Saturday 16 July 2011

Halfords Carrera TDF Review

Not everyone in life has a wallet full of cash to buy their first road bike.  Faced with a tight budget you can either opt for a second hand bike or a new bike from one of the entry level brands.  One of those that fits the budget bike category is the Halfords Carrera TDF.  At time of writing, this bike was on offer at £299 inc VAT, from Halfords stores - that's a really good price.

Carrera TDF Large
Visually the bike stands out, with it's distinctive black and yellow colour scheme on the 6061 Aluminium frame.  What also stands out is the weight of the bike, coming in just shy of 11kg (24Ibs) with the pedals on - no featherweight.  At this point, it's important to remember that this is an inexpensive entry level bike, not a £1000 carbon road bike.

You do know it when out on the road as the bike takes longer to wind up, I ride a carbon bike normally, however if you've got the fitness, you soon overlook it.  The current model has a paint scheme in honour of the Tour de France and there are graphics on the top tube denoting this. 

Tour de France Graphic
One thing that did strike me quickly was the gear ratio set up on the bike.  Sporting a standard 52-38 cassette on the front and 12-26 on the back, means that this bike will prove hard work to push up a hill, particularly with it's overall weight.

Given that a lot of people buying the bike, may well not have ridden much, I thought it more obvious to go with a compact chainset up front (50/34) which would be much more forgiving when you come to an incline.  Long days in the hills will be preserverd for all but the fittest and strongest riders.  Something to consider on the next range perhaps.  If however, all you're doing is riding the flats to work, you will get away with it. 

Shimano 52-38 Chainset

Rear components are Shimano's entry level RD-2300 with ST2300 levers on the bars, so you shouldn't find any major problems with shifting through the 16 gears the bike has on offer.  This means you would click with your thumb to make the gears feel harder and push the lever inwards to go up the gears (make them easier).  This Shimano gearing appears on most entry level bikes.  Being a brand new bike will mean this all gets set-up in store for you.

Shimano 12-26 tooth rear cassette
The wheel set-up is branded, with 700x23c tyres.  The wheels contribute quite a bit to the weight, coming in around 4kg (9Ibs) of the overall bike weight.  This is a combination of the 36 spokes and the material used.  Being an entry-level bike, they may buckle easily, so keep them nicely tuned with a spoke key.

Own brand Carrera wheels with 36 spokes
Braking is supplied by Tektro.  I found the brakes to be fine and was pleased to see cassette mounted pad, which gives you the option to upgrade the pads down the line.  I'd recommend a Swiss Stop brake or Shimano pad, which will increase the braking performance.

Tektro brakes
Riding the Bike

For a new rider, the set-up of the bike will please.  Big front headset, long stem, wide bars, sloping top-tube.  That all adds up to being a comfortable bike to ride to work or to spend longer days in the saddle.  It will give you quite an upright riding position (more commonly now known as a sportive position).
Whipping the bike up to speed takes a bit of effort, primarily due to the weight and gearing.  However, with some base fitness, you shouldn't have any major problems turning the pedals.  I did find myself working noticeably harder than normal to maintain an average speed of around 17mph on the bike.  For the ride to work though, you won't complain.
Thinking of who might buy the bike, I thought there would be six types of potential buyer: -
  1. Student market (low cost bike due to risk of theft).
  2. First time market (Budget bike, buying new rather than 2nd hand).
  3. Ride to work market (low cost bike which will take a bit of a battering).
  4. Winter hack (the bike comes with rack and mudguard eyelets).
  5. Turbo trainer bike (gearing will be less relevant).
  6. Training bike (something heavier to build your strength).
My overall assessment is that this is a good bike for the money.  It's not an all singing all dancing carbon road bike, it's not meant to be.  It's an entry-level budget road bike, delivering a solid bike for under three hundred quid.   At £449, I'd probably say throw another hundred quid on the budget and look around a bit more, however at £299 I think the value is there to be enjoyed, particulary when the bike is set-up and built for you and your first service is included within the price. 

One thing that I thought was a good addition was the eyelets to fit either a set of mudguards or a rack.  Many bikes in the £500 sector don't have these, it's a small detail, but when it comes to winter, you'll be grateful of a set of fitted mudguards - trust me.  
Finally, I think it's great that people can access the sport at this level- to get more people cycling, you need to make pricing accessible and get people out on the roads.  Despite it's name, you're not going to win the Tour de France on it, but you may well rank highly in the Tour de Work or Tour de University. 

Halfords are running a competition to win one of these bikes whilst the Tour De France is on.  You can see it on Facebook here.

Other Pictures.

Rear Drivetrain

View from the Front

Aero Downtube
View from the Cockpit

The Drivetrain


  1. Cheers for this review -- I found it really helpful. I've reserved one of these and am going to ride it home from Halfords later today. Complete novice when it comes to cycling (I'm a reasonably good runner), but I intend to ride quite a lot over the coming months. For now it will enable me to cross-train and get over a stress fracture, but long term I harbour ambitions of entering my first triathlon. I hope the TDF will serve me well...

