Latest Carrera bikes launched and already in Halford's stores

The Carrera bikes have been quietly improving as Britain's biggest bike shop has a boom in sales

by nick_rearden   July 27, 2011  

The UK's largest bicycle retailer this afternoon showed us the new models in its middle Carrera brand. There are road bikes as before, an increased emphasis on hybrids and a cool £450 singlespeed. As ever, you can't touch them on price.

We met Ed Hurrell, the chap responsible for all the 'premium' bikes including Boardman and Voodoo as well as Carrera. He said he was 'first to admit that Halford's has been behind the curve on hybrids' but buoyed by the success of Boardman-branded city straight-bar bikes and aware that commuting is booming, he showed us at least two hybrids that wouldn't look out of place on a ride to work from Kensington to Mayfair.

The difference is that the new bikes fall under the next-tier Carrera brand, neatly filling the huge £350-£850 category between Apollo at the bottom and Boardman at the aspiring end. It's territory where Halfords is strong and the £369.99 Gryphon and £429.99 Crossfire 'multi-surface hybrid' aren't going to do them any harm at all.

There are three race bikes; starting with a £349.99 model named TDF - yellow, naturally - with an 'aero' chunky-welded - that's a technical term there, hope you're keeping up - alloy frame that, while lacking external refinement, had us scratching our heads and thinking that for a Shimano 2300 8-speed drivetrain and decent enough spec you couldn't beat it.

The next two are based on a much better 6061 alloy frame, a butted number with a very tidy and sorted appearance, geometrically. The £399.99 Virtuoso has Shimano Sora gears - which means 2 x 9 speed - and an FSA chainset and Tektro brakes. In other words, the sort of headline spec you'd expect to see on a host of entry-level racers but for more like £500. The Vanquish, which comes in at £549.99, has an aluminium fork and Mavic CXP rims and claimed weight of 10.9Kg including the pedals.

Also hardly quiet in the 2012 Halfords premium range is a bit of a cult machine; the Lager model from SE Bikes - the same folks that bought us the PK Ripper - and for which Halford's have the the UK distribution rights. For £450 you get a tidy steel frame in the urban fixie genre, a flip-flop rear hub and a really cool 'bar. We definitely want.

Hurrell seemed reasonably satisfied that Halfords is achieving its goal of 'offering the best spec and performance at any price' but acknowledged that 'the next step is offering the right level of service.'

In what its city spokesmen described as a 'a solid performance in a challenging environment' Halfords recently published sales figures up 4.6% to a total of £869.7 million for the year to 1st April 2011, with profit up 7.2% to £125.6 million. Sales of car stereos and satnav are down but, not surprisingly for anyone who's been to a Sky Ride recently, sales of bikes especially the Boardman and resurgent Carrera and Voodoo brands are up.

In a shaky economy, car maintenance is a Halfords growth area which is reflected in their bike servicing operations with a 28.3% hike in sales of their Bike Care Plans. These provide 'free' labour on servicing and repairs, starting at an annual charge of £19.99 for an adult bike or £39.99 for three years.


 

16 user comments

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Yawn

TBF the Vanquish looks okish for £550 but I'd much prefer a Trek 1.1

Municipal Waste's picture

posted by Municipal Waste [190 posts]
28th July 2011 - 7:16

8 Likes

I wouldn't buy nada from Halfords, You'd be better off throwing a load of random bike parts in a Monkey enclosure along with some vials of crack & a crate of tesco value vodka. IMO You'd get better service and a safer bike.

posted by Dog72 [108 posts]
28th July 2011 - 10:14

9 Likes

...the chap responsible for all the 'premium' bikes...
interesting use of quotation marks!
bike snob? moi?

TheHatter's picture

posted by TheHatter [811 posts]
28th July 2011 - 10:30

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'the next step is offering the right level of service.' hit the nail on the head there. I always wonder how many more Boardman's they'd sell if they employed people who knew anything about bikes.

I took my Mrs to try one of their hybrids a couple of weeks ago and had I not pointed it out to him, the grockel serving us would have happily let her ride it round the car park with no air in the tyres. (and I mean absolutely no air.)Funnily enough we went elsewhere and ended up with a Scott

Shame really - I was looking forward to borrowing the Boardman...

