New for 2016, the Raleigh Criterium Sport is a £750 aluminium framed bike which comes equipped with the latest incarnation of Shimano Tiagra
Raleigh’s Criterium range stretches to five bikes which are targeted at endurance riders, but with the capability to be raced, with a spread of prices between £1500 and £475. The top three bikes have carbon frames, whereas the £750 Criterium Sport and the £475 Criterium are aluminium.
One of the oldest bicycle companies in the world, Raleigh was founded in 1888 and by the early 20th century was one of the largest too. It’s always been based in Nottingham and occupies a large site on the outskirts of the city, although manufacturing has been moved overseas.
The Raleigh heron logo still graces the head tube of its bikes and the range has grown to offer kids’ bikes, commuter and leisure machines, hardtail mountain bikes, road, cyclo-cross and gravel ranges and now e-bikes too, as well as a relaunch of the famous 1970s Chopper.
Raleigh also has a racing pedigree sponsoring the TI-Raleigh team in the 1970s and 80s, with Joop Zoetemelk winning the Tour de France on a Raleigh bike in 1980. The company currently sponsors the Raleigh-GAC UK-based professional team, which rides the Militis Team bike.
Alongside the Militis, Raleigh also sells the Criterium endurance race range, which comprises five bikes with prices from £475 up to £1,500.
At £750, the Criterium Sport is the higher spec aluminium-framed bike and boasts a complete Tiagra groupset.
Raleigh’s Criterium Sport frame is made of double-butted AL6061 alloy with a tapered headset and conventional threaded bottom bracket shell. Cables are routed internally through the top tube and the down tube, which keeps them clean and tidy.
Top and down tube profiles are diamond shaped for rigidity and the top tube and seat tube are gently tapered too. The fork has straight carbon-fibre blades and an alloy steerer. There are mudguard mounts front and rear and space to fit 28mm tyres.
The Raleigh Criterium Sport comes equipped with Shimano Tiagra 4700. Although still 10-speed, in use it feels a lot closer to the latest 11-speed Shimano groupsets than its predecessor. Shifts are smooth front and rear and the shifters have lost the gear indicator windows and now route the cables under the bar tape for a cleaner look.
The long-cage rear mech copes easily with the 11-32t SRAM cassette. Brakes are Tiagra too and
the whole groupset is anodised in a subtle, eye-pleasing electric blue-grey.
Wheels are Raleigh’s in-house RSP AC2.0, which have quite a deep section for an aluminium rim at 30mm and are shod with Schwalbe Lugano 25mm tyres, which help cushion out some road imperfections without feeling sluggish or lacking grip.
I found it easy to rack up the miles in confidence on the Raleigh Criterium Sport. The bike carries a bit of extra weight over more expensive options, but the wide-range cassette enabled me to keep momentum over undulating roads without resorting to the small ring, while the top-end ratios were high enough to push on when on faster roads and descents.
I found the quite upright ride position helped with upper body comfort, although it did put more weight on the saddle, which I found slightly uncomfortable after three or four hours riding, but nothing unbearable.
Raleigh’s AC2.0 wheelset would not look out of place on a bike at twice the price and feels reasonably lively, with no evidence of flex, while I found that the Tiagra brakes provided effective stopping in the dry and the wet.
The Raleigh Criterium Sport’s quality frame follows modern trends in bike design: tapered headset for steering accuracy, wide down tube for rigidity, internal routing of cables to keep them out of the way of dirt and mud and room for wider tyres and guards.
It’s great to see a complete Shimano Tiagra groupset on a bike at this price, particularly since this latest iteration of Tiagra has upped its game to such an extent.
As fitted to the Criterium Sport it provides quality components, and Raleigh has made none of the cost-saving swap-outs that are all too often the norm.
For a bike retailing at £750 the Criterium Sport is impressive. It’s a comfortable long-distance ride and rolls well on its 25mm tyres. The frame feels solid but not leaden and the relatively upright riding position takes pressure off the neck and shoulders, reducing upper body fatigue. The new Tiagra groupset is definitely a huge step up from its predecessor. It shifts smoothly and precisely front and rear. Apart from the lack of an 11th gear ratio, there’s not much to distinguish it from Shimano’s next-up 105 groupset. The new chainset looks the part too, the four-arm design looking much more businesslike than its predecessor. Raleigh has definitely produced a bike which is spot-on in value and ride quality. For the aspiring rider looking to put a toe into recreational and sportive road cycling, without incurring too much expense, or as a winter bike, it’s a great option