Photo of a Decathlon Riverside 520 vintage steel frame as part of a custom-built touring bike.

Are Decathlon Touring Bikes Actually Any Good? Verdict After 10,000km (Video)

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Last week I had the pleasure of hosting a French couple on a mission to cycle round the world – preferably without flying – who had spent eight months riding across Europe, Turkey and Georgia, and had recently arrived in Armenia after almost 10,000km of pedalling.

Their company evoked feelings of nostalgia for the time when, aged 24, I first arrived in Armenia on a mission to cycle round the world – preferably without flying – and had also spent eight months riding across Europe, Turkey and Georgia.

Anyway. As they were packing up to leave, I noticed that the bikes to which they were attaching their fully-loaded panniers were made by global big-box purveyor of outdoor and sports equipment, Decathlon.

Originally founded in France almost 50 years ago, Decathlon is now one of the world’s biggest sports equipment retailers, with outlets in 69 countries. It is also, in my experience, a brand looked down upon by adventure snobs, who perhaps dislike the idea of a huge multinational corporation making perfectly decent outdoor equipment that does the same thing they pay boutique manufacturers and retailers many times more for.

If you’ve been reading a while, you’ll know I’m a big fan of bespoke touring bikes, and you might be wondering why I’ve suddenly decided to post about Decathlon products.

Well, here’s a reminder that while I’ve been touring for almost two decades, and have the resources to engage with what can easily become a rather costly way of perfecting one’s bike, I also clearly remember being a cash-strapped newbie with €750 in my back pocket and the world laid out before me. 

Like my younger self, there remain many budding cycle tourists for whom keeping costs to a minimum is a legitimate concern. And it’s for these riders that I publish posts such as this list of the cheapest commercially-available touring bikes, and, for the ambitious, how to travel for free forever. For riders trying to surmount the financial obstacles to hitting the road, all that talk of high-end bespoke touring bikes is irrelevant.

The modern version of Decathlon’s Riverside Touring 520 has been on my list of cheap touring bikes since it was (re-)launched a few years ago. But although I made a special visit to Decathlon’s flagship UK store to check it out and test-ride it, I obviously haven’t ridden it far enough to be able to comment on its quality first-hand.

That’s why I jumped at the opportunity to interview my two guests about their experiences riding their Decathlon Riverside Touring bikes on the first 10,000km of their world tour. They aren’t affiliated with Decathlon (aside from being French!) and have no reason to be anything other than honest. Watch the video above to hear their verdict.

For reference, Simon is riding a factory-spec Decathlon Riverside Touring 900, which has a component selection more suited to fully-loaded touring than the 520, and is a little more expensive. 

And Diane is riding what is technically a custom-built touring bike based on a vintage Riverside 520 frame, made back when Decathlon was a much smaller company and still produced steel frames for their range of in-house hybrid and touring bikes (probably in the late ’90s or early ’00s, according to Simon). The current Riverside Touring 520 is based on the same aluminium frameset as the 900, with a stripped-down factory specification better suited to light touring.

Follow Diane and Simon’s ongoing journey via their Polarsteps page. And don’t forget that you can find more videos like this on the TomsBikeTrip.com YouTube channel.

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2 responses to “Are Decathlon Touring Bikes Actually Any Good? Verdict After 10,000km (Video)”

  1. I recently bought a Decathlon Riverside 900 and am just getting used to riding it before a longer trip in the autumn. So far I have added toe clips, bottle cages and replaced the tyres with Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres, which the bike should have come with but didn’t due to a ‘supply chain issue’. Overall I am very happy with the setup and the colour is pleasing too. I also bought the 900 pannier set designed to go with the bike because they are a great design.

    The bike comes with a lot of useful components — I really like having the Brooks saddle, Shimano hub dynamo which powers the lights and a USB charger. The front and rear racks look substantial (haven’t tried the bike fully loaded yet) and the frame geometry suits my longish spine (I’m 175cm tall and have a Medium frame). The gear range is wide and I can cover the ground comfortably at speed with the bike feeling stable, as well as plod up hills (I’m 66 after all). 

    My only regret is that the through axles are not a locking variety as standard — but could raise this criticism against pretty much all bike makers who don’t go the extra mile to protect customers against theft of their expensive wheels! 

    I can’t wait to get out on longer multi month journeys.

  2. Xavier65 avatar
    Xavier65

    We found the Riverside 520 (2022) was in dire need of a handlebar turn limiter, as it was easy for the bars to swing round by 170°, and then the rider sometimes mistakenly attempted to ‘straighten’ them the full 180° (straining cables, etc). Fortunately, Decathlon provide such a gizmo: https://www.decathlon.fr/p/jeu-de-direction-semi-integre-avec-butees‑1–5‑1–1‑8-pivot-conique/_/R‑p-333414

    Otherwise, aside from the addition of expected/comfort accessories (panniers, water bottle, lock, kickstand, better saddle, suspension seatpost, etc.) the 520 is pretty good to go.

    Plus points are the hydraulic disc brakes, lighting, and simplicity of the 1x gears.

Something to add?