Raleigh's latest carbon Criterium Comp looks impressive on paper for the price. With Shimano 105 and the same company's brakes, it looks set to continue Raleigh's impressive technical and value revival, which started back in the 2000s.
Over recent years carbon framesets have dominated road bike design, especially the sort of machines ridden at the higher levels of the sport. If your budget can stretch to the price of a small family car for your next ride, that's fine, but what if you want to spend a more rational and reasonable amount? Does the wonder stuff still make sense?
The Raleigh Criterium Comp's frameset has impressed us before. Our 58cm test bike's 57.5cm top-tube is suitably long, putting it squarely in race rather than sportive territory.
The race-machine feel is further enhanced by the oversized triangulated down tube. A large bottom bracket shell and squared-off chainstays providing a suitably solid base.
The hill-friendly Shimano 105 setup is a welcome choice
The narrowing and flattening top tube flows elegantly into super-narrow seatstays, though it's highly debatable whether the metallic gold/brown finish does the Raleigh any favours. (I could swear my dad had a crappy car that colour back in the 70s.)
Paint job aside, the rest adds up to a bike that isn't plagued by the noise and vibrations that often afflict less expensive carbon frames when ridden hard.
The way the Crit handles twists and turns is also very positive. It holds onto a line with ease thanks to the rigidity of the chassis, and it responds to out-of-the-saddle exertions with a noticeably planted feel.
Hit the climbs and the responsive chassis again does its job well. The hill-friendly 11-28, 52/36 gearing creates a competent ascender, with the trusty Shimano 105 shifting as slick as ever, despite the slightly soggy-feeling RSP wheelset.
The Criterium Comp's geometry is in racing rather than sportive territory
These so-so hoops are shod with Schwalbe's workhorse Lugano 25mm rubber, which feels rather less supple than the company's higher-grade offerings. The Luganos are also rather narrow for 25mm items, but the textured surface offers ample wet weather grip and they've proved tough enough.
The only other niggle we've had with the Crit is down to the bar. We like the compact drop shape but the slender alloy tubing feels overly stiff and is wrapped with a tacky rubber tape that seems over-stretched when fitted, making it all feel rather thin and harsh. It's testament to how good the frame and fork are that this isn't a bigger issue though.
Ultimately the Raleigh fights the affordable carbon corner rather well. Its responsive ride and value-packed spec are great reasons to choose this composite flyer, whose race-derived geometry and resulting sharpness make it a first-class choice for aspiring racers on a budget.