Trek 520 Review: Is It a Good Bike or Waste of Money in 2022?

Trek 520 Review: Is Trek 520 a good bike?

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Trek 520 is an affordable touring road bike with a rich history.

The question is:

Is it a good bike worth your consideration?

One of the highlights of the Trek 520 is that it comes with front and rear racks, allowing you to equip it with panniers and bags for increased cargo capacity. The stylish yet durable steel frame. The entire bike’s geometry is more relaxed so that you can sit in a more upright position.

Let’s scrutinize this bike in-depth to find out more.

Is Trek 520 a Good Bike?

Trek 520 retails for around $1,829 (the actual price may vary).

So, what do you get for this money?

  • A stylish, old-school-looking bike based on a steel frame.
  • Front and rear racks for panniers and bags to expand the storage capacity for your long bike adventures.
  • Shimano Sora 3×9spd groupset, providing enough gears for all terrains.
  • Disc brakes for effective stopping power in all conditions.
  • An overall capacity of 275 lbs (125 kg).
Trek 520 Grando
Trek 520 Grando | Photo courtesy of trek_grando

It’s clear from the quick description above that the Trek 520 is not a standard road bike, but it’s designed as a touring/adventure bike.

Bikepackers and other adventure seekers love it for its large storage capacity, so they can pack everything they need.

The bike’s geometry allows you to sit upright, unlike on racing road bikes. This riding position is more beginner-friendly and suitable for people with limited mobility.

Trek 520 is available in 6 sizes suitable for riders from 5’2″ to 6’6″ (from 158 to 197 cm) tall.

Pros and Cons of Trek 520

Here I summarized the pros and cons of Trek 520.

Pros of Trek 520

  • Front and rear racks included
  • Timeless look of the steel frame
  • 3×9spd drivetrain offering 27 gears
  • Disc brakes
  • Comfortable geometry, allowing upright riding position
  • Available in a wide range of sizes
  • Tubeless-ready rims
  • High weight limit of up to 300 lbs (136 kg)
  • Platform cage pedals included
  • Lifetime warranty and wide distributors (support) network

Cons of Trek 520

  • Limited color selection
  • The higher weight of 31.4 lbs (14.24 kg)
  • Relatively low weight limit of 275 lbs (125 kg)

Owner’s Experience with Trek 520

The following part summarizes the experience of the owner of Trek 520 Grando, who was kind enough to provide us with pictures and his insights.

“Trek 520 Grando – the ‘do it all’ bike. Go anywhere, everywhere, on any surface, and in any condition.

Steel frame, aluminum fork with Shimano Tiagra front derailleur and shifters & Shimano GRX rear derailleur.

I’m almost at 3000 miles as of August 7th. I bought the bike on December 29th, 2021.

I’ve added the Bontrager Adventure Boss frame bag, switched out the pedals to Shimano SPD, the handlebars to GR Elite with 13° flare, and the red tape. Also switched out the saddle to the Verse Comp.

The most important and noticeable change was the wheels, which I upgraded to Bontrager Aeolus Pro 3V with a 108 rapid drive hub.

The tires are Origin 8 Wildfire CX 700x38C tires for gravel/sand and Bontrager H2 for the road.

I take the bike through sandy trails, over gravel, mud, grass, and on the road too. The gearing goes all the way from crawling to max out at 34mph (55 km/h) on flat terrain.

The changes I’ve made are all personal things I wanted to upgrade or change for my comfort and performance. The bike stock was perfect, except for the pedals and saddle. It came with toe cages that are not good, and the saddle was not very comfortable (personal preference).

Otherwise, I love the bike so much! I’m averaging about 120-160 miles a week on it. Unfortunately, I am limited because of the 40°C temperatures we have this time of year.

I can definitely recommend this bike to someone looking for a versatile and comfortable bike!

Main Features of Trek 520

Trek 520 has been in Trek’s lineup since 1983. Below, I focus on the 2023 model.

Durable Steel Frame

Trek 520 is based on a timeless steel frame with a relaxed geometry.

This is good news for bike packers because they can sit in a more upright riding position that is not as demanding in terms of flexibility and core strength.

Trek 520 Grando frame
Trek 520 Grando frame | Photo courtesy of trek_grando

Steel is also a bike material that is relatively easily fixable on the go (unlike carbon).

Its other benefits include high durability, affordability, and the iconic look of the rounded tubes.

