The Triban RC 520 Gravel is one of the company's first forays into the adventure market and if you're tempted to give it a go it's a really good place to start. It's confident on loose terrain and is fun to ride thanks to a decent weight and some quality components. And though it's pricier than the very similar road version, there are reasons for that...
- Pros: Stable handling on and off road; quality components
- Cons: No thru-axles; gearing may be too high for tough gravel climbs; limited tyre clearance
The RC 520 Gravel is based around the same frameset as used on the RC 520 Road that Ash gave a glowing review. He liked how the bike was very easy to live with thanks to the relaxed geometry, making it ideal for long distance rides or for those new to the sport. The neutral handling and its ability to cruise along at moderate speeds were also highlights.
In fact, if you want to know how this Gravel version performs on the road, then read Ash's review, as apart from a wider set of tyres and a flared handlebar they are almost exactly the same machine.
At first, this did make us wonder why it was £120 more – so we asked Decathlon... It's not just the handlebar (which is more expensive than the RC 520's) and the tyres, we're told it's also that the paint job on the frame is "much more complex than the RC520 with small details included such as brazed inserts for the bottle cage screws".
With that cleared up, I'll concentrate on the gravel tracks...
That neutral handling on the road is what makes the 520 Gravel so much fun to ride off it. This medium model has a 71.5-degree head angle, which is slack by road bike standards but when it comes to adventure and gravel it's about right.
The unpredictability of loose aggregate under your tyres makes the handling feel quicker here than on the tarmac, and gives the Triban a more interesting and fun ride.
It still errs on the side of neutrality, helped by the lengthy 1,014mm wheelbase, so don't go worrying about it becoming a handful on the trails. If (when) the tyres break traction, the bike is easily controlled with just a slight shift in body weight and really doesn't deliver any surprises.
When out for four or five hours riding purely on a mix of gravel byways and smaller dry, dirt trails, that steady, confidence-inspiring steering just lets you get on with the job of ticking off the miles and enjoying the scenery.
On the technical sections it isn't quite as direct or sharp as some of the other, more race-inspired gravel bikes I've ridden, and at 10.3kg it isn't the most flickable either to change course around tree roots, potholes or large rocks.
Not that the 520 feels overly heavy. Out on the tracks and trails it's only on the steepest of climbs that you'll really notice it, although it isn't really helped by the tall gearing; more of that in a minute, though.
Comfort is pretty good too. True, you have the cushioning effect of those 35mm tyres but still there is an underlying feeling coming through from the frame and fork that there is little vibration and buzz coming from the surface below.
The 520 Gravel is a good all-rounder on the whole, whether on the road or off it, ideal for that short blast around the lanes or out on an all-day adventure.
Frame and fork
The frame is manufactured using 6061-T6 aluminium alloy tubing, and has a claimed weight of 1,780g in this medium size. Svelte, no, but it is solid and will easily stand up to the rigours of loaded-up gravel and adventure riding. Triban even offers a lifetime warranty.
For the budget we are looking at here, the welding is plenty neat enough and the mix of a painted top half against the clear-coated natural finish of the lower makes the bike look more expensive than it is.
All cabling has been kept external, which is no biggie at this price point and at least it stops the cables rattling on the insides of the tubes over rough terrain.
There isn't a huge amount of oversizing going on anywhere in the tubing, and to be fair the frame doesn't really need it. For the job its been designed to do it is plenty stiff enough, and only on the steepest of climbs could I feel a tiny bit of flex at the bottom bracket.
Up front, Triban has even stayed with a straight through 1 1/8in head tube, not something we see that often these days.
Inserted into that tube is a carbon fibre fork with an alloy steerer tube. It's pretty stiff and copes with the braking power of the discs and forces from the steering.
The TRP Hy/Rd brakes are pretty good and put a fair bit of force through the fork leg, so I would like to see a thru-axle for wheel retention to resist that when braking really hard. The frame having quick release dropouts for the rear is less of an issue, as much less braking is done back there.
