Raleigh Criterium Elite review

Nottingham legend looks to regain its reputation

Our rating 
2.5 out of 5 star rating 2.5
£1,000.00 RRP

Our review

Decent carbon chassis and dynamic handling but strangled by stop and go compromises
Skip to view product specifications

We always advise bike buyers to make sure they get the best frame possible for their money and worry about upgrading components later. That’s definitely the approach Raleigh’s taken with its Criterium Elite – but sadly the complete bike suffers noticeably as a result.

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  • Highs: Responsive, fast handling and power-friendly frame and fork
  • Lows: Nine-speed Sora gears, muffled brakes and wooden tyres
  • Buy If: You want a lively handling upgradeable machine and can’t afford the Crit Comp straightaway

Starting on a positive note, a sculpted carbon fork leads into a similarly artful head tube, which includes internal gear cable insertion points on the front face to avoid paint damage. The gradually expanding down tube constantly changes cross section on its way down to the traditional threaded bottom bracket.

The large diameter seat tube pushes through the top tube, which curves down into the seemingly obligatory skinny seatstays for damping rear wheel shock. The saddle proved popular with testers, too, who found the shape comfortable for long miles without any grief even on rough backroads.

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The chassis – with its widening down-tube – is the highlight of the setup:

The chassis – with its widening down tube – is the highlight of the setup

The rubberised bar tape is grippy enough in wet weather and if you get along with the feel of the more needy/twitchy shorter stem, the cockpit is both well shaped and balanced in terms of shock absorbtion without obvious flex.

Deep chainstays promise solid power transfer to the rear wheel, and when we swapped in lighter wheels to explore the full potential of the Crit Elite frame it lit up well when we pressed the pedals. Unfortunately the supplied RSP wheels aren’t very responsive even once the initial spoke-pinging and settling-in phase has passed.

While they roll fast and will last for ages the Lugano tyres – part of Schwalbe’s entry-level ‘Active Line’ range – feel really wooden and dead, even in a 25mm width. The lack of feel and hard compound also undermine the handling package of the otherwise genuinely criterium race-style steep seat angle, short wheelbase and stem.

Having switched wheels we can confirm that it’ll dive into corners with real immediacy and commitment with the right rubber, so it’s definitely worth upgrading tyres and saving the Luganos for commuting or roller use. Even with more forgiving rubber underfoot the handling creates an attention-seeking rather than relaxed ride and the ride quality is similarly firm and eager rather than smooth and easy.

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Once we swapped out the leaden rolling stock fitted as standard, the criterium came alive:

Once we swapped out the leaden rolling stock fitted as standard, the Criterium came alive

But the tyres aren’t the only thing getting in the way of the Criterium fulfilling the promise of its feisty frame and fork. The Sora shifters’ side-sprouting cables are an aesthetic distraction but the actual shift feel is muffled and imprecise compared with Tiagra. The slightly bigger jumps between gears weren’t obvious when switching between nine-speed Sora and 10-speed Tiagra bikes – but they’re very clear when we switched between the Raleigh and 11-speed 105 rides.

The same muffled, dull feel compared with new Shimano or decent TRP brakes is obvious in the RSP units. Their co-moulded – rather than cartridge-style – brake pads flex as they contact the rims, and together with the similarly flexy calipers leave the overall anchoring experience below average in confidence and control terms.

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The fact the Raleigh is so strangled by its spec is a shame, as the endurance blend carbon frame and fork could create a characterful combative ride worthy of the Criterium name.

Product Specifications

Product

Name Criterium Elite (15)
Brand Raleigh

Available Sizes 49cm 52cm 54cm 56cm 58cm
Saddle Raleigh R1
Wheelbase (cm) 98.1
Top Tube (cm) 54.5
Seat Tube (cm) 54
Chainstays (cm) 40.5
Brake Levers Shimano Sora
Wheelset RSP AC2.0
Weight (kg) 8.87
Stem RSP alloy
Shifters Shimano Sora
Seatpost RSP alloy
Seat Angle 74
Rear Tyre Schwalbe Lugano 700c x 25mm
Bottom Bracket FSA
Rear Derailleur Shimano Sora ss
Headset Type FSA Orbit C40 No 42
Head Angle 73
Handlebar RSP
Front Tyre Schwalbe Lugano 700c x 25mm
Front Derailleur Shimano Sora
Frame Material Criterium endurance blend monocoque Carbon
Fork Criterium Carbon composite
Cranks Shimano Sora 50/34t
Chain KMC
Cassette SRAM 930 11-28
Brakes RSP
Frame size tested 54cm