Raleigh is probably the most famous of all UK bike manufacturers, with an illustrious history dating back to 1890. Their range over the years has encompassed all types of bike, from the iconic Chopper to a Tour de France-winning road bike for Joop Zoetemelk in 1980. 2009 sees them reinventing their road bike range after focusing on street and mountain bikes in recent years.
The AIRlite range comprises four models, with the 300 being second from top. They’re entry-level training and budget racing bikes based on a ‘semi compact’ (sloping top tube) aluminium frame with various levels of finishing kit befitting each price point.
The AIRlite frame is a fairly basic double-butted alloy number fitted out with an aluminium fork. At this price point you’ll be able to pick up carbon forks, which have the dual advantages of being slightly lighter and better at taking out road vibration at the front end. But the Raleigh does sport mudguard eyelets – sensible on a bike that will probably see more training than racing miles. Finish quality is nice and tidy, and the simple red, white and black colour scheme is classy.
Shifting is taken care of with Shimano’s reliable Sora components and Tektro brakes do the slowing work. Gearing offers a sensibly wide range of ratios with a 50/34 chainset and 12-15 tooth cassette; this makes tackling steep and long climbs possible without legs of Contador.
The finishing kit is solid and basic with unbranded oversized alloy bars, stem and seat post. The saddle is a gel-padded model from Avenir, and Rigida alloy rims are paired
to simple alloy QR hubs, shod with 23c Kenda rubber.
Leaping aboard the Raleigh, the first thing you notice is the upright riding position; a direct result of the upwardly angled stem that was chosen for comfort over speed. It’s in keeping with the specification of the bike as a great entry-level trainer or fast commuter, rather than an out-and-out race machine. The high position makes manoeuvrability and handling very stable and predictable if you’re aiming for flat-out pace, though it does leave your head and chest over-exposed to the wind.
The AIRlite is unfortunately not as air light as the name suggests. No particular element or component can be singled out in this respect; it’s just a fact that at this price point carbon bits and lightweight bobs are not viable, so the end result is a bike that feels a little sluggish on climbs and when trying to accelerate hard. The relaxed riding position does feel very comfortable when seated on a hill, though, and the frame is stiff enough to respond to your efforts without any noticeable loss of power.
The mechanical functioning of the bike is reassuringly solid, with the Sora gearing and Tektro brakes doing a good job in their respective areas. The Kenda tyres are no racing rubber but do a decent job of soaking up vibration on rough roads and offer good grip in the wet and the dry. The Avenir gel saddle is perhaps a little soft, but for those new to cycling it offers the backside a gentle introduction to racing saddle design.
Overall, the Raleigh is somewhat unspectacular, but that isn’t a criticism by any means. A race-winning bike it is not, but as a budget trainer and commuter it ticks all the right boxes and manages to be comfortable and enjoyable to ride.
Frame AIRlite Aluminium
Groupset Shimano Sora gears with STI shifters;Tektro calliper brakes
Wheels Rigida Flyer alloy rims; QR allow hubs with Kenda 23C road tyres
Cockpit OS alloy A-headset stem; OS alloy drop bar
Weight 22.3llbs (10.1kg) without pedals
Sizes 54, 56, 59cm
Contact : Raleigh 01773 532600 www.raleigh.co.uk