Raleigh’s Airlite wears its high-end-of-budget price on its sleeve, or at least in the quality of its frame. We appreciated the 2011 Airlite 100 when we tested it earlier this year, and the 2012 offering has had a makeover, with its aluminium frame losing weight too.
The Raleigh Airlite 100 has much to recommend it and little to hold against it. Braking is average, but it has a good frame, well chosen gearing and components and makes a very rewarding bike, either as a first entry into the world of drop bar bikes or as a winter trainer. It’s a good weight for the price, versatile and good looking.
As well as being lighter than the 2011 version, the Airlite also looks better than last year’s model. The top-tube has lost its unnecessary curve and, as a result, the cable dangling underneath it like a washing line. Great to see a proper metal heron headbadge too. That might be a very old-school touch, but when it comes to gearing it’s very 21st century, with a 34/50 compact chainset and 12-25 cassette. This provided a good range of usable gears, though a larger sprocket would have been better still. We also like the fact that the Airlite has rear rack mounts and plenty of clearance for mudguards or wider tyres without toe overlap, making it a suitable basis for a more than decent winter trainer.
The oversize stem and bar combination and sensible reach handlebar keep the front end handling sharp, and its relatively light overall weight makes for good acceleration too. The Tektro brakes could be better, and while the Schwalbe Lugano tyres aren’t the lightest or quickest rubber around, they grip well, offer very good puncture resistance and are great on a bike at this price. San Marco’s new Spid saddle is an all-rounder, though its flat profile is likely to appeal more to racers than leisure riders.
But the Airlite 100 as a whole is very much on the money for a £500 road bike, comparing well with similarly priced bikes from other brands. Looking for a first road bike or a second bike for the colder months? Take the Airlite for a test ride.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus