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Decathlon Bike

Triban GRVL 120

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Gravel is the big thing next to e-bikes. No manufacturer can escape this trend. Gone are the days when only a few hipsters rode these bikes. The gravel bike is even about to displace many of the classic mtb hardtails, because gravel bikes are as much at home on the road as they are in light terrain. And that means one thing above all, a lot of fun. 'Gravel' stands for honest sport, freedom and adventure. Campfire romance at the overnighter with light luggage included.

In the late summer of 2019, there was speculation in scene circles for the first time about a 120 'Gravel' by Decathlon. All just rumours? No, because the sports giant from Villeneuve-d'Asc near the Belgian border is consistently expanding its bicycle division and wants to open up completely new customer groups with innovative products. Based on the Triban RC 100 entry-level road bike, which is sold worldwide, Decathlon first launched the RC 120 with carbon fork and last year the RC 120 Disc with mechanical disc brakes.
Since then, thousands upon thousands of enthusiastic cyclists have covered millions of miles with these bikes. On good and not so good roads, on dirt roads, forest tracks, in sun, rain and even on snow and ice. The Triban RC 100 and 120 models are absolutely reliable and tough. And so it was only natural that Decathlon, as part of its growth strategy, should add another model to its portfolio in the upscale entry-level segment. Et voilà, on 17 January 2020, the Triban GRVL 120 was presented at the Velofollies bike show in Kortrijk, Belgium. Practically a home game for Decathlon, after all, the headquarters is only 25 km away.

The bike has been available online since mid-February, but you can have it delivered to any Decathlon store and then pick it up there. Of course, the bike will soon be available directly in the local shops. Since last year I have been riding a tuned Triban RC 120 Disc myself on gravel a lot. So it is a good idea to place both bikes vis-à-vis and compare them here and there. But the basic question is, has Decathlon done its homework and launched with the GRVL 120 a real gravel-racer between the entry level RC 100 and the RC 520 Gravel? In terms of price, the bike at € 600.00 is pretty much between the RC 100 for € 260.00 and the RC 520 Gravel for € 1000.00 - and it is 100.00 more expensive than the RC 120 Disc.

Frame, Fork & Design

I have already reported in detail about the 6061 aluminum frame in the RC 120 Disc test report, but it cannot be repeated often enough. Such an incredibly mature product is worth its weight in gold for the manufacturer. With 1830 g it is not a lightweight, but it has a lifetime guarantee and in general the rectangular down tube with a constant cross-section is at the top of the list in 2020 in terms of design and style. The small sticker on the seat tube 'Designed and Tested in Flanders / France' is rightly attached to the bike and can be considered a quality label. Important point: The GRVL 120 can be ordered in men's or women's version. That's what I call consistent in terms of focusing on new customer groups.

The carbon fork is identical in construction to the RC 120 and is also used in higher priced Decathlon models. Gives you a good feeling, doesn't it? By the way, the fact that the fork steerer is not made of carbon but of aluminium is not a dazzle, but a widely used construction. I only mention this here because RC 120 buyers have already complained that the bike has no carbon fork. Of course this is nonsense - it is and remains a carbon fork and the matt black of the fork fits perfectly with the olive green frame of the GRVL 120. Oh yes, colouring and design - the Decathlon product managers have clearly stated the motto "Gravel as Possible". And I think they got the maximum out of it. Green, black, beige, done. 100% Gravel, 100% noble.

Drive & Brakes

One times ten. That's all there is, and maybe that's all you need in a modern gravel bike. In the front is a 38 chainring, in the back is a 11x42 cassette with 10 sprockets. This requires a distance of 1.99 m for one crank revolution in the lowest gear and a speed of just under 39 km/h at 85 crank revolutions per minute in the fastest gear. In direct comparison with the RC 120 with 2x8 drive, the GRVL 120 climbs much better, but doesn't quite keep up with the top speed (RC 120: 51.5 km/h at 85 revolutions). Here is still potential, at least in theory. If you ride a really high percentage of gravel, you will hardly notice this small deficit. By the way, shifting is done with Microshift components. In contrast to the RC 120 the gears of the GRVL 120 are changed with the more robust rear derailleur from the Mtb series.
The standard pedals are of simple design. But in fact they are quite usable and also comparatively light. No matter if you are a beginner or advanced, there is no way around professional pedals in the long run. Very nice I find the mounted bashguard in connection with a small chain deflector on the seat tube. So the chain stays where it belongs even if it gets a bit rough and if you use the bike for commuting, you don't have to worry about the pants getting between chain and chainring.
The GRVL 120 uses the Promax disc brakes with 160mm rotors (front DSK-330R 'Flatmount' / rear DSK-300R 'Postmount'), semi-metallic brake pads and Jagwire brake cables. Before everyone turns up their nose and makes the brakes look bad again - of course a 4-piston hydraulic brake has more power. We all know that. The new desire for gravel, however, actually has a lot to do with concentration on the essentials. In a nutshell: A gravel bike should be uncomplicated and simple. Function and reliability are important. How the brake works in practice - I'll come back to that later.

Tires, Cockpit and Saddle

While the RC 120 is delivered with 17 mm rims, the French are giving the GRVL 120 rims in 23 mm width with 38 mm wide Hutchinson Overide tyres - of course in the absolutely hip 'Classic Skin' style and with ultra-fast diamond tread. The tires feel like a mixture of Schwalbe's G-One Speed and G-One Allround. Because I was simply interested: In practice the 38 Hutchinson are even 40 mm wide (at 3.5 bar). Compared to the RC 120, Decathlon has set the seat stay about 10 mm higher. As you can see in the picture, there is now room for an even bigger tire. Thanks Decathlon.
The cockpit makes a high quality impression. Everything is very clean and neatly built and the dropbar with 16° flare leave not the slightest doubt about the purpose of the bike. Spacers under the stem also allow for individual adjustment in terms of physique and personal riding style. Such details show that Decathlon is absolutely serious about product quality and customer promise. I'd really like to see the specifications for the bike - we'd probably be surprised how much thought the developers put into every little detail. If in the end somebody will really lower the dropbar to be able to ride a little bit more sporty remains to be seen. I still think it's great and so far I have some respect. But does the GRVL keep its promises when riding?

Before I can test this, I have to find the right saddle height. The markings on the seat post are very helpful. I can understand that there is no quick release, but it would still be 'Nice to Have'. I already know the ErgoFitSystem saddle from the RC 120 Disc - and it has already proven itself.

First Ride - Here We Go

It is very important to me to do the first ride with the GRVL 120 in the original condition as delivered. This is the only way I can effectively evaluate how coherent the overall package really is. After all, the bike is also intended for beginners and gravel rookies, and everything should fit right from the start. Otherwise, gravel lust can easily turn into gravel frustration.

At my home I start on concrete, check the gears and run-in the pads of the disc brakes. A short service check and then it's hard pack, 'Loose over Hard' and medium-gravel all over the Schönbuch Nature Park. What I immediately notice positively is the wide dropbar - a huge difference to the classic road bar. Especially in the undergrip the up to 54 cm wide dropbar convince me. I take the fast gravel curves down into the Goldersbachtal completely in drifting - everything under control! The 16° flare makes handling super easy and the Promax brake can be so finely adjusted that I fly wonderfully crosswise through the curves. Mechanical disc brakes are often criticised, but if you pay attention to a few things, they work perfectly. It is the same with the Promax brake. The pads have to be run-in correctly (appropriate number of brakings/correct temperature) and since every brake cable gets a bit longer at the beginning, the brake has to be readjusted after the run-in process. Then you will have a defined pressure point and can build up braking power properly. The only real disadvantage: It does not readjust itself. On the other hand it never draws air and even if it gets really hot, it doesn't suddenly fail completely.

I am absolutely thrilled with the 1x10 drive. I admit I had doubts. But the ten gears are definitely sufficient. The configuration chosen by Decathlon is 'smart' - the bandwidth is incredible. I can still imagine an eleventh and twelfth sprocket, but it's not really necessary.
My GRVL 120 is size L and weighs 11.5 kilograms ready to ride, but thanks to the excellent geometry and a really stiff rear end, the bike accelerates really well. Especially on asphalt you can still feel the road bike genes. I am surprised how good the bike runs straight ahead. Hands-free? No problem, even on gravel. I'm sure the Hutchnson Overide tires have their share in this. I like that tire. Started at 5 bar and gradually released pressure. With 80 kilos of weight I feel most comfortable at 3.0 bar in the front and 3.2 bar in the back. Applies to gravel. On the road I find 4.5 bar still ok.
At the end of my first tour I want to know again exactly what the tyres are. And since the shortest connection between two points is always a straight line, I turn off the road and try a muddy single trail shortcut. In the flat it still goes quite well, even if the front wheel doesn't really always want to go where I want to go. Then it goes more and more uphill and the last five meters before the hill the rear wheel just goes crazy. Mud - that's not what the chic 'Hutchinson Overide' is made for. If you want to get the most out of the 42 sprocket, you have to invest in more tread at the rear. Then it will surely work also in mud ;-)

