The Halfords connection might deter the label-conscious, but they’d be ignoring a bike with a real sense of purpose, says Nik Cook…
Put aside your snobbery about Halfords and ignore what your Cervélo-riding mates will say. The Carrera brand, along with Halfords’ stablemate Boardman, has consistently delivered great value and top-performing on- and off-road bikes. And, on first impressions, the Virago seems to uphold this trend.
The Virago certainly looks like a racing bike and we’re not just talking about the go-faster bare carbon weave with white-and-red-streaks paint job. A glance over the geometry confirms that it isn’t an all-day trundler aimed at the sportive market. Oversized frame tubes culminate in a substantial-looking BB30 bottom bracket that should deliver stiff and flex-free performance. Along with the frame, the fork is all carbon and, before we even get onto the groupset, the Virago is ticking those value-for-money boxes.
The Mavic CXP-22 wheels aren’t the lightest available but do carry a bombproof reputation. Our tester had a pair on his fixed-gear trainer and commuter and, despite daily abuse for five years, they never needed as much as a spoke tweak. The FSA crankset is a quality piece of kit, and if you’re a novice or planning this bike to be a trainer, the compact gearing and wide spread of gears at the rear will be welcome. The rest of the groupset is all Shimano 105, guaranteeing both performance and durability.
The Tektro brakes come with a mixed reputation, but are fairly standard spec at this price point and can be massively improved by simply changing the stock pads. Finishing kit is all generic alloy components and, while nothing to write home about, don’t detract from the overall build quality and value.
Some bikes encourage you to ride sedately, economically and sensibly. Others goad you into riding like a lunatic, charging climbs and sprinting hard out of every bend. From its looks and ride position, you’d expect the Virago to fall firmly into the latter camp, but it doesn’t quite pan out that way.
It certainly looks, feels and rides sportily enough most of the time, but despite its oversized tubes and BB30 bottom bracket, it lacks a genuine jump when you really put the power down. There’s no loss of power through discernible flex – just a bit of a time lag to getting it down onto the road.
Acceleration is more of a building crescendo than a sudden snap, but it’s only at the real top end and doesn’t detract too much from the overall high-quality ride. On flat and rolling roads, it hums along with a real sense of purpose and feels super-stable, efficient and fast. Road buzz is almost non-existent and, for head-down mile-munching, it scores very well.
On flat and rolling roads it hums along with a real sense of purpose and feels super-stable, efficient and fast
In the hills, the Virago is a willing and enthusiastic climber. Even with the fairly hefty Mavic wheels, there’s a spring to its uphill step. It really feels as if it’s working with you. The wide gears mean that you’ve always the option to sit and spin on all but the steepest climbs and, if you’ve any doubts about your climbing prowess, are a welcome standby. It’s rock solid through downhill bends and, although lacking last-minute ‘flickability’, commit to your line early and it rails through with 100% accuracy.
The Tektro brakes require a fair squeeze, but are made passable by adding decent pads. Finally, the remaining Shimano 105 and FSA combination can’t be faulted, performing with predictable efficiency and reliability.
Contact : www.halfords.com