Road CC give the Criterium Sport 4.5/5

The brand new £750 Raleigh Criterium Sport is proof that you don’t need to spend a huge amount of money on a road bike. It offers a well designed aluminium frame, a carbon fibre fork and a full Shimano Tiagra groupset, which all comes together to provide a brilliant ride. This is a cracking bike for the money, and one that isn’t easily embarrassed by more expensive rivals.

How does it ride?

The first thing that strikes you is how smooth the ride is. There’s an old adage about aluminium bikes being harsh and rattly, which has stuck as a label for aluminium bikes over the years.

That’s not the case at all with the Raleigh. It’s very compliant over any sort of road surface, and doesn’t deteriorate into harshness on really gravelly roads. In fact, it has a more composed ride over my local roads than many more expensive carbon fibre bikes I’ve tested over the years. I had to double check the frame was metal on a couple of occasions with a flick of the top tube. Nope, it’s definitely aluminium.

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The Raleigh isn’t the dynamic masterclass you’d expect if it were a UCI weight limit challenging bike, but it’s still a very involving and exciting ride. The weight is noticeable at lower speeds and stunts acceleration a little, but get it up to speed and it sails through country lanes or congested city streets with plenty of pace.

It’s a much more involving ride than many at this price. The geometry is well judged and the carbon fork and aluminium frame come together to give a good level of agility; it’ll suit wannabe racers as much as sportive challengers. If you like to really throw your bike around the road, powering out of the saddle to sprint over rises and belting through corners as fast as you dare, the Criterium Sport indulges.

The new Shimano Tiagra groupset is a delight to use, mimicking the ergonomics and functionality of Shimano’s more expensive groupsets. It’s great that Raleigh has used the full groupset ” no shortcuts here. If I’m being picky, the gear shifters feel heavier and the brakes not as powerful as those on 105 and above, but as the miles pass by these tiny niggles fade away and you’re left with the overwhelming impression that Shimano has nailed it. Again.

And though aesthetics are a subjective matter, the new groupset, particularly the chainset, is a real looker. In fact the whole bike has a really slick appearance, that lifts it against similar priced rivals. From far enough away that you can’t see the Tiagra stickers, it looks like a much more expensive bike.

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Best of all, the ride is as classy as its appearance, there’s substance to back up the style. And when you’ve tired of chasing segment times or your mates, the Raleigh provides enough refinement over long distance rides.

If you’re buying your first road bike, or upgrading, the Raleigh Criterium Sport will definitely ensure you fall in love with the cycling.

Frame and components

The Criterium range comprises two aluminium-framed and two carbon models. The £750 Criterium Sport is the more expensive of the two aluminium models. The range starts at £475 with the Criterium which uses the same frame, which is a really nice bit of kit. It boasts profiled and shaped tubes adorned with smart graphics, and full internal cable routing and a tapered head tube. The fork is carbon fibre, albeit with an aluminium steerer tube.

This model gets the latest Shimano Tiagra 4700 groupset. It’s a big upgrade over the previous generation Tiagra, with an appearance and technical developments borrowed from the more expensive 105, Ultegra and Dura-Ace groupsets. Unlike 105, the new Tiagra is 10-speed, and this Raleigh was fitted with a compact 50/34t chainset and 11-32t cassette, the sort of gearing that will look after you on the climbs, with enough clout to feature in the sprints.

The other big visual, and ergonomic, change, is the new shifters. The cables are now hidden, routed underneath the tape. The shape of the hoods and levers very closely resembles 105 and Dura-Ace, and in the hands they feel pretty much identical.

Raleigh has opted for a conventional external threaded bottom bracket which will please home mechanics.

The rest of the bike is finished with Raleigh’s own RSP kit. The handlebars have a compact bend and are comfortable to use, as is the bar tape. The stem was too short for me ” that’s easily solved ” and there’s a good stack of spacers so you can get the handlebar height just right. The saddle, a flat and wide shape, was surprisingly comfortable, and it’s held in place by a 27.2mm aluminium seatpost.

