The Prestige is a race breed performance road bike. Hailing from near the top of the Raleigh road line, it wears its name well. Making use of high end materials such as Carbon Fiber, and triple butted Kinesium allows this bike to stay light yet have the ride of a much more plush vehicle.
The Prestige pairs up a set of proprietary Kinesium alloy triple butted tubes with Carbon Fiber seatstays. Many riders are skeptical of the true benefit of such a construct because it seems like the "In" thing to do now. Having come from riding a full Aluminum framed roadie, I noticed the difference in the road feel and handling characteristics immediately. The carbon seatstays clean up the jolts that can be delivered to a rider's lower back without making the ride seem to "floaty". The rear end is supple like that of Heidi Klum without being bony like that of Lara Flynn Boyle. Which is to say that the harshness of bumps is reduced but the back end is not springy. Another observation is that the seatstays have an interesting lateral compliance. When leaning into turns, they reduce vibration which can cause instability. The result is that you can dig deeper into turns and pull through them faster.
The Kinesium tubes are feathery and stiff. The Prestige improves upon the one thing that was a weak point in the R700 of 2002. The Prestige reduces weight significantly yet doesn't sacrifice any bottom end rigidity. When you get out of the saddle you get a burst of speed that one can assume is a result of the light weight and a stiff bottom. A riding buddy made a comment while moving my bike one time... "Wow, I never thought of my Cannondale as being heavy until I picked this thing up."
His Cannondale is an R700 CAAD 5, so its no slouch in the weight department either....
The Prestige is agile in turns and stable on flat stretches. As soon as I took the first ride on it I immediately noticed the difference in the handling sensation. It feels as if the geometries on this frame are slightly modified from the R700 to lend to twitchier handling which takes a few rides to get used to. But then you realize that you can take turns sharply and turn on a dime. This frame is so well balanced that you can take your hands off the bars and pedal without worrying about doing a face plant. But then with the slightest effort you can spin around and head back the way you came. The carbon fork carries many of the same characteristics as the carbon seatstays. Which may have something to do with the balance of this bike. The fork smooths out vibrations from the road while keeping you in touch with the feel of the asphalt. The fork is sturdy yet resilient.
The prestige comes stock with full Ultegra running gear. As everyone knows, Ultegra is good stuff. The Prestige also comes stock with Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheels but, I tested it with Shimano RH535's. This allowed me to determine which ride nuances were derived from the frame as opposed to the wheels.
Fit and finish:
Raleigh's newer paint schemes defer to a more subtle color set and lines that are less bold. Some of the older models were colored brightly with mixes of bright reds and yellows. While the newer line makes use of grays, silvers and whites, along with earth tone type colors. At first I didn't like the subtly of the Prestige's colors but, since then it has grown on me tremendously. Raleigh's choice to allow parts of the carbon fork and seatstays to remain in their natural carbon finish was an excellent one. It's a nice approach to display the materials that make up a bike.
The one thing I truly dislike about the Prestige is the welds. They are chunky and seem unfinished. This detracts from the refined appearance that the bike establishes with its subdued color scheme. Some of the older models from the Raleigh line had smooth welds that lent to a feeling that the bike was built from one piece of material. Each tube seemed to flow from one to the next. This is not so with the Prestige.