Carrera have certainly done an amazing job with the frame for the money on its Vulcan. It also comes with disc brakes, with cunning hook clips for either cable or hydraulic brake lines, too.
Riding back from our local Halfords store - where the staff had helpfully set the bike up - we were already adjusting our assumptions on the Vulcan. This wasn't a bike where we first had to work round limitations; it was a bike where we'd have to go and find the limits first.
With a 'proper' aggressive riding position we felt right at home, and looking for limits was a pleasure not a problem.
The frame is as well-balanced as it is well-proportioned, with spot-on handling dynamics for the technical Bristol race course - or anywhere else for that matter. There's enough room to breathe and ample stability for attacking the descents but it's still eager to turn in behind trees on switchbacking singletrack.
Fat 2.35in tyres are a bit slow on tarmac but they really smooth the ride out on rougher off-road sections as well as providing proper grip. The amount of fun we had elsewhere was enough to compensate for the weight on the climbs anyway. The fat-legged fork is noticeably stiffer steering and a lot more shock absorbent than the others on test, too.
While there is a clunky top out to be found, you have to work hard for it to become a problem on the trail. While the cable disc brakes are a bit squishy and need regular cable adjustment, they combine with the big tyres to give the Vulcan a real edge over bikes with V brakes in bad weather.
Carrera's Vulcan not only looks like a proper bike, it is a proper bike. Handling, balanced ride position and overall frame manners are great. As we've said, the fork is surprisingly good and disc brakes and fat tyres make for dependable all-weather performance. This bike could genuinely run competitively with a lot of £500 bikes, making it an absolute bargain for half that price.
© BikeRadar 2007