Triban RC 120 – a one year review

Funny what can happen in a year. I had just lost my brand new Giant Propel aero bike (yes, I’m still peeved off, can you tell?) and decided to get myself a cheap and cheerful replacement.

It was a strange time in that, even back in March, the demand in bikes due to COVID-19 was starting to cause bike shortages.

Even before I bought the Giant, I was toying with the idea of getting the Triban. Glowing reviews from websites such as BikeRadar and Road.cc, as well as a report from GCN suggested that the Decathlon mass-production road bike was a diamond in the rough and a good bike for the price.

After my Giant was written off, getting a Triban RC 120 seemed a good idea. A road bike for 450 EUR, and I could swap out the groupset for the Shimano 105 R7000 of the Propel, and recover the wheels. It sounded like a fun experiment in better understanding how bikes work from a mechanical perspective.

The RC 120 has a 6061 aluminium frame with a Giant TCR-style top tube, and carbon forks. It came as standard with a basic Shimano Tourney 50/34 crankset and Microshift front and rear derailleurs and an 11-34 8-speed cassette, presumably from Decathlon. The shift levers were also from Microshift, and the brake callipers were no-name brand. I rode this setup for about 1,000 km and to be honest I was very impressed.

Asides from 10 days on the Propel, I had no road bike experience. That being said, I know what I like – the gearing was excellent for tackling steep hills, it could handle speed, and the shifting was crisp and accurate. For the beginner cyclist or passionate cycling on a budget, this bike is an excellent choice, especially as a first road bike.

I took this setup to the Tyrollean Alps where I tried my hand at climbing some steep hills – the bike outperformed me, with me needing a few breaks to, ahem, admire the view. Even the stock brakes didn’t cause me much worry, providing solid braking even from 60 km/h.

Hamish in the Alps.

After 1,000 km, I decided to get to work on my upgrades. It was quite the learning process removing the groupset and bottom bracket, replacing it with a BSA bottom bracket and installing the Hollowtech Shimano 105 system, replacing the shifters, recabling the entire bike, and so on.

One year later, the only original parts on the newly-named Hamish are the frame and the fork. He really is Trigger’s broom. A selection of upgrades:

  • Groupset – Shimano 105 R7000 11-speed groupset, including shifters – relatively low cost, robust with excellent shifting. A wide range of cassettes are available, I currently use 11-30 and 11-34 (for big hills)
  • Wheels – Giant PA2 alloy wheelset (good for commuting, stable when braking down hills) and Giant SLR 1 carbon wheelset (good for racing, caution on use in the rain), both set up for tubeless tyres. Shimano WH-RS100-CL wheelset (good for winter riding and gravel; cheap and cheerful but for clincher tyres – I use 28 mm Continental GP 4 Seasons)
  • Brakes callipers – whilst not bad, the no-name brand worried me a little, especially given my above average body size and penchant for descending at speed. I upgraded to TRP RG957’s, highly rated if not a little expensive brake callipers
  • Brake pads – I upgraded to Kool Stop brake pads, and like either the salmon / dual compound Dura pads – which are especially good in wet conditions
  • Saddle – depends, I’m still on the search for the perfect saddle, but I’m quite happy with my Selle Italia SLR Boost TI316 Superflow

Are these really necessary? Not really – the basic model is good. I think even the Triban RC 520 comes with a 105 groupset, and it is worth the extra money if you can / want to afford it.

The 105 groupset is one of Shimano’s top class offering, following the professional orientated Dura-Ace and passionate amateur Ultegra. The 105 does borrow a lot of technology from these groupsets, making it very good but with a weight penalty. If the idea of counting grammes doesn’t excite you, save yourself the fuss and cost and get the 105.

Side question – I could have ordered a disc brake RC 120 for an extra 50 EUR – why didn’t I? On one hand, when upgrading my bike I thought I could best reuse my old rim brake wheels and parts, including the shifter levers, on a rim brake bike. On the other hand, whilst I’m not a traditionalist per se, I don’t really like the fuss with disc brakes (hydraulic fluid is a pain to change) and I hate the squealing noise when they get dirty, or even the ting-ting-ting if the disc gets warped. With a cheap bike, it makes sense to get a basic but robust system. Rim brakes it was.

I won’t claim to be an experienced road bike cyclist – I only started a year ago. But Hamish and I have covered 7,000 km so far in just over a year, riding pretty much 6 days a week. This has been through the daily commute, 40C heat, -10C cold, 30 km/h winds, snow, ice, day tours, and up and down mountains. You will find lighter bikes, certainly. You will also find more aero bikes. Carbon may be stiffer.

But Hamish is my own bike. I have literally built it up from the ground up, and I know how it feels and how it ticks. I can repair almost any problem. Whilst it may look like an off-the-peg Triban and be scorned by more experienced cyclists who prefer bikes with an established brand name (yes, I’ve experienced are a few), Hamish and I have overtaken, outpowered and outclimbed Giants, Canyons, Cannondales and Bianchis. Ultimately the biggest upgrade is the cyclist, not the cycle.

Every time I sit on the saddle, clip in and pedal down my street on the way to the office or my route, I feel content. I hear the light rasp of the chain, and feel that all the parts are well oiled and working together in harmony.

Top of the Großglockner.

I plan on having more fun with Hamish – not only the daily commute, but also racing, gravel biking and randonneuring. I have registered us for the 125 km Neusiedlersee Radmarathon and Berlin-Munich-Berlin half-distance in 2021 (700 km), and plan on tackling a few crits as well. Even if I get myself a new carbon racing bike with electronic shifting and disc brakes, Hamish will certainly have earned his place in my garage.

In summary, after 1 year – the Triban was good, but my Triban is excellent.

-MT

6 thoughts on “Triban RC 120 – a one year review

Add yours

  1. thanks for the review, and your upgrades look awesome! Just wondering if you know the max tire size this bike can handle? I’m looking to add some 32s or 35s for gravel riding. thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment, glad you enjoyed the review! I currently run 28mm tyres and suspect that I may be able to run 32mm with the clearance offered by the long arm rim brake callipers. Larger would be risky. If you go for the disc brake variant, you may be able to get away with 33/35mm tyres, but I can’t be certain.

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  2. Hi, i recently brought a second hand RC 120 disk as my first roadbike. It equipped with a non branded crankshaft. Is it worth to upgrade to Shimano Claris crankshaft ? I can get one at 80USD with the BB.
    Thanks

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    1. I’m not familiar with the Claris groupset, but if it can use a BBR60 (68mm I think) it should work. Perhaps it’s worth taking to your local bike shop. Be careful though, on my bike the sides of the frame around the BB mount are not squarely cut, and you have to take your time to avoid compressing the middle part of the BB. I did that once, but did it again properly next time.

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    2. It seeems the frame of mine have the same issue. Since i didnt have a torqut wrench, i simply screw the bb hand tight with extra half of a quarter circle. In the end I didnt use claris crankshaft but a sora one and it work fine with the original front derailleur. As for the promax 300R single piston brake i changed it with TRP Spyre flat mount which is a mechanical two piston, I will try the mechanical oil brake from Alibaba later to see if it work better. Thanks for your help. Your post gave me courage to mod my first bike😉.

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