New Carbon frames, better alloy frames, plus the promise of some steely goodness too

We went down to Redbrige Cycle Centre this week to have a look at the 2012 range of bikes, and also got to take some of them for a quick spin round the track. There's new Carbon frames, an updated alloy range and some steel bikes that look very good on paper, although sadly that was all we saw of them...

We also got to meet former Kuota-road.cc star and current Raleigh rider Jeroen Janssen, or JJ as he's known to pretty much everyone. JJ's been having a good season and was fresh from the Tour of Britain, where he'd sadly had to abandon in the West Country after a crash in the Midlands had left him below par. Dave would also like to point out that he's the man responsible for most of the rider values in the Fantasy Cycling game, and to stop giving him a hard time about how much Greipel costs. Thank you. Here he is looking cool by the team car:

Anyway, back to the bikes. Top of the pile is the 2012 SP Team (SP standing for Special Products, of course) which is the bike JJ has been riding recently, and he rates it very highly. The new model is a development of last year's high modulus Carbon frameset and it's a very solid beast indeed, with a massive bottom bracket (BB30) and deep chainstays. An Asymmetric (1.125" to 1.5") headset keeps things stiff at the front.

You get full Dura Ace transmission with ITM Carbon finishing kit and an RS80 wheelset. The bike weighs in at a claimed 7.1kg and will set you back £3,900; if that's too salty you can have an Ultegra build on the same frameset for £2,450.

A few laps on the SP team confirmed that it's a very positive and rigid platform, with the huge BB and chainstays making for super-efficient power transfer. It's fair to say the Carbon stem and bars would be better suited to a lighter rider than 100kg Dave, his verdict that they're a bit flexy when you put the power down which takes away some of the directness of the bike. JJ told us that he runs an alloy bar/stem combo on his race machine, and certainly that's more often than not what we see on pro bikes at the races. The fork tracks very well though and the bike as a whole felt very well behaved at speed on the tight turns of the Redbridge track. We got JJ to pose for the pics, because he had the right kit and just looks better on a bike than Dave does...

We also had a turn on the SP Race, which is the top-spec build of the next frame down in the range. Like the SP Team it's a full Carbon affair with a BB30 bottom bracket and a beefy asymmetric head tube that's short enough for an aggressive position. The all-Carbon ITM Ursa fork softens the steering a touch but it's still a pretty racy machine, and good value for less than £2,000 with a nearly-full Ultegra build (the chainset is an FSA Energy unit).

The bike is lighter than last year's model and you could make it race ready with a wheel swap; the RS30s supplied are well-built and comfy but not exactly light. As specced the claimed weight is a shade over 8kg.

Our Garmin Edge 200 tests on the day suggested that the SP Team was about nine seconds quicker on a flat out lap of the 1.3 mile Redbridge circuit, a 'fun' test rather than a scientific one. Certainly the Team was noticeably more eager on the steep climb on the back half of the circuit and Dave did the flying lap on the Race first, so even a bit puffed out from that he managed to best the time on the lighter bike...

Slightly cheaper again is the SP Comp, which is effectively the same frameset with a standard bottom bracket replacing the BB30 shell. With 105 running gear and a non-series Shimano compact chainset, the Comp weighs in at a claimed 8.45kg and will set you back £1,450.

Raleigh Airlite 200

Raleigh's Airlite alloy range is updated for 2012 too, with the base level frame featuring butted top and down tubes which shave some grams. The Airlite 100 features a 16-speed Shimano 2300 transmission and an alloy fork at a price of £450. The 200 moves you up a notch to Sora and you score a Carbon fork to boot for your £650. Finishing kit is broadly similar across the two cheaper models, with Rigida Nova rims and Formula hubs for the wheelsets, Tektro R312 brakes and RSP alloy finishing kit. Selle San Marco supply the saddles. The claimed weight for both bikes is 10.3kg. Both bikes have mudguard clearance and rack mounts for commuting duties.

Raleigh Airlite 400

The Airlite 300 gets an upgraded frame over its cheaper siblings, with all the tubes butted for extra weight loss. You get 10-speed Tiagra on this bike though, as well as uprated Tektro stoppes and better quality wheels (albeit still a Rigida/Formula build) that all work together to push the wight down to a claimed 10kg. The 300 will cost you £850, or for a Cylescheme-friendly £975 you can have the 105-equipped Airlite 400 that also gets a Shimano R501 wheelset and an all-in weight of 9.7kg.

For the first time this year Raleigh are also offering the Airlite as a women's bike, called the Aura. Equipment and frame-wise it's the same as the Airlite 200, and shares the 200's £650 price tag. The frame is shortened and a bit higher at the front compared to the same-size men's frame, and you get a women's Selle San Marco saddle and compact bars, as well as a paintjob that's more metro than feminine...

Raleigh SF200

The Airlite is available as a flat-bar build too. There's two specs available: the SF100 gets a Shimano 2300 drivetrain and alloy fork; the SF200 is Sora-level gear and a Carbon fork. We forgot to ask the price of these two, but it's fairly safe to assume they'll be a similar cost to the drop barred bikes of the same level.

That was all the actual bikes that Raleigh had on show, but tantalisingly there were details of two new steel machines, a collaboration with Raleigh USA. Most interestingly of all there's going to be a new Clubman, based around a Reynolds 520 frame and a 4130 lugged fork. It's finished in blue with matching mudguards and decals that put us in mind of the Dawes Century that we liked so much earlier in the year.

The one criticism we had of that bike was that £1,099 was a bit steep as a list price for a steel-framed, Tiagra equipped bike; Raleigh are suggesting the Clubman will be nearer £800 with a similar spec, and that's including a Brooks saddle as standard. Here's hoping, eh. Needless to say, we've put our names down for one of those.

Also appearing in paper form was the Sojourn, a disc-equipped, steel-framed tourer with a triple chainset, ten-speed Tiagra, mudguards, rack and bar-end shifters. You get a stronger, air-hardened Reynolds 631 frame and a touring-ready Brooks B17 saddle; Raleigh are looking at a price of about £1,200 for that one.

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