Carrera Virtuoso – Betsy

I just thought, having owned a Carrera Virtuoso for 3 years or so, and having covered a few thousand miles on it, that I would share my thoughts on what is a budget/entry level road bike.

So I give you Johnny’s Review of the Carrera Virtuoso Road Bike.

I originally bought the Virtuoso to give road bikes a go, and opted for this particular bike following a glowing review in a cycling magazine. The review gave it top marks in a round up of value for money road bikes. Given there was a Halfords store local to me, I popped in for a look, and whilst I didn’t know too much, I could appreciate that for the £250 price tag, this was a good little bike.

The specs for the Carrera Virtuoso as follows:

  • Lightweight 7005 aluminium semi-compact frame, with mudguard and rack eyes making for a versatile bike
  • Rigid fork, hi-tensile steel blades, with  mudguard mounts
  • Shimano ST2200 rear mech and STI shifters
  • Prowheel Gloria 50-36 compact chainset with cartridge bottom bracket, providing greater flexibility in hill riding
  • 12-26 rear cassette (SRAM on mine, 8 speed)
  • Tektro 510A dual pivot brakes
  • DBR-1 alloy rims with wear indicators
  • Low profile Innova 700-25c tyres
  • Flip flop stem and toe clip pedals
  • Clearance for mudguards giving great adjustability for all year usage
  • Colour: Blue/Black

Straight from the store I spent a little bit of time setting it up so it was right for me, mine is a Medium sizing which equates to a 54cm.This was simply a case of setting the saddle height and angle of the drops, and then I headed out on a first ride. Coming from riding hardtail ATB or Mountain Bikes at the time, it felt very nippy, and was both quick and responsive.

I didn’t get on with the toe clip/pedals that came with the bike, and these were replaced almost instantly for some clipless Shimano SPD A520′s. Personally I much prefer clipless pedals, and was more at home on the Virtuoso once these had been fitted.

Other initial alterations I made were to double wrap the bar tape (personal preference for a fatter bar), and to change the 700x25c tyres that came with the bike for a pair of Continental Ultra Gatorskin 700×23′s – good puncture protection and very low rolling resistance. I know I shouldn’t tempt fate, but I have been riding this tyre on my bikes for 3 years now without getting a flat! Given that my riding is mainly rural roads, but also includes gravely canal paths, I reckon that is a good recommendation!

I would have to say that the gearing (50-36 and 12-26) is excellent for the bike, giving a really useful range. Not long after buying the Virtuoso I  did a 360 mile ride, (120 a day for three days), and even with a rear rack and loaded panniers, it gave me plenty of range and I was never struggling. On that ride I encountered many hills including Ditchling Beacon, but none proved a problem on the Virtuoso.

In the first two years of ownership, the only maintenance I carried out was to repack the wheel bearing races with new grease, replace the brake blocks, fit a new chain, and tweak the cable tensions. Other than that routine cleaning kept Betsy in good order, and she never let me down.

Some three and a half years on since buying the Virtuoso other changes have been made – some due to personal preference and others due to wear and tear of the several thousand miles covered.

  • a new seat post and a Specialized Alias saddle – a personal preference thing
  • a set of Mavic Aksiums as I wore out the original wheels
  • a replacement rear cassette and chain – again due to normal wear
  • replacement bottom bracket and new chainset – again normal wear
  • replaced the Tektro brakes with some Shimano Tiagra ones, mainly because I needed new brake blocks and the Tiagra brakes were on offer just as cheap as buying blocks.

Now Betsy, the Virtuoso, is pretty much a wet weather/commuter bike, but she is still going strong and in good shape.

Would I buy again, yes, in a heartbeat. For the money I think you would be hard pushed to find a better low cost road bike. Whilst I have my Trek 1.7, the Virtuoso still gets plenty of use and is just as reliable as ever.

I can see why the reviews rate this bike so highly.

Anyhow, time to ride to work, and Betsy is waiting downstairs with rack and panniers packed!

 

OK – a little update…

Halfords Carrera Virtuoso 2011With Halfords currently selling off their stock of Carrera Virtuoso bikes (can be had for £289 which is a total bargain!) and replacing it with the Virtuoso 2011 (white and blue), I thought I would take a look at a 2011 variant and review it. As much as possible I will put side by side specs, but on the face of it the 2011 seems virtually the same bike, but with the use of 6061-T6 aluminium for the frame as opposed to the 7005 of the previous model. Does this make any difference? No, not at this end of the market. One is an alloy with Zinc, the other an alloy with Magnesium, and one requires heat treatment to strengthen, the other doesn’t.

So off to Halfords I go, and I’ll post my findings later…