Featuring a ride quality comparable to bikes twice the price and beyond, the VanRysel RR 900 AF continues to impress. The fact it also has a highly competitive spec list, featuring a groupset normally not seen at this price point, on top of a quality frame is also a complete bonus.
Ride quality of the aluminium frame
Full Shimano 105 groupset
By James Bracey
The French brand may have changed its name from B’twin to VanRysel, but the RR 900 AF still has everything we’ve come to love from the French giant: a superb ride quality, a top notch frame and excellent value for money. For that reason it's on our Editor's Choice list for 2019.
French sports equipment powerhouse Decathlon has completely shaken up its cycling division for 2019, dropping the all-encompassing B’Twin name and launching its more premium models under a new VanRysel moniker.
This RR 900 AF sits close to the pinnacle of the VanRysel aluminium framed collection and whilst the name might have changed we can breathe a collective sigh of relief that it retains all of the things we loved about the previous version.
The aluminium frame design is all about creating a road smoothing, comfortable ride characteristic that both beginners and experienced riders will appreciate. Gracefully curving seatstays and a bowed top tube work alongside the butted tubing to mute road vibration incredibly well.
Add in a relatively tall head tube and the RR 900 AF is an almost perfect companion for long days in the saddle. It’s not a particularly lightweight frameset, the fork features an aluminium steerer for example, but there are some neat touches like the integrated, internal cable routing and shrouded dropouts that give it a real impression of quality.
Like its predecessor, the RR 900 AF stands out from the competition by the inclusion of a complete Shimano 105 R7000 11 speed groupset. VanRysel has pushed the expected remit of the RR 900 AF to attract riders considering racing or simply those that want to go fast by speccing the larger, semi-compact 52/36 chainset. Fortunately there’s still an 11-28 cassette to keep a wide spread of climbing gears.
There are obvious cost cutting exercises in order to shoehorn in that groupset. The finishing kit is all fairly basic (read heavy) own-brand parts but VanRysel has still considered rider experience and enjoyment. The handlebar features a relatively comfortable shape including a little back sweep to make climbing on the tops a more ergonomic affair.
The handlebar width and stem length change per frame size as well. The VanRysel branded saddle actually turned out to be incredibly comfortable with a great shape and padding that gives just enough support.
One area that does need a little attention is the performance of the brakes. Yes, VanRysel does spec a direct mount front calliper to generate more braking power but I had real difficulty in getting the brakes to feel anything other than wooden and lacking in bite.
There were a few moments when I didn’t think I would stop! It might be down to the brake pad compound being a touch hard or the braking surface of the Mavic Aksium wheels. With time and more riding I would expect them to bed-in a little more but I personally would swap out the pads for something a little more confidence inspiring.
Mavic’s Yksion tyres are the only other fly in the ointment with the spec. Similar to the brake pads, the rubber compound of the Yksion isn’t very conducive to complete cornering confidence. That eye-watering rumbling you get when you’re at the limit of grip seems to happen all too often with the Yksion, causing you to back off.
The VanRysel RR 900 AF really is an almost unbelievable bike at this price point. Often brands might compromise on the ride quality of frame in order to spec a groupset such as 105 but in the case of the RR 900 AF the frame is extremely capable and enjoyable to ride. Yes, I would encourage purchasers to maybe upgrade the tyres and brake pads as soon as possible but fortunately this is a simple and relatively cheap exercise that most of us would do anyway.
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