Words Matt Lamy | Photos Chris Catchpole
B’Twin is the in-house bike brand of French sports superstore Decathlon. To cycle snobs, who instantly think of the typically rubbish bikes you get at continental hypermarkets, that might not sound promising.
But the aluminium-framed B’Twin Triban 3 entry-level bike we tested last August was undoubtedly one of our bikes of 2012. And it’s not just on the lower rungs that B’Twin impresses; it also produces a full range of own-design carbon bikes good enough for elite racing.
This Triban 7 sits somewhere in the middle, making the most of having a mainly aluminium frame augmented with carbon seatstays. The idea is you have all the inherent stiffness and power delivery benefits of aluminium, with some cosseting carbon luxury at the places you most need it.
Aluminium/carbon mixes were all the rage some years ago before full-carbon bikes became cheaper, but there were always a few underlying doubts about the way some firms bonded their metal and composites together. To be honest, I don’t know anybody whose alu/carbon frame has failed, and in any case the joins on the Triban 7 look reassuring. At the top of the seatstay, the carbon wishbone slots directly into an aluminium tube, which means B’Twin has even managed to add rack mounts so you can turn the Triban 7 into a speedy commuter or light tourer.
The wholly alloy section of the frame looks less aesthetically pleasing. The Triban 3 we tested last year featured beautifully simple rounded tubes throughout, which proved very effective. The alloy tubes here are square-edged in places and a tad more industrial-looking. That said, the overall finish to the Triban 7 is leagues ahead of what anybody could expect from a mid-range Euro-bike.
Less is more
It’s incredible that I’ve got this far through my report without mentioning my favourite thing about B’Twin products: their price. For this excellent Italian-made frame and complete Shimano Tiagra groupset with fine own-branded finishing equipment, you’ll pay a penny shy of £600. You even get a set of Wellgo clipless pedals thrown in. As a package, it’s thoroughly impressive.
The ride is equally notable. There is a very direct keenness about the Triban 7. Getting the hammer down is easy and rewarding, but it’s also very stable, so you can enjoy your velocity without feeling the need to hang on for dear life. Comfort is good too, with a nice high head tube taking care of your top half, while the carbon seatstays do a great job of soaking up road imperfections at the back. It’s a very reassuring, relatively neutral ride, although B’Twin’s excellent all-alloy frames aren’t too far behind.
The kit fitted to the Triban 7 also works a treat. Current 10-speed Tiagra is a good enough groupset for any prospective sportive rider, and the 12 to 28-tooth cassette combined with the compact chainset means you’ll be able to grind up most slopes. In fact, such are the impressive qualities of this bike at speed that at times I was wishing for an 11-tooth smallest cog at the back. The B’Twin branded stem, bars, seatpost and saddle all do their job competently and comfortably.
The B’Twin wheels on last year’s Triban 3 were the only thing to cause us concern (the hubs needed a service after 500 miles). The hoops here are a better spec, but an upgrade would still be a positive move in the long term. Meanwhile, the B’Twin caliper brakes are already rather good, but sticking in a set of aftermarket blocks would let them really shine.
All about the money
So the Triban 7 is another impressive bike from B’Twin. But then, surprisingly, we get back to the thorny issue of finances. If B’Twin only made this bike, it would be a clear value-for-money winner, but the brand suffers an embarrassment of riches. For example, find another £250 and you could have the simply stunning FC3 with the same Tiagra set-up but fitted to B’Twin’s unique full carbon frame. Or save yourself £200 and have the all-alloy Triban 5 with a Sora triple chainset. Or even save £300 and go for our favourite Triban 3.
Then again, if you buy the B’Twin Triban 7, you’ll love it, use it, and have no regrets. In fact, at this end of the market, among this type of bike, the only thing that might beat it is another B’Twin.
B’Twin Triban 7
Frameset Aluminium frame with carbon seatstays and fork
Gears Shimano Tiagra
Chainset Shimano Tiagra compact 50/34
Brakes B’Twin dual-pivot calipers
Wheels B’Twin Allroad 28
Tyres Hutchinson Equinox
Bars B’Twin aluminium
Stem B’Twin aluminium
Size range 51-60cm
Weight 9.7kg/21.4lb (including Wellgo pedals)