There’s no easy way to say this, but riding a Carrera Virago for the first time was far from a happy experience. On regular commuter roads it was skittish, and after just 15 minutes I was feeling every divot and granule of road gravel through my wrists. And I nearly crashed it!
Reaching to squeeze the brakes, I couldn’t get them to bite and ended up in the back wheel of a scooter. Upshifts to the big ring took too long and I couldn’t tell if I’d gone up or down a gear on the range at the rear.
Well, the issues weren’t with the bike, but with me. Going from a comfy hybrid to a £1,000 carbon fibre road bike is not straightforward, and I just needed to get the bike set up properly and revise my riding.
You can own a hybrid and get away with it not being set up that well, yet with a road bike even the smallest adjustments seem to shift your weight and cause discomfort. And for me, I felt way back from the forever off-centre, white tape-clad handlebars. As a novice you might think, ‘well it’s too big’. Still, with just a little tinkering with the saddle, I quickly got into the position.
Commuting simply wasn’t safe: With no brakes on the top part of the bars, I couldn’t look over my shoulder at the traffic flow. And taking one hand off left the other, and all my forward-leaning weight, dragging the ultralight front of the bike to one side.
Out of the city, however, things changed. The upshifts on the compact cassette at the rear were rapid- although it took a while for me to remember which way to push the levers (on road bikes you change gears with your brakes – takes a little faith at first). The bike’s return of speed and efficiency are impressive: moving to sticky black tarmac from the general road surface and all of a sudden the Carrera Virago is off, and asking for upchanges. Give it a couple more gears and a push and it’s flying!
That said, it fails off the crest of a hill. Weighing just 8.6 kg (18.9 lbs), it carries no inertia and so you find yourself stomping on the cranks and gingerly shifting to the big ring. By the time you settle back in the saddle, it’s all getting very blurred up front and you’re back covering the brakes, big-grinning all the way down. It’s fast, and it pays you back ten-fold for the effort you put in – especially on hills.
Some riders will find out – as I did – that without the mountain bike gearing of a hybrid, it’s really not about the bike; it’s about you. Road bikes are geared high. Some have a triple on the front; this has a double. And you’ll find yourself quickly out of gears and out of breath on the steeper climbs.
Still, it’s in the climbs where this bike excels. Get out of the saddle – which I’m not good at – and get ‘running’, and again the efficiency of the top-notch transmission, and ultralight carbon frame and forks comes into play. This is what I mean by ‘return of power’. In this case, you’ve nothing to drag up the hill bar your lardy post-xmas, pre-summer arse – which has yet to go numb despite a few longer sessions on the bike.
Initial impressions of the bike weren’t good: I wasn’t taken by the Carrera Virago’s looks and it just didn’t suit my style of riding. But this is changing, partly as I pick up the attention to detail in the construction, and also as I get ‘into’ the bike more.
But a crosswind at night, at speed, on the crest of an unlit country road sent a cold shiver down my back as the front end wobbled…
I’ve a slight fear of carbon fibre and have heard the horror stories. Well, after this weekend’s 3-hr sessions and perhaps 70-75 miles of riding, I’m already over it. Still too light for my liking at low speed, it’s more planted and surprisingly comfortable the faster it goes. It doesn’t in anyway feel brittle, and I’ve total confidence in the frame – even laden with 200lbs of beardy commuter, nutter-gurning his way to the bottom of Ditchling Beacon.
There’s nothing to fear about moving to a road bike, whereas there’s everything to fear about trying to climb Ditchling Beacon on one….
Expect a more technical review of the Carrera Virago in 2 weeks, when I should have caught up with it and may, I repeat ‘may’ have had a crack at ‘The Beacon’.
More about The Evolving Cyclist Project
- Touring Bike vs Road Bike: Riding a Carrera Virago to Paris
- Carrera Virago Reviewed: Tech Specs
- Buying a Road Bike: Gears and losing your Megarange
1 Comment to “Hybrid to road bike: Riding a Carrera Virago”
- Adventure Sports & Travel Thoughts
- New Adventure Travel Ideas
- Our Experts
- Top 10s
- Travel Gear
- Adventure Sports Insurance: What Does The EHIC Actually Cover?
- Kayaking Challenges: Paddling 1300km in handmade kayaks
- Child-Free Sports: Time to reclaim the wave?
- New Zealand: Spiritual Home of Adventure Sports
- 5 Things Cyclists Never Do
- Kevlar Swiss Socks that Rock!
- Adventure Race Events: Trying the Toughest Challenges on Earth