The RSP label extends to the wheels, AC2.0 aluminium clincher rims fitted with 25mm Schwalbe Lugano tyres with a K-Guard puncture belt. The tyres do feel a little leaden and a tyre upgrade would lift the ride quality even higher, and provide better rolling resistance and feel in a wider range of conditions; the stock tyres didn’t impress greatly in the wet. The wheels have remained true but they do lack stiffness when you really push them hard. They’re fine if you’re a lighter rider but heavier or more powerful types might find them slightly lacking. I’m being super critical here though.

Rivals

It’s clear Raleigh has worked hard on the frame and getting the bike to a competitive place in the market, and the result is that it stacks up well against the competition. Canyon’s Endurace AL 5.0, the German company’s cheapest road bike(link is external), costs £699 and offers an aluminium frame with the same new Shimano Tiagra groupset. And, if its claims are to be believed, the Canyon is 1.25kg lighter, but claimed weights can and often do differ from actual weights.

Perhaps the best equipped bike for £750 that we could find is the B’Twin Alur 700, which combines an aluminium frame, carbon fork and most of a Shimano 105 groupset(link is external), but cuts a few corners with the non-Shimano chainset.

Should I buy it?

 

If your budget won’t stretch to the magical £1,000, don’t fret, the Raleigh Criterium Sport is a cracking bike at £750, and certainly isn’t embarrassed by more expensive rivals.

The Raleigh Criterium Sport provides a refined ride with very involving and dynamic handling that will suit anyone buying their first bike or upgrading. The frame and fork even has mudguard mounts. For a sporty bike it’s very accomplished, and has the comfort to be a relaxing bike on longer rides.

Verdict

Cracking bike for the money, and one that isn’t easily embarrassed by more expensive rivals

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Raleigh Mustang Elite gets 4/5 from Road CC

The Mustang Elite is one of the more affordable bikes in Raleigh’s new gravel bike range. For £1,000 you get an aluminium frame, and it’s a smart looking thing with a swoopy top tube and big tyre clearance, fitted with TRP hydraulic disc brakes and SRAM’s Rival 1 drivetrain.

It’s really a very good bike this – and don’t let the whole gravel thing put you off, this is simply a good road bike for steady rides and commuting.

If you’re put off the idea of a road bike with skinny tyres (and they can be a bit intimidating to newer cyclists) and want a bit of added comfort and security on the UK’s crumbling road network, the Mustang Elite might be a good choice for you.

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The gravel bike category has emerged from the US with plenty of hype, it’s fair to say, but it has resulted in a new breed of road bikes that are well suited to cyclists who value comfort and assured handling over the outright speed and whippy handling of a conventional race bike.

What’s it for?

The Mustang Elite does everything a regular road bike does, but it does it with the added comfort of the big tyres. The tyres, provided you run them at a suitably low pressure (I recommend about 65psi), give the Mustang Elite a very stable ride character. It isn’t easily knocked off line and it doesn’t jiggle you about on a rough road surface.

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If you’re not concerned with top speeds and chasing segments on Strava, preferring to spend most of your time at a comfortable cruising speed, the Mustang Elite doesn’t feel laborious. It may not have the outright acceleration of a lighter race bike, and its weight does stunt initial movement at lower speed, but here’s the thing: it’s not a bike designed for sprinting and riding everywhere as fast as you possibly can. It’s intended for allowing you to enjoy cycling as a form of escape and adventure, for taking in the sights and enjoying the freedom and simplicity of getting around with just a jam sandwich powering the engine, rather than glory through suffering and all that nonsense.

For many cyclists, it’s all you really need. It’s right at home on the commute, with the frame accepting mudguards and a rear rack if you need or want them. It’s fine on the weekend club ride and for sneaking in a couple of steady hours on a Sunday morning before lunch. Unless you really need the low weight and speed of a conventional race-inspired road bike, the Raleigh Mustang might actually be a more suitable choice.

But will it go off-road?

Why yes, it will. It won’t rival a cyclo-cross or mountain bike on really tricky and muddy terrain, but for adding a gravelled track such as a canal towpath, a byway or countryside bridleway into your route, the Mustang Elite copes just fine.

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There are surprisingly good levels of traction to be gained from the dimpled tread pattern of these new Schwalbe G-One tyres. Just enough grip to stop the wheels slithering about uncontrollably when it gets a bit slick underneath the tyre. Run them at lower pressures and they allow you to explore the sort of countryside terrain that would rapidly intimidate a road bike with skinny tyres.

