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Budget MTB up to £350 (with spreadsheet!)

davebeepdavebeep Posts: 7
edited February 2019 in MTB buying advice
Hi, I am sure there are lots of questions like this so sorry for adding. I did check the sticky but it's out of date.

I am looking at a mountain bike for my son who is 12, but quite tall. It doesn't need to be fancy.. he will ride canal towpaths and general trails round cannock chase etc, not technical downhill courses. He tried out an 18" frame Carrera which was fine size-wise so expect this bike will last him a while. I get a discount from Cycle Republic so listed the options from there. Maybe useful for others also?

Screenshot-20190128-143322-2.png

At the moment I am thinking about the Carrera Kraken - seems best spec. But is there a better option at £350, or am I better off saving and getting one of the cheaper options if not much gain.

Any advice appreciated.

Posts

  • Kraken is the best bike there in component terms. The XCR fork is a stronger fork it will take much more abuse. Personally I would have probably gone with the Tufftrax, its a more advanced frame and the bike is likely lighter overall. While it only has a XCM fork it does have hydraulic lockout and you are saving £70 approx. I would take that £70 saving and whatever money I can get for the XCM fork perhaps £30 and put that £100 towards a decent s/hand fork. Maybe be able to get a XCR air rather than the more basic XCR non air version fitted to the Kraken I believe.
  • According to the Halfords website:

    "Suntour XCR hydraulic forks"

    A bit confused by that. I thought forks were either springs or air, not hydraulic? :/
  • larkimlarkim Posts: 2,301
    Usually means hydraulic damper alongside a spring I think!
    2015 Canyon Nerve AL 6.0 (son #1's)
    2011 Specialized Hardrock Sport Disc (son #3s)
    2013 Decathlon Triban 3 (red) (mine)
    2019 Hoy Bonaly 26" Disc (son #2s)
    2018 Voodoo Bizango (mine)
    2018 Voodoo Maji (wife's)
  • Thanks for that - makes sense.

    TBH I am unlikely to do any upgrading of this bike, at least not in the near future.

    To add to the confusion I've noticed that Halfords / CycleRepublic are listing 2 versions of this bike. One with frame sizes listed in inches and the other with frame sizes listed as S/M/L etc. I can see the tyres are different between the two. Not sure what else has changed, if anything. Halfords say it's because they have a new "supplier" (I am guessing manufacturer). Looks like they only have the newer version in white. I know The Boy doesn't really want a white bike and prefers black/red. Shouldn't matter, but in the eyes of a 12 y/o...

    Any thoughts on the Carrera or other options at £250-350? Not really looking to spend more, unless an extra £20 or so would get something game changing.
  • steve_sordysteve_sordy Posts: 2,131
    How about a used one, if you know what you are looking for you can get much better value?

    Or if it has to be new, then how about a brand new one that is from last year or previous years. Pauls Cycles specialises in "deeply discounted" bikes and I haven't heard any bad words about them at all and I've known about them for years.

    https://www.paulscycles.co.uk/

    They have a lot of stock and you will need to spend some time looking (use the filters) and be lucky to get the right size, but you could get an absolute bargain! :)

    I've just had a quick look and it appears that they are selling 2019 bikes as well now.
  • I know this is slightly over your budget at £400, however consider this:

    Review
    https://www.bikeradar.com/mtb/gear/cate ... iew-52389/

    Go Outdoors url:
    https://www.gooutdoors.co.uk/calibre-tw ... ke-p433553
  • Thanks all

    Took a look at Paul's cycles. Looks like they have some good deals at higher price range (£500-£1000) but very basic fare at lower budget. £350 would get me a Giant/GT/Marin of significantly lower spec than the Kraken.

