French sports superstore giant Decathlon have form when it comes to bargain bikes. This entry-level XC hardtail is no exception.
The frame is aluminium, with similar dimensions to the Carrera's and likewise gusseted at the head tube. For the metallurgists in the house, it's 6061 series alloy instead of 7005: it's not quite so strong but welds better. However, all that really matters is that the frame's light and stiff, with a spacious enough reach. There are frame mounts for disc brakes.
Where the Decathlon overtakes the Carrera is in its singletrack agility, which is largely down to the fork. It's firmer and more resilient, giving better bump absorption and more precise handling. As such, it's easier to wind up the tempo in or out of the saddle. The handlebar is narrower and lower rise than the Carrera's too, and that's enough for the demon on your shoulder to whisper "XC! Ride harder!"
Equipment is again excellent: the entry point for a 24-speed drivetrain used to be around £250, but not any longer. An alloy threadless stem, riser bar and micro-adjust seat post help keep the weight down to a very respectable 28lb-odd. The V-brakes trim the fat relative to cable discs, and at this price they work as well in anything other than gloopy mud. It comes with rear rack and mudguard mounts, and you even get a chainstay protector. Only the Selle Royal Viper saddle is a minor irritation: it's easy to snag your shorts on the forked rear end when standing. On the whole, though, this is an excellent beginner's bike.