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Best of all, this grip off-road doesn’t come at the expense of performance and speed on the hard stuff. They whizz along just fine. And they really do whizz – they make an unmistakable sound at higher speeds that’ll have you looking over your shoulder until you get used to it. They’re a robust tyre as well, and they’re tubeless-ready if you ever want to ditch the inner tubes at a future date. It’s a smart tyre choice by Raleigh.

Even if you never plan to go near any off-road trails, the Mustang Elite is just fine as a 100 per cent road bike. Many of the roads where I live are rapidly regressing to the Roman roads they once were. Dodging potholes, piles of rocks and loose stones can be a tedious experience on a narrow-tyre race bike. But with the Mustang Elite, you don’t have to be so precious and delicate about line choice.

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How does it handle?

The Mustang Elite shares its geometry (the angles and lengths of the various tubes that make up the frameset) with the more expensive carbon fibre Roker. The slack head angle, low bottom bracket and long wheelbase provide the Mustang with fantastic handling; it’s a breeze to ride, anyone will jump aboard and instantly feel at home with the handling.

The 71-degree head angle is slacker than a conventional road bike, and the bottom bracket drop is 75mm, which compares to 69-70mm on a road bike. Those numbers instil the Mustang Elite with the sort of stable and easy handling that is lacking in many road bikes.

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Don’t get me wrong, I love tearing around on a fancy race bike, but the Mustang won me over every time I rode it. It does nothing untoward or erratic, no matter how hard you push it. It’s just an easy and comfortable bike to ride.

Steering response is good, with a tolerable level of feedback from the carbon fibre fork with its tapered head tube. There are oversize thru-axles at both wheels which help to resist flex through the frame and fork. You can detect this most noticeably on out of the saddle climbs: there’s no brake rub at all. The thru-axles also make it easier to align the disc rotors when fitting the wheels – handy for travelling.

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I detected more road feedback through the aluminium frame compared with the carbon frame of the Roker. Basically, these two models have identical equipment and geometry, it’s just the frame material that is different. The carbon Roker does provide a measurably smoother ride. Perhaps not enough to warrant the extra £1,000 if you’re on a tight budget, though. and the Mustang is certainly not uncomfortable.

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Where they do measurably differ is on the scales. The Mustang Elite is 1.5kg heavier than its more expensive sibling, and you do notice this on the climbs. But really, you’ll only notice this if you ride the Roker Pro and then jump immediately onto the Mustang Elite and ride up a 20% climb. And you’re highly unlikely to be doing that. Most of the time the weight isn’t a factor, and the wide-range SRAM gearing ensures you’ve got enough gears to winch up any climb.

Does the SRAM Rival 1 drivetrain work?

Yes, very well. SRAM’s single-ring drivetrain was born in the mountain bike world and it’s made a smooth transition onto gravel and cyclo-cross bikes, where the slightly reduced gearing is less of a bother than it is on top-flight race bikes. Some of the jumps on the huge 10-42t cassette can be a bit troublesome, but most of the time you find a suitable gear, and sit and spin away. The majority of the time I found I was in the right gear, so SRAM has clearly thought carefully about what ratios to offer.

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The 44t chainring sounds small compared with a 53t chainring, but with the 10-tooth sprocket there’s more than enough top-end speed for most. Basically, you have to be going like the clappers to really run out of gears, and if you’re doing that on a regular basis, then you can easily swap the chainring for a bigger one. Or find some hills.

How well does it stop?

It stops very well, thanks to the TRP Hy/Rd hydraulic brakes. They’re a fully self-contained design, so they’re compatible with regular cable-pull brake levers. The power and feel is not quite as good as a proper hydraulic setup like you get with Shimano or SRAM’s hydro disc groupsets, but it’s a step above other mechanical disc brakes.

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Disc brakes have found a natural home on bikes like this, because of the control of the extra braking performance, and also because they allow the frame and fork to accommodate wider tyres. There’s also plenty of clearance between the frame and tyres for mudguards or mud.

I like tubeless. Can I convert the wheels?

Raleigh has fitted the bike with its own-brand RSP AD3.0 wheels which feature an aluminium rim that is tubeless-ready. Also tubeless-ready are the Schwalbe tyres, so to convert to tubeless it’s just a matter of removing the inner tubes, fitting the supplied tubeless valve, adding some sealant, and tubeless you go.

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Anything else?

The Raleigh RSP branded aluminium handlebar, stem and seatpost aren’t anything fancy but they do the job just fine. The handlebar has a nice shape with a compact drop which makes it usable when riding off-road when you need a bit more control. More of a flared drop would increase off-road control even more.

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The bike has all the necessary eyelets to accommodate mudguards and it’ll take a rear rack, plus there are two sets of bottle cage mounts.

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What of its rivals?

This is a competitive price point and the gravel bike category is getting more popular all the time. The Mustang Elite has to fend off competition from the excellent GT Grade Alloy 105(link is external), which costs the same and also features an aluminium frame and wide tyres, and even the same TRP hydraulic disc brakes. Both offer a very similar riding experience and both provide mudguard and rack fittings if those are important to you. For me, the Mustang Elite pips the GT Grade because of the tubeless-ready wheels and tyres, and the simpler SRAM Rival 1 drivetrain.

The Mustang, with the same frame, is also available at £650 with a Shimano Claris groupset, and the Mustang Sport, at £800, has Shimano Sora parts. Those two models feature regular double chainsets and mechanical disc brakes. The Mustang range tops out with the £1,500 Comp, which upgrades to a SRAM Rival 1 hydraulic groupset and American Classic wheels.

Verdict

The Mustang Elite is affordable, adaptable and accessible – a good buy for the money

 

91/100 for Raleigh RX PRO Cyclocross bike

Aluminium cyclo-cross bike with cutting edge specification

Raleigh has a range of eight cyclo-cross bikes, from its top-flight carbon-framed models through to a more affordable aluminium range. For 2016 many of its bikes have been redesigned to feature lx drivetrains and front thru-axles. The RX Pro is at the top of the aluminium range and comes with a SRAM Rival lx groupset with SRAM’s HRD hydraulic
disc brakes and Cole Rollen disc wheels.

Frameset

The Raleigh’s frame is cyclo-crossspecific and is made of hydroformed aluminium with butted tube joints. The fork is a full carbon cyclo-cross design that comes with a lSmm thru-axle to hold the front wheel more securely than a conventional quick-release. There’s a tapered headset, which should also ensure steering accuracy. The welds are not fully smoothed out, but nevertheless it’s a good-looking bike. The rear derailleur cable is fixed to the top of the top tube, while the rear brake hose is routed out of the wayalong the bottom of the down tubRX-pro1e. The front brake hose passes into the fork crown and is routed internally.

Components

The Raleigh comes with SRAM’s Rival lx drivetrain. This dispenses with the usual second chainring and front changer by providing a much wider range on the rear cassette. The gear range is similar to a two-ring set-up and overlaps between ranges on the large and
small rings are eliminated, but the jumps between ratios are greater. To accommodate the wider-range cassette, the lx set-up uses a different design of rear derailleur. This has a horizontal parallelogram and a clutch mechanism to ensure that chain tension remains
even and chainslap is minimised. The chain ring RX-pro2itself has alternating wide and narrow teeth, which, it is claimed, mesh better with the wide and narrow links in the chain and so hold the chain more securely than a standard design while promoting mud-clearance.

Wheels

The wheels are Cole Rollen CX. This is a fairly new designi and uses 28 J-bend round-section spokes frond and rear. The brake discs ar ached with the conventional six-bolt design and the hubs have sealed cartridge bearings and alloy axles. At a claimed 1,900g a pair, these are not light wheels but should stand up well to off-road use and be easily serviceable.

They are shod with 33mm-wide Schwalbe X·One cyclo·cross clinchers that have a design with fairly close lugsand an aggressive profile. These are a new tyre from Schwalbe, designed to be set up tubeless but with a reduced amount of sealant needed.