    I did look at the 2 cubed based on reviews before. I ruled it out against the Kraken because:
    - £90 more (taking into account a discount I get at cyclerepublic)
    - Lower spec forks
    - Altus gears vs the Acera on the Kraken which I think are slightly higher spec

    So I think I am still leaning towards the Kraken. Just a bit confused about the 2019 model only being in white.
  • As you have spotted many of the big established bike brands produce very poor spec bikes at entry level which even after heavy discounting can be much worse than shop brand bikes like Carrera. I don't think people realise who tend to spend more on bikes just how terrible their entry level bikes can be including so called mountain bikes with freewheels and other parts that should never be fitted to a true mountain bike. That stuff is reserved for Apollo mountain bikes at Halfords but features on some of the big brands. The Carrera Kraken is a very well respected entry level bike.

    As for the 2019 colour that is probably just the first batch from the factory there may be other choices later. I could be wrong about that but often Carrera's have a choice of colour for some of their models. Always worth comparing 2018 vs 2019 models if they still have stock of the 2018 model just in case there is anything better with the old model.

    The only warning I would give to buying a Carrera bike is they can come in a bit poorly assembled from the factory its likely assembled in somewhere like Cambodia or Bangladesh and Halfords staff don't always have a great reputation in doing final assembly and checks instore. Maybe Halford's Cycle Republic stores are better with better trained staff. I say that as someone who has only bought a new bike from Halfords once and the service was great and that was a much more complicated Nexus 8 hub bike but still you do see some complaints about then on the internet although saying that Halfords have 25% of the UK bike market by value and maybe as high as 40% by bike units because of their lower pricing. If 4 out of 10 bikes sold in the UK are by Halfords you are bound to hear more problems anyway it's putting that into context based on the huge number they sell. However I would definitely want to give it a few checks myself to make sure it is assembled properly.

    Also bear in mind the Kraken features a 7005 frame which there is nothing wrong with but many of the more advanced bike frame manufacturers like Giant, Merida, Fuji-ta (the world's biggest bike manufacturer by volume that does a huge amount of OEM bikes for the world) have abandoned 7005 years ago to use more advanced 6000 series aluminium which is easier to hydro-form and localise strength and flexing in the frame. It is less brittle and more resistant to fatigue. So 7005 is seen as less advanced and can be made in less sophisticated factories. Saying that I can't remember the model but on the Halfords site in the past it said a bike was 7005 but instore the bike had a 6061-T6 label on the frame. It's typical of a 7005 frame to align the seat stays with the top tube as this reduces flexing etc. I.e. the frame is designed for the material so there is no problem with it and it will be fully certified. I'm just making the point the frame itself you could say is more Altus grade where as some competitors may have a hydro-formed 6061-T6 frame which is more Acera if you were comparing it to groupsets. Typical disadvantages of 7005 would be a little harsher feeling and perhaps a bit heavier but it could actually be stronger overall and longer lasting because of the lack of flexing in the frame.

    I love the honesty of Halfords though with their frame materials, many of the big brands will make up fake names for their aluminium so they don't have to admit to using less sophisticated frame factories or it allows them to swop frame factories easily even for the same model but Halfords just say what it is they also give approximate weights which are sometimes heavier than they actually are and include the pedal weight where as many of their competitors list bikes without pedals and often the small or medium sized frame weight. When you actually see those bikes sometimes they can appear actually a lot heavier, same issue with the big brand bikes for entry level as you have already spotted as well as using lower end branded components they have replaced maybe the handlebars and seat post with steel rather than aluminium and the bike frame has straight gauge tubes not butted. These are the spec downgrades harder to see.
  • steve_sordysteve_sordy Posts: 2,131
    I don't want to trigger an avalanche of Halfords censored -us, but here are two I have personally come across.

    1) Mudguards clamped over the open wire gear cable, so that shifting wears through the frame. The shifting was stiff of course, but when queried, Halfords said it will get easier (as it wears in)!
    2) Fork on back to front, cables all over the place.
  • billycoolbillycool Posts: 833
    If you don't want to change anything over, I'd go for the combination of `best` forks and lightest bike.

