If you are after a bargain carbon fibre road bike with half decent components, the Carrera Virago could be it. For £800 it looks tempting. Aside from deciding on the size frame and the kind of pedals you fancy, the biggest dilemma will be whether you can bring yourself to buy a bicycle from Halfords. More about that later in the post.
Yep it’s a full carbon fibre monocoque design, with carbon fibre tapered forks. The frame is quite short and tight, so there should be little flex when you stomp on the pedals up those hills. It’s nicely sculptured at the joints, a far cry from those early frames when carbon fibre tubes were glued and screwed together using aluminium lugs. No matter how pretty the frame, you simply can’t expect luxurious touches such as hidden cable runs; it is only 800 quid.
As far as components are concerned, you get a Shimano 105 drive chain (pretty good eh?) but the chain set is a FSA compact. I don’t think you’re being too short changed on this, it is okay. Likewise the brakes are Tektros and are perfectly functional.
Wheels are okay too and it’s good to see they have resisted the temptation of having a fancy spoke patterns (where they are grouped together on the rim) or using different colours. Speaking of spokes, you get 32 on the rear and a “weight saving” 28 on the front. Contact points, well nothing special but perfectly okay for the bike. I guess you’ll need to add pedals yourself.
But it’s from Halfords!
Now here’s the rub. Can you bring yourself to buy a bicycle from Halfords? Are you an Audi driver who wouldn’t be seen dead in a Skoda, despite sharing many components? Are you a brand snob? Perhaps it is a trade between high spec with excellent value for money bought from a High Street chain -verses- no heritage, anonymous Far East origin, questionable build and service.
Halfords, it has to be said, do not have a great reputation for their mechanical skills with regard to bicycles. People talk about young spotty lads assembling bikes they don’t really understand or have the skills or credentials for. Perhaps that’s a bit harsh. From my own experience, I think they’re trying really hard and some individuals are keen to please the customer and seem genuine in wanting to do a good job.
A mid way solution would be to buy one of these bikes, grit your teeth and take it to an LBS for a tune up. For that you might not be at the top of the queue and you might have to pay through the nose for it to be done. But don’t forget, there’s no guarantee every LBS will always have top flight mechanics: everyone has to start somewhere and learn from scratch.
So there you go, currently on offer from Halfords, a full carbon fibre road bike for £800. A quick look around on the internet and it’s not a bad bike at all. Probably the biggest question is whether aspiring roadies can bring themselves to ride a bike from Halfords. Perhaps that depends on how proud, brand conscious you are – or whether you just want to get on a bike and have a blast without a care in the world.