Would you like to have a road disc bike 300,000 HUF? It will not be easy! But there is a surprisingly good bargain model – straight from Decathlon.
We’ve been getting “hot and cold” from the readers concerning the reviews of B’Twin bikes. Still we have done nothing more than to state our honest opinion, the true experience about the bikes we rode. I understand that the feelings of some are hurt by how good the “big box store” bicycles perform compared to the established brands. The value for money is unquestionable, and this is clearly not our fault.
In this context, the “500” model in this review was specifically requested for several reasons. Though the Ultra 520 road disc bike sounds like the top bargain, the 459,000 HUF price is beyond the reach of the average cyclist. On the one hand I was curious about what kind of bike can be offered in road disc category for under 300,000 HUF, and also how the modern Shimano mechanical brakes perform!
Concerning the B’Twin Ultra 500 AF GF specifications, there are no compromises top be seen! We get a complete Shimano Sora groupset, Mavic Aksium wheels, Shimano RS305 disc brakes, and ICE-Tech discs with “heatsink”. The frame is also stuffed with modern technologies paired with a slender 1470 grams of weight. This is not too common these days, since the “lifetime warranty” frames are often are overbuilt, with at least an additional 200 g to err on the safe side. At the back we get up-to-date 12 × 142mm Thru-axles (many of the competitors are still using QR-axles), and a hi-tech 432 g tapered neck carbon fork at the front, which also accepts 12mm axles. Brake assemblies are standard Flat Mount – a lighter and more rigid solution compared to the “old” Post Mount technology.
The frame is quite conventional, well-designed and built with subdued paint scheme, ideal for those who prefer not to show off with their bike. The bottom tube has a rectangular cross section that not only looks good, but it’s also stiffer than the conventional circular shape. Moreover, the frame accepts Di2 cables as well, but in this case they are covered up. This is a nice gesture, so there are plenty of possibilities for upgrading down the line. It also has a UCI sticker – a qualification by the International Bicycle Federation -, hence you can take part in professional races with the Ultra 500. Obviously, someone who gets a 299.000 HUF road disc bike is not intending to enter in professional races, but it’s still provides another option for the future. The “Flanders” logo an the frame will please all sport-loving bikers, it’s a welcome nod to the famous spring classics, where such a disc brake equipped bike would come quite handy!
The bottom bracket of the frame uses the modern Press Fit 86 standard in perfect harmony with the supplied compact 50/34T Shimano Sora crankset. There are clearly lighter shifting system on the market than the Sora with more gear choices, nevertheless this groupset is perfectly suitable for hobby cyclists. For those who remember riding a Sora 5-10 years ago, simply forget everything you experienced: the modern version is on a completely different level, it is intended for much more than just touring. Switching gears is very subtle, fast, precise, even under pedalling load. Of course it’s not on the same level as the Shimano 105, but it costs so much less. The shifters are comfortable, and the cables are now hidden under the bar tape.
The braking performance was one thing I was really curious about. All bikes I reviewed with mechanical disc brakes – other than the Avid BB7, which is very rare model nowdays – proved to be less than adequate concerning braking force and deceleration, making this aspect of bike performance disgraceful. One may think that the Shimano RS305 brake is no different, but with ICE-Tech heat sinks – even though it does not have the power and feel of the hydraulic systems – perform quite well in practice. The bike can be stopped safely using little braking distance from any speed, with just a little more hand force than for the “oily” companions. This brake system clearly meets the requirements of road use, and it’s quite satisfying to use. It has a good “bite” a low riding pace, and could easily be modulated at a higher tempo.
There are many white gravel roads on the island of Brac, where this bike was tested. This is not the ideal bike for such environment, since the Mavic Yksion tires tends to drift and slip on the loose surface. Still I could always count on the brake system to correct my line. Mavic is a renowned brand, but maybe a different tyre could help to make the Ultra 500 more gravel-worthy.
When defining the riding properties, it is worth considering what your plan is with the bike, where and how you would be using it. Also consider what kind of machine you intend to replace. The Ultra 500 has a comfortable frame geometry, so it is not going to have a sporty handling. It’s nothing like the previously reviewed to the B’Twin Ultra 900 CF, which is in a different bike and price category. And it’s not just the frame material that counts! But for someone who wants a comfortable, cheerful bargain bike, which does not make riding around lake Balaton with buddies tiresome, this bike is clearly an excellent choice. Thanks to the “endurance” geometry, you can spend hours in the saddle, and it won’t hurt your back!.You can safely descend off a mountain pass at 70 km/h, and the bike will not feel nervous.
If it was my bike, I would not change anything on the specifications. The saddle is comfortable, and all the parts are the highest standard that can be had at this price. As I’ve mentioned, the tyres should be swapped for a different model when they wear out. So just like the previous bikes tested from the brand, the B’Twin Ultra 500 can teach lessons to the competitors. The only limitation is the 28mm wide tire, but if the rumours are true, there will soon be a B’Twin machine specifically designed for gravel use. I’m more than curious!