Still, I do quite like the look of that SE for 450 quid

posted by chris75018 [96 posts]
28th July 2011 - 17:40

9 Likes

Dog 72 - a trifle harsh. I got an 08 Boardman pro loaded with Ritchey WCS and Dura Ace for approx £650 on Bike to Work (list £1399, reduced to £999). Just done the Etape on it in the Alps. Bike was more than up to it - the only limiting factor was the me, not the bike.

That said, they were useless / a pain in the arse to deal with when I bought it. But then until they start paying more than minimum wage, they are always going to struggle to provide any decent level of service.

Pastaman

posted by pastaman [220 posts]
28th July 2011 - 21:11

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Sorry Hatter; I really didn't mean to look condescending although I can see how it does. I just put the quotes to differentiate from their other bikes as did Halfords themselves. I really do have the highest regard for the Boardman bikes working on the assumption that so many people can't be that wrong and pretty much every cycling writer in the UK has had to agree - grudgingly, admittedly in some cases, but agree nevertheless - that riders on decent bikes is better than none. Pretty much every Boardman customer you meet says the same; that they've had their ups and downs with staff depending on who they got on the day, but there are good staff, the bikes are great and these Carreras are another step in the right direction at even keener prices. While I'm on my high horse, it's worth mentioning here that I think Halfords get it in the neck for a far bigger cultural malaise; that working in retail isn't regarded as a desirable and worthy job. It's Halfords responsibility to get their bit of the house in order (and they seem pretty upfront about that) with better motivation, more training and, heavens above, decent pay but it's going to be an uphill struggle.

posted by nick_rearden [859 posts]
28th July 2011 - 23:05

12 Likes

I've bought a couple of Boardmans and to be honest the service from the people in store has been OK. The mail order side of things however, is abysmal. Twice I've ordered bikes, taken the day off work and twice they failed to deliver. told Boardman but never even got an apology, for that reason alone I'll never buy (or try to buy!) another

Scott Spark 910 - Boardman Team Carbon - Planet X XLS

posted by colinth [188 posts]
29th July 2011 - 10:32

11 Likes

i agree with everyone who is criticising the knowledge aspect (although I can obv only go from my own experience and that of co-riders), and also seek some advice.
i want to get a bike on the bike-to-work scheme (ie before it's removed altogether or made so difficult to use) and would have potentially bought a boardman team at 999.99, however, as a fellow rider put it the atmosphere and feeling of buying a proper bike just isn't there (and i found they didn't know the basics. all bike shops have different levels of staff and their knowledge, but it's not the same as popping in and buying a can of oil.
So, the advice i'm seeking please: the boardman team has a bb30 and the best groupset and wheels you can expect at that price, and i hear it's a good frame - what would others recommend at that price if not this?
cheers (and apologies if i'm mis-using the forum, i just value the opinion of fellow riders)

Callybike

posted by cliveg1 [31 posts]
29th July 2011 - 11:43

7 Likes

I don't own a Boardman but they have always reviewed well. I would like to think Chris Boardman wouldn't put out Shit Bikes with his name on it. I think Its the outlet that undermines any confidence in the product. Boardman has launched an Elite Range which aren't sold in Halfords, beautiful bikes.
If you like the bike, buy it but never take back to Halfords for service etc. Find a decent LBS and get them to do it. Its no different than buying a bike off the web and doing the same.