For a bike that could be used for adventure riding or even a bit of canal path commuting, it's great to see a full complement of mudguard and rack mounts front and rear. You can load the fork rack up to a maximum of 8kg too, according to the Decathlon website.
Seeing the main parts of a Shimano 105 groupset for this money is no surprise, as Decathlon has always offered excellent levels of kit on its in-house bikes. You are getting the latest R7000 shifters and the front and rear mech.
Making up the rest of the kit is a non-series Shimano RS 510 crankset that doesn't look out of place as it mimics the shape of the brand's more expensive offerings, and its black finish matches that of the 105 group.
Microshift provides the 11-speed cassette.
Gearing-wise you are getting a 50/34 up front paired to an 11-32 cassette, which for this type of bike and the sort of riders likely to be buying it could be a bit on the high side. In many places, riding off-road sees shorter, sharper climbs where you also need to remain seated for decent traction at the rear wheel.
There is an RC 520 Gravel Ltd model coming out next month that will use a SRAM 1x11 groupset with a 44t chainring paired to an 11-42 cassette for the same money. It'll also get 650B wheels and 42mm wide tyres.
Back to this test model, and the shifting here worked fine with the mix of kit, even when under load. It isn't quite as slick as a full 105 groupset but you'd struggle to notice unless you were riding them side by side.
I mentioned that the brakes are TRP Hy/Rd; these are cable-operated at the lever as far as the calliper, where the hydraulics take over. If you are ever thinking of building your own bike and the cost of hydraulic brake levers is prohibitive, then these are a good way to go, providing braking performance sitting somewhere in between a standard cable system and full hydraulic.
Power-wise they are pretty decent and have a fair amount of modulation too, although having the reservoir at the calliper means they are quite bulky.
Triban has gone for 160mm diameter rotors front and rear, which is a good size for this style of bike.
The handlebar and stem are own-brand stuff and it all does the business without any fuss. Most gravel and adventure bikes are built using flared handlebars, where the bottom of the drops is wider than the hoods to increase stability at speed on rough terrain with a wider stance. The Triban's has a flare of 16 degrees which is pretty standard and works well for the majority of situations.
Both the bar and stem are plenty stiff enough and are sized in relation to the size of the bike. This medium gets a 44cm bar and 100mm stem.
I am also a fan of the Triban Ergofit saddle. Its plentiful padding isn't overly squishy for a soft ride, but it takes out enough vibration from the surface.
Wheels and tyres
Triban supplies the wheels, with tubeless-ready alloy rims and disc hubs. They are 24mm deep and are laced up with 28 spokes front and rear in a two-cross pattern.
They're a bit weighty at 2kg stripped, but they seem to be pretty tough and I had no issues with them throughout testing. They arrived true and remained so even after plenty of abuse on the gravel trails.
They do only have an internal rim width of 17mm, which is quite narrow, so the 35mm tyres don't sit with quite as good a profile as on some other gravel wheels we see that are 6-7mm wider.
The RC 520 Gravel gets a pair of Hutchinson Overide tyres in a 35mm width, which saves you about 120g over the tyres that come as standard on the RC 520 Road, which makes cruising along on the road a pleasurable experience.
They are pretty slick for a gravel tyre, though, and only really work on hardpacked gravel and dry trails, but they are robust and didn't submit to the puncture fairy.
Decathlon supplied us with an extra set of wheels with knobbly tyres on and they made a real difference to gravel riding, although obviously that restricted road use fun.
The Triban will work well with something like the Panaracer GravelKing SK tyre if you are switching between surfaces throughout the ride.
For gravel use, I find a lightly treaded tyre of around 40-42mm works best for most conditions, so it's a shame that the Triban is restricted to just 36mm. Reading the small print at the bottom of the website, it look as though this is more down to bigger tyres causing toe overlap at the front wheel (when you turn the front wheel at slow speeds while pedalling and the front of your shoe stops the wheel from turning). If you know what you are doing then it isn't an issue, and you should be able to squeeze a 40mm tyre into the front and rear of the bike.
