Triban is the name the French sports supermarket Decathlon uses for its entry-level bikes. Its French-designed and proudly Flanders-tested Triban bikes have long had a reputation for delivering high quality at prices few brands can match – even competing with internet-only retailers for value.
The newest incarnation of its RC500 looks as though it will keep up this reputation – even if the price has risen by £100 in the last couple of years.
However, for £650 you are still getting a lot of bike, and one with a wide spectrum of riding ambitions firmly in its sights.
The RC500 sits second in the range of Triban’s four drop-bar bikes – or five if you include the limited-edition RC520 presently on sale at £899.99.
It sits below the standard RC520 (£849.99), which has the same frameset but Triban kits it out with Shimano 105 and TRP’s hybrid cable-hydraulic HY/RD disc brakes. Both of these are pretty much unheard of at this sort of price.
It’s similarly impressive value for the £499 Triban RC120 Disc, which is specced with eight-speed MicroShift, Shimano Tourney and Promax disc brakes.
Triban’s entry-level RC100 costs just £299.99, though it only has a single chainring and a quite narrow 14-28 cassette, which may limit its appeal if you live in a hilly area.
Triban RC500 specifications
The RC500 and RC520 bikes haven’t changed much since undergoing a major modernisation programme in 2018, when Decathlon also ditched the B’Twin name in favour of Triban.
Narrower tyres and ‘yesterday’s news’ triple chainsets were also shown the door in favour of 28mm rubber and compact chainsets with wider cassettes.
Decathlon flags up the RC500 as a road bike “that maintains comfort if you’re often cycling long distances”, going on to call it “the most comfortable road bike we’ve ever designed”.
It comes with Shimano’s nine-speed Sora groupset, a higher spec than you usually find at this price, where eight-speed Claris is the norm.
The semi-compact aluminium frame has dropped seatstays and clearance for tyres up to 40mm wide. Its versatility is maximised by both the frame and carbon fork having mudguard and rack mounts.
The semi-compact 6061 aluminium frame is typical for a road bike under £1,000, though it’s paired with a carbon-bladed fork (with a straight 1 1/8in aluminium steerer), which isn’t always the case.
Shimano’s nine-speed Sora is at the heart of the RC500’s componentry. It’s a step up from the usual eight-speed Claris and one of my favourite groupsets; the shifting is swift, light and accurate, and with nine sprockets the jumps aren’t that big either.
A lot of budget bikes compromise with a non-Shimano chainset from Prowheel or FSA, but Triban sticks with Shimano Sora, with its elegant four-arm design echoing that of its higher-end chainsets.
The cassette is from MicroShift, which I’ve no problem with, but I feel Triban missed a trick in going for an 11-32 cassette rather than 11-34.
It may not be that much of a difference, but for steep or long hills – my former commute includes a short 11 per cent section – loaded touring or bikepacking, you can never have a bottom gear that’s too low. The other option that would have achieved a similar result is a sub-compact 48/32 or even 46/30 cassette.
That said, the 34×32 was still low enough for me to stay seated as I did my usual slow-motion ascent on one of my regular climbs, the 1.5km Bathwick Hill, which averages 8.3 per cent. I was out of the saddle for the shorter, steeper sections, when there was plenty of stiffness from the Triban’s semi-compact frame.
The 28mm tyres measure a shade over 29mm, and I reckon 28mm is just about the ideal width if you’re mainly riding on road. These are not only more comfortable, but usually just as fast – as if all-out speed is an issue for me!
The Triban’s Protect+ tyres seemed tough and grippy, and while the tyres aren’t tubeless-ready, the own-brand rims are. With clearance for 700c tyres up to 36mm wide and 650b tyres up to 40mm, loaded touring, gravel riding and bikepacking come within reach.
The wheel and tyre combo is pretty heavy, though, weighing in at a chunky 2,200g, which will hamper acceleration and is one of the reasons I wasn’t flying up climbs. Well, that’s my excuse…
If you don’t want to go tubeless, you’re no worse off, but it’s good to have the option because the choice of tyres is only likely to increase.
