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Electric Mountain Bikes are the bread and butter of the ebike world. They are definitely popular amongst buyers of all ages. The £1000-£1500 price bracket is the most competitive, and here is where a lot of big improvements are being made.
The Carrera Vulcan E has always been one of Halfords best selling electric mountain bikes. But It has remained unchanged for the last couple of years. The latest 2020 model has a number of subtle improvements, but is it any better than the outgoing model? In this review, I will take a closer look at the specification to see what’s changed (and if it’s changed for the better).
The Carrera Vulcan E has always sat in that ‘no mans land’ where it is not particularly cheap, but it’s not overly expensive either. The £1199 price tag can put some potential buyers off, especially when you consider e-bikes like Decathlon’s excellent Rockrider E-ST500 are £200 cheaper.
Regardless of the price tag, the Carrera Vulcan E has always been one of Halfords best-selling ebikes. It helps that most towns and cities in the UK have a Halfords store. People are often reluctant to make an expensive purchase like an electric bike without seeing it the flesh first (and maybe trying it out).
Another big plus point for customers is the fact that the Vulcan E falls within the cycle2work scheme price bracket, making it popular with commuters.
The current incarnation of the Vuclan E has been around for a little over 2 years, and generally speaking, has had very few issues, and a lot of positive reviews from customers.
I have ridden the outgoing model on several occasions, and I’ve always though it was a decent enough electric bike for the money.
What’s new for the 2020 version?
Well, there has been some effort made to bring the bike up to date, with the re-designing of the frame. But the components, electric motor and battery remain largely unchanged.
Much like the Vulcan’s hybrid sibling, the Crossfire E. The new frame design incorporates a neater battery integration, and internally-routed cables. The motor controller is also no longer mounted at the rear of the battery casing, instead it has been neatly installed in a recess where the downtube meets the bottom bracket.
The latest version still uses the proven Suntour HESC rear hub motor with ATS torque-sensing pedal assist and a 36v11.6ah (417Wh) battery pack.
The Shimano Altus groupset, and hydraulic brakes also remain unchanged.
So, all in all, apart from a new frame, the rest of the bike is pretty well much identical to the 2018 model. Will this be good enough to keep the Vulcan selling in high numbers well into the 2020’s?
I’m not so sure. When the Vulcan was first released, the market was flooded with cheap ebikes, some of which did have a poor reputation. But fast forward a couple of years, and now a thousand pounds can actually get you a pretty good electric bike.
Competition is fierce, and with the e-bike market predicted to keep on growing well into the 2020’s, Halfords will have their work cut out for them.
No change here for the 2020 Carrera Vulcan E. Halfords have played it safe and stayed with the dependable Suntour HESC 250w rear hub motor.
As far as geared hub motors go, this is definitely one of the better units out there, so I think it was a wise decision to stick with it.
ATS Active Torque Sensing
Another great feature that remains unchanged, is Suntour’s active torque sensing pedal assist system. This works in combination with a cadence sensor, to measure the amount of force the rider is applying to the pedals. Pedal lighter, and you will not get much assist, pedal harder and the motor will seamlessly provide you with electric assist.
This translates into is a very smooth and pleasant riding experience, it also contributes to the efficiency of the motor.
The Vulcan E uses the same LCD display as the 2018 model. It displays speed, level of assist and has a battery level indicator and trip computer.
The battery has the same energy capacity of the 2018 model at 36v 11.6ah. The only difference being, is on the latest model the motor controller is not housed inside battery casing, but instead is neatly fitted inside the frame, near the bottom bracket. This make the battery look physically smaller and neater.
The claimed range of 60 miles is the same as before, I would say this can be achieved with frugal use of the pedal assist, and will be influenced by rider weight, wind direct and hills. A realistic range would be more in the 35-40 mile bracket.
As with all the other electric bikes in the Carrera range, this battery is covered by a 2 year warranty, which will give buyers extra peace of mind.
The gearing on the Vuclcan E has also remained unchanged. It still has a single 38t front chainring with an 11-34 9-speed rear cassette, with Shimano Altus shifter, and Shimano Altus rear derailleur. A decent KMC X9 chain finishes off the package.