As it stands, the RC 520 Gravel is very decent value.
Competitors like the Saracen Levarg SL will set you back £1,350 for an alloy frame, SRAM Apex 1x groupset and 650B wheels sporting WTB tyres. That is pretty much the same build the 520 Gravel Ltd is going to get, but for £500 more. It's nearly half a kilo heavier too.
The Boardman ADV 8.8 has risen in price to £800 and it is a very good bike indeed. For that money, though, you are only getting a 9-speed Shimano Sora groupset, although it does come with some excellent Schwalbe G-One tyres. I'd say it comes down to how much you want those extra two sprockets as they are very similar bikes.
The one competitor the Triban Gravel does come up against is its own sibling, the equivalent road model. As I said earlier, at first glance it's pretty much the same bike but with the Gravel getting a flared bar and upgraded tyres, but when you also take into account the more complex paint job and other details it explains the £120 difference.
Overall, the Triban is a very good bike. It offers most of what you'd want from an entry-level gravel/adventure bike, all for a very good price, plus its weight is similar to bikes we are seeing at £500-£600 more. It's only 900g heavier than the £4,500 Pinarello Grevil I'm currently testing.
If you want one bike to do a little bit of everything – touring, gravel, commuting, adventure, rides with the family – then it is definitely worth considering.
A point of note is that the scoring in the report below is how I perceived the bike to perform on the gravel tracks; if you are interested from a road perspective, take a look at the RC 520 Road review mentioned at the start of this review.
A great entry-level gravel/adventure bike that is fun and easy to ride off road
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Triban RC 520 Gravel
Size tested: Medium
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
New Triban Evo frame in 6061 T6 aluminium, comfort-oriented geometry with adapted sloping
Weight: 1780g in size M
Strong, versatile frame: you can attach mudguards and a pannier rack. Normative compatibility with tyres with a cross-section of up to 36. The special work done on the frame enables good lateral rigidity and good vibration dampening. Because of this, our quick-release (QR) wheel system is more accessible, and guarantees good rigidity.
New Triban Evo fork with carbon blades and aluminium 1"1/8 Aheadset steerer tube. This fork combines comfort, low weight, and precision.
The carbon has been machined to provide good lateral rigidity and good filtering of frontal vibrations.
Inserts on blades for mounting a front pannier rack. Maximum load on the fork: 8 kg,
Eyelets on the wheel axle for attaching a mudguard
Compatible with tyres measuring up to 36 mm
HANDLEBAR / STEM / STEERING
Triban aluminium gravel handlebars with a 16° flare for better grip and excellent comfort.
Handlebar width (axle-to-axle):
XS / S: 420 mm.
M / L: 440 mm.
XL: 460 mm.
XS / S: 80 mm.
M: 100 mm.
Shimano 105 R7000 shifters
Shimano 105 R7000 front derailleur
Shimano 105 R7000 rear derailleur with 11 speeds and long screed
Total weight: 843 g
So-called "Shadow" rear derailleur for better protection when gravel biking. The derailleur remains under the cassette and does not spring up and hit the chain stay, reducing the risk of it coming off.
CRANKSET / CASSETTE
Microshift CS-H110 11S 11/32 cassette
Shimano RS 510 compact bottom bracket in 50/34.
Crank length varies according to size of bike:
XS, S: 170mm.
L, XL: 175mm.
TRP HY/RD disc brakes.
Cable-operated hydraulic pistons, ensuring reliability and efficiency
160mm disc at the front and rear
Anti-compression Jagwire housing to ensure braking precision and efficiency
Semi-metallic TRP pad (M515/M525 version)
Triban Tubeless Ready Light wheels*
ETRTO dimension: 622 x 17c.
Height 24mm for increased lateral rigidity.
Crossed steel spokes for greater rigidity (28 front and 28 rear).
Sealed cartridge bearings.
Weight per pair (without cassette and QR): 2000 g
*Conversion kit required (not supplied), including 2 tubeless valves + 2 rim strips + bottle of anti-puncture liquid.
Hutchinson Overide 35 Tubeless ready tyres
Skinwall folding bead
HardSkin puncture-proof fabric over the entire tyre
Durable carcass: 66 TPI.
Dimensions: 35c-622 / 700 x 35c
Min pressure: 3 bar / 43 psi
Max pressure: 5.5 bar / 80 psi
Mounted pressure with inner tube: 4.5 bar front, 5 bar back (75 kg rider)
SADDLE / SEAT POST
New Triban ErgoFit saddle.
Hammock design for greater comfort.
Aluminium Triban seat post.
Easy seat adjustment
Length: 350 mm in M / L / XL, 250 mm in XS / S
The natural flex of the 27.2 diameter seat post dampens vibrations and shocks for added comfort
Platform pedals included with the bike.
We recommend either flat or SPD pedals
Please be aware of the risk of tyres that are over 36mm.
Even if the clearance between the wheel and the fork and frame is enough for 40 mm tyres, there is a risk of you coming off your bike in the event that your shoe comes into contact with the front tyre. This can happen at low speeds on tight turns, and will depend on the size of the frame and how you've got your SPD cleats set up on your sole.
700x36 or 650x42 tyres can be fitted on the wheel
Tell us what the bike is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Triban says, "We have designed and tested this gravel bike for regular rides. It will ensure comfort and performance on trails and rolling terrain
"Discover Gravel! Its wide handlebars with 16° flare, 700 wheels and size 35 Tubeless Ready tyres, Shimano 105 R7000 and compact 50/34 will provide comfort and performance on rolling trails"
The Triban makes a great entry to gravel riding, as well as being a competent commuter for all weathers.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
This is currently the only gravel model in the range, although there is a Ltd model arriving circa July '19 which will have a 1x11 groupset and 650B wheels for the same money.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Finish and quality are as I'd expect for the money. The welding is neat enough and the paint/clear coat finish looks good.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The frame is made from 6061-T6 aluminium alloy while the fork has carbon fibre legs and an alloy steerer.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Pretty much spot on for a gravel bike, with a relaxed head angle and tall head tube for a more upright position. The extended wheelbase and long chainstays give it a very stable feel when off road.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
This medium has a stack of 569mm and a reach of 379mm, which is about where I'd expect to see it. The ratio of that is 1.5, which is actually slightly more aggressive than I've seen on some endurance road bikes.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Yes, pretty much. It's not one of the most refined alloy frames out there, but for the money it is difficult to fault from a ride quality point of view.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
For what is expected from it I didn't have any issues.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Yeah, reasonably efficient. I could get the bottom bracket area to flex if I really stamped on the pedals, but nothing major.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? On gravel it is largely neutral, with just a little hint of fun added to the mix.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
On the road the Triban is quite relaxed and at times a little ponderous, but on the gravel it has a decent blend of feedback and speed to the steering. It's perfect for beginners or those who don't want a massive adrenaline hit.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The Triban saddle does a good job of taking the sting out of the terrain.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
All the components offer a good all-round balance of stiffness.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
Lighter wheels at some point would increase the overall efficiency, and treaded tyres would improve grip off-road.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
It's good to see some quality here, like the Shimano 105 R7000 shifters and mechs, and it all works fine with the other components.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?
Solid performers that do the job. You could go lighter but for the money there is nothing wrong with them.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?
Decent tyres that work on the road and hard packed trails, but for anything slippery or loose you'll need something with more tread.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
I was a big fan of the flared bar, which gave plenty of stability.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
For what you are getting it does look quite the bargain with this spec level. Nothing much else comes close, although some, like the Boardman ADV 8.8, do have the edge when it comes to the frame.
Use this box to explain your overall score
Only a couple of little niggles keep the score down for the RC 520 Gravel, although the gearing issues could be rectified by the Ltd model coming soon. At first glance the RC 520 Road version looks better value for money, but taking into account Decathlon's explanation, on the whole the package you are getting with the Gravel is still very good against the opposition.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!