailer Decathlon. BTwin are huge in Europe, having sold 2.9 million bikes in 2015. Yep, two million, nine hundred thousand bikes. That presence is growing in the UK, too, and in the Triban 520 it’s easy to understand why BTwin are beginning to make such an impact, particularly at the lower end of the market.

BTwin’s road range is based around four frames. The Triban is the entry-level alloy chassis, with bikes ranging from £290 to £600, before the Ultra takes over, with builds from £750 to £1,050. Meanwhile, the Mach is BTwin’s carbon fibre aero frame, priced between £1,000 and £1,450, before a carbon version of the Ultra steps in, with three specs starting at £1,000 and topping out at £3,000.

The Triban is BTwin’s entry-level alloy frame

The frame: smart and versatile aluminium chassis

  • Specification

  • Price: £450
  • Weight: 10.9kg
  • Sizes:
  • Website: BTwin
  • UK distributor: Decathlon

BTwin overhauled the Triban frame in 2015, with updated tube profiles and a refreshed geometry geared towards riders who want a bike for sportives, commuting or the club run, rather than the cut-and-thrust of racing. That makes sense for a bike at this price point.

The frame is made from 6061 aluminium and cuts a solid, imposing figure, thanks to the squared-off toptube, stout box-section downtube which evolves into a chunky, hexagonal shape at the bottom bracket junction, and the broad chainstays and seatstays. Up front, the frame is paired with a fork which has carbon blades and a straight-through 1-1/8″ aluminium steerer. Claimed weight for the frame is 1,760g in a medium and add another 675g for the fork.

The Triban 520’s geometry results in a position which is relaxed, with a tall front end which should be well-suited to novice riders. The toptube also slopes quite steeply, leaving plenty of seatpost exposed. Five sizes are available, from XS to XL (or 49cm to 60cm), and our medium (55cm) test bike has a 548mm effective toptube and 147.5mm headtube. You can see the full geometry table on the Decathlon website.

The geometry also ensures there’s stacks of tyre clearance, with the Triban capable of taking anything up to 32mm rubber, or 28mm with mudguards. Mudguards? The frame has mudguard and rack eyelets at the front and rear, which go a long way to increasing the versatility of the frame – fit mudguards and it ups the ante as a winter trainer or year-round road bike, or add a rack if it’ll regularly be called upon for commuting duties. The final thing to mention, as far as the frame is concerned, is that is comes with a lifetime warranty.

Mudguard and rack mounts ensure the Triban is a very versatile frame

The ride: confident and positive

The BTwin Triban 520 is a very easy to get along with: an assured, reliable partner for relaxed miles. The geometry ensures the handling is confident and reassuring, and it’s not going to cause a new rider any concerns. It’s stable, neutral and predictable, and the handling is befitting of the machine and its raison d’etre. Sure, it’s not as pin sharp or fast under hand as something with a racier edge, but you wouldn’t want it to be. Instead it’s a surefooted companion for commuting, cruising the lanes, sportives or the club run.

That said, if you press the Triban into action then it will deliver. The frame has a straight-through headtube – more expensive machines use a tapered headtube to boost front-end stiffness – but it still has enough about it to hold a close line through a corner.

The frame is made from 6061-series aluminium

That’s helped by the stiffness of the frame, both at the front end and when you press on the pedals. Power transfer of the frame is generally impressive, even if any sharp accelerations are held back a little by the overall weight of the wheels, which is no real surprise at this price point. Having spent most of our time riding Shimano’s more expensive groupsets, the chainset isn’t quite as stiff when you get really aggressive with the bike, but generally Sora, which we’ll come on to, does the job well.

In terms of comfort, the chunky seatstays don’t look like they’ll offer much give but they do a decent job, and the fact that the sloping toptube helps leave plenty of the aluminium seatpost exposed helps soak up road vibrations, but we found the front end to be a tad harsh on rougher roads.

The spec: excellent value for money

The Triban 520 is specced with a Shimano Sora groupset, though the cassette is from Suntour and the brakes are non-series Shimano units. We don’t see too many triple chainsets any more and BTwin have paired it here with a 12-25t cassette. However, the mid-cage rear derailleur can take anything up to a 11-32t cassette which, combined with those three front chainrings, will give you some seriously low gears for climbing.

Sora sits on the fifth rung of Shimano’s groupset ladder, below Dura-Ace, Ultegra, 105 and Tiagra, but it’s certainly still a solid performer, and very good value for money on a £450 bike. Shimano have just announced an updated version of Sora, which will include a new four-arm chainset and internal cables, whereas here they come out of the inside of the shifters. It will still be nine-speed, though. Availability is slated for April, but Decathlon tell us it won’t appear on BTwin bikes until 2017.

Our main gripe with the wheels – and we’re nit-picking here, really – is that they’re labelled as ‘Aero’ when, with 32 spokes and a box-section profile, they’re anything but in reality. What they are, however, is tough and well built. Yes, they’re also heavy and take a little life out of the frame, which has enough upgrade potential for better, but if you want better wheels then you’re looking at a bike which costs a fair bit more than the Triban 520. And these wheels will take plenty of abuse, whether commuting or training, without too many complaints.

What we would swap, however, are the Hutchinson Equinox 2 tyres. They’re not bad – just average – but a set of good quality tyres can make a real difference to a ride, and the Triban 520 will certainly benefit from a set of lighter, plusher, faster-rolling tyres. We also swapped out the brake pads during testing. All things considered, the long-drop brakes lack bite, and that doesn’t inspire too much confidence but a better set of brake pads than those supplied helps to improve things.

The brakes are the weakest part of an otherwise excellent build

The rest of the spec – the handlebar, stem, seatpost and saddle – are all own-brand BTwin components and it’s all fuss-free, no nonsense kit. The matching black and red handlebar tape completes a smart-looking bike.

Elsewhere in the Triban range, the £299 Triban 500 SE swaps Shimano components for a Microshift drivetrain, while the £600 Triban 540 gets a Shimano 105 groupset and Mavic Aksium One wheels.

Conclusion

BTwin have put together a very good package in the Triban 520. It’s not without its niggles – namely the brakes and brake pads – but it’s a really impressive bike for the cash, based around a well-designed, practical frame and a value for money spec, making the BTwin Triban 520 an excellent budget road bike.

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