    My bike is 13kg and having ridden a 15kg lump on XC, it's not much fun and can actually make MTB harder and less enjoyable.

    Ultimately things like the drive train will wear out and need replacing so don't worry too much about the Altus v Acera issue.

    Sensible frame and sensible forks and the rest can be replaced/upgraded when needed.

    Ref what has been said about some entry level bikes having sub-standard parts is quite right. Some bikes are called `leisure bikes' and not even called MTB because they wouldn't cope very well with anything vaguely off-road.
    "Ride, crash, replace"
  • larkimlarkim Posts: 2,301
    Agree - having had experience of Altus, Acera, and even tourney, they all broadly work well enough to not be the decisive factor between two bikes. Fork & weight are key at that price point, and personally I'd got for fork quality over much else - many of the Carrera or Voodoo bikes share identical frames throughout the price points, just with different paint jobs. Then better forks may bring the weight down between models, and tyre weight may also be a big factor - I didn't notice differences in wheels when looking at different spec Voodoo women's bikes at the weekend, so lower models may well have heavier tyres - and in the end tyres are relatively consumable, even more so than rear mech, shifter, BB, crankset etc which is where most of the rest of the weight differential must sit.
    2015 Canyon Nerve AL 6.0 (son #1's)
    2011 Specialized Hardrock Sport Disc (son #3s)
    2013 Decathlon Triban 3 (red) (mine)
    2019 Hoy Bonaly 26" Disc (son #2s)
    2018 Voodoo Bizango (mine)
    2018 Voodoo Maji (wife's)
  • Thanks for the useful and informative replies.

    Kraken has the best specced forks in the price range which is key I think and has led me to go down that route.

    After investigating spec a bit more, I found that the weight is listed as 14kg for new model and previous model listed as 14.8kg. A bit odd as the only thing on the spec sheet that has changed is the tyres.. not sure if Halfords have fully updated with correct specs though.

    I spoke to the guy at Halfords who found a way to get a red medium 2019 model from the warehouse even though they are not yet released to order (otherwise my choices were older red model Vs newer white model).

    Thanks for the replies. Has helped me decide I am doing the right thing by going to top of my budget and looking for the right things in spec.

    For other people a more expensive frame with cheaper components may be better, and upgrades can come later. I know that I'm unlikely to upgrade though, based on the likely use and the fact the bike will be outgrown by my son (seems to grow 2" a day right now).

    Just got to collect and pay up at the weekend. Halfords guy I spoke to seemed very helpful and knowledgeable (more than the cycle Republic staff tbh) so hopefully all ok. And yes - there are bound to be more problems reported based in sale volume I agree. May not be indicative.
  • larkim wrote:
    Agree - having had experience of Altus, Acera, and even tourney, they all broadly work well enough to not be the decisive factor between two bikes. Fork & weight are key at that price point, and personally I'd got for fork quality over much else - many of the Carrera or Voodoo bikes share identical frames throughout the price points, just with different paint jobs. Then better forks may bring the weight down between models, and tyre weight may also be a big factor - I didn't notice differences in wheels when looking at different spec Voodoo women's bikes at the weekend, so lower models may well have heavier tyres - and in the end tyres are relatively consumable, even more so than rear mech, shifter, BB, crankset etc which is where most of the rest of the weight differential must sit.

    I'd have to disagree with you about Carrera and Voodoo sharing identical frames for me they look completely different and quite possible come from completely different factories. The Carrera's look a little cruder and stronger but the Voodoo's look like they are coming from a slightly more advanced factory skewed more towards a performance frame that is a fair bit lighter. I remember in the past it was pretty much Apollo's coming from a low end factory, Carrera's from a decent factory and the Boardman's coming from a high end factory that was used by well regarded big brands. I would think the Voodoo models are more like Boardmans to a degree. Whatever, the design of the mountain bike frames is distinct to each brand even if made at the same factory and to me the Carrera's could be mechanically formed but the Voodoo's look hydro-formed with their careful bending of the top tube, downtube and seat tube. Admittedly now that I look at the images side by side the rear dropouts, seat stays and chainstays could indicate the same factory but the Voodoo's seem to have a more complicated manufacturing process for the main section of the frame.

