The latest SP is built from high-grade Toray carbon and features a tapered full carbon fork. Internal cable routing throughout gives the understated Elite good clean lines and we also like the new graphic treatment, adding class to a value package – something Raleigh have struggled to get right in previous years.
The classy frame swallows the lion’s share of the price tag, so we’d expect a few component compromises. Shimano Sora 9-speed could be considered such, but 2013’s version features dual STI levers rather than the old design with its thumb shifters. By including the Sora chainset, Raleigh have the optimum setup, with crisp front shifts and plenty of trim positions, and it’s easy to keep the Elite running smoothly on the road.
The SRAM PG50 cassette has a huge 11-32 range, which makes the Elite a great choice for newer riders or those looking to improve fitness. It combines with the 50/34 front rings to provide a bottom gear of 34x32 that’ll get you up the steepest climbs. Stopping is handled by Tektro’s solid R312s; softer pads would improve the feel but as standard they perform well enough.
The cockpit setup is also ideal for newer riders as it uses a bar with one of the shortest compact drops we’ve ever seen. It makes getting down into a more aero position easy, so you’ll end up spending more time using them. That’s a good thing as riding in the drops is more comfortable – the bike feels stiff through the fork and down tube and a lot of vibration transmits into the heel of your hand when you ride on the hoods.
The overall ride is surprisingly comfortable, though, and the rear triangle makes short work of muting vibration on coarse surfaces despite its larger diameter tubing, staying twist-free when you’re pounding on the pedals. The front end’s oversized and tapered head tube keeps the steering precise and the broad legs of the fork supply ample side-to-side stiffness.
The basic wheelset with cup and cone bearing hubs is tidily put together, but we did get a little more drag than we would like from the rear freehub, sapping speed when coasting and dulling performance on the climbs. On the plus side, Schwalbe’s Lugano Active tyres proved tough, grippy in the wet and stayed puncture-free throughout the test.