This could be a one-line review: the Raleigh SP Team is fast; really fast! It’s fun too, and will surprise any rider who swings a leg over one. If you value bang for your buck, this hard-to-fault, race proven bike should be on your shortlist.
It’s easy to forget but Raleigh do have a great racing heritage, and riders of a certain age will fondly recall the glory days of Joop Zoetemelk winning the Tour de France on one 32 years ago, his Dutch TI-Raleigh team bagging 11 stages along the way. Raleigh bikes continued at the top until 1991; along the way the Raleigh-riding, ponytail-sporting Frenchman Laurent Fignon lost the 1989 Tour to Greg Lemond by a heartbreaking eight seconds.
Clearly things have changed, and where once Reynolds steel tubing ruled, carbon fibre is now the frame material of choice. Wearing the badge of Raleigh Special Products, and developed by Raleigh’s US arm, the SP Team tested here is identical to last year’s Team Raleigh mounts, apart from the wheels and rider-specific saddle choices.
Resplendent in the classic Team Raleigh blue, red and yellow colours, and with a metal heron head tube badge, the frame certainly looks the part, but beneath the window dressing beats the heart of a racer. The 12K high-modulus carbon frame is unfussy and purposeful, with neatly sculpted tubes curving subtly along their length. The oversized down tube swallows the BB30 bottom bracket and separates into equally massive boxy chainstays with carbon dropouts and a plate to protect against chain suck.
It’s a great racing platform, and whatever the terrain the SP Team feels composed, smooth and stable, perfect for bunched racing. The fork has a tapered steerer and excellent lateral stiffness, forming a perfectly weighted front end that makes direction changes almost telepathic, whether from steering input or hip movements.
Generally benign manners belie the thoroughbred within that wants to gallop with every pedal revolution. Although the frame has more speed in reserve than most riders will ever exploit, it's not stiff for the sake of it, which is in its favour, because it offers bags of usable real world performance without rattling your bones.
A complete Shimano Dura-Ace groupset is matched to Ultegra series RS80 C24 wheels with bonded aluminium and carbon laminate rims. Light and with a consistent braking surface, the RS80s are good shallow profiled all-rounders and roll on excellent Michelin Pro 3 rubber. ITM supply the cockpit kit, comprising the full-carbon Pathom seatpost, Aries bar and carbon wrapped alloy Pathom stem, and the crowning glory is a wonderful non-slip San Marco Concor saddle that we’d happily spend many hours on.