Van Rysel Ultra CF review
After a complete brand relaunch late 2018, Decathlon's in-house bike brand is now called Van Rysel – we've been testing the carbon Ultra CF women's road bike
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The Van Rysel Ultra CF women's-specific road bike delivers in both performance and price. From sprints to mountain climbs, the bike delivers in spades. Confidence inspiring, lightweight and comfortable all for less than £1,300. Decathlon I salute you.
No disc-brake option
No high-end option
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When Decathlon launched its new range of Van Rysel bikes, we were very keen to take pretty much all of them for a spin. The brand is well known for its exceptional value for money, and was primarily focused on comfort. However, the Van Rysel Ultra CF women's changes all of that, so we awarded it a spot on our Editor's Choice list.
Sitting above the well-known and highly regarded Triban range of bikes, the Van Rysel road bike collection was launched in parallel with skinsuits and aero helmets, a totally new venture for Decathlon which gives you an idea of how seriously the brand is taking the performance concept.
In total there are eight bikes in the line-up, with the full carbon, Shimano 105-equipped Van Rysel Ultra CF Women's one of two women's-specific bikes. The Ultra AF Women's, with an aluminium frame, carbon fork and Shimano Tiagra groupset the second.
>>>B'Twin bikes: Guide to Triban and Ultra Road Bikes
The majority of the carbon Van Rysel Ultra bikes were carryovers from their previous incarnations as the B'Twin Ultra range, but although Decathlon started with an aluminium Ultra model at the end of 2018, the carbon Van Rysel Ultra CF women's model is brand new.
The Van Rysel Ultra CF women's design uses geometry adapted to women's morphology – think slightly more upright position to that of the equivalent men's/unisex version. The frame and fork design picks up on the latest aero designs, with boxy angular tubing profiles.
This does give the bike a rather robust profile, yet despite this it still only weighs in at 8.26kg for a size small. It's well on a par with its full carbon, similarly specced peers but with the bonus of being around £200 cheaper.
This reasonable weight also means that as well as boasting aerodynamic features, the bike holds its own in a climbing capacity too, especially as the 11-speed Shimano 105 groupset comes with a compact 50/34 and an 11-32 cassette at the rear, more than adequate for any mountain pass.
If you were looking to shave a bit of weight off the Van Rysel Ultra CF then a simple upgrade from the Aero 700 2024 BTWIN wheels would do the trick. These are not poor performers by any means but equally, an investment here will pay dividends in terms of weight and enhanced ride feel.
The rest of the bike uses predominately Decathlon in-house B'Twin alloy components, including women's-specific handlebars and saddle.
Heading out amid the beautiful yet unforgiving Yorkshire Dales was something of a baptism of fire for the Van Rysel Ultra CF: for anything that comes up short in terms of performance and handling there really is nowhere to hide. For those who haven't have the pleasure of riding out in the wilds of the Dales then all you need to know is that it's hilly with minimal flat in between.
Within 200 metres of my first pedal revolution on the bike, I found myself hurtling down a long, steep hill into the town of Otley, and as a ride leader for an organised bike ride I had a significant number of the world's cycling industry folk coming in hot behind me, dependent on me for ride directions. No pressure then, Van Rysel Ultra CF.
But, as they say, pressure makes diamonds and this bike is a real gem. It didn't miss a beat. Its stable handing oozes confidence: no better test of this is leading a ride while being 100 per cent sat-nav reliant and having to constantly check directions.
Even with rim brakes there were no problems braking one handed while having to give plenty of signalling to the group and other road users. As anyone who's ever performed ride lead-out duties will know, a fair percentage of your ride is spent looking backwards, so having predictable handing is vital in this regard, and it's an area the Van Rysel Ultra CF excels in.
The other half of a ride leader's role is to ensure you don't lose anyone. Easier said than done when you've got a mixed-ability group over some of the UK's toughest terrain on one of the hottest days of the year. From the first hill the group split into about 10 sub-groups and I found myself carrying out a role not that dissimilar to that of a super-domestique, leaping between groups to ensure everyone was OK and handing out extra food, water and sun cream.
While my legs and lungs intermittently protested at these constant sprint efforts between the riders, the bike did nothing but pull on its leash, wanting to constantly press on. As well as the overall bike geometry, it's testament to the factory Decalthon wheels I suggested upgrading. It's clearly a cracking bike out the box although I will stand by my words: if you did upgrade the wheels, the bike would be ridiculously rapid and lighter.
The only niggles in the otherwise perfect ride are no disc-brake or higher-spec option for the Van Rysel Ultra CF women's-specific options. Yes it did brake well and the 105 is great performing, but a Shimano Ultegra hydraulic disc set-up would create perfection in both areas, making this bike unbeatable.
Buy now: Van Rysel Ultra CF Women's from Decathon for £1,299.99 (opens in new tab)
Decathlon, I doff my cap. How you have managed to design and spec such a great bike for less than £1,300 is exceptional. It really is that good.
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Hannah is Cycling Weekly’s longest-serving tech writer, having started with the magazine back in 2011. She has covered all things technical for both print and digital over multiple seasons representing CW at spring Classics, and Grand Tours and all races in between.
Hannah was a successful road and track racer herself, competing in UCI races all over Europe as well as in China, Pakistan and New Zealand.
For fun, she's ridden LEJOG unaided, a lap of Majorca in a day, won a 24-hour mountain bike race and tackled famous mountain passes in the French Alps, Pyrenees, Dolomites and Himalayas.
She lives just outside the Peak District National Park near Manchester UK with her partner, daughter and a small but beautifully formed bike collection.
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