  2. Great review - I've had one these for 3 months now and covered maybe 300 miles. Generally very pleased - I agree with the points made in your review, in particularly the gearing - Its far from ideal for hill climbing, although for my commute (9 miles each way) I enjoy the lower gearing as it makes the few short/medium hills on the way slightly more challenging! For the price, given a matching budget, I'd certainly recommend this bike.

  3. Mark Puddicombe19 March 2012 at 10:48

    Thanks for the review. I thought it was my legs that meant I was pushing the bike (as oppoed to riding it) up one particular hill!

    You mention an option for a 50/34 front set, I've searched online and see a Shimano 2350 (as opposed to the 2300 that the bike is sold with). Do you know if this will fit please?


  4. Hi Mark,

    You can buy the Shimano 2300 in a 50/34 for about £45.00. It's an eight speed chainset, that should work for you and give you some more range. Always worth a quick check with a mechanic before purchase.

    You could also think about a 12-28 for the rear cassette, which combined with the compact chainset will feel a lot easier.


  5. I've had one of these for over 2 years now. I was new to the road side of cycling and jumped at the price. It's a brilliant bike for the money and have racked up a few thousand miles now, just starting to have to change some major components so looking to spend a bit of money but more than happy with the base setup. Have recommended this to others new to the sport!

    1. I got one of these in April 2011 and I have been very pleased with it. Used a student discount code online which was never checked so got it for £270.

      I didn't know if a road bike would suit me but this bike has been great. Now looking at a carbon frame, and will use the TDF in the winter.

  6. I purchased this bike today and living next to a fairly flat 5mile cycle track,and coming from a downhill background took it for a short run after a while in the saddle completely agree with the previous comments.
    I decided at 2pm I wanted a bike as the Mrs fancied going for a cycle so after expecting a Scott or similar entry level bike was surprised to find for 300or so quid I was way off.
    The bike is stiff solid and gearing and brakes simple/basic everything was fine but the weight and gearing issues are bang on.
    I like it and value for money you can't fault but it is heavier than the full suspension cannondale I recently sold by a mile.

  7. Hey, previously i have just stuck to the mountain biking side of cycling and I'm used to riding round on a £3000 Scott mountain bike however I'm now looking to try road cycling and I was wondering if you would recommend this bike just for me to start out on or as I'm used to a good bike for mountain biking do you think I won't particularly like the bike?

  8. Hi Jonny,

    If you're already in the £3k league of MTB, then the Carrera might not be for you, you'll notice the entry level components and likely opt for something more expensive within a short period.

    If you can stretch your budget, I'd look for a bike with a Shimano 105 groupset and some reasonable wheels like Mavic or Shimano RS. It doesn't matter if its carbon or alloy for your first bike, just get the best groupset and wheels you can for your budget.

    I think one of the best value starter bikes is the Dolan Preffisio with Shimano Sora groupset which retails from £665.00, that would be as good as place as any to start and the bike I'd probably buy with that sort of budget.

    1. Dear Phil,
      Thank you so much for such a comprehensive and very helpful review!
      Herewith I wanted to ask for your advice.
      I am looking for entry level road bike. It's going to be my first road bike and I am trying to choose between two:
      1) 1 year old good condition Carrera TDF you have reviewed for 220 pound; or
      2) brand new Carrera Virtuoso 2012 Limited Edition for 280 pound. A noticed you had mentioned it as a new coming bike but there was no review:)
      Another thing to consider that there will be a lot up and down riding since my hometown is surrounded by mountains.
      I would be very happy if you provide quick advice on this.
      Thank you

    2. Dear Yerzhan,

      Go for the Virtuoso.

      The main fault of the Carrera TDF is that the gear ratio is too hard for a beginner who the bike is primarily aimed at.

      They fixed this with the Virtuoso by putting a compact chainset on the front, this will make riding the hills around your home significantly easier and your beginning into road cycling more enjoyable!

      Have fun.

  9. Just came across this old post and felt compelled to comment.I used to use a TDF for getting around London. Recently had two high end bikes stolen. felt F95(£649) and a BMC Roadracer SL01 Ultegra Compact(£1799) when bought. This meant I had to get the carrera out of the shed. After a service I threw my leg over and sped off. felt very heavy after riding the others but put into context, the TDF is a good buy for anyone looking for a road bike for commuting or as a first intro to road bikes. Think they now retail at £399 so you may find something comparable at the price. I imagine the next price bracket is £550 for shimano Allez, Giant etc. Would definately reccomend changing to a 12/28 or 32 cassette or you will be pushing it up any hills. lighter wheels would be great but I think when you are buying a bike of this price wheel weight probably is not that important to you. When we get into the realms of really light wheels and changing groupsets, i cant help thinking that we have to be carefull not to drift towards elitist snobbery. Too much of this around when the important focus should be on encouraging people to get into cycling as a form of transport and a usefull aid to keeping fit and healthy. Unless you aim to race or start doing 100-150km on sunday morning you will not want to spend £1000 upwards. To change groupset and upgrade wheels, you would probably be just as well holding out a month or two and step up to the next price bracket. Carrera is a perfect choice for anyone looking for a first road bike for commuting and getting around town. if you catch the bug and want to move up to do a bit more serious riding,this bike is a good starter. For your next buy you'll be able to sell it. See them on gumtree quite often, priced at £150 up to £190 so you're well on the way to a specialized or felt or whatever takes your fancy.

