A £260 flat-bar bike with an incredible turn of pace
We all know the B’Twin range of bikes from Decathlon’s chain of sports superstores offers some amazing drop-bar packages, but what can it do with a flat-bar machine? This Triban 500 FB can be yours for a jaw-dropping £260 — surely there’s no way any company is able to offer a half-decent hybrid for £260? It seems B’Twin has, actually, and this might be a whole lot more than a simple hybrid.
If the basic shape of the Triban 500 FB looks familiar, it’s because that tidy aluminium frame is the same that has appeared on B’Twin’s entry-level Triban drop-bar road bikes for the last few years. It’s a very smart, simple design, with a semi-compact shape and neat welds. Its attractively rounded tubeset is even a little sculpted in places. In fact, this bike has some of the sexiest, most speed-oriented chainstays you’ll ever see on an alloy hybrid.
Up front we’re provided with a steel fork, which is not only a budget consideration but also a nod towards comfort, with steel’s forgiving ride intended to help soak up road imperfections. There’s also a decent-length head tube, so the position is relatively high.
To hit that £260 price, B’Twin has had to play around with the spec, and it’s ended up with a smorgasbord of parts. SRAM 3.0 shifters and rear mech are teamed with a Microshift front derailleur, which is paired with a B’Twin triple chainset. Microshift is still quite a niche brand, but front gear changes are pretty good. Similarly, the SRAM mech at the back is happy enough to flick through gears on the flat, but under load — such as downshifts on a climb — it starts to feel a little agricultural. On the plus side, that triple chainset and 14-28t cassette means there’s no shortage of gearing options on those climbs.
One interesting piece of speccing is the appearance of B’Twin’s dual-pivot caliper rim brakes. Most flat-bar bikes at any price come with either cantilever/V-brakes or discs, but this is a reminder that the Triban 500 FB is a flat-bar road bike rather than a multi-tasking hybrid.
These particular calipers have decent enough power in the dry — as always, a new set of aftermarket blocks would probably do wonders — but they’ll perform less well in the wet. Their biggest downfall, though, is that they don’t allow the room to fit much bigger-capacity rubber, so you’re stuck with thin road bike tyres.
What about those tyres? The 23c Hutchinson Equinox tyres grip well in the dry, but they contribute very little towards cushioning the ride. Meanwhile, the B’Twin Aero wheelset spins smoothly.
(‘Aero’ wheels on a £260 hybrid might seem a little improbable, but we’re giving B’Twin the benefit of the doubt.)
The reason B’Twin gets away with calling these wheels ‘Aero’ is because this bike is fast — really fast. When it comes to getting away from the lights, you’ll be as quick as any other pedal-powered road warrior, even those riding drop-bar bikes. Meanwhile, the flat bars really help you make the most of its lively control, accurately flicking it around the urban landscape.
In short, the Triban 500 FB feels like the ultimate flat-bar machine for people used to a sporty bike, who’ll appreciate the stiff — super-stiff — performance and efficient power delivery. On the other side of the coin, though, most people with £260 to spend on a hybrid might be looking for something a little more forgiving and a little less performance-driven. Riding the B’Twin Triban 500 Flat Bar road bike, at the end of a long-distance daily commute, the new cyclist may end up feeling a little battered and breathless.
The biggest problem for the B’Twin 500 FB is our expectations. Closed-minded, experienced cyclists may doubt that a £260 bike could possibly be good enough for them. Meanwhile, novice riders might innocently believe a £260 bike hybrid will offer a multi-purpose cycling experience. Both are wrong.
This is possibly the most specialised bike available below £300, offering simply fantastic performance and almost-too-good value. Had B’Twin stuck another £200 on the retail price, our expectations would be different. Suffice to say, if getting to work at speed is your priority, this bike does the job as well as almost any machine.
Hybrid vs flat-bar road bikes
What’s the difference between a hybrid and a flat-bar road bike? A quick glance at each type reveals very little difference. Hybrids aim to combine the speed benefits of full-size road wheels with the comfort, control and road presence of a more upright, mountain bike-style riding position, whereas flat-bar road bikes are essentially (drop-bar) road bikes with flat bars. Obvious, really.
The Triban 500 Flat Bar is a fast urban bike at a crazy-low price. Want a budget runaround? This is it