I had my Carrera Subway 8 serviced this week, I’ve done over 2,000 miles on it in the last 8 months and I’m fairly pleased with it. It cost me £280 and in the time since purchasing it I could easily spent twice that much commuting to work on the tram.
The major disappointment has been the tyres which were clearly not up to the rigours of the mean streets of Salford. The tyres fitted as standard were Continental Sports Contact and being Continental tyres I thought they would be decent but I had punctures to both front and rear within 4 months. I knew removing the wheels would be complicated so as soon as punctures had to be repaired I replaced them with Schwalbe Marathon Plus that had served me well on my previous bike. As expected I’ve had no punctures since, and according to the Bicycle Doctor it is also the preferred tyre of the Greater Manchester Police.
Replacing tyres is tricky because the bike has both drum brakes and in hub gears. Drum brakes are quite different to standard block brakes or disk brakes and probably not as effective. There are heat-sinks to dissipate the heat generated by them, I’ve read that people have had problems when braking continuously down long descents but I tend to use my brakes quite infrequently so that doesn’t bother me. Their appeal to me is the fact that they are enclosed safe from the dirt and the elements so performance does not degrade as much in the wet and also they don’t need as much day to day attention.
The in-hub Shimano Nexus 8 gears are maintenance free in a sealed unit that you don’t even oil. The changes are good as long as the tension is correct in the gear cable and I’ve found jumping up and down multiple gears as easy as shifting single gears. The 8 speed is supposed to be equivalent to a standard 21 speed bike but I’ve lost a couple of useful top end cogs that I used on my 24 speed Claude Butler. 5th is the direct gear where no ratio is applied and the one that you should spend most time in. Since I use 6th gear more than any other maybe I just need a bigger crank and that would also give my top end cruising speed again.
Most of the reviews seem to say good bike and great value (even at £350 that it used to be) but it’s let down by the Halfords level of service. The store I bought my bike from has 4 mechanics at it and only one seems to be prepared to touch the bike because it is a little unconventional. When Michael first serviced the bike after 6 weeks he said the chain had stretched and would need to be replaced in the next 6 months along with the rear cog but when I took it in last week he decided that the chain could be replaced in isolation (he obviously didn’t want to disturb the rear hub either). I took a maintenance contract with them but the check sheet wasn’t completed so I don’t know what they did, I suspect they only did what I specifically asked to be done and I also had to ask them to further tighten the rear wheel as it had previously worked itself loose when I had removed it.
I like the feel of the bike, it seems sturdy and not too uncomfortable although I wouldn’t like to spend more than 2 hours in the saddle, the Claude Butler Legend was more comfortable but was also more twitchy at low speed.
Overall I’d recommend any bike with a Nexus 8 hub for maintence free commuting, not necessarily the Halfords Carrera model but then at £280 earlier this year it was at a price that couldn’t be beat.