Halfords' house brand Carrera is always a good place to look for a great ride if your wallet is on a short leash. Now, it has opened up the latest stopping trend to a whole new audience with the Vanquish Disc.
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If you’re after all-weather control for day-to-day commuting rather than conquering epic climbs or rumbling down rough tracks, it’s well worth a look.
Seeing as disc brakes are the big sell I’ll cover them first. They are cable operated rather than hydraulic, but the cables are decent quality so they don’t feel too spongy. Cable operation also means you’ll have to compensate for pad wear by winding the inner pad plate inwards, hydraulic systems adjust automatically.
They also need to be set up carefully to stop them squealing loudly at first. Rim damage doesn’t matter, you won’t get debris in the pads and they’ll take standard Shimano pads as well as Tektro ones if you need spares.
Most importantly, having the pads working on a dry, clean rotor means far better bad weather control and power than wet rim brakes, particularly ones with moulded pads.
Carrera’s remarkable value reputation is reinforced by the fact that while the discs add £50 over the rim-braked Vanquish, general kit levels are still competitive.
In fact, the mix of old style Claris gears and shifters with smooth functioning but awkward looking side sprouting gear cables, driven by an FSA Tempo crank, is exactly the same as that on the £500 Raleigh Criterium.
Despite being heavier, the Carrera gets a harder bottom gear. The single-bolt saddle clamp also needs checking occasionally to stop it coming loose and it definitely deserves thicker bar tape to add some comfort. The Vanquish does get a colour-coded saddle and stem though and the Kenda tyres are decent quality.
The carbon fork legs give a reasonable ride quality, which is lucky as there’s very little room in them to contemplate running a bigger tyre. Mudguard space is limited too, even though there are mudguard mounts high up inside the fork legs.
There’s a bit more space between the straight A-frame rear stays, but just because it has got disc brakes don’t assume that it’s ready to take on rough road ‘gravel’ adventures.
The frame is also the place where the cost compromises of the package become clear in ride terms. Super-narrow teardrop down-tube and top tube and a slim non-tapered head tube translate into obvious flex when you’re descending or turning hard. Together with the slim stays they suck power out of the Carrera on climbs too.
On a positive note, that flexy frame feel means less punishment comes through to the rider than normal on poor road surfaces. Bigger lumps still slap you about, and the cheap, thin handlebar tape really undermines hand comfort on longer rides.
While geometry of the 54cm version is relatively conventional for that size it’s only available in one other smaller 51cm option, which restricts its appeal.