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Specialized CruX Sport E5 review

5 Dec 2017
Verdict:

Specialized's perennial cyclocross performer has been updated and it's more versatile than ever

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£1,800

Claimed to be stiff, light and responsive, as well as designed to be easily slung across your shoulder, Specialized pitches this variant of the CruX range directly at the cyclocross beginner.

An alloy frame, hydraulic disc brakes and wide spread of easier gears from its 46/36 chainset should give newbies the edge when the flag goes down.

Frameset

The CruX’s frame is constructed from the firm’s own E5 Premium aluminium, which should ensure the ability to withstand the inevitable knocks that it’s going to take.

What the significantly chunky welds at the head tube lack in finesse, the frame more than makes up for with a deep and lustrous paint finish.

Crucially, the curved top tube is flattened in its profile to make it easier to carry the bike on your shoulder when you’re running uphill through deep mud (or over obstacles).

An oversized down tube helps to maintain a good level of stiffness, and therefore responsiveness, while slightly splayed semi-deep profile chainstays help you get power to the ground, whatever surface you’re riding on.

Cable routing for the front and rear mechs is internal, while the rear brake cable emerges at the rear of the top tube and runs along the left-hand seatstay.

At the front end, the FACT carbon fork supplies ample clearance for the 33c tyres, while a similar amount of frame clearance is found at the rear – enough to clear any mud that’s hanging from the frame.

A measured head angle of 71.2° gives a decent rate of speed to turn-in, allied to stability which is enhanced by a raked-out fork angle.

Groupset

The CruX’s groupset employs a number of varying elements, but has Shimano’s dependable 105 components at its heart, in front and rear derailleurs, RS505 hydraulic brake/shift levers and brakes.

Praxis supplies the Alba 2D chainset, which runs a CX-specific 46/36 set-up allied to an 11-speed 11-28 Shimano 105 cassette. You don’t need huge gears for cross racing, believe us!

Finishing kit

Strictly functional, no-fuss fare. Shallow-drop alloy bars up front measure 420mm in width and are attached to the steerer by a 100mm alloy stem. While we might favour a 400mm set of bars for road riding, wider bars offer more leverage for off-road riding.

Topping an unremarkable 31.8mm alloy seatpost is Specialized’s excellent Phenom Comp saddle, which has ample flex to soak up bumps.

Wheels

DT Swiss's R470 disc-specific rims are laced to sealed cartridge hubs, which should demand nothing in the way of maintenance, beyond a good clean after every outing.

Those alloy rims could be lighter, but are perfectly serviceable. Their inner diameter of 18mm allow easy fitment of the 33c Tracer tyres.

They’re designed to cover all eventualities, with central knobs for traction under acceleration and siped knobs on the shoulders to grip looser terrain.

We’ve ridden better tyres for deep mud, but as a suit-all option, they’re relatively light and can be run as low as 50psi, depending on the course and conditions you’re contending with. 

On/off the road

The CruX’s semi-compact geometry gives it a sense of purposefulness from the off. From the moment we barrel out the back of our local playing field and head into the fields, it’s willing to accelerate and immediately comfortable… 

The CruX picks up speed easily, and on tracks that are yet to see their first frost, but on a day after some serious autumn showers, the whole package has a feeling of stability.

On a relatively flat test route, the 11-speed Praxis/Shimano set-up means we’re able to hang on to gears in the big ring for longer, without having to go for a dicey chainring swap and risk dropping the chain or losing momentum.

The well-padded Body Geometry saddle is worthy of special mention – we’re yet to sit on one that didn’t make a ride more pleasurable.

Slowing for a short bridge across a stream that divides two fields, a race-simulation dismount sees the bike quickly hoiked up on to the shoulder, and carried at a jog for 15 metres – the curved, flattened top tube is probably the most comfortable to have on your shoulder of all the bikes here.

Crucially, the smallest ratio of 36x28 is easy enough for you to pedal up short grass banks, and even through sloppier ruts, without the need to jump off.

Relying on cadence rather than all-out torque, the rear wheel doesn’t spin up unless you’re close to a standstill, in which case it’s definitely easier to make progress by shouldering the CruX and running with it.

Specialized was one of the early adopters of disc brake technology, applying it to its entire CruX range in 2004, and the slightest pull of the front brake lever is all that’s needed to scrub off speed approaching even a tricky 90° left-hander at the far corner of our first test lap.

Handling

In the world of road bikes, a measured wheelbase of 1,008mm isn’t what you’d consider to be short, but in the world of cyclocross – especially in a bike that you could also easily press into use for winter commuting or longer-range off-road rides at a more leisurely pace, it’s a very decent compromise.

So, there’s plenty of stability on offer, yet the bike is willing enough to tip into corners with confidence. Matched to a head angle of 71.2°, changes of direction are performed with ease, and with little twitchiness.

Downhill turns are best undertaken on the drops, for better control, which has the extra advantage of using the inherent flex in the CruX’s alloy drops to take the sting out of any rough surfaces or tree roots that would otherwise bounce your hands off the brake hoods and land you in a whole heap of trouble.

The carbon fork adds compliance at the front end, but the majority of your vibration-reducing help comes from the 33c Tracer tyres.

With a middling 60psi both front and rear, we found the ideal compromise between fast rolling, traction and cornering confidence.

For full-on muddy conditions, however, you’ll want to look at fitting a tyre with better dirt-clearing ability on its shoulders.

The Tracers are best suited to hard-packed dirt, where you rarely have to consider unclipping a foot for insurance against losing the front end.

One thing that does limit your ability to pedal through sharper turns, however, is a fairly long bottom bracket drop of 71mm, which on dry, rutted corners could cause concern about decking a pedal out.

In all, the CruX is a rugged racer that’ll see you through you first race season, and the whole of winter if you put some more air in the tyres and take to the road.  

Ratings

Frame: Geometry balances raciness and stability well. 8/10
Components: A good selection based around a 105 drivetrain. 8/10 
Wheels: Not quite race-ready, perhaps, but dependable. 7/10 
The Ride: Equally capable in races or all-day offroad adventures. 8/10

Verdict

The latest CruX Sport SE is a decent all-rounder that's focused more on dependability than performance, and as such is well suited if you're taking your first steps into the world of cyclocross

Geometry

Claimed Measured
Top Tube (TT) 534mm 533mm
Seat Tube (ST) 520mm 520mm
Down Tube (DT) N/A 635mm
Fork Length (FL) 400mm 398mm
Head Tube (HT) 125mm 125mm
Head Angle (HA) 71.5 71.2
Seat Angle (SA) 74 73.8
Wheelbase (WB) 1009mm 1008mm
BB drop (BB) 71mm 71mm

Spec

Specialized CruX Sport E5
Frame Specialized E5 Premium Aluminium frame, FACT carbon fork
Groupset Shimano 105
Brakes Shimano RS505 hydraulic discs
Chainset Praxis Alba 2D, 46/36
Cassette Shimano 105, 11-28
Bars Specialized Shallow Drop, alloy
Stem Specialized, forged alloy
Seatpost Specialized, alloy
Wheels DT Swiss R470 Disc, Tracer Sport 700 x 33 tyres
Saddle Body Geometry Phenom Comp
Weight 9.58kg (size 52cm)
Contact specializedconceptstore.co.uk