Riding

Hitting the trails on a hot day, I started out carrying the bike to the top of the South Downs. It’s quite easy to shoulder, but it did get uncomfortable after a while. as. despite its flat profile. the top tube is quite narrow. Once on top, I progressed at a rapid rate. though. The geometry felt stable on rough surfaces and the bike handled well on fast, flat
bridlepaths. Turning downhill, the Raleigh coped well with bumpy descents and the
hydraulic SRAM HRD brakes provided plenty of control. There’s that bit more bite and modulation than with the Ridley’s mechanical set-up, and the SRAMs need noticeably less effort. “It felt stable on rough surfaces and handled well on fast, flat bridlepaths.

Turning downhill, the Raleigh coped well with bumpy descents and the hydraulic SRAM HRD brakes provided plenty of control. There’s that bit more bite and modulation than with the Ridley’s mechanical set-up, and the SRAMs need noticeably less effort.

I didn’t miss the second chainring. The range of gears offered by SRA M’s lx system is so large that I was able to find a low enough ratio for all but the steepest ascents. Although I spun out on faster roads, this was no different to a two-ring set-up, and the clutch
derailleur kept chainslap to a minimum on bumpy terrain, even in higher gears.
The Raleigh’s handlebars have grippy rubber-effect tape that has a lot of cushioning, so they were particularly comfortable to hold when riding over bumpy terrain and gave a confidence-inspiring grip. The SRAM hoods were also easy on the hands.

I really liked the Schwalbe X·One tyres. They have a grippy tread profile which worked well in rough, dry conditions; I’d expect them to hang on well in the wet too. They rolled well on the Cole wheels, and even at low pressures didn’t bottom out on the rims.

There is plenty of mud-clearance too, so the Raleigh should keep going once winter arrives and the gloop returns. The fork allows plenty of space around the front wheel and there’s no shelf behind the bottom bracket – a favourite place for mud to collect.
The matt paint collects dust, though, so the bike needed a wash after each ride – but bike washing is a fact of life if you ride cyclo-cross.

SRAM Rival 22 Hydro groupset gets 4 out of 5 from Road CC

Solid performance across the board, with braking the highlight. A very good mid-range groupset

SRAM’s Rival 22 hydraulic groupset is the lowest tier of its road disc line-up, but for many it’ll be the ideal combination of performance and price to fit to an all-purpose bike. The shifting is precise, if a little heavy, and the braking offers great modulation and plenty of power for very little effort. Overall weight is decent and at RRP it stacks up well against the opposition, although the discounts available for rim-brake groupsets at the moment – and the cost compared with a standard Rival 22 setup – do weigh against it.

Levers: chunky but easy to use

The main thing to talk about here is the levers and the brakes. They’re sold per wheel; you can choose to have them plumbed ‘moto’ in the UK configuration (front brake on the right shifter) or the other way round if you prefer. They come pre-bled, with plenty of hose. If you’re running a small frame then you’ll probably need to cut them down; I was fitting them to a 60cm Kinesis Tripster ATR and still had a bit of hose to spare, though not enough to bother trimming.

They’re big units, the levers. They were originally even bigger, but when SRAM recalled the first incarnation of its hydraulic levers (a recall that ran to nearly 20,000 units) after problems with sealing in cold weather, the company also took the opportunity to redesign the hood shape, and the Rival shifters share the shape of the more expensive Force and Red units. The front of the lever is a fair bit taller than a normal mechanical lever from any of the major three manufacturers, and bigger too than Shimano’s hydraulic/mechanical RS685 levers that Dave Arthur was full of praise for when he tried them on Cannondale’s Synapse Disc bike last year.

I have big hands. Like, really big. And personally I like the feel of the Rival shifters. The hand position for riding on the hoods is spacious and comfy, and if you’re hunkering down on a climb (or into the wind) the high hood top is easy to grab. If you’re smaller of palm than me then it’s possible that you’ll find the lever a bit bulky; certainly in terms of the circumference of the hood, which is noticeably bigger than, say, the latest Ultegra shifters.

Shifting: precise and firm, the odd sticky lever

Rival, like all of SRAM’s road groupsets, uses DoubleTap shifting. There’s one lever behind the brake lever that accounts for both up and down shifts: click it to shift down (one sprocket at a time) or push it further to shift up (up to three at the back in one go). It works very well and it’s easy to get used to. Compared with Force and Red (and possibly even the standard Rival 22 levers, I haven’t used those) the lever action is reasonably heavy, although shifting is still very accurate and missed shifts were rare.

