It took a little bit of detective work to find Raleigh USA during our search for all things cyclocross at Sea Otter 2011, as the Washington-based company didn’t have a booth. Your exposure to them was limited to seeing an ad in the Sea Otter Classic printed event program, or an arranged or chance meeting in the expo with Raleigh’s marketing guy and catalog model, Brian Fornes. But if you’re a cyclocrosser, chasing Fornes down was worth the effort.
Because Fornes wasn’t constrained to a booth, he instead could pedal his prized possession around, a dressed-up prototype of his new geared carbon cyclocross bike for 2012. The bike, featuring SRAM Red (but will feature Force as a production model) shares the same main frame as the company’s limited edition SSCXWC carbon singlespeed cyclocross bike we previewed last fall and are testing currently, but with standard dropouts and cable stops to accept a rear derailleur, and an ENVE fork instead of an Easton EC90 fork
Fornes says the 57cm frame weighs in at around 1150g, a respectable if not earth-shattering weight for a large size carbon frame. The frame isn’t a full monocoque, as each frame has tube shapes molded using Raleigh’s “Direct Connect” technology to optimize strength to weight to stiffness on each size frame. Then the tubes are joined via “carbon welding.” It’s a common, more flexible construction method that saves some costs in avoiding large, complete bike or main triangle molds, and allow a custom-tuned ride.
The frame features BB30, a common choice as seen on other 2012 carbon cyclocross bikes at Sea Otter, while avoiding disc brake mounts and oversized and tapered steerers. When asked about these against-the-trend choices, Fornes reasons that it comes down to product availability and compatibility with existing parts and neutral support.
“Until we see a good shift on the parts side to support disc…we’ll hold out on the race bikes,” Fornes explains. “If you find yourself at a local race, USGP or CrossVegas and you blow a disc wheel, your weekend is likely over, as there’s nothing out there to support it and no shop wrench is going to stay late to build you a new wheel. Same can be said for the tapered head tube…availability is pretty scarce right now [for a replacement].”
Raleigh plans for the carbon model to retail for less than $3500 with a SRAM Force/Rival group and comes in under 17 pounds. That would put the bike in direct competition with the carbon Redline Conquest Team bike that retails for $3499 with a full SRAM Force group and Easton EA50 wheelset, and weighs just over 17 pounds for a 58cm size.
Stay tuned as we bring you our comprehensive review of the Raleigh frameset in singlespeed form, complete with a Gates carbon CenterTrack belt drive.