Carrera Virago review

Carbon bike with Shimano Sora at an amazing price. What’s the catch?

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Our rating 
4.5 out of 5 star rating 4.5
GBP £800.00 RRP
Carrera Virago

Our review

Stunning value carbon bike with a ride that belies its very modest price
Pros: Carbon frameset and a great all-round ride
Cons: Gears not as slick as I’d have liked
Skip to view product specifications

I’ve been saying since I can’t remember when, that the Boardman 8.9c is the least expensive carbon bike you can buy on the British high street. Not so fast. For 2019, Halfords’ Carrera brand launched its Virago carbon bike that’s £200 cheaper than the £1,000 Boardman.

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It doesn’t look that elegant on the website pics but looks better in the flesh; the lines clean, the finish attractive and not trying to do too much.

Weight is a claimed 1.1kg for the Taiwanese-made frame, which would be a decent achievement on a bike at twice the price.

Male cyclist in red top riding grey Carrera road bike
Halfords come out top with this super-budget bike
Robert Smith / Immediate Media

Carrera Virago frame and kit

The frame also has a lot of the features familiar from more expensive contemporary road machines: the head tube and fork steerer tube are tapered, the top tube flattens along its length, the chainstays narrow in diameter.

Impressively for the price, the cables are neatly routed through the top and down tube.

The bike’s big in all the right areas: the trapezium down tube is chunky, the bottom bracket shell likewise, even if the bottom bracket is a skinny FSA cartridge that looks a little lost in the bulked-up setting. It’s pretty skinny elsewhere, however, with that flattened top tube and 27.2mm seatpost.

The frame geometry is surprisingly aggressive for a budget bike, most of which tend to have more of an endurance bias.

The Virago has steepish frame angles and a shortish head tube, though this is balanced by a handlebar with a very short reach, which means you’re not too stretched out. If you want to go really racy, a longer reach bar or stem will allow you to stretch your body and put your legs to the test.

Carrera Virago
The frame geometry features steepish frame angles and there’s internal cabling too.
David Caudery / Immediate Media

Carrera Virago performance

One advantage that the Virago has over the Boardman is its hill-friendly bottom gear.

The Boardman’s 11-28 is outdone by the Virago’s 11-32, a considerable improvement if you ride the Mendips and Cotswolds and those are just my close-to-home hills. The downside on the Virago is that the shifting isn’t as sharp as I’d have expected, and I struggled to get it changing gear perfectly at times. Our workshop manager Will thought the internal cabling was cross-routed. It wasn’t.

But that was one of few criticisms of the Virago. The brakes had the non-cartridge blocks – common at this price – and I’d have appreciated 28mm tyres to make the most of the clearance and add a little more comfort.

Not that the Virago is uncomfortable – far from it. I put in plenty of miles on this just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything on the first, second, third and fourth rides – upping my cycling tanlines as a pleasing side-effect.

On good road surfaces the Virago is super-smooth, measured and controlled, and on fine grit and gravel – such as canal towpaths (not its natural home) – it performs equally well. The only thing that seemed to shake it was hitting a big bump where you would feel it through the bar and the chain might skip on the cassette, but general road chatter was handled very well.

Vittoria Zaffiro tyres on Shimano double-wall alloy rims on Carrera Virago
I would have appreciated larger tyres for comfort.
David Caudery / Immediate Media

Out-of-the-saddle efforts suggest that the frame is sufficiently stiff too. You could induce a little brake rub but not enough to be an issue.

The oversized steerer and head tube are solid and resolute and it climbs as well as any 10kg bike is going to.

Carrera Virago overall

Overall, I was staggered at the quality of ride the Virago offered. The 27.2mm seatpost and Velo saddle gave no cause for complaint and the rest of the finishing kit is standard stuff on a £500 to £1,000 bike.

Okay, you may have to overcome prejudice about buying a bike from Halfords, but you’ll nab yourself a bargain if you do – and it comes with a lifetime of safety checks and the frame and fork are guaranteed for life. Carrera’s Virago is no dodgy internet knock-off.

There’s little to distinguish this from entry-level carbon bikes from the big names, though it might be worth investing in Shimano outer gear cables to sharpen up the shifting. But this is a real two-wheeled treat from Carrera.

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Carrera Virago
Carrera’s Virago is no dodgy internet knock off.
Robert Smith

Carrera Virago geometry

  • Seat angle: 74 degrees
  • Head angle: 73.5 degrees
  • Chainstay: 41.3cm
  • Seat tube: 50.7cm
  • Top tube: 55cm
  • Fork offset: 4.3cm
  • Trail: 5.6cm
  • Bottom bracket height: 27.7cm
  • Wheelbase: 990mm

Product Specifications

Product

Price GBP £800.00
Weight 9.71kg (M) – M
Brand Carrera

Features

Available sizes S, M, L
Headset FSA Orbit C40
Tyres 25mm Vittoria Zaffiro
Stem Carrera alloy
Shifter Shimano Sora
Seatpost Carrera alloy 27.2mm
Saddle Carrera Road by Velo
Rear derailleur Shimano Sora
Handlebar Carrera alloy
Bottom bracket FSA cartridge
Front derailleur Shimano Sora
Frame Carrera Virago hi-modulus carbon
Fork Carbon
Cranks Shimano Sora 50/34
Chain KMC Z99
Cassette Shimano Sora 11-32
Brakes Tektro R315
Wheels Shimano double-wall alloy rims, alloy hubs