My own Giant road bike has tubeless and in three years and several thousand miles, I’ve only had one puncture that didn’t seal itself immediately, though your mileage may vary of course.
The tyres also acquitted themselves well on the light and fine gravel sections of Sustrans’ Two Tunnels route and the hard-packed mud of the Kennet and Avon Canal towpath, though with nearly slick treads the tyres would lack grip in slushier conditions.
Triban RC500 geometry
The geometry is laid back rather than aggressive, with a slack 71.5-degree head angle, and the full range of fixtures and fittings also including low-rider rack mounts on the front fork, with a handy 9kg carrying capacity.
It was on longer, leisure rides that this laid-back geometry came into its own.
This endurance geometry is also aided by the handlebar shape, with the tops very slightly swept back and flattened, making an ideal handhold for big days out, where comfort and mileage are paramount.
When I did crank the RC500 up to speed, I found it held its pace well. I also got on well with the own-brand saddle, which has a shallow pressure-relieving groove, though saddle choice is very subjective.
Triban RC500 ride impressions
The Triban proved at home on my old Bristol-Bath bike path commute. It was marginally slower than a road bike over the 16 miles, but that will be the slightly upright – but very non-aero – riding position that comes courtesy of the 548mm top tube.
Visibility is great, so you can take in the sights as well as being seen. There’s little stress on your lower back (you can ditch the backpack for a pannier) and the metre-plus wheelbase keeps it stable.
While I’d argue that budget groupsets work pretty much as well as their more expensive siblings, the same isn’t always true of budget brakes – but the RC500’s brakes score pretty well.
You’re not going to get hydraulic disc brakes on a road bike at this price, not yet and maybe never, but the Promax cable-actuated discs proved smooth, consistent and pleasingly free of squeaks and squeals.
One of the major advantages of disc brakes that’s too often forgotten is that they won’t grind road-borne muck and detritus into your rims day after day, so they should last much longer.
Your hand and finger muscles will be working harder than they would be with hydraulics, but these brought me to a stop safely and without issue on my local descents.
The geometry means the RC500 isn’t a bike for throwing down Alpine descents, but on longer, non-hairpinned sections you can hit high speeds in the knowledge you can stop confidently.
There are a couple more reasons why I like the RC500 so much, which show a lot of thought has gone into the design. Both will help the novice or less able home mechanic (I include myself in the latter category).
The seatpost has measurements to make it easy to set and adjust the saddle height. It’s not a big thing, but as somebody who regularly swaps between bikes, I’ll take all the help I can.
The RC500 also features Triban’s ‘No Gap’ stem. The stem’s top two face-plate bolts tighten flush against the body of the stem, with the lower two bolts tightened in the usual way – using a torque wrench. This makes it virtually impossible to over-tighten the bolts and damage the stem, which is a nice touch.
A final positive feature on a well-priced bike that’s more cruiser than cruise missile, is that the frame, stem and handlebar are guaranteed for life, which cranks up the value even further.
Triban RC500 bottom line
This isn’t going to be a bike for everybody.
If you’re looking for a super-sharp handling machine to achieve personal bests and chase down your Strava rivals, then it’s not going to be sporty enough for you.
But for many of us who value long-distance comfort over speed, this could be the perfect solution.
It’s stable, comfortable and the geometry is ideal for year-round extended commuting, aided by its rack and mudguard fittings, as well as for loading up with shopping or embarking on more adventurous trips away.
Decathlon’s well-appointed RC500 offers you a huge amount of bike for quite a modest amount of cash.
Budget Bike of the Year 2022 | How we tested
Our 2022 Budget Bike of the Year testing was handled by regular BikeRadar contributors Simon Withers and Robin Wilmott – two highly experienced testers who have reviewed dozens of road and gravel bikes at the budget end of the market over the years.
Testing involved long rides on favourite routes around Bath, as well as laps of rolling hills in Somerset. Unlike our more performance-focused categories, the best road bikes around £1,000 are also more likely to be used for commuting by bike and other errands.
With this in mind, we’ve paid close attention to how easy the bikes are to live with for day-to-day use and how they fare on urban jaunts.
Our 2022 Budget Bike of the Year contenders are: