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The Carrera Intercity is a quick-handling folder that's just the job for nipping to and from a train station and smuggling aboard the 08:23 express. It's a shade on the heavy side but it comes ready-to-roll with mudguards and a rack, and it's great value too – cheaper than any of the folders in our best folding bikes buyer's guide.
The Carrera Intercity is one of the best folding bikes you can buy when you take value for money into account. If your budget's limited and the bike sections of your multi-mode journey are fairly short, it should definitely be on your list.
The Intercity's handling is quick, bordering on twitchy. The slightest movement of the handlebar effects a course change, which is great for dodging potholes, and makes for a distinctly sporty feel to the ride.
However, after more than a couple or three miles it can start to get irritating, because sometimes it's nice to just relax and ride, and the Intercity never quite lets you do that.
Is that bad? No, because bike handling is a matter of taste as much as ergonomics, small-wheeled bikes have a bit of a tendency to be twitchy anyway, and for whizzing round town this is exactly what you want.
The reach to the 56cm handlebar is short at just 66cm from the centre of the saddle. This gives the kind of upright position you want for urban riding, but it's a bit cramped for my taste. For short hops this isn't enough to be a deal-breaker, but it's another reason the Intercity isn't great for long rides, unless you're not very tall.
Halfords says the Intercity will fit riders from 147cm to 191cm (4ft 10in to 6ft 3in). I'm 178cm (5ft 10in) and with the saddle at the right height for me there was just 3.5cm of adjustment left. I have short legs for my height and I suspect that just as Matt Lamy found with the Carrera Intercity Disc 9, 6ft 3in might be a bit optimistic. If you're at the high end of the range, you'll definitely want to try before you buy.
The post is 33.9mm diameter, which is the same as you'll find on many folding bikes such as those from Dahon and Tern. A longer post than the stock piece will cost you from about £25, so if you're tall, all is not lost. You could even fit a Tern telescopic post for maximum extension. Nevertheless, it's a pity Halfords hasn't fitted a longer post.
At 14.2kg, the Intercity is no featherweight. That's four kilograms more than a Brompton P Line Urban, but then the Brompton is almost six times the price, so it's reasonable to expect it to float away on the breeze.
The Intercity is chunkily welded out of some sort of aluminium (Halfords doesn't say what) with a steel fork.
Like its stablemate the Carrera Intercity Disc, the Intercity folds at a big hinge in the middle of the main frame member.
You actually fold the handlebar first so the frame wraps around it, then drop the seatpost into the frame. The whole lot ends up as a fairly compact package at 83cm x 64cm x 35cm.
The first time I tried to fold the Carrera Intercity I was surprised how stiff the main hinge was. It loosened up with use, but out of the box it needed quite a bit of oomph to get it moving.
The handlebar stem has a quick release so you can raise the bars if you want a really upright riding position.
Folding and unfolding is very straightforward with long quick-release levers so you can get plenty of force to lock the parts into place.
There are two pairs of water bottle bosses, one on the frame and the other on the stem. How likely are you to carry lots of water on a folding commuter? Not very, but with the right cages you could carry your morning coffee or a bottle of wine.
Halfords' spec list for the Intercity is somewhat vague (the tyres are listed as 'black rubber' for example), and sometimes completely different from what's on the bike. So, let's take a quick look at what we actually got.
Gears: A 52-tooth chainring drives an 11-32 cassette for a gear range from to 32 to 95 inches.
That's pretty sensible for an around-town bike, a gear range that will get you comfortably up and down most of the hills you'll find in UK town centres, assuming you don't have to tackle something silly like Bristol's Vale Street.
Halfords lists the gear shifters as Shimano Revoshift twist-grips but our bike actually had MicroShift trigger shifters and rear derailleur.
These have two thumb-actuated triggers with a firm click to let you know you've made a shift. I prefer them to twist-grips, but that's very much a matter of taste.
Brakes: Anonymous V-brakes.
They're not pretty, but they work.
Tyres: Our Intercity came with puncture-resistant semi-slick Kenda Kwest tyres that rolled along nicely. Tyre physics means small wheels are never going to roll as well as larger ones, but decent tyres make a big difference and these are very reasonable for a £400 bike. Fast tyres like Continental Contact Urbans would give an extra turn of speed but their £40/tyre price tag is why they're not specced here.
Pedals: The plastic outer bodies of the folding pedals are a little slippery, but the bearings sit in an aluminium inner body, which should help with durability.