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    445315?w=637&h=403
  • I don't want to trigger an avalanche of Halfords censored -us, but here are two I have personally come across.

    1) Mudguards clamped over the open wire gear cable, so that shifting wears through the frame. The shifting was stiff of course, but when queried, Halfords said it will get easier (as it wears in)!
    2) Fork on back to front, cables all over the place.

    I've heard worse stories from Halfords and other stores too. You ought to state which Halfords and when just to give some warning to others especially if it was fairly recent. Some Halfords stores are great and deserve credit and others sadly are not and knowing which is which is important. I'd give credit to my Halfords but that was about 10 years ago so not really useful but that was the Yeovil store. I witnessed someone riding their new Halfords bike a few years ago outside the Yeovil store and they were riding it around the car park (just like I did many years earlier) and they seemed exceptionally pleased with the bike. That's pretty much sums up my knowledge of the Yeovil Halfords store. I spoke to an elderly chap while on day trip to Weymouth who was riding a Carrera Parva or maybe Axle which was in a brilliant red colour and complemented his bike and we spoke for a while and he expressed how pleased he was with the bike and the service although I wasn't too impressed with its freewheel based drivetrain but it was a hybrid/commuting bike not a mountain bike. That is the most recent information I've heard about Halfords. One thing I've always liked about Halfords is I don't think they are on commision because they often are quite relaxed about selling bikes, they generally aren't pushy and happy to answer questions if they can without a hope of a sale, maybe just my experience.
  • larkimlarkim Posts: 2,301
    larkim wrote:
    Agree - having had experience of Altus, Acera, and even tourney, they all broadly work well enough to not be the decisive factor between two bikes. Fork & weight are key at that price point, and personally I'd got for fork quality over much else - many of the Carrera or Voodoo bikes share identical frames throughout the price points, just with different paint jobs. Then better forks may bring the weight down between models, and tyre weight may also be a big factor - I didn't notice differences in wheels when looking at different spec Voodoo women's bikes at the weekend, so lower models may well have heavier tyres - and in the end tyres are relatively consumable, even more so than rear mech, shifter, BB, crankset etc which is where most of the rest of the weight differential must sit.

    I'd have to disagree with you about Carrera and Voodoo sharing identical frames for me they look completely different and quite possible come from completely different factories.

    Sorry, that wasn't what I meant - but I can see why my post confused things!

    I meant that, for example, the Voodoo Bizango shares the same frame as the Aizan and the other 29er Voodoo. The Voodoo Bantu shares the same frame as the other 27.5 Voodoos etc.

    I didn't mean that Carerra and Voodoo frames were the same as each other, just that as you step up in spec through the ranges you can get very expensive bikes which have the same frame as a cheap bike (e.g. look at the Canyon range, where you can add £1500 to a bike and end up with the same frame as the entry level version).
    2015 Canyon Nerve AL 6.0 (son #1's)
    2011 Specialized Hardrock Sport Disc (son #3s)
    2013 Decathlon Triban 3 (red) (mine)
    2019 Hoy Bonaly 26" Disc (son #2s)
    2018 Voodoo Bizango (mine)
    2018 Voodoo Maji (wife's)
  • Hi, just to update on this:

    I have bought and collected the Apollo Kraken 2019 red, medium frame size. Looks great. Boy is pleased. Not been used yet.

    Only difference I can see from previous model is the WTB Trail boss 2.25" tyres as opposed to Continental X King 2.2"s. Halfords guy says it just has the newer version of everything (forks, gears, brakes) but they look the same as old model.
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