A sceptical James Shrubsall throws a leg over B’Twin’s new cheap-as-chips Triban 500SE expecting a less than rewarding ride. Surely great bikes cost more than this?

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Score 9

Pros:

  • Well priced
  • Plenty good enough for sportives and training

Cons:

  • Not much

Product:

B’Twin Triban 500SE

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£379.99

A couple of years back, 
fellow scribe Lamy got hold of an earlier iteration of B’Twin’s Triban that cost £300 retail.

He loved it. So much in fact that he gave away his own carbon-fibre, Shimano Ultegra-equipped road bike and kept the French bike instead. (He might 
prefer me not to mention it, but he gave his posh bike away to Cyclists Fighting Cancer).

At the time, notwithstanding the very worthy cause involved, I was left scratching my head in dismay and disbelief at the fact that he’d ditched a premium road bike in favour of a supermarket special.

Fast forward to earlier today, when I rode one of B’Twin’s latest Tribans, the £369.99 500SE. It was a genuine revelation. Eating my words has never been such an enjoyable experience.
Digging out the ‘supermarket special’ tag for B’Twin is perhaps a little unfair.

It is a Decathlon brand, and Decathlon may be a multinational sports hypermarket, but nevertheless it has pedigree; its bikes have won national title races and have even been ridden in the Tour de France, so you know you’re buying into something well thought out.

All the same, once you’ve become used to riding bikes costing a grand upwards, it’s easy to become conditioned to the idea that a decent bike simply can’t be had for such a low price. Indeed, I’ve spent the past 10 years insisting that to buy a road bike that is rewarding to ride, £500 is the absolute minimum. It’s a reasonable maxim, but the Triban 500SE B’Twin has more than rewritten the rulebook, it’s put it through a shredder and set 
it on fire.

A new benchmark
Before all this raving leads you to believe the Triban is all the bike you’ll ever need, well, sadly for your wallet, it really isn’t. It’s a basic, heavy machine that, once you look past the tidy overall appearance, quickly betrays its budget provenance.

The first giveaway is the crude triple chainset, which runs on an outmoded square-taper bottom bracket and its ‘Ounce’ branding is more easily read as ‘Dunce’. The brake calipers are basic in-house items, while the gear shifters and mechs are eight-speed Microshift, a lesser-spotted Taiwanese component firm catering for the budget end of the spectrum.

It was actually heartening to see this minnow make an appearance against the might of Shimano, and the chunky heft of the eight-speed chain was nothing if not reassuring. The bright blue shifter hoods look great too, and really complement the overall look.

Wheel-wise, despite the wear indicator on the rims, they are clearly budget items, though the Hutchinson Equinox tyres set the bike off nicely.

Overall, and especially at 10 paces, it’s a good-looking bike, but it’s the ride which is the real eye-opener. 
The gears are good. The brakes aren’t bad, but above all, the ride is brilliant.

A combination of frame geometry, sensible 25c tyres and cockpit layout yielded a beautifully balanced ride. It steers neither too fast or too slow, and even with its average brakes, it inspired enough confidence to really motor down some of Surrey’s bumpiest, twistiest descents.

Downhill, or zinging along on the flat, it was easy to forget I wasn’t riding my best road bike, and it was only when the road pointed upwards that I was reminded not to get too carried away. Its 10.6kg is very reasonable for the price, but find another grand, (and £1,300 is still not a particularly expensive road bike) spend it on a B’Twin FC 7 and you’ll lose nearly half a stone, an amount which will absolutely transform your bike and how fast you can go on it.

And this is why the B’Twin isn’t a giant killer. It’ll take on and beat many bikes twice or even three times the price, but ultimately, those are still lower-priced bikes.

Verdict

Budget barnstormer The real revelation is that you can indeed buy a proper, grown up road bike for less than £400. Challenge rides, sportives, fast hacks in the lanes, they’re all within the grasp of the Triban 500SE. If winning national title races or riding the Tour de France is more your bag though, you’ll need to go further up the range. As a bit of a postscript, after more experience with the 500SE, I tried making use of its mudguard eyes and failed — the clearances with its 
25c tyres were simply too small. Frustrating, although it would no doubt take clip-on ‘Raceblade’ type guards. On the other side of the coin I took the bike out on a 70-mile run in the lanes, and only on the steep hills was I ever reminded that I was riding a bike that costs less than £400.

