Carrera Virtuoso £329.99

Comfortable and predictable ride

BikeRadar score4.5/5

UK leisure chain Halfords get a bit of a rough ride from experienced cyclists – justifiably so for their cheap Apollo bikes, but the Carrera range is different. As long as it’s been assembled by a competent mechanic, with a Carrera you can expect a bike that’s as good quality as any name-brand rival – and almost certainly better value.

  • Frame & fork: Shorter reach adds sportive-style comfort, while the slacker head angle keeps the front wheel away from your feet. Rack and mudguard mounts add versatility (9/10)
  • Handling: Steady and strain-free, which makes it good for recreational or longer rides; ‘predictable’ beats ‘skittishly exciting’ every time on a beginner’s bike (9/10)
  • Equipment: Entry-level road bikes need a compact chainset – and the Carrera gets one. Despite the low price, other components haven’t been sacrificed (8/10)
  • Wheels: Having 36 spokes makes sense for budget wheels, making them stronger for a minor weight penalty. Tyres, as ever, should be an early upgrade option (8/10)

Our Carrera’s 7005 aluminium frame is partnered with a high-tensile steel fork. The down tube has that familiar aero-looking teardrop profile, while the top tube is similar but less stretched. Although vertical stiffness is increased, as is the weld area at the head-tube and bottom bracket, this is mostly a matter of aesthetics.

At the back end the dropouts are cowled, which looks neat and may help prevent them getting bent. At the front, the conventional headset saves weight and arguably offers better reliability than integrated or semi-integrated alternatives.

There are fittings and room for mudguards, and the rear stays have carrier rack mounts as well. There’s only one set of eyelets at the dropouts, though, so both rack and mudguard would have to share these; if this is the case, put the rack legs next to the frame.

The front hub to bottom bracket distance is sufficient to prevent toe overlap, but the effective top tube length is fairly short – in part because the Carrera has a slacker (71-degree) head angle.

Gearing sees – at last – a compact double. The 36-tooth inner chainring gives a smaller bottom gear for climbing – 37 inches – and it means you have a spread of lower gears rather than just one or two.

That the front shifts are handled by a cheaper derailleur (A050) is of little consequence, and if the gears go out of adjustment, there are handy inline adjusters to sort them out as you ride.

The Carrera’s wheels are built from unbranded hubs and DBR-1 double wall aluminium rims. Nothing special, yet they’re stronger than many simply because of the spoke count: 36 per wheel.

A good wheelbuilder can build great wheels with fewer spokes than this, but for a given standard of factory-built wheels, more spokes equals more strength and greater reliability. That’s good news for heavier riders or anyone fitting a carrier rack.

On the road, the short reach of the Carrera makes it feel less like a wannabe race bike and more like a sportive bike. Comfort is good, whether on the tops or on the drops, and the slack head angle means more trail and an accordingly steadier ride.

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