One of the benefits of the DoubleTap system is that the shift lever is articulated separately from the brake, meaning that you can pull it back (without braking) and use it to shift. That means that from the drops you can keep the lever within reach and shift up or down easily. Of all the major groupsets, it’s the easiest to use from the drops. It’s also possible to move the shift paddle backwards (via an adjustment screw) so that it doesn’t sit flush behind the brake lever. That’s my preferred position now, as it’s both easier to use from the drops and also better if you’re wearing big gloves.

SRAM’s Yaw system adjusts the angle of the front mech between chainrings to eliminate chain rub, meaning you only need one position for each ring to work with all 11 sprockets; there are no trim clicks. It’s a bit of a fiddle to set up, but once you have it dialled in it works perfectly, and I didn’t have any derailleur rub at the front even when I was crossing the chain on purpose. (The clue’s in the name – it’s designed so all 22 gear combinations are possible.)

I’ve had a few issues with the levers getting a bit sticky and being sluggish to return to the neutral position, mostly on the front shifts. A bit of lube in the pivot solves it.

Braking: very good feel, the odd squeak and rub

Braking performance is really good: predictable, with lots of power on tap for very little force at the lever. Compared with Shimano’s hydraulic road brakes the overall experience is very similar; Shimano’s units feel a bit more powerful overall but the SRAM brakes are a bit more progressive through their range of power, so it’s swings and roundabouts. If I had to choose one or the other that I liked using most, the SRAM brakes would probably edge it. They’re a bit more keen to squeak when they get wet, but in my experience there’s less rotor rub after heating the discs up on a long descent.

I’ve had a good old go at trying to heat the brakes and make them fade on long descents, with very limited success. Dragging the rear brake on a two-mile descent until the rotor was blue made the calliper grumble a bit and the pads cooked a little, but it didn’t take long to take the shine off them again. There was a bit of fade on the steep bottom section of the hill but I had a cold front brake to use as well. Trying to cook both brakes at the same time was impossible: if you’re generating enough heat to affect the system then you’ll be at a standstill in no time. I was using SRAM’s 160mm rotors for most of testing, although I swapped between Tektro and Shimano rotors too with no issues.

Bleeding the SRAM brakes is a bit more of an involved process than Shimano’s brakes. This video shows you how to do it. The system uses silicone-based DOT 5.1 fluid which isn’t especially kind to skin and paintwork, so you need to be a bit more careful than you do with the more inert mineral oil. Having said that, the only reason I’ve bled the system at all in half a year of use is so that I could say I had; they didn’t need doing. I’m still on the original pads, although they’re just about due a change now.

Transmission: good quality mid-range kit

I was using a semi-compact 52/36 chainset and an 11-32 cassette, which is now my stock choice for everything other than racing. It’s a big range of gears that’s not wanting at either end, and the 11th sprocket closes up the gaps nicely. The 52/36 uses a 110mm bolt circle diameter which means you can swap out rings if you want: 50 and 46-tooth outer rings are also available, and there’s a 34t inner as well. It’s an all-alloy unit as opposed to the Force chainset with its carbon spider and crank, so it’s a bit heavier. I had no issues with derailleur rub under power which suggests it’s nice and stiff; I was using the GXP bottom bracket version of the chainset.

Both derailleurs have performed perfectly with no need for anything other than the odd clean. I’ve been using the mid-cage WiFli rear derailleur to cope with the 32t sprocket of the wide-range cassette; the longer cage didn’t seem to affect the shifting performance at all, which was crisp throughout. The front mech comes bundled with a chain catcher to stop you losing your chain between chainset and frame. It was easy to set up and did the job admirably.

The chainrings and cassette are both starting to show signs of wear now, but I’m a fair way away from wanting to swap the chain out. The groupset has covered around 4,000km. I think. Some of that has been in conditions best described as ‘adverse’. The performance of the groupset when it’s been covered in filth from the back lanes and trails has generally been excellent.

