Throughout the 1990s and the early part of this century, Raleigh was overtaken in the popularity, quality and innovation stakes by brands from the USA and Asia, and riders looking for racing heritage looked to Italy rather than Nottingham.
For a while Raleigh, once the biggest bike name in the world, seemed in danger of, at best, becoming just a budget bike brand, and at worst disappearing altogether.
Thankfully, a dedicated team of designers, including some from the heady days of Tour de France wins and Raleigh Bananas – and, yes, marketing types – began to rebuild Raleigh’s reputation as a maker of decent machines.
At £3500 the Raleigh Avanti Team is the priciest Raleigh for a very long time, and is a loud statement of intent from the ﬁrm – we’re back, it’s saying, and we want to play with the big boys…
And at this price there are some very big boys to play with. Three and a half grand will get you a Trek Madone 5.9, a Specialized Roubaix Pro SL, a Litespeed Archon or a BMC Pro Machine, and they’re all excellent. And not only are they excellent, these brands currently have the all-important name recognition/bragging rights that Raleigh needs to regain.
We’ll get the aesthetics out of the way ﬁrst. We’re still not mad about Raleigh’s logo, and the Brawn GP-inspired green, black and white paint won’t be to everyone’s taste.
Sounds silly perhaps, but although we buy bikes to ride not to stare at, £3500 is a price at which people take the looks pretty seriously. So there's work to be done here, we feel.
However, books and covers and all that. The Avanti Team has a good spec level at this price. Even at £3500 it’s not unusual to ﬁnd Shimano Dura-Ace mixed with Ultegra, so it’s nice to ﬁnd full DA.
Shimano’s RS80 carbon-coated clinchers aren’t the priciest but they offer a good combination of weight, speed, durability and climbing zing, and Fizik’s Arione saddle is a favourite here at Cycling Plus. We are a little surprised to ﬁnd an alloy FSA bar and seatpost, though – they’re good, but we expected carbon.
The Avanti Team is among the heavier bikes of this class, though 7.4kg doesn’t exactly place it into the Clydesdale category, and it is a larger size than the Cervélo and Koga.
There is a manliness to the Raleigh’s frame – especially when compared to the supermodel skinniness of the Cervélo S3 – which comes from the angular, shaped top and down-tubes, and gives the bike a sturdy, planted feel. It adds up to a purposeful bike that accelerates sharply with little noticeable ﬂex or ﬂutter.
The Team’s ride feels ﬁrmer than the Koga or Trek, but not to the extent that it doesn’t make for a perfectly agreeable long ride companion. Swap the bar and post for carbon and you’ll smooth out any lingering rough edges.
Steering is good, too, with the straight fork allowing plenty of point-and-shoot accuracy. As with the Madone, you can turn in with conﬁdence and it rarely strays from its line. No doubt this is something to do with its intended use by Team Raleigh on the short and punchy city circuits in the Tour Series.
There aren’t many hills in the Tour Series, but the Avanti Team is a ﬁne climber. It doesn’t have quite the get up and go of the Trek or the Cervélo, but it’s no slouch either.
It’s hard to say whether the Avanti Team will be the bike to persuade riders away from the brands they’ve grown comfortable with and back to Raleigh, but we like it a lot, and if this is the way the brand is heading then the future is looking good.