Re Other bikes for about same money;
"Cube Attempt" @ £999 performed well in the cycling plus bike of year

posted by Dog72 [108 posts]
29th July 2011 - 13:28

9 Likes

indeed, good advice thks.
totally agree re Chris Boardman (legend), but we all know how snooty cyclists (esp roadies) are and it's amazing how much the effect of the outlet has on this bike brand or rather the comments made!
will look at cube, also cannondale caad8 or felt were also mentioned.
cheers

Callybike

posted by cliveg1 [31 posts]
29th July 2011 - 13:39

11 Likes

I imagine actual numbers sold makes the disparaging comments palatable for CB. Yes ,some , roadies can be a snooty lot.I've been into for about 4 years. And have come across it. Nothing like freewheeling past someone while riding on a "lesser" brand/model. Nothing worse than getting the same treatment the other way round though.

posted by Dog72 [108 posts]
29th July 2011 - 13:52

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Halfords is not a bike shop but a supermarket that sells bikes and car parts. Like all supermarkets, they stock some decent lines (Park, Topeak, Boardman) and employ some knowledgeable and conscientious people. But they are, at the end of the day, just another supermarket, paying supermarket wages and offering supermarket levels of service. Generally, you pay peanuts you get monkeys. Harsh, I know, but, sadly, generally true.

cavasta's picture

posted by cavasta [209 posts]
29th July 2011 - 16:27

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nick_rearden wrote:
Sorry Hatter; I really didn't mean to look condescending although I can see how it does. I just put the quotes to differentiate from their other bikes as did Halfords themselves.

No need for an apology Nick - it just made me smile!

I'd entered a competition where the prize was a CB and I was wondering if I'd peel off the transfers before I rode it! (I didn't win so it wasn't a issue).

I totally agree with your comments on the views on retail staff particularly in this country. I'd like to say that small independents are better but in my experience its rarely the case.

TheHatter's picture

posted by TheHatter [811 posts]
29th July 2011 - 20:14

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Warning: long rambling comment follows!

Boardman Team was amongst my shortlist of bikes and the staff at neighbourhood Halfords were surprisingly helpful as well as informed about bikes. Unfortunately, they were also strictly adhering to the Halfords policy of 'no test rides'. Now a 1K bike may be peanuts for Chris Boardman but I doubt how many people will spend that much without as much of a test ride? So, out went the Boardman.

At the other end of scale is my experience with most Evans outlets. Most of their staff, at least as per my experiences, belong in at least one of the two categories - aloof-roadie or snooty-fixie-rider. They rank near the top in my bad-customer-service list for the retail sector in the UK. On the other hand, they have a very clearly defined test ride policy and have perhaps the widest range of bikes available.

The best service I got was from the guys at Cycle Surgery. Unfortunately, they lack the one thing Evans had - a clearly defined test ride policy. The store nearest to my old place (Camden Town), allowed me to test rides without any kind of deposit as long as I left some ID (and current bike) with them. I called up another CS store to test ride a bike and they asked me to deposit the full amount if I wanted to test ride the bike! I wrote to the contact email address on their website to seek clarification and they said the policy was to pay full price before test riding, while admitting the policy wasn't there on the website.

Well, I went ahead and found the one decent guy working at my neighbourhood Evans and bought my bike from them.

~rbx

rbx's picture

posted by rbx [243 posts]
30th July 2011 - 3:22

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Don't really understand the logic in paying more for just a name. If you know what you are doing and don't mind setting-up/maintaining your bike yourself, then all the Halfords brands are pretty much unbeatable value. I got a Carrera Virago TT a couple of years back: full carbon, SRAM Rival, Vision aero bars for less than £1k, stuck my Zipps on and ready to race. Had a few comments about a Halfords bike but all in good humour (I race triathlon and maybe, not wishing to generalize, triathletes are a little less snobbish about their bikes than roadies).
Interestingly, I now live in the US were nobody has heard of Halfords and have had nothing but interest and positive comments about the Carrera.

posted by pwake [308 posts]
31st July 2011 - 4:25

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I too was wary of buying a bike at Halfords but when I looked at the Boardman Road Comp and compared it to other bikes at that price range I thought it was pretty unbeatable. Riding it confirms it's a class bike and, crucially, worth spending money on it in the future to upgrade components as and when.
Service in my local store was pretty good. The lad I dealt with seemed knowledgable and keen and was very helpful in getting the bike in the size I wanted quickly.
At the end of the day, if you know what you're looking for/at then the actual input from the sales person is a little secondary. My thoughts for what they're worth anyway.

posted by RoyTheBoy [5 posts]
3rd August 2011 - 11:43

8 Likes