A decent ride quality, a brilliant spec and extraordinary value for money make the B'twin Ultra 920 AF unbeatable for the price
The spec is excellent
Value for money
The B’twin ultra 920 AF stands out as one of the best value road bikes on the market. But it’s not just value for money that lands the B’twin a spot on our Editor’s Choice list, it’s performance, too.
The B'twin Ultra 920 AF is an update to the excellent B'twin Ultra 720 AF. The updated bike ticks off all the areas we hoped to see improvements while losing none of stunning value for money that B'twin has become renowned for.
Unlike many other aluminium bikes at this price point, the B'twin Ultra AF 920 has a shapely frame that looks sporty. A curved top tube and slender seat stays make it look racy, and there's a performance aesthetic to the bike that belies its price tag. The frame's internal cable routing helps with this and avoids the cables being run down the down tube, tucking them neatly out of harms way.
As an update to the B'twin Ultra 720 AF, this model sees the rear brake move from an underslung position on the chain stays. It was one of very few things that we marked that bike down for, so we were very pleased to see it changed!
The frame itself is comfortable, it has a compliant ride that'll be a relief to any novice cyclist who's looking to increase their mileage. It's aided by generous geometry, a long head tube and a compact boxy frame.
While the aluminium gives the frame an injection of comfort and brings the price down, it is heavy and at 8.38kg the Ultra 920 AF is slow to accelerate and it wouldn't be my first choice in the hills. It's not a thoroughbred racer, but it's a quality frame that made putting long kilometres away easy, even if I did find my choice of routes surreptitiously starting to avoid hills.
Fortunately, the weight of the B'twin Ultra 920 AF is alleviated somewhat by the compact chainset (that's a 50/34) and the 11-28 cassette on the back gives the bike the perfect gearing for long rides. The gear ratios will cover off 99% off the riding you'll want to do, and the 34-28 gear will see you able to crawl up almost any hill.
The Shimano Ultegra R8000 mechanical groupset used here is just one piece of the superbly specced pie that is the B'twin Ultra 920 AF. Positioned one place below the top-end Shimano Dura-Ace, Shimano Ultegra is usually found on bikes with a much higher price tag, not one as low as £1199 for the B'twin Ultra 920 AF.
I'd prefer disc brakes, but happily the new Shimano Ultegra rim brakes are simply superb, especially when they're direct mount like on the front of the B'twin. Direct mount means the brake is attached directly to the frame by two bolts and it offers more powerful brake as opposed to single pivot brakes, like the rear brake on this bike.
The great value continues with the Mavic Cosmic Elite wheels, although at a little under 1800g, they don't accelerate brilliantly, but while commuting and riding my test loops around Richmond Park, I was amazed at how well they hold their speed; get them above 30kph and they show no sign of slowing down. This efficiency makes up for the additional weight and you should never under estimate the value of good rolling wheels on long rides.
Mavic wheel and tyre systems are now tubeless ready from the go, although I found it quite difficult to seat the tyre and ended up opting to run it with tubes anyway.
Saddles are a personal preference and I just couldn't get comfortable on the Fizik Antares specced on the B'twin. Considering the very reasonable price of the bike, I'd be happy to shell out a few more quid for a saddle I can get along with.
The bike's handling isn't razor sharp, no doubt the result of a very tall head tube and generously sized bars, but it is stable and predictable. It's not going to hug the apex when you descend on it but it feels bombproof.
People always ask whether they should buy an aluminium bike at this price point or save up a couple more hundred quid to get an entry-level carbon bike. Sure, the latter might be lighter but it'll be hard pushed to beat the B'twin's ride quality and it won't come close to offering the same value for money.
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