Overall: great mid-range groupset for day-in, day-out riding

Rival 22 is an excellent choice for bikes that get a lot of use. It’s been very reliable, with excellent braking and good shifting performance throughout. The hydraulic levers look bulky, but ergonomically they’re easy to use and comfortable (with a caveat if you have really small hands), and the rest of the Rival system is all solidly made and wearing well through the months of testing.

Verdict

Solid performance across the board, with braking the highlight. A very good mid-range groupset

Review: Youth Cycle Sport reviews Raleigh Performance Road 26

Raleigh has rediscovered the racing pedigree that it was once so famous for, and its current adult cyclocross bikes are some of the best available – there’s a real buzz about Raleigh now.

We were very pleased to see such a strong contender from Raleigh, showing that the company understands children’s requirements.

Our test rider really took to the Raleigh. He said it was one of the best in the group for “chucking around”. It was the bike that he chose to ride for fun after all the formal testing and photography was done.

Raleigh Performance 26 (£425, 10.1kg)

The track record of big brands trying to offer quality children’s bikes is not good. Their designers, product managers and marketing people rarely seem to understand what’s really important, and the resulting bikes are often badly sized and far too heavy.

So a couple of years ago we would have been sceptical about a brand like Raleigh entering this market. But more recently Raleigh has rediscovered the racing pedigree that it was once so famous for, and its current adult cyclocross bikes are some of the best available – there’s a real buzz about Raleigh now.

At the launch of its new 2015 Performance range we knew that Raleigh was taking the children’s market seriously, and the new Performance 26 road/CX bike’s specification certainly looked competitive.

Like several other bikes in this group test, the Raleigh looks quite similar to the iconic bike from Islabikes that created the market in the first place. Not surprising, perhaps, given how successful the Luath has been.

With its plain blue frame and forks and its black finishing kit the Performance 26 doesn’t make much visual impact, but it looks mature and business-like.

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With a virtual horizontal measurement of 500mm the Raleigh is average sized amongst this group. It is quite a compact frame design though (i.e. a steeply sloping top tube) so there’s a lot of standover height and the saddle could be set very low if required. However, if a child really needed their saddle set quite that low then the bike is probably too big for them.

At 152mm its cranks are the appropriate length for the rider of a bike like this.

The bars are the same width as all the others but they are shaped rather differently – we’ll say more about this later.

However, the saddle lets the bike down and prevents it from getting full marks for geometry and fit. We recognised it as the same adult saddle that was fitted to the RX Elite that we tested previously. It’s too long and wide for this bike and limits the rider’s agility when riding out of the saddle.

The Microshift brake levers have a suitable short reach for small riders.

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The Raleigh’s very compact frameset has traditional round aluminium main frame tubes and steel forks. It’s an unremarkable looking frame with its plain mid-blue finish and simple branding, and we would like to have seen some of the panache trickle down from Raleigh’s great adult cyclocross bikes.

There are braze-on fittings for a single bottle cage and a rear rack. There are mudguard eyes front and rear, plus a chainstay bridge with a drilling to mount a rear mudguard too. So the bike would make a good tourer as well as cyclocross and road racing bike.

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The Raleigh is supplied by default with Kenda road tyres. Good Raleigh dealers should be prepared to supply Schwalbe CX Pro cyclocross tyres instead though if requested.

Alex rims are very popular on bikes at this price. The Raleigh uses Alex ACE19 rims drilled for 32 spokes front and rear. The hubs are practical units with Raleigh’s “RSP” branding.

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Raleigh has indeed fitted a single chainring to the Performance 26. Its chunky 152mm cranks are Raleigh RSP badged but made by Lasco, the huge Taiwanese manufacturer of so many junior cranks. A chainguard is mounted either side of the chainring to ensure the chain doesn’t come off when riding fast over bumpy ground.

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There’s an 8-speed Shimano HG30 cassette with sprockets from 11 to 32 teeth giving a nice wide range of gears. The Altus rear derailleur is at the entry level of Shimano’s MTB range.

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The rear gear shifter is integrated with the short-reach right-hand brake lever from Microshift. We’ve always found that young riders like using the Microshift system: a brake lever, a separate gear lever tucked behind it to change to a large sprocket, and a small button-like lever to shift to a smaller sprocket.