Women's Version

At first glance, the women's version differs from the other models by the orange Triban lettering on the frame. In the men's version this is kept in black. A closer look reveals even more differences. The dropbar of the women's version is a little narrower and the stem is also shorter. For optimal handling and riding comfort the grip width of the brake levers has been adjusted and of course there is also a special saddle.

I think these are all in all very harmonious and good adjustments and guarantee more than just a marketing trick. I guess most women will appreciate the adapted geometry - because with a really well-fitting bike, riding is simply much more fun.

Résumé

What do you think, has Decathlon now launched a real gravel-gacer or a bike for the ice cream parlor with the GRVL 120 for 600 Euro? My conclusion is clear: both and much more. Yes, the Triban GRVL 120 is indisputably a full-fledged, very well made gravel bike with a convincing component matrix at a sensational price. Yes, with the GRVL 120 you will definitely cut a fine figure in front of any ice cream parlor and if you want, you can even commute to work every day with the GRVL 120. It is a Triban. Remember it? Millions of miles of experience. Everything? No, because the most important thing at the end: Driving with the GRVL 120 is simply unbelievably fun. On the road and of course especially on gravel.

Bike Tuning: GRVL 120 'Hard Gravel'

No doubt, the GRVL 120 is a great bike and you can start right away and discover the fascination of 'Gravel'. But of course you can also improve a few things on the GRVL 120 or adapt it to your individual needs. In the following you will find a selection of tuning parts, which I tested myself on the bike.

For those who ride a lot offroad, I recommend the Smart Sam tires in 28x1.6 (700x40c). The tire fits the bike perfectly and with it you can also ride muddy trails.

The XLC seat clamp and NC-17 pedals are also available in red. Add the red tuning brake and you have your individual GRVL 120 'Hard Gravel'.


Top Tuning Parts

Bag

Saddle Bag

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Pedals

Shimano Combination pedals PD-M324

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Bag

Frame Riverside 300

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Brakes

Hydro-Mechanical Brakes

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Tires

Schwalbe Smart Sam

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Pedals

NC-17 Sudpin Zero

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Important tuning part; seat post tube quick release clamp. A must have if you wanna ride downhills full throttle.

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If you go for the hydro-mechanical brakes you need this adapter on the fork (no need to have one at rear).

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For me one of the best phone mounts. Evene the cheaper full plastic model is pretty good.



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Exactly the right size for the gravel bike. Perfect in combination with BBB Cycling's backloader.

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Much more than just a navigation system. With the 'Edge 830 Sensor Bundle' my training got really professional.

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No overnighter without backloader - BBB Cycling's backloader system is smart designed. Check it out. I love it.



Triban Community

Triban Riderz Community

You also ride a Triban GRVL 120? Then share your experiences with me. Especially to tires and other tuning parts your information is always welcome. Because for me, only really tested tires and parts make it on the list! Even if you have questions about the bike you are welcome to contact me.
By the way, under the hashtag #swgrvl120 you can find all my posts about the Triban GRVL 120 on Instagram.

List of Gravel Tires

Schwalbe G-ONE Allround - Performance Line, 28x1.35 / 700x35c (425g/67TPI)

Schwalbe G-ONE Allround - Performance Line, 28x1.50 / 700x38c (485g/67TPI)

Schwalbe G-ONE Bite - Performance Line, 28x1.50 / 700x38c (470g/67TPI)

Schwalbe G_ONE Ultrabite - Performance Line, 28x1.50 / 700x38c (500g/67TPI)

Schwalbe CX Comp 700x35c (480g/50TPI)

Schwalbe CX Comp 700x38c (550g/50TPI)

Schwalbe Smart Sam 28x1.40 / 700x35c (475g/67TPI)

Schwalbe Smart Sam 28x1.60 / 700x40c (555g/67TPI)

Ride On ;-)


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