A low price tag and prominent placement in Halfords stores should be enough for these bikes to sell in good quantity, but to think that was the end of the story would be particularly wrong. You see, the Subway has been available for more than a decade now, and in that time Halfords has learned a thing or two about how to produce a hybrid bike on a budget.
At the heart of the Subway 2 is a simple alloy frame with an inoffensive black paint finish that won’t stand out from the crowd, but neither should it stand out to thieves.
Practical touches include a couple of places to mount a water bottle plus the correct clearances and mounts to attach mudguards or a pannier rack. It’s available in three sizes which Halfords says should be fine for people between 5 ft 5in and 6 foot 5in tall.
There is no suspension fork, but at this price that’s definitely no bad thing. Instead, Carrera has spent the money where it matters most. For that reason, you’ll find Clarks M2 hydraulic disc brakes at each wheel and a 3x9 Shimano Altus transmission that’s lead by a Suntour chainset.
The Carrera’s 650b-sized wheels are now an industry norm, and their wide rims and high spoke count mean you won’t have to panic about dropping down the occasional kerb.
The Kenda K841 tyres those rims are wrapped in boast of their resilience to punctures and at 1.95in wide hold enough volume for a decent amount of comfort too.
Gone is the naff steel finishing kit that we used to find on bikes at this price point. Instead the Subway specs quality bits throughout — even its saddle is the same as is used on considerably more expensive bikes from Halfords’ VooDoo range.
The 22in Subway 2 was a perfect fit for me at 6 foot 3in, and put me into a familiar mountain bike-like position that was neither too cramped or stretched. The lengthy, high-rise stem can look a little gawky but works just fine in combination with the wide-but-not-overly-so handlebar.
Its low overall weight, just 13.68kg / 30.16lbs in its largest size, is something Carrera’s design team should to be proud of. It makes for a bike that’s comfortable to winch up even the steepest of hills.
I wasn’t expecting much from the Shimano Altus triple drivetrain but was pleasantly surprised with the crisp shift action form its large, tactile levers.
The old-school front derailleur can require patience at times, but still works rather well. Fitter riders will probably never make use of the chainset’s tiny inner ring but those without the legs may well be glad of it.
BikeRadar commenters had mentioned that the astonishingly inexpensive Clarks M2 brakes fitted to this model had been known to have their issues, but I had nothing but powerful and predictable stopping in all weather — though the pads were particularly vocal during heavy rain. These findings were in keeping with BikeRadar’s previous review of these brakes, where they scored 4.5 stars.
The standard fit Kenda tyres roll well but simply don’t offer the grip or comfort levels of most aftermarket items. Any Subway 2 owner should look to swap these out as a first upgrade.
The Subway is the ideal bike for those who want to tackle a short to mid-length commute without switching to a drop handlebar. Its ride quality punches above anything that we’ve tested previously at this price point.
So good is the Subway 2 that I have to resort to fussiness in order to criticise it. Its ergonomic grips, for example, definitely won’t be for everyone. More of a concern are the cheap quick-release levers at each wheel, which can require a fair bit of force to achieve the correct clamping pressure. I discovered this after the front QR worked its way loose.
This is a common trait among cheaper external-cam type quick-release skewers and is not something that is exclusive to this bike. Still, I’d recommend checking these before each ride, while an upgrade to a bolted axle or at least an internal-cam QR comes highly recommended.