Kickstand. There's a kickstand. Handy for keeping the bike upright in the garage or shed, but less useful in the field because you always have to lock a bike to something solid in the UK if you want it still there when you get back. I'd love to live in a world where you could park a bike in the street with just a lock round the frame and wheel but I think we'll have to wait for fully automated luxury communism for that.
The mudguards do a decent job of keeping the wet off, though anyone following you might wish that the back one was a bit longer.
(Commuting etiquette 101: if you don't have a big rear mudflap try to avoid overtaking anyone in the wet.)
The rack's a sturdy little beast that'll take small panniers or a rack-top bag. I'd fit an adapter for a click-on system like the Basil MIK, Topeak QuickTrack or Racktime SnapIt to make it easier to fit and remove a top bag.
The obvious comparison is with the Carrera Intercity Disc 9 that Matt raved about. The Intercity Disc is lighter and has better brakes and wider-range gears but doesn't have a rack or mudguards, which probably accounts for most of the weight difference. And it's only £450, so even if you decide to add a rack and mudguards (and you surely need them on a practical bike even it does look sporty without them) it's a hell of a bargain. If your budget is strictly limited to £400, then buy this Intercity; if you can afford a bit more it's very hard to go past the Carrera Intercity Disc 9.
Decathlon's B'Twin 900 Folding Bike is £500 (currently £450), which includes lights and mudguards but no rack and has the same Sora rear mech as the Intercity Disc 9.
What about the benchmark folder? The cheapest Brompton, the three-speed A Line is £950 without rack or mudguards. It's lighter and has Brompton's marvellously compact fold, but it seems unfair to compare them: the Carrera is workmanlike everyday transport, the Brompton much more a luxury option and that gets especially obvious when you start adding practical accessories like bags.
The Carrera Intercity is a bike with a laser-targeted purpose: to get you to and from a train station, where you then fold and stow it, with minimal fuss. If that's your use case – a couple miles to the station, a train trip, then a mile to the office, then it's an excellent, low-cost entry to the world of multi-mode commuting.
If you're looking for something more recreational, a bike to stash in the car boot so you can drive out for a relaxing ride round a country park or like that, then the Intercity's quick handling and narrow handlebar mean it's really not for you.
Great value folder with practical essentials ready fitted
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Carrera Intercity Folding Bike
Size tested: n/a
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
Chainset: square taper, 52-tooth chainring
Sprockets: 12-32 eight-speed
Shifter: MicroShift trigger
Rear derailleur: MicroShift
Pedals: Folding, aluminium bodies
Handlebar: 56cm aluminium, flat
Seatpost: aluminium, 33.9mm, 52cm
Saddle: DDK anatomic
Wheels: 20-inch alloy
Tyres: Kenda Kwest
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?
"The Carrera Intercity Folding Bike is constructed from lightweight aluminium making it a breeze to carry around places where you really shouldn't ride your bike (like through your office). When folded, the dimensions are just 835mm x 360mm x 660mm so it is nice and easy to store away too."
Can't argue with that; it's currently sitting in a corner of my office which is far too small and full of stuff to ride around in.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
Halfords offers cheaper and more basic folders in the £260 Apollo Tuck and £355 Carrera Transit. Spend a bit more and you get an extra gear and disc brakes with the Carrera Intercity Disc 9-Speed, but not rack and guards.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Welds are tidy and it's all assembled precisely enough that the fold works.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Halfords has gone chunky rather than lightweight, with big aluminium main tubes and a steel fork.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
It's quite short, but that's not unusual for folders.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
With small wheels, a stiff frame and no suspension this isn't an especially comfortable bike. Hit a bump and, well, you know about it.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
It's all very stiff.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Not really a crucial criterion for a bike like this, but yes, it's efficient.
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 to the point of twitchy.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The handling's very quick. Good for pothole-dodging, but a bit tiring on longer rides.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The saddle and grips are decent, which helps counter the bumpiness of the short, stiff ride.
If you find yourself aboard a folding bike and up against Mark Cavendish, you might want to reconsider some of your life choices.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
I really like the MicroShift trigger shifters
Wheels and tyres
Did you enjoy riding the bike? On shorter rides; yes. I wouldn't choose it for a longer weekend outing
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
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?
Coming from a Halfords own brand, you'd expect the Intercity to be very reasonably priced – and it is.
Use this box to explain your overall score
The Carrera Intercity is very good local/multi-mode transportation at an excellent price.
About the tester
I usually ride: Scapin Style My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, mtb,
John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.