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Specialized Crux Elite 1x review

19 Oct 2017
Verdict:

Light, fast, rowdy, the Crux is a proper race bike that’s still supremely rideable day to day

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£3,000
For 
Fantastically easy riding modern cross bike
Against 
Perhaps a little pricey

The Specialized Crux Elite 1x is the California based brand's cyclocross racer. Designed to tackle the rigours of off-season, off-road competition it steals the brand’s Rider-First technology that first appeared on the Tarmac road bike range.

The result, besides Specialized's claim that it allows the Crux to feature identical ride characteristics across each size in the range, is that the current frame is over 400 grams lighter than last year’s model.

Now several iterations along the Crux’s frame is really quite lovely. Exceptionally light, its bridgeless seatstays join with an integrated seat clamp, flat mount callipers, neat cable management, and an adroit assemblage of dropout and hanger to render it attractive to the eye but repellent to mud.

Thinking forward to later in the season once the ground gets properly saturated I can't see any amount of mud stopping the Crux’s process.

The span of the fork crown is huge, while at the back bridgeless seatstays mean there’s nowhere for gunk to accumulate.

This clearance at both ends also means you could easily fit big tyres to convert the bike for adventure use.

The frame’s tubes themselves are thoughtfully shaped for the requirements of running with the bike. The toptube is flat for easy shouldering, while the downtube neatly fits the hand.

Like most modern 'cross bikes there’s mounts for twin water bottles.

The ride

Focused on competition, while not massively forgiving the Crux won’t beat you up either. Instead it’s easily stiff enough to feel like a proper race bike while still being comfy enough for the hour long duration of the average ‘cross race.

In fact I’d be happy to spend far longer aboard.

On this latest version this quality is partly achieved by lowering the frame’s seat collar by two centimetres so as to expose more seatpost which allows it to cushion larger impacts.

Conversely at the front you’ll have to be an absolute gorilla to set the front end of the bike twanging, making it well up for bell-lap sprints.

A relatively squat headtube means it’s easy to get your head down, but a medium length toptube ensures it’s easy to hold the drops or hoods for prolonged periods without putting your back out.

Increasingly brands have caught on that excessively steep head angles make for nervy handling on all but the dullest of cyclocross courses.

Unsuited to the sport’s increasingly technical tracks they’re also less fun when mucking about outside of competition.

With this in mind the Crux’s stern is set at a nicely balanced 71.5°. Not too steep, but not slack enough to be flip-floppy either.

More radically Specialized has also kept the bottom bracket very low. Almost a centimetre down on some bikes, the designers are betting that being able to go round corners and over technical sections confidently will save you more time than you might lose grounding your pedals in the sandpit.

It certainly makes for a more planted and enjoyable ride.

Equally modern is the use of bolt-through axles, which mean the Crux’s wheels require an allen key to take on and off.

This is obviously slower than a quick release system and might annoy racers who like to keep a spare pair propped up in the pits.

Still I reckon it’s time to get with the programme. The system is far stiffer, improving power transfer and helping keep the entire bike on track when hurtling through difficult terrain, something riders who like to muscle about the track will appreciate.

Components and groupset

The Roval SLX 24 clincher disc wheels on which the Crux rolls are low in mass. With a wide profile they’re also ready to be set up tubeless.

Ditto the 33c Terra Pro tyres. With a sharp-edged tread designed for the wet and muddy going, I was surprised how well they performed in dry, early-season conditions.

Providing bite without too much squirm they rolled quickly, even when a file tread would have been a more appropriate choice.

Given the frame’s new low-profile seat clamp design it’s slightly annoying that Specialized can’t stretch to a carbon post, as a little bit of give here would allow it to further smooth out bumps and keep the rider’s pedalling a little neater over chattery sections.

Luckily it’s not a hugely expensive upgrade to make later. As it is the Crux employs a solid twin-bolt aluminium post.

The Body Geometry Phenom saddle that sits atop it has been pinched from Specialized’s XC mountain bike range.

It's very comfortable, even when riding for prolonged periods on the drops.

Looking forward, the bars themselves are conventionally shaped and come in a moderate 42cm width.

They’re wrapped in tactile and easy to clean tape which is secured with proper, allen key tightening bar-end plugs.

SRAM or Shimano gearing partly comes down to personal preference. One thing I will say for SRAM is that its blocky looking hoods definitely feel more secure when descending than Shimano’s svelter alternatives.

The SRAM Rival 1x11 speed gearing combines a 40t chainring and an 11-32t cassette. It yields a decent spread that's well tailored to racing.

Shifting through them the derailleur features a clutch design which means there’s little chance of dropping the chain. Braking is equally capable.

Verdict

I massively enjoyed both racing and mucking about on the Crux, with its excellent handling, low weight, and bright pink paint job instantly winning me over.

Perhaps my one slight reservation is the price. With economic meltdown meaning bikes are increasing in cost year-on-year unsurprisingly Specialized’s have all crept up too.

However this has left the Specialized Crux Elite 1x amongst some fairly elevated company. For instance you could bag yourself a better groupset by plugging for Cannondale’s SRAM Force equipped SuperX, or save a big chunk by opting for Giant’s similarly equipped TCX Advanced Pro 2.

On paper then the Crux might not be such a deal, yet I’d still happily recommend it.

How come? Mostly because it’s a superbly enjoyable bike to ride, being very modern, very light and very good looking.

It prioritises going fast yet doesn’t compromise on having fun. And that's still worth shelling out for.

Specification

Specialized Crux Elite 1x
Frame Carbon fibre
Groupset SRAM Rival 1
Brakes SRAM Rival 1
Chainset SRAM Rival 1 40t
Cassette SRAM PG-1130, 11-32t
Bars Specialized Shallow Drop, 70x125mm
Stem Specialized Alloy, 4-bolt, 7-degree rise
Seatpost Alloy, 2-bolt clamp
Saddle Body Geometry Phenom Comp, 143mm
Wheels Roval SLX 24 Disc
Tyres Terra Pro, Tubeless Ready, 33c
Weight 8.5kg (54cm)
Contact specialized.com