Raleigh Airlite Carbon Race review

A left field but commendable race-worthy bike

Our rating 
4.5 out of 5 star rating 4.5
GBP £1,499.00 RRP

Our review

Excellent fun to race or just ride – a genuine surprise
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Raleigh has been making a determined effort to take on the big names in race-worthy bikes, and they have succeeded with the Airlite Carbon Race. If you can get beyond the name there’s an awful lot here to enjoy.


Ride and handling: great race potential

The Airlite Carbon Race gave us a big grin and we were happy to see that the Raleigh is capable of holding its own against the competition.

Off the starting blocks, Raleigh’s Airlite Carbon Race did what was printed on the top-tube. It says ‘Race’ in big letters, and it rides like a true race bike. Frame angles are properly steep and the handling is quick and poised for action, but with sufficient central stability.

It really spits forward under acceleration, a credit in equal measure to the frame and Shimano wheels, which both exhibit that great feeling of a tightly drawn drum skin over a thin walled metallic cylinder, producing a nice hollow humming tone at speed.

Lateral rigidity is great and useful when cornering, but you sacrifice a bit on comfort. Given the brief of the bike and its price, this is acceptable.

The approximate 8kg/18lb weight makes it feel solid and strong, but this has no effect on speed: it goes fast, and would definitely make a great bike to race over several seasons.

Frame: building a reputation

Rather unfairly, the Raleigh Airlite Carbon Race is likely to have a harder job than most to convince potential buyers of its status. Raleigh is still trying to shed a dour image from the past and it still suffers from an association with cheaper bikes. But things are looking up for the company and it’s starting to rebuild a reputation. We really liked the Team Pro frame and fork previously tested, the same bike ridden to such great success by Nicole Cooke in 2007. 

So will the all-carbon Airlite Race follow suit? Raleigh has a wealth of experience when it comes to designing bikes and on paper the Airlite Carbon Race certainly looks like an interesting choice.

Equipment: top of the class

The Raleigh Airlite Carbon Race scores highly in the component stakes, coming with a full Ultegra group. Smoother and faster than a 105 drivetrain, the difference made by the Ultegra is instantly noticeable. It feels more precise than 105, with a performance closer to that of Dura-Ace, and we would happily race on it.

Other components like the FSA 115A bars, stem and Continental Ultra Race tyres are all small differences that add to the rather seductive big picture.

The Shimano’s RS20 wheelset on the Raleigh deserves a special mention. We tested these fast wheels previously  and were really impressed; they’re laterally stiff, matching the taut feel of the frame.

The only minor criticism of the Airlite Race, and one that would only affect the faster riders, is with the gearing. The aim of the Raleigh is to be a race bike but the 34/50 crankset with a long cage rear mech strikes us as a bit of a cop-out. A 39/52 with a 26T or even a 27T cassette at the back on a short cage (it works) would keep the sportive riders happy.


Summary: great spec, great fun

 There is a lot of fun to be had with the Raleigh. Fast race handling isn’t for everyone, but it can give a great adrenaline rush. The Airlite Race responds well to rider input and if you’re up for it, the bike will reward you with an involving ride. 

Product Specifications


Name Airlite Carbon Race (08)
Brand Raleigh

Bottom Bracket Ultegra external type
Brakes Ultegra dual pivot
Cassette Shimano Ultegra 11-23 10-spd
Chain Ultegra
Cranks Ultegra compact 2-piece
Fork Full carbon fork with forged alloy dropouts
Fork Offset 4.3
Fork Weight 398
Frame Material 12k carbon fibre monocoque frame with alloy headset inserts
Frame Weight 1212
Front Derailleur Ultegra braze-on w/ clamp
Front Hub Forged with cup and cone
Front Wheel Weight 1097
Handlebar Energy anatomic
Head Angle 74
Headset Type fully integrated cartridge
Rear Derailleur Ultegra long cage
Rear Hub Forged with cup and cone
Rear Wheel Weight 1535
Rims RS20 machined aero section alloy
Saddle Outland vinyl with chromoly rails
Seat Angle 73
Seatpost carbon with forged single bolt clamp, 31.6mm dia, 350mm length
Shifters Ultegra STI
Stem OSS 115
Trail 6.2
Weight (kg) 7.99
Bottom Bracket Height (cm) 27
Chainstays (cm) 40.5
Seat Tube (cm) 51
Top Tube (cm) 56
Wheelbase (cm) 98.5
Available Sizes 54cm 56cm 58cm
Front Tyre Ultra Race
Front Tyre Size 700x23C
Rear Tyre Ultra Race
Rear Tyre Size 700x23C