Full Specification

Frameset: Alloy with carbon fork
Gears: Microshift 8-speed
Chainset: Prowheel Ounce 50/39/30
Brakes: B'Twom dual pivot
Wheels: Alloy 32h rims on B'Twin hubs
Tyres: Hutchinson Equinox 25c
Bar: Unbranded Alloy
Stem: B'Twin Alloy
Saddle: Unbranded sports
Seatpost: Alloy
Size range: 48/51/54/57/60cm
Weight: 10.6kg
  • Robert Streeter

    I bought this bike about 3 weeks ago and I hate it. I can only use about
    8 or 9 of the gears due to the chain rubbing against the front
    derailleur cage. I have tried several times, to get the bike set up
    properly at Decathlon but their mechanics don’t seem to have the
    savoir-faire to make it any better. They finally admitted that the
    derailleurs are poor quality, but they can upgrade for another
    £150-£200. I am considering this but it might be throwing good money
    after bad. Add to this the cost of puncture resistant tyres and a proper
    seat and you start to see the true cost. I’ll probably sell this and
    try again with a different bike. ps. Decathlon vet their customer
    reviews on their web site, so you won’t read too many gripes.

  • Matthew

    “The first giveaway is the crude triple chainset, which runs on an outmoded square-taper bottom bracket and its ‘Ounce’ branding is more easily read as ‘Dunce’. ”

    This is not true. I bought one and it has Shimano Sora. Later this will be Shimano Claris. Neither feature square-taper bottom bracket, and no production bike uses the Ounce chainset. Surely Decathlon told you this? It’s completely irrelevant to anyone buying this bike.

    Also the tyres are 700×23, not 700×25.

    “Its 10.6kg is very reasonable for the price, but find another grand, (and £1,300 is still not a particularly expensive road bike) spend it on a B’Twin FC 7 and you’ll lose nearly half a stone, an amount which will absolutely transform your bike and how fast you can go on it.”

    At £380 a lot of buyers (myself included) are not pros, and do not weigh 9 stones soaking wet. They’d do better on this and worry about losing the half-stones from their own flabby frames then try shaving ounces off the bike.

  • Richard

    The 500se is also only a 8 speed cassette whereas the 500 is 9. Spoken to my local decathlon and they expect the 500se to be in store by the end of May. I’ve been following its progress since hearing about the new range and am looking forward to owning one asap.

    • b’Twin

      The b’Twin Triban 500 SE should hopefully hit the stores towards the end of next week. As soon as the bike is available to purchase, it will be visible on our website.
      Compared with the tested model there will be a slight change in specification. We’ve decided in the end to upgrade the crankset to Shimano Claris (the price will remain at 379.99).
      The size range had also been modified, it now stands at 51, 54, 57, 60 and 63.
      The 51 model comes with 650 wheels and not 700.

      • Richard

        Sweet. Can’t wait to hit the tarmac on one. The 60 is my chosen size as I’m 6ft. I’m like a kid waiting for Santa.

        • Matthew Brown

          I am six foot too, so is it recommended that you get the 60? I am a complete novice to road bikes & I am looking at this bike for my first bike I have purchased in my life haha. If you have any advice, then I would love to hear it.

          • Richard

            In the Btwin range the 60 is considered to be the bike for us 6 footers. Other makes do vary. Possibly like me you’ve had others tell you to spend your money on a better second hand bike, but one piece of advice I was given has made me stick to waiting for the 500se. “When a more expensive second hand bike goes wrong it’ll cost more to replace genuine parts than it will to buy a cheaper bike and then buy upgraded parts if you wish”. Now I know some will say “but its less likely to break on a more expensive bike” but I’m not talking about buying new and knowing what life the bike has had, a second hand bike could have the starts of an expensive repair that the novice might not see. Someone will always make a good cheaper product that people scorn and sometimes that product will change the rules, by the look of this review the 500se just has.

          • Matthew Brown

            Cool fantastic, when will this bike be released? Can not see an official date?

          • Matthew Brown

            They replied to me on twitter via their official page, aiming for mid June. Not sure I can wait that long lol.

          • b’Twin

            Hi, were aiming for late next week to get the Triban 500 SE from our production facility and into our UK Warehouse in Northampton.

          • Matthew Brown

            Aww fantasitc, I heard otherwise on the official twitter account. Now I am excited.

          • Matthew Brown

            Any updates on the release please? Thank you.

          • Mark Dimmick

            I was in Oxford store at the weekend to get a Triban 500 through cycle scheme. Chap was helpful but was unable to give a definitive date and told me to call in a weeks time. I asked if I could get a quote to get cycle scheme in place ready but he was not able to as quote only lasts 30 days. He would not commit and didn’t seem confident.
            Asked if I could put my name down to reserve one, unable to reserve any?
            You wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to buy a bike!