(The Gear Loop) - Unless you play close attention to the brands major sports and outdoors retailer Decathlon acquires on a seemingly daily basis, it's highly likely you haven't had much experience with Van Rysel. And that's fine, because it doesn't quite have the same ring to it (or brand cachet) as the likes of Specialized, Scott, Pinarello, Cannondale and myriad other road bike giants.
Long story short, it's the latest in-house cycling brand for the tres gross French sports supermarche and one that picks up where B'Twin left off, with a thoroughly refreshed line of great quality, affordable road machines.
Upon first glance, Van Rysel EDR AF might be easy to pass up, with things like external cable routing and a sub-fashionable aluminium frame appearing sub-optimal when compared to the lithe carbon fibre racers that can now be picked up for similar money. The Van Rysel EDR AF is currently £1,499 on the Decathlon website (at time of writing), by the way.
But look a little closer and the groupset, finishing kit and general accessories offered represent fantastic value for money. The frame could be a pile of junk and it would still be worth £1,499, but in reality, Decathlon has actually produced a fantastic machine that performs brilliantly and falls well within budget for many road bike lovers.
How? Well, the aluminium frame is fashioned from variable thickness 6061 aluminium, which might sound like gobbledegook to many, but it results in an incredibly light (8.67kg) yet resilient base for some of the finest components money can buy to hang.
It's comfortable, durable and performs extremely well for a bike in this price bracket, making it a superb option for those either looking to dip a toe into the world of performance road bikes or the ardent cyclist looking for a second option to use throughout the unforgiving winter months.
Rewind a few years and it was very difficult to find an entry-level bike that boasted a genuinely impressive list of technical specifications, but the "filter down" effect of cycling tech now means you can get what was once the most elite Shimano group sets known to humankind on a bike that costs less than a late-night splurge on the Rapha website.
It would also be easy to assume that the frame, finishing kit and wheel set on this bargain package were dreadful but that's simply not the case. It's an impressive overall package that makes for an extremely fun road bike. One that's perfectly happy to keep up with more expensive bikes on the weekend spins and still manages to draw a few admiring glances when parked up at the local cafe.
Van Rysel EDR AF Ultegra
- Very comfortable
- Brilliant Shimano drivetrain
- Looks sleek
- Internal cable routing looks better
- No disc brake option
- Lacks mounting points for mudguards and racks
In the Loop
At a glance, what does the Van Rysel EDR AF road bike offer?
- Aluminium frame, carbon forks
- Shimano Ultegra groupset, 11 speed
- Fulcrum R4 wheels
- Frame weight: 1450 to 1470g in size M
- Hutchinson Fusion 5 tyres
- Compact 6061 T6 aluminium VanRysel handlebar
- VanRysel Sport 900 saddle
Frame and kit
The frame is made up of chunky, oversized and squared off tubes, which makes it look sharp and sporty, but it is let only down by its cable placement. Decathlon claims the decision was made to leave all of the cabling externally routed for ease of maintenance, which is certainly true, but it also spoils the aerodynamics of a bike like this and generally makes the aesthetics looks untidy. That said, if this is to be a robust winter hack, being able to access and service cabling is right up there with the must-have features.
Decathlon also only offers the Van Rysel EDR AF Ultegra in one colour way and that's Snow White/Black. This is no bad thing because the paint is understated and classy in a market that's often full of terrible decals and colour schemes. As with many brands, the Van Rysel is offered in XS to XL sizes, with a very rough online sizing tool to help you get the right fit. It's merely a case of inputting height and it pumps out a vague frame size. This could troublesome for anyone with longer arms, shorter legs, a lengthier trunk or any combination of those things, so it's best to head in store and ask to sit on one before committing.
That said, the overall frame geometry (the angle of the various tubes) is fairly relaxed, with a short reach and forgiving head and seat tube angles meaning you don't have to ride folded in half all of the time. The bike has been designed with high mileage in mind and it really shows when you throw a leg over the frame. It's possible to cover long distances while remaining relatively comfortable. Aluminium has the added benefit of soaking up bumps and potholes with greater efficiency than overly stiff carbon fibre, but the trade-off here is some performance.
Granted, the carbon fibre front fork adds a little in terms of sharpness and responsiveness through corners, but this is no featherweight sprint machine. Experienced cyclists will notice that power transfer isn't as good as those super high-end bikes, while there are far more aerodynamic set-ups for those chasing PBs and Strava Segments.
Kit-wise, we've already mentioned the Shimano Ultegra drivetrain, which is arguably one of the best systems out there. There's no faulting how well this thing shifts. On top of that, there's a set of distinctly average Fulcrum Racing 4 aluminium wheels (simple enough to upgrade) and Van Rysel's own seat post, saddle and bars, which are all surprisingly comfortable, lightweight and durable.
The bike feels immediately "right", with a set-up that isn't overtly performance orientated, nor is it so relaxed that it starts to resemble a fitness or leisure bike. This is most certainly a fast road machine, but it also manages to go easy on the bum and lower back.
With Shimano Ultegra acting as the main driving force and a tough aluminium frame, the EDR AF very quickly starts encouraging the rider to push watts through those tried-and-tested cranks. The stiff frame does a great job of transferring every watt to the rear wheel and it gets up to a fast cruise with ease.
The wheels let the side down a little, but Decathlon understandably has a bottom line and shareholders to please, so it's no wonder a full set of carbon aero race wheels doesn't come as part of this very affordable package. That said, they aren't awful and Fulcrum is a name to be respected in the industry. Plus, wheels are the easiest things to swap out and upgrade, should the mood take. We pinched a set of Campagnolo Zondas from an existing bike and it made a world of difference to how the Van Rysel rolled and handled.
If your main goals revolve around more comfortable weekend rides, the bike doesn't disappoint, while 11x32 Shimano cassette offers a very good spread of gears that shouldn't leave you wanting for more on the climbs. The entire time you're riding this bike you have to remind yourself that it costs less than £1,500, yet still manages to offer some brilliant components from top names. Ribble's Endurance AL Disc arguably goes one better by offering disc brakes, but then it only packs Shimano's 105 groupset. Go figure.
There's a strong argument for leaving the disc brakes on the shelf and plumping for the Ultegra offered on Decathlon's sweet road bike set-up, although Ribble's steel-framed 725 Enthusiast is also worth a look if you simply want a cool alternative to the carbon fibre crowd yet want to stick to the sub-£1,500 budget.
There aren't many bikes out there that boast a full Shimano Ultegra drivetrain, a carbon fibre front fork and a lightweight aluminium frame that cost less than £1,500 but Decathlon's latest in-house brand manages it. However, this isn't just a budget bike with top drawer components, because the Van Rysel EDR AF also packs some clever touches that make it easy to live with and maintain, making it a solid option for this wet and wintry rides where perhaps taking out a beloved carbon fibre speed machine is off the cards.