Raleigh Avanti Carbon Race - First Ride £1799.99

Revamped ride from the big R

BikeRadar score 4.5/5

Britain’s most famous bike company has a revamped range of bikes for 2009, and if you can look beyond the company’s distinctly average website and get a test ride of the new Avanti Carbon Race you’ll get a taste of what has impressed us so much.

Ride & handling: Carbon weight with the feel of a good steel frame

At a bike demo in Middlesex we had the chance to put the bike through its paces on the smooth Hillingdon circuit. You can find the corners on the narrow winding course unsettling when riding abreast, but there were no jitters at all on the Avanti. Thanks to its excellent stiffness and smooth steering, all of us who tried it were quickly put at ease.

But the Avanti’s real strength is the way you really feel the surface you’re riding on through the handlebars – almost like you’re riding a good steel frame.

Overall weight is a pretty light 8.16kg and there’s no doubt that this bike delivers a lot of quality and a great ride at a competitive price point.

The heyday for Raleigh’s racing bikes was back in the Seventies and Eighties with spectacular performances by the TI Raleigh and Raleigh Banana teams. This kind of success has largely eluded the Nottingham-based firm in modern times, so does the Raleigh name still have widespread appeal? It deserves to with bikes like the Avanti Carbon Race, or perhaps it’s time for a high-end Raleigh spin-off brand, like Toyota did with Lexus.

Frame: Some classy touches, but limited tyre clearance

At a shade under £1,800 the Avanti Carbon Race is made from the basic but effective 12K carbon fibre. Frame profiles are a mix of curves and bulges that add visual interest rather than increase strength or stiffness.

The colour scheme works well and the carbon weave visible through the large Raleigh logo on the down tube is a classy, modern touch.

The bridge between the chainstays and the bottom bracket is solidly built to reduce twisting forces, though the result is limited clearance – it’s a tight squeeze to fit tyres any wider than the 23mm Continental Ultra Speeds it came with.

Equipment: Stylish fork and a decent set of budget wheels

Until recently it was unusual to see a full-carbon fork like the Avanti’s on bikes costing less than £2,000. This straight bladed fork is stylish and at just 430g it’s light too, although that ‘aero’ decal on the crown is a bit optimistic as the blades aren't deep enough to effectively reduce your drag.

Above it is a good quality FSA handlebar; not so long ago it would have been anatomic, but today’s fashion is more for traditional curved bars like this.

Rather than spec a full-carbon seatpost that can be crushed with overzealous use of the Allen key, Raleigh have fitted an aluminium FSA post with a carbon skin. On top of this the Outland saddle doesn’t win any style points, but its foam padding does provide the kind of support that stops you slipping forward as you ride.

The 16/20-spoke Shimano RS20 wheels are the best budget wheels we’ve tested in a long time. The rear rim has offset spoke holes – this means that the wheels almost achieve spoke symmetry on the drive and non-drive sides and use fewer spokes without compromising strength. The red anodised nipples look great too.

The miles we’ve notched up have given us a lot of confidence in these wheels and they’re a sound choice. (Eagle-eyed readers will notice our test bike was specced with Ultegra – models on sale have the slightly higher end Ultegra SL.) The Continentals are decent, supple tyres, and they grip well in the wet.

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