  10. Agree this is great value, especially at £250 which they have been recently. Watch out for the sizing though - the stated size is effective top tube not the seat tube length. Very odd, and a different sizng system from all the other road bikes in the carrera range, so be aware that trying a different bike in their line for size (which you might otherwise do because they won't have all sizes built up on the shop floor) may confuse you!

  11. Great to read all the comments hear having recently bought a TDF. Have changed the tyres and pedals. Is definitely hard to pedal up steep hills. Can I just change the cassette for an 8 speed 11/30 or 11/32 ? This seems like potentially a cheap fix, is it that simple or are there other issues to consider ?

  12. Found your review by googling "carrera tdf gear ratio" as there is one hill on my commute into work that kills me and I was thinking about changing the front chainset. I was very relieved to see that you agree as do several other commenters on here. After I have typed this I will be off to look for the 'compact' chainset that you recommend.
    By the way this is the best review of this bike I have seen by far - most of the others are overly-gushing or just dismiss any bike below £500 as rubbish. You have appreciated the benefits of having a good value-for-money bike that you don't need to worry too much about getting it damaged or stolen but still with more-than-decent performance. I could have bought a £1000 bike but wouldn't want to take it out in bad weather or leave it locked to a lamp-post in Bristol so it would have stayed in the garage. For me this bike is an ideal every-day bike that I love riding to work on :-)

  13. I have had a TDF 12 months having bought one second hand although nearly new condition for £200. I have done 2,700 miles on it and am now in a position to treat myself to something a little better. As a starter bike I would recommend it. Mine has been pretty bomb proof and aside from new tyres and bearings in the back wheel I've had no problems with it. And you can get over the big hills with the gears, it is just hard work. I did fleet moss to Hawes a couple of days ago coming back up Bishopdale. Granted I was all over the road on the 16% incline at the head of Bishopdale into a headwind but I just made it and 16mph for 80 miles with 4,000 feet of climbing proves you can be reasonably quick on a basic bike if you have decent fitness. A nice bike helps but it should really be about getting out and enjoying the ride. The Tour de France notices are up in Buckden ready for 2014 :)

  14. Andy Mac.LIVERPOOL20 October 2013 at 03:19

    I just bought the tdf for 249.99,with the new claris shifters and rear mech,what a absolute bargain,having rode an old raleigh tempest for the last 12 months, got the bug so was looking around for a new modern roadie and had not seen anything that came close for the spec(I known the components are entry level) and price.the new claris shifters come with the paddle behind the brake lever which is the same as higher end spec.I have changed the pedals and add two decent tyres and the bike flies.compared to other higher priced bikes its a bit heavy but coming from mb and me old tempest its feels really litght.The price at the moment in halfords has gone back up to 599.99,I would never buy at that price but when it comes back down(IT WILL IN A FEW WEEK) and ur on a tight budget buy it.

  15. I have had this bike for a few months now as my first Road Bike. I am 16 and needed some transport to College and this serves me great i have gone out on days and done 45 miles and done alot of climbing on it. It takes some effort but you will be pleased with your fitness levels after and just how fast it is if you put the effort in.I would recommend this bike to people who are starting out and people who want to commute but if you have over£700 i would look at a Cboardman.

  16. You can buy a high specification matching jersey from Suarez clothing for £49 to match this bike. They even call it the Carrera TDF!

  17. I have had the new 2016 Carerra TDF. It comes with the compact group set and 7speed rear cog on the back. The smallest gear on the is 14-upto 28. I found a nice little inexpensive way of making the bike go faster. But still retain the easy hill climbs of the mourne mountains here in Newry County Down.
    The new Carerra TDF comes with 14-28 rear cog and 50-38 front mech. 14 speed. Making you look for more gears when your fitness and speed ate up to spec. All I did was take the rear wheel off of an old TDF. With 8 speed cog. Fits right on the bike with no adjusting and ready to go. Only problem is. The chain won't go into the biggest cog at the back. I'm not worried about that as I have never used that gear anyway. Just a heads up folks. Like I say. A nice, smart, cheeky, easy, cost effective way to make the new TDF go faster without breaking the bank.