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Raleigh Criterium review

18 Jan 2016

Raleigh are one of Britain's finest and the new Criterium is a smooth riding roadie to be proud of.

Cyclist Rating: 
Really well made with some nice touches
A bit on the heavy side

On the face of it, the Raleigh Criterium Sport looks to be a very sensibly specified bike, boasting a Shimano Tiagra groupset, a few practical touches (like a full complement of barrel adjusters for easy gear adjustment), and decent quality own-brand finishing kit. Raleigh says the bike is ‘fast enough to race and comfortable enough to ride all day’. At a less-than-svelte 9.88kg, it’s no racing featherweight, but we approached it with an eye to all-day riding to see how it stacked up against the manufacturer’s lofty claims. It’s fair to say we were pleasantly surprised. 


Raleigh Criterium Sport frame

The Criterium Sport’s double-butted frame features a diamond-profile top tube whose shape is echoed by the oversized down tube. A double-butted aluminium tube is thicker at both ends, which keeps the weight down but maintains the strength. Up front a bladed carbon fork shields the rider from the worst of the road’s energy-sapping rumbles. Rounded-profile seatstays, and chainstays, meet meet a rather slack seatube – this puts more weight over the rear of the bike and takes some of the strain off your wrists. The fully internal cable routing is nice for this price, and the integrated barrel adjusters are the signs of a bike designed by fellow cyclists.

A somewhat ‘classic Italian’ headangle of 73.1° may not give the Criterium Sport razor-sharp handling, but it’s very welcome if hours in the saddle are what you’re looking for.


Raleigh Criterium Sport groupset

Shimano’s mid-level Tiagra kit provides the shifters, brakes, front and rear mechs, chainset and bottom bracket. Money has been saved in the use of a KMC X10 chain and SRAM cassette – but you won’t notice as it all works together seemlessly. The PG1030 cassette offers a wide range of gears, with its 11-32 set-up providing a ratio for every occasion. Combined with the compact 50/34 chainset, you are able to winch your way up even the most monstrous of gradients.

Finishing kit

Components from Raleigh’s in-house brand RSP are used throughout. The spec sheet claims a handlebar width of 400mm on our 52cm, but the measurement is ‘outside to outside’ so they come up a little narrower than you might guess. The RSP bars are some of the nicest we’ve used on bikes in this price range – they have just the right amount of flex, with a compact bend that always seems to put you in the right position. A 27.2mm alloy seatpost deals with vibrations from the rear end, with Raleigh’s own comfy, well-padded R1 saddle sitting on top.


Raleigh Criterium Sport wheels

Again, RSP equipment dominates, and the AC2.0 wheelset’s 24-spoke front and 28-spoke rear set-up seems to be a durable addition. With bikes of this price, wheels are the big compromise. This set weighs 1.4kg for the front, and 2kg for the rear, with quick-releases, tyres, tubes and cassette fitted. The grippy 25c Schwalbe Lugano tyres are great, if a little slow to get up to speed, but this choice of rubber rolls well and we didn’t suffer a single puncture (although we didn’t ride around a glass smashing facility either…). 

The ride

Once you’ve overcome the fact that a bike weighing nearly 10kg isn’t going to accelerate like greyhound, the Criterium Sport really does start to impress. The general ride sensation is remarkably smooth, which is impressive for a budget aluminium bike. The riding position benefits from relaxed geometry, and we found a comfortable position that we could hold for hours without any discomfort. There are 25mm of spacers to play with, so if you prefer a lower position, stack a few of these above the stem. Not the race-ready bike we were expecting, but a stable and well-mannered ride.

Raleigh Criterium Sport review

Shimano Tiagra gear shifters used to give us jitters, but 2016’s Tiagra is a far cry from the old version. If it wasn’t for the slight clunkiness of the system, you could swear you were holding 105 hoods. Although not available as an 11-speed groupset, the 10-speed, 11-32 cassette is perfectly suited to the bike’s intended use. Despite the bike’s all-up weight, climbing local hills wasn’t the ordeal we feared.

The smooth ride quality of the Raleigh almost kids you into thinking it’s a docile old beast. With so little ride harshness, and the extra damping and lesser rolling resistance of 25c tyres, we covered more distance at speed in comfort than we have on some much higher-specified, lighter and more expensive carbon bikes. However, the Criterium Sport does have a wilder side. At odds with its endurance geometry, if you stand up and smash a big gear on the drops, there’s plenty of fun to be had sprinting for signs or even shaming a few mates on better-specced bikes. It also gives ample confidence in cornering, again aided by a wider contact patch from the Schwalbe tyres, but more so because of a solid front end that successfully treads the line between rock-solid and compliant.


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