Carrera is one of many Halfords in-house brands. Its Carrera TDF has been the entry point to cycling for tens of thousands of British riders.
The Carrera Zelos, with its low-budget price, looks as if it’ll make a very sound entry-level road bike too.
The Zelos’ aluminium frame is paired with a steel fork. The kit is based around Shimano’s seven-speed Tourney groupset, but Carrera has gone for a cost-cutting Prowheel chainset with an old-school square taper bottom bracket, though this didn’t cause me any shifting issues during testing.
My main criticism is the lack of gear range, rather than the quality of the shifting.
In an ideal world, we’d have loads of gears with small jumps between them, but while you’re never going to get that at such a low price, I would have liked a larger sprocket than 28t for a wider gear range.
Unlike earlier Carreras I’ve ridden, though, we do at least get a 50/34 chainset rather than a tougher 50/38.
The Zelos is targeted at less experienced cyclists, and while the 50×14 top gear is adequate, the 34×28 bottom gear is going to make steeper hills genuinely challenging.
I really wish Carrera had specced a 12-34 cassette, which is within Tourney’s range. Yes, it would be ‘gappy’, with larger jumps between gears, but the much lower bottom gear would have far more all-round appeal.
Tourney itself worked very well, though its shifters are different from those on Shimano’s higher-end groupsets. Tourney has a brake lever that doubles as a shifter, but rather than an inner paddle, it has a small thumb-operated lever on the inside of each hood.
The right-hand lever shifts to a smaller sprocket (higher gear); the left-hand lever shifts to the smaller chainring (lower gear). You can only shift when riding on the drops – unless you have preternaturally long thumbs.
I don’t. And I feel the small levers are vulnerable to being damaged if you frequently put bikes in your car, for example.
Braking comes courtesy of cable-actuated disc brakes. One day, and with a following wind, you might find hydraulic discs on a budget road bike. Not yet. However, the Tektro Mira stoppers do a decent job.
They lack the power of hydraulic setups and aren’t necessarily any better than rim brakes, but they are more consistent in wet weather and don’t grind grit and detritus into your rims, which should give your wheels a much longer lifespan.
They were pretty quiet too, with just a little squeaking from the rear when it rained.
Carrera Zelos ride impressions
The Zelos may not be a highly sophisticated machine, but it rides like a ‘proper’ road bike. The short-reach handlebar is a good choice, creating an upright riding position that’s suitable for the newbie rider, which is great for both seeing and being seen.
I found the saddle unobtrusive and the bar tape very good, which isn’t always the case. The ride was comfortable enough too as the miles mounted up, helped by the 28mm tyres.
The Kendas may not be the most supple road bike tyres, but the move to 28mm rubber in the last few years has been a boon, helping to take the edge off road bumps, and you could probably go a little wider too.
In contrast to similar bikes from a few years ago, the semi-compact frame also comes with slimline dropped seatstays, which help to smooth out rough roads.
I wasn’t quite so keen on the Zelos’ tangle of brake and gear cables at the front, and I would have liked to see rear rack mounts for what would be a handy commuter bike. However, I was very pleased to see front and rear mudguard mounts, for year-round riding.
Carrera Zelos bottom line
You do feel the Zelos’ weight – and the lack of a genuine bailout gear – when you hit the hills. If you’re a beginner cyclist and live in the Peak District, or somewhere similarly vertiginous, you might find it challenging. The tyres aren’t from the top tier, either.
However, the price is extremely competitive, the groupset does a decent job and the ride is fairly comfortable.
For day-to-day riding, cycling to work and fitness riding, the Zelos is fine and dandy.