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Didn't think the bike market needed any more niches? Well you were wrong: welcome to the budget sports folding bike! The Carrera Intercity Disc 9-Speed might not boast the engineering genius of more famous folding rivals, but with very enthusiastic road manners, excellent specification including a Shimano Sora rear mech and Tektro hydraulic discs – and £50 left over from £500 – this is a folder with significant appeal beyond just the traditional commuter set.
The first thing you notice when hopping aboard the Intercity Disc 9 is that this is a very pleasurable bike to pedal and especially to get up to speed. I'll talk about the gearing in more detail later, but I don't think it's a coincidence that this enthusiasm is found on a folding bike with a 'proper' 1x9 setup. This thing just asks to be pedalled and I think virgin folding bike riders will be surprised by the ID9's brisk turn of pace and its ability to transfer power into forward motion.
One thing that heightens the sense of speed is the ID9's quick steering. Folding bikes often tend to feel a bit flighty at the front with their straight fork-cum-steerer-cum-stem, and this is no different: I almost wheelied away on my first go, the handlebar lifting in my hands like the reins of a bucking mustang.
To some extent, that's a sign of the bike's inherent eagerness and you quickly get used to the steering's nuances at slow speeds, while at high speeds it doesn't prove a problem at all. Incidentally, the ID9's head tube has a bracket for a carrier, should you want to put a bit more weight over the front.
With exciting handling and excellent power transfer, there's the distinct possibility that comfort could take a hit, but not so. Even with diddy 20in wheels – which for some reason really punch above their girth here – very little knocks the ID9 off its stride. I took it on some proper rough country roads, potholes 'n' all, and it breezed over most things.
This is a fantastically fun bike to ride – and all the more amazing when you remember it's a folder. Rather than it being just a basic A-to-B transport tool, you may well find yourself looking to detour to enjoy a longer session in the saddle. It's also quite nice that you can get your head down for super-stable high-speed cruising, but then sit up a bit for more reactive intra-city ducking and diving.
At its core, the ID9 is a fairly standard modern folding bike design, with a main locking hinge in the middle so that it can fold laterally in half along its length, and another hinge where the stem meets the head tube, so the front end can effectively fold in half vertically as well. Halfords says the time it takes from folded to unfolded, or vice versa, is 30 seconds but I think it's underselling the bike there – it can be pretty quick once you get the hang of it.
In unfolded form, there's a nice sporty-looking curve to the seatstay, and a curved mini-down tube to the bottom bracket. Both the frame and the fork are made from aluminium and the all-up weight of 12.5kg (Halfords again undersells the bike by listing it as 13kg) is fine at this point in the market, especially when you factor in the substantial clamps and quick releases for altering the seatpost height, stem height, and handlebar position. There's also a bottle cage mount on the top of the main tube, and mounts for mudguards and a rear rack.
Everything seems pretty much spot on, with one quirky exception: the quick release clamp for the handlebar is ever so slightly off centre, so it doesn't sit directly over the front wheel in your line of sight. It's not a big deal, but if you have a touch of the OCDs like me then it's just a little off-putting initially.
In terms of fit, as with most folders the ID9 is a bit short in length but it's no biggie and handlebar height is certainly not a problem because the stem has its own quick release with a good range of up and down adjustment. I left it quite low as I felt a more sporty position – relatively speaking – seemed to fit its character very nicely and also helped to rein in the quick steering.
In fact, the only significant negative I have for the ID9 is saddle height. On the Halfords website it says the ID9 is suitable for riders up to 6ft 3in. I would question that. I'm 6ft tall, and not a leggy 6ft at that, but I had to run the seatpost at the very limits of its available range and I still didn't have quite the leg extension I'd ideally like (I'm talking about only a few mm here, but still). If you're anywhere near 6ft, I'd suggest you test ride before you buy. (It's not me in the photos, by the way, that's Liam, who's about 5ft 9in.)
A good selection of gears is another detail that really fits the ID9's character. The 53-tooth chainring might look a bit awkward aesthetically but, in performance terms this, allied with the 9-speed 11-34 cassette, means you've got the option to venture way beyond benign city slopes and take on some proper hills.
The fact that the rear mech is Shimano Sora adds to the notion that this bike can do almost anything. It's not a speccing choice that's so precious it will baulk at the hard graft of daily commuting, but it offers more than enough slick shifting to feel super satisfying when you want to really enjoy the ride.
Almost equally satisfying is the Tektro M275 hydraulic brakeset. I've been a bit dismissive of Tektro hydraulic brakes in the past because, in my view, they don't quite match up to Shimano's entry-level options, but on the ID9 they felt fine. Certainly modulation or 'feel' is very decent and while all-out power might be lacking at the top end, perhaps the fact you're riding on small wheels lets you give it a bit of leeway.
In any case, they're brand-name hydraulic discs and whatever quibbles I might have about whether they're the absolute best, they're near the top and certainly better than mechanical discs or rim brakes, especially for wet weather riding.
Talking of wet weather, I'm afraid I've only ridden the ID9 in the dry and in those conditions the Vee Speedster tyres have been very good. With their ability to accept 110psi, you can really reduce rolling resistance, although even firm tyres didn't have any knock-on effect in terms of comfort. Grip was good enough for dry days but I suspect you'd want to run them a bit softer in the wet.
The ID9's wheelset is also more than adequate. The aluminium double-wall Carrera-branded semi-deep-section rims actually look quite funky and aesthetically give the ID9 a hint of speed, while the quick-release hubs rolled perfectly fine.
With lots of use, I suspect these will be the scene of the first upgrade or replacement, but 'out of the box' they offer a very acceptable ride experience.
There are a few other speccing options to mention. For example, both pedals are of the folding variety. The handlebar grips are very comfy. And the Entity saddle is fab.
Unlike a lot of brands who go big on the utility angle of their folders, the ID9 doesn't come with mudguards or a rear rack – although all of that can be fitted. Personally, I think that omission is a good idea as the ID9 deserves to look a bit more exciting than just being seen as a daily workhorse. A kickstand is fitted as standard for extra convenience, though.
If possible, I like to hop aboard and test a bike before I've read its specs and especially before I've seen its price. That way, I can have as close as possible to an unprejudiced test ride. Of course, this isn't my first rodeo and hard-to-miss details like brakeset, gearset and brand name tend to lead you in one direction.
In this case, those influences were a bit mixed: yes, the ID9 is 'only' a Halfords own-brand Carrera folder, but then it has a Shimano Sora rear mech and Tektro disc brakes. In my mind, and in the saddle, I'd valued the bike somewhere around the £600-£700 mark. So to find it retailing at £450 is really something of a bargain. (If you want an even less expensive option, Halfords has the Carrera Intercity Disc 8-Speed with mechanical discs and Shimano Claris gears for £375.)
In terms of everybody's go-to folding brand, Brompton's range starts at £850 – almost double the price. However, perhaps Halfords' closest rival in high-street bike sales, Decathlon, has the B'Twin 900 Folding Bike for £499.99. Like the ID9 it features a smart aluminium frameset and even the same Shimano Sora rear mech. But it goes without disc brakes, opting instead to fit V-brakes. I also have to say, the B'Twin 900's brown colourway isn't very rock'n'roll.
I hate giving a gushing review for two reasons: a, because it offers smart-Alecs in the comments section the chance to level accusations of reviewers being paid off (for the record, it's charmingly naïve to think there's enough money in the cycle industry for cash-inducements to be 'a thing', or even that our words carry enough weight for any bribe to be worth it); and b, because it causes road.cc's illustrious production editor Tass to grill me to check the product warrants its score. And she doesn't muck about.
So let me put this to rest right here and give the Carrera Intercity Disc 9-speed the highest recommendation possible: if I could have just an extra inch on saddle height, I'd buy it. If it had fitted me perfectly, I would have literally not returned this test bike and asked if I could pay to keep it instead, that's how much I like it – and I'm not even in the market for a folder.
If you think a folding bike might come in useful, you want a surprisingly rewarding ride with good quality components, you don't want to spend Brompton money – and you're definitely no taller than 6ft – this is way more fun than you'd probably ever expect.
