Yes, I know this is a 2016 bike review, but hear me out. Right now, we reckon this is the best mountain bike you can buy for under £500. It's a bold claim to make. Halfords is advertising the older bike at £270, though we have a feeling stock will be low or non-existent by now. However, the current model looks a banger, too...
The 2017 model has recently become available, and we're on the case getting hold of the latest one, but looking at the spec list on the Cycle Republic site, nothing has changed: the suspension, tyres, gears and brakes are all as they were on the model we tested.
As such, I reckon the 2017 version is as much of a steal as the 2016 bike was — the only thing that looks to have changed is the paint-job!
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Carrera Vendetta spec overview
- Forks: Suntour XCM-DS 29 (100mm travel)
- Tyres: 27.5" x 2.8" Kenda Havoc
- Rear brake: Tektro Novela mechanical disc brake
- Front brake: Tektro Novela mechanical disc brake
- Rear mech: SRAM RD-X4
- Front mech: Shimano FD-M410E
- Gear shifters: SRAM SL-X4 trigger shifters
- Cassette/freewheel: Shimano 8 speed, 12-32t
- Chain: KMC Z-72
- Chainset: Suntour Triple 42/32/22t with 175mm cranks
- Grips: Velo grips
- Handlebars: 740mm, 31.8
- Headset: Semi-integrated 1 1/8"
- Saddle: Velo saddle
- Seatpost: Alloy, 350mm
Carrera Vendetta frame and equipment
Carrera proves two things. First off, geometry costs nothing. In short, the shape of the bike is up there with some of our favourite trail hardtails.
The 55mm stem and 740mm bars, when combined with a fair 68-degree head angle and low bottom bracket, gives confident, precise handling, far surpassing the usual nervous, upright feel bikes at this price often have.
Secondly, plus tyres work at this price point. From a standing start the 2.8” Kenda Havok tyres are slow to get rolling, but once at speed and down at 15psi the grip and comfort they provide stamps all over the skittery plastic rubbish usually seen.
The Kenda Havok tyres are relatively hard in their compound, like most cheap tyres. In more normal sizes and at normal pressures this means less grip and control. While the Havok's don't compare to pricier plus tyres (that combined can easily cost £100), running them at low pressures means their performance far surpasses that of any other tyre in this price category (that we've tested).
This means the Vendetta is confidence inspiring for new riders, while the big volume also absorbs trail buzz, diminishing the harshness of the frame.
Carrera Vendetta ride impression
Up front there’s a Suntour XCM fork with 100mm of travel. The skinny QR legs are a touch flexy when pushed hard and the undamped rebound means if you run your front tyre too hard it’ll ping everywhere. But with a bit of patience it is possible to marry front tyre bounce and fork rebound in to a relatively happy co-existence.
Where plus tyres show their forte is adding a touch of refinement to the front end. A cheap fork is never going to be great, they often suffer from harsh, spiky damping and are full of stiction. Adding a plus tyre at low pressures means less of that harshness is transferred to your hands, meaning a more comfortable, safer and more in-control ride.
It is perhaps less forgivable at its RRP, but for £280 I'm not too worried that the cable operated Tektro brakes aren’t the most powerful, nor deliver great feel, and the mixed Shimano/SRAM 3x8 drivetrain is certainly behind the times. It does work though and the 22:32 bottom gear is ideal for winching the big tyres back up the hill.
Wrap the chainstay in a protector and it shouldn't be too noisy a ride. If you take care with the gear set-up to prevent dropped chains I think you can get away with this groupset.
Before riding the Vendetta I thought it would be a sluggish tractor of a bike, but after my first lap of the woods I was thinking again. A couple of quick laps turned into a three hour ride taking in an ever increasing range of trails.
Beginners or those with a limited budget will find it a perfectly capable bike for hitting local woodsy singletrack and trail centre blues. The handling is confident and this is bolstered by those plus tyres.
While the plus revolution hasn't quite happened on MTBs, the Vendetta perhaps gives us a real case in point as to where they work best.
Look out for a review of the latest bike as soon as we get our hands on one!
Carrera Vendetta early verdict
A genuinely capable budget trail bike at a price that can’t be sniffed at.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.