Although the Performance 26 has no front derailleur Raleigh has chosen to keep the Microshift left hand brake lever/shifter in place rather than substitute it with a separate brake lever. They have, however, removed the two redundant gear levers and the mechanism from it. The advantage is that the left-hand brake lever matches the right-hand lever, but the installation does look a bit odd with its empty cable exit from the brake lever hood and the gaps where the gear levers once were.

You’ll find Tektro’s Oryx brakes on the Raleigh too. The Microshift brake levers are appropriately short-reach for small hands.

It does have Tektro RL576 cross-top levers fitted. As you can see from our head-on photo the Raleigh’s handlebars have a particularly curved shape and it’s all a bit crowded on the tops of the bars.

As a result the routing of the front brake cable is very tight, especially as the front brake hanger is mounted on the headset, close to the handlebars.

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Most of the bike’s components carry Raleigh’s own “RSP” branding, including the saddle, seatpin, 70mm handlebar stem, and 360mm wide handlebars.

They’re all neat and functional, with the exception of the saddle which has been taken from Raleigh’s adult bike range and is much too large for a bike of this size. Hopefully Raleigh will update the spec to include a smaller saddle, but in the meantime you should factor in changing it for a decent junior saddle like the San Marco Concor Junior or the Madison Y04.

The seatpost clamp has a lot of layback so make sure you take that into account when fitting the bike to your rider.

The handlebars are the same width as those of all the other bikes in the group, but their shape is a bit different. They have a nice short forward “throw” and very shallow drops suitable for small riders, but they are more curved and less square than the others – think of the shape of Cinelli’s classic Criterium 65 bars. That means there’s less space for the hands on the tops of the bars, especially with cross-top levers crowding the same area. On the other hand, our test rider found that holding the drops was particularly comfortable because there are no square shoulders of the bars to get in the way of his wrists and forearms.

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Our test rider really took to the Raleigh. He said it was one of the best in the group for “chucking around”. It was the bike that he chose to ride for fun after all the formal testing and photography was done.

You can buy the Performance 26 direct from Raleigh’s website, from big online specialists like Wiggle, or in person from many bike shops.

Raleigh is a very respected brand, of course, and we expect that buyers would be looked after well in the event of problems.

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Although the Performance 26 has a RRP of £425, Raleigh bikes do tend to be discounted. For example, at the time of writing the bike is available for just £360 from Wiggle – and that’s excellent value.

Raleigh’s image is on the up and up, so that should help the bike’s future resale value if it has been well looked after.

We were very pleased to see such a strong contender from Raleigh, showing that the company understands children’s requirements. The Performance 26 doesn’t quite have the quality of the Luath or the Juniorworx but it does the same job very well. At its discounted price it’s a bargain.

– See more at: http://www.youthcyclesport.co.uk/kit/reviews/group-test-26-wheel-roadcyclocross-bikes

Raleigh Revenio 2 alloy “a beautifully made aluminium frame,” say Cycling Weekly

Cycling Weekly picked up our Revenio 2 alloy bike recently to see how we’ve made an affordable bike designed for long sportives and challenge rides.

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The aluminium framed Revenio 2 comes with Shimano’s ‘excellent Sora groupset’, impressive Tektro brakes and fast rolling Schwalbe Lugano tyres.

The frame is particularly highlighted by Cycling Weekly for its stiff, power-transmitting properties, with a wide down tube allowing for maximum effort to travel from the pedal cranks into speed on the road.

The geometry of the frame with its bowed top tube and slightly more relaxed positioning has been designed to reduce the strain on your neck and arms, allowing for all day comfort.

Combined with the wide 11-32 ratio of the Sora cassette giving you plenty of range for climbing means that at mile 67 you’ll still be feeling fresh.

The verdict from Cycling Weekly:  “A beautifully made aluminium frame with a very competitive kit list for the price… the Raleigh Revenio 2 looks like a real contender. Get the Revenio 2 on a perfect surface and it feels like a perfect bike. 8/10.”

Read the full review here. The Raleigh Revenio 2 is available from Raleigh.co.uk and all good Raleigh road stockists.