29-Inch Wheels

The 29-inch wheels are a standard size on road bikes. Those on the 520 are tubeless ready so that you can use tubeless tires.

They are made of aluminum and use stainless steel spokes, providing great durability while keeping reasonable weight.

NOTE: The wheelset in the following picture is not stock. The owner replaced it with the Bontrager Aelous 3V carbon wheels.

Trek 520 Grando wheels
The owner of this Trek 520 Grando replaced the stock wheels with carbon ones | Photo courtesy of trek_grando

The 520’s offers tire clearance for up to 2″ wide tires (without fenders). So, depending on the terrain you want to ride, you can replace the stock 38mm tires.

Components

Trek 520 is equipped with Shimano Sora/Alivio (shifters, derailleurs, cranks, cassette), Bontrager, and other 3rd party components.

The Grando comes with a combination of Shimano Tiagra and GRX and has easier gears. It also has wider tires and doesn’t include the rear rack.

I am sure you will appreciate the mechanical disc brakes that are more effective in tougher conditions (like in the rain).

Some owners report the stock saddle is not comfortable, but everybody has different preferences. You can always replace it later.

Racks

One of the main highlights of Trek 520 are its aluminum racks with a capacity of up to 55 lbs (25 kg).

Remember, the Grando only comes with the front rack. The rear rack is not included.

NOTE: The rack is not shown in the pictures because the owner took it down and uses frame bags instead.

These racks will allow you to expand your bike’s storage capacity, so you will pack everything you need for your trip.

Gears

The current generation of Trek 520 comes with a 3×7spd drivetrain, offering 21 gears. The Trek 520 Grando comes with a 2×10spd drivetrain.

Trek 520 Grando cassete detail
Trek 520 Grando cassete | Photo courtesy of trek_grando

This range is wide enough for various terrains. Just make sure you avoid cross-chaining.

Cross-chaining vs. good shifting - illustration of the wrong and right chain positions
Avoid cross-chaining to reduce chain friction and drivetrain damage. Follow good shifting best practices to improve efficiency.

The disadvantage of the 3X drivetrains is their complexity, more complicated maintenance, and higher weight.

More expensive mountain bikes come with 2X or 1X drivetrains that are much simpler than 3X.

You don’t have to think about the cross-chaining as much. That’s why they are more popular.

Trek 520 Specifications

Below, I summarize the most important technical specifications. Remember, they differ based on the year:

  • Frame material: Steel
  • Weight
    • Trek 520: ±14.24 kg (31.4 lbs)
    • Trek 520 (Grando): ±13.28 kg (29.27 lbs)
  • Wheel size: 29-inch (tubeless-ready)
  • Brakes: Mechanical disc brakes
  • Groupset
    • Trek 520: Shimano Sora/Alivio
    • Trek 520 (Grando): Shimano Tiagra/GRX
  • Racks
    • Trek 520: Front and rear included
    • Trek 520 (Grando): Front only
  • Gears
    • Trek 520: 3×9spd
    • Trek 520 (Grando): 2×10spd

What Size of Trek 520 do You Need?

To choose the correct size of Trek 520 (Grando) for your height and inseam, refer to the following Trek 520 sizing charts.

Trek 520 size chart
Trek 520 (Grando) size chart | Source: trekbikes.com

Trek 520 FAQ

Conclusion

Trek 520 (also available in the ‘Grando’ option) is a reliable touring road bike worth buying if you want to undertake long bike adventures.

It has racks that allow you to equip the bike with panniers and bags to extend your storage capacity.

Thanks to the durable steel frame, you will stand out in the flood of carbon road and gravel bikes.

It also offers a wide enough gear range (3×9spd) suitable for various gradients.

There are really not many downsides, except for the limited color selection and weight limit of 275 lbs (125 kg).

About The Author

2 thoughts on “Trek 520 Review: Is It a Good Bike or Waste of Money in 2022?”

  1. I loved this bike, but after about 1,500 miles the crank bearing were worn and the ultimate disappointment, the frame cracked. It was my ideal touring bike up tao that point. Trek cannot even replace the frame, but offered an aluminum gravel bike frame which does not meet my needs. I’ll keep looking for a frame.

    1. Hi Kurt,
      I am sorry to hear that. I am also surprised that Trek didn’t offer the same frame as a compensation. What frame did they offer? And why it doesn’t meet your needs?
      – Petr

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