This dependable Shimano groupset is found on many cheaper mountain bikes, and it works absolutely fine. All these parts work well and are easy to replace if they do wear over time.
The Clarks M2 Hydraulic brakes combined with 180mm disc rotors, provide assured and confident braking. They provide decent modulation with a nice bite. Very useful when negotiating steep descents!
Front suspension forks are Suntour XCM , with a useful 120mm of travel with a lock-out and adjustment feature. These forks are definitely at the cheaper end of the scale, so they will be more than suitable for cross country riding. They also do a good job of dealing with potholes and other road debris.
These forks are designed with the recreational rider in mind, so they won’t cope with extreme downhill mountain biking. As long as you are aware of the limitations and don’t try any big jumps, or stunts, you will be fine.
Wheels and Tyres
The rims are tough double-walled alloy 27.5″ with thicker spokes at the back to cope with the extra weight and torque of the electric motor. The front wheek has a Formula DC-20FQR hub.
As with other Carrera bikes fitted with the Suntour motor the rear dropouts are 145mm wide (as opposed to the standard 135mm).
The Tyres are fairly basic Kenda K1027, that offer a basic level of puncture protection, and reasonable grip on and off road.
The saddle is comfortable enough for shorter journey’s, but we are all built differently and larger riders may want to swap it for something with a bit more cushioning.
The handlebars are a nice width, ensuring good control when riding off road. The seat post and stem are all made of alloy and are Carrera components.
The Carrera Vulcan E comes with flat pedals.
The frame is made of 6061 alloy, and has good enough geometry for some mild off-road riding, and yet is relaxed enough for riding to work on the daily commute.
The main difference between this frame, and the frame on the outgoing model, is the recessed battery area, the motor controller housing (near the bottom bracket) and the internally routed cables.
This makes for a clean look. The finish is a pleasant matt metallic grey finish, with the Carrera branded decals. All in all, a nice looking bike.
Who is the Carrera Vulcan E aimed at?
Like most of the e-bikes I have reviewed in this section, they are not aimed at hardcore mountain bikers. The Carrera Vulcan E is certainly more capable, than its cheaper sibling the Vengeance. But it still has its limitations.
If you are a beginner or intermediate, and you’re not planning on tackling anything too extreme, then the Vulcan E will satisfy your needs.
If you’re just after a rugged and versatile commuter bike, then the Carrera Vulcan E comes up trumps! Fit some mudguards and a rear rack, and you will have a great urban commuter bike, that will tackle anything that the city streets can throw at it.
I know a quite a few people who have owned Carrera electric bikes for a couple of years, and the general consensus is they are very reliable. The Suntour motor and battery seem to hold up well, when being used regularly in the damp weather we get here in the UK.
If problems do arise, the warranty Halfords provide will cover the electric components for 2 years, which should give owners a degree of confidence.
It’s nice to see a re-vamped version of the popular Carrera Vulcan E finally appear. I was beginning to think that Halfords had rested on their laurels!
The thing is, the e-bike industry is evolving at a fast pace. A lot of the modern electric bikes, don’t even look like ebikes. They are lightweight, have hidden batteries, and small motors.
The £1000-£1500 price bracket is probably one of the most fiercely competitive sectors in the ebike market in the UK, and with bikes like the Rockrider E-ST500 from Decathlon being sold for £999, Halfords have got some serious competition to think about.
How does the new Carrera Vulcan E stand up to the competition?
Personally, I think Halfords could do with lowering the price to under a thousand pounds to make it more competitive. But maybe they don’t need to as they have brand loyalty on their side.
The new Vulcan E is a good enough bike. The re-vamped frame with internal cable routing and controller housing looks good.
The rest of the bike remains unchanged, but in fairness, the Suntour motor and battery combination are good reliable electric components, and the Shimano Altus groupset is also more than adequate.
All in all, if you want a decent, entry-level electric mountain bike, that looks quite nice, rides well and has decent after sales support, then the latest Carrera Vulcan E isn’t a bad buy.