When Halfords told us it was developing a full-suspension mountain bike with 12-speed gearing and a dropper post for under a grand, we were intrigued. Since release, it’s dropped the price to £850 and, according to Halfords, should remain at that price for the foreseeable future.
The full-suspension bike to beat for under a grand has long been the Calibre Bossnut, but it now costs £1,100 (with Go Outdoors discount card) and lacks a dropper post.
On paper then, the Titan X looks like astonishing value. But mountain bikes are more than the sum of their parts, so can this new entrant be the new one-grand grand master?
Carrera Titan X frame and suspension details
The Titan X pumps out 130mm of suspension travel at both ends, with highly-adjustable air-springs and rebound damping to suit rider weight.
The fork offers a lockout dial to firm it up for more efficient climbing, although the rear shock lacks this feature, so it’s active and supple all the time.
The frame isn’t refined looking, but it’s a great overall package for the price, if it fits. Steve Behr / Immediate Media
The frame is not the most refined-looking in terms of welds and cable-routing, and the rear axle is a 10x135mm quick release affair, which arguably makes it harder to upgrade wheels down the line, but isn’t a deal breaker on the trail.
Carrera Titan X geometry
The Titan X is available in three sizes only: small, medium and large. All sizes sport a 67-degree head angle, 73.5-degree effective seat tube angle and 45mm stem length.
According to Halfords, the size large (tested) should fit anyone from 180 to 190cm (5ft 11in to 6ft 3in). It has a fairly short 442mm reach and 603mm top tube, combined with a long-ish 480mm seat tube.
For comparison, the 2020 Calibre Bossnut has the same seat tube length in a size large (so should fit riders of similar height), but the reach and top tube are around 20mm longer, and the head angle is a degree slacker.
Despite this, Calibre recommends that riders over 183cm size-up to its XL frame, which offers a reach of 476mm.
Large Carrera Titan X
Effective seat angle: 73.5 degrees
Head angle: 67 degrees
Seat tube length: 48cm
Top tube (effective): 60.3cm
Head tube length: 13cm
Bottom bracket height: 33.5cm
Carrera Titan X specifications
It’s astonishing – but very welcome – to find a dropper on a full-sus at this price. Steve Behr / Immediate Media
The stellar parts list includes SRAM SX 12-speed gearing. Its 11-50-tooth cassette offers plenty of range for steep climbs and fast descents, while the SRAM 1x chainring keeps the chain on track.
The Trans-X Dropper post provides 120mm of drop and has a neat and ergonomic under-bar remote. The RockShox Recon RL fork and Monarch shock serve up fantastic suppleness for the money too.
Shimano’s MT200 hydraulic disc brakes offer decent power for one-finger braking and are consistent (if slightly abrupt) in terms of lever feel.
The 740mm handlebar could be wider and the WTB Trail Boss tyres aren’t very grippy, but otherwise it’s hard to complain about the components.
Carrera Titan X ride impressions
At 190cm tall, Halfords assured me the Titan X would fit me; but with an inseam of 93cm, I could barely get the saddle high enough even at the maximum seatpost extension.
This didn’t make the bike unrideable, but suggested that, despite what the size guide says, this bike is not a good fit for someone my height.
You get proper 12-speed shifting too, in the form of SRAM SX Eagle. Steve Behr / Immediate Media
Carrera Titan X climbing performance
Although a little cramped, the Titan X goes uphill better than you might think. There are plenty of gears to allow you to sit and spin up all but the steepest climbs, and the rear suspension is surprisingly active under power, making it comfortable and efficient to pedal over rough terrain.
Compared to the hardtails we’d usually review at this price, this reduces the need to get up out of the saddle for every bump; the suspension deals with small hits without bouncing the rider around and maintains momentum far better.
When riding weathered trail centre climbs and traverses, this greatly reduces the effort required to cover ground. The WTB tyres roll fast too, so despite the small (650b) wheels and portly 15.8kg weight, it covers ground well.
On the flip side, the suspension bobs during pedalling, especially when out of the saddle. This makes it less efficient on smooth terrain and unresponsive to sprinting efforts.
Carrera Titan X descending performance
The suspension continues to impress on the descents. Both fork and shock deal with small bumps well for a bike of this price, offering a considerable advantage in terms of comfort and grip when compared to a similarly-priced hardtail.
The suspension isn’t too mushy either, so there’s plenty of support when pushing into a berm or jump. As far as I can tell, the quick-release rear axle doesn’t hold back the handling even when loaded up into berms.
Compared to most bikes at this price, the dropper post is another trump card. It allows rolling terrain to flow together with no need to stop to adjust saddle height at the start of every climb or descent, and no need to ride sketchy sections with a high saddle attempting to nudge you over the bars.
Even on sustained steep sections, the brakes offer reassuring power and consistency. However, the WTB Trail Boss tyres aren’t well-suited to wintery conditions. They offer very little cornering bite especially in soft or muddy terrain, making it difficult to lean the bike into a corner with authority.
The rear suspension is surprisingly active under power, making it comfortable and efficient to pedal over rough terrain. Steve Behr / Immediate Media
Worst of all, the Titan X is simply very short. This is partly because Carrera has tried to make three sizes fit riders from 165cm to 190cm tall, so riders at the extremes are poorly served, and partly because the geometry is simply behind the curve.
My size-large has a wheelbase of 1,180mm, which is similar to many trail bikes’ size small. That makes the handling very cramped and twitchy, especially for taller riders.
At 190cm, I found this was the primary limiter of the bike’s capabilities. It forced me to ride off the back of the bike when descending, pick lines very carefully and corner conservatively to avoid wild and unpredictable moments.
Shorter riders could mitigate this problem by ignoring the sizing guidelines and finding the biggest frame they can fit on – something that shouldn’t be too tricky given Halfords’ wide range of stores. However, given the size-large is both short in the wheelbase and long in the seat tube, there is a limit to how far you can go with this.
Carrera Titan X bottom line
The Titan X boasts stunning parts and impressive suspension for the price. But the sizing is both limited and behind the times, making it rather fiddly to ride over technical terrain, especially for tall riders.
Whether it’s the right bike for you depends largely on how it fits. Taller riders should steer clear, but shorter riders who size up could get a proper bargain.
Its main rival, the Calibre Bossnut, is usefully longer per size, and offers an XL for tall riders. For this reason, I’d still recommend the Calibre for riders over about 185cm because it will fit much better. For shorter riders, the Calibre’s extra reach and slacker head angle may still be worth the extra cost if you can afford it.
But with the Titan X currently selling for £850, it’s substantially cheaper than the Calibre. That makes it a compelling option if the sizing works for you and you’re on a budget.