Fantastic fun and fast folding bike that will leave you questioning why you'd want to spend any more
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Carrera Intercity Disc 9-Speed Folding Bike
Size tested: one size
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
Headset: Steel 1 1/8in semi integrated
Bottom Bracket: BSA BB
Chainset: Aluminium 2-piece hollotech crank 53T
Cassette/Freewheel: Shimano CS-HG200, 9-speed, 11-34T
Gear Shifters: Shimano M2010 Altus, 1x9
Rear Mech: Shimano RD-R3000 Sora, 9-speed
Chain: KMC 9-speed
Brakeset: Tektro HD-M275, hydraulic disc, 160mm rotor
Hubs: Black alloy 9mm quick release
Rims: Black alloy double wall
Tyres: Vee Speedster 20x1 3/4in
Handlebar: Alloy 560mm
Stem: Adjustable folding
Pedals: Black folding
Seatpost: Alloy 34.9x580mm, 40mm QR clamp
Tell us what the bike is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Without wishing to coin a new bike market niche, and despite its 'Intercity' moniker, this is a sport-orientated budget folding bike for people who fancy doing more than just commuting. Halfords' website says: "The Carrera Intercity 9-Speed Folding Bike is constructed from lightweight aluminium making it a breeze to carry to carry but also meaning you can easily lift it into the boot of your car. Tektro HD-M275 hydraulic brakes offer superb braking even when loaded up, no matter the weather. A large 11-34T cassette offers a wide range across the bike's 9 gears meaning you'll feel ready to tackle any hill. When folded, the dimensions are just L:750, W:350mm, H:650mm so it is nice and easy to store away too." Can't argue with that.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
There are seven Carrera folding bikes currently listed on the Halfords website. However, five of those are more traditional, utilitarian commuting folders - the Intercity Disc 9 and its cheaper sibling, the Intercity Disc 8 (£350) are distinct from the rest of the range by being more sports/leisure/fun focused.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
By modern folding bike standards, there's nothing particularly special about the ID9's frame, but it's perfectly smart, well constructed and nicely finished.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Again geometry is fairly standard fare for a modern folder, although the extendable steerer/stem allows you to tailor front-end geometry to your tastes. (I kept handlebar height quite low as that seemed to fit the character of the bike in my eyes.)
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
My one and only negative with the ID9 is the available height. Despite Halfords saying it's suitable for riders up to 6ft 3in, my bang-on 6ft frame maxed out the available length on the seatpost and could have done with a few mm more. Reach on folders is always a bit limited but this was pretty good.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Yes, impressively comfortable and not just a 'big bike' ride quality, but a fun and enjoyable 'big bike' ride quality.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Folders aren't rigid in the same way as other bikes, but there seemed to be no issue with undue flexibility – again, impressive!
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
...and probably the best quality is power transfer – this is a folding bike that really wants to be pedalled and the rider's effort is repaid handsomely.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? Lively initially due to quite a light front end, but that can be tamed by moving weight forward or using the head tube carrier mount.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
This was a really fab bike to ride. Yes, handling is a bit lively initially at slow speeds but you quickly get used to that, and at cruising or high speed it actually settles very well.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I was impressed by the Entity saddle and the grips were pretty good too.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
I wouldn't recommend any changes at this stage. Perhaps new wheels in time, but everything works well out of the box.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The gearset worked very nicely and really helps to make the most of the bike's abilities.
For a folding bike, this is very good.
The nature of folding bikes and their tiny wheels means out-of-the-saddle efforts are a bit tricky.
Fantastic performance – easy and faultless shifting.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
The drivetrain here is a vital ingredient in the ID9's overall zesty nature. It's classy enough to feel great to use, swapping from gear to gear, but should be hardy enough to survive years of use.
Wheels and tyres
Surprisingly good, despite not being anything flash. They look quite funky, too.
My one question in longevity – I suspect the wheels will be the first component to go.
Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?
I admit it: I'm not an aficionado of 20in folding bike wheels, so I don't know what the hottest set of hoops for folders is right now. These felt perfectly fine for most riders.
Reliable grip in dry conditions, and nice speedy performance.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?
I particularly liked the fact these could be inflated to 110psi, meaning good high-speed performance. I'm not sure how they'd fare in the wet, so you might need to swap them out for more rain-specific rubber come winter.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
Everything works and goes together well to form a very competent complete package.
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
The inclusion of Tektro hydraulic disc brakes is a huge win at this point in the market – these bring stopping performance that is a signifiant step above rim brakes.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Oh yes.
Would you consider buying the bike? Very much so.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Halfords also has the Carrera Intercity Disc 8-Speed with mechanical discs and a Shimano Claris rear mech for £375. In terms of rival folding brands, Bromptons start at £850 – almost double the price. However, perhaps Halfords' closest rival in high-street bike sales, Decathlon, has the B'Twin 900 Folding Bike for £499.99. Like the ID9 it features a smart aluminium frameset and even the same Shimano Sora gearing. But it goes without disc brakes, opting instead to fit V-brakes.
Use this box to explain your overall score
Carrera's Intercity Disc 9-Speed quite frankly blows apart any expectations of what a sub-£500 folding bike can provide. It's fitted with really good components in important areas, but more importantly, as a complete package it offers the sort of enjoyable ride quality that will surprise many people. Aside from the fact it's just a few mm too short for me, if I was planning to buy a folding bike with my own money, this would be my first port of call.
About the tester
I usually ride: Islabikes Beinn 29 My best bike is: 25-year-old Dawes Galaxy
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb, Leisure