Raleigh’s Airlite 100 won’t be fighting it out on the Champs Elysées at the end of July, but it is almost a kilo lighter than some other bikes at this price. We tested its bigger brother, the 400, earlier this year, and didn’t think it offered enough performance for your cash.
At around half the price but boasting the same frame, we think the 100 represents better value. It's relatively light, with well co-ordinated components, a sensible gearing range and practical touches like rack mounts and mudguard clearance.
The semi-compact frame is comfortable, although aesthetically we’re not keen on the Specialized-like curved top tube, which results in the rear brake cable hanging under it. We like its geometry though, with enough room for front and rear mudguards without toe overlap, and eyelets for both these and a rear rack. The relatively upright position also offers a decent view in town traffic.
The Raleigh's Michelin Dynamics aren’t the lightest or most puncture-resistant tyres out there, and we’d swap them for a better set when they expire, but 25mm is pretty much the ideal compromise between weight, protection and performance, and would be our choice on a bike at this price.
The Raleigh’s non-cartridge Tektro brakes are typical for bikes at this price. They work, but the hard rubber of the pads results in a spongy feel and, as with the tyres, we’d upgrade these when they reach the end of their life – or sooner.
Significantly, the Airlite has light wheels for its price (3.44kg including tyres, tubes and cassette). This translates into a bike that’s faster to get up to speed and rewards your out-of-the-saddle efforts while staying comfortable even during long rides.
The gearing’s good too, with a 50/34-tooth compact FSA chainset paired with a 12-25 cassette. A triple might have been better still, and we’d have gone for a 12-26 cassette for a slightly lower bottom gear to help grunt up hills, but this is still a good all-round choice.
This article was originally published in On Your Bike: Your Complete Beginner's Guide to Cycling, available at all good newsagents. You can also order it online by following this link.