Specialized Crux – mid term review

Back in late April and early May I was in the middle of some bike swapping.  I sold both my Vassago Bandersnatch 29er singlespeed and my Specialized Tarmac road bike, and replaced them with a Specialized CruX Elite cyclocross bike.  Having never actually pedaled a CX bike until I bought it, I didn’t know exactly what to expect but was definitely intrigued by the idea of having a bike that could be taken on road rides, light trail rides, and everything in between.  I still have my 29er Stumpjumper, so it’s not like this is my only bike; but it certainly fits the bill for a do-it-all crusher.

Having already put almost 900 miles on the bike, I guess it’s too late for me to do a typical “initial thoughts” review….frankly I’ve just been too busy riding it to sit down to write much.  But after taking it on a 100-mile road ride (with slick tires), trails at Oak Mtn State Park, and plenty of gravel and dirt roads, I’ve got some fairly good ideas of what this bike is capable of and where it has strengths and weaknesses.

Frame: the bike has an aluminum frame with a carbon fork.  The frame is nicely painted/finished, and comes with nice touches such as internal cable routing to keep things clean when the elements get dirty.  It’s probably not quite as snappy as my carbon-framed Tarmac was, but I have been remarkably surprised by how good the ride quality is with this frame – not something that is easy to find with aluminum.  I should also note that I had Bike Link fit this bike to me when I purchased it, so having the correct setup undoubtedly has made a big difference compared to my previous road bikes where I just adjusted the seatposts myself and called it quits with regards to proper fitting.

Wheels: the stock DT Swiss “Axis 2.0” wheels are not exactly the most lightweight wheels, but have definitely held up well to everything I’ve thrown at them.  And for a sub-$2000 bike you aren’t going to find a lot of lightweight options anyway.  If I wanted to shed some bike poundage in the future, a new set of wheels could do the trick.  But by comparison, I bought a set of Fulcrum 7 road wheels and a 105 cassette (the CruX came with a Tiagra cassette) to use for extended periods of pavement riding and found that the wheel/cassette combination of the Fulcrums was basically the exact same weight as the DT Swiss wheelset with Tiagra cassette.  That tells me two things: that maybe I shouldn’t complain too much about the DT’s, and that Fulcrum 7s are not as light as I had hoped for…..should have spent a little more money and bought Fulcrum 5s or even Fulcrum 3s.

Braking: the brakes really about the only thing I can really complain about on this bike.  It came with Tektro CR-720 cantilever brakes.  As expected, the canti brakes aren’t as powerful as the road caliper brakes were on my Tarmac, but caliper brakes don’t offer the mud clearance needed on a CX bike.  If I were to upgrade, I would seriously look at some TRP mini v-brakes or some Avid Shorty Ultimate canti brakes.  Actually, it’s not a matter of “if” i were to upgrade, it’s “when” I upgrade.

Cockpit: first off, it came with my all-time favorite saddle, the Specialized “Phenom”.  This is the third bike I have had with this saddle and I really do favor it over all other saddles I have tried.  I really wanted to like the Fizik “Arione” saddle on two different occasions, but just couldn’t get comfy.  Both times sent me selling them on ebay only to pick up a “Phenom”.  The handlebars, stem, and seatpost are nothing special, but suit me just fine as is.  I guess I could always upgrade to a carbon seatpost for a little more comfort, but this is a CX bike and comfort gets trumped by durability.

Cornering: with the knobby Specialized “Tracer” tires, cornering is stable as could be.  Even when running road slicks, cornering is not an issue as the bike feels very stable on a lean.

Descending: some of my fastest Strava descents have been while on this bike.  If I had better brakes then I would be going even faster.  So, needless to say it descends like a champ.

Ascending: OK, so I am probably giving up a good three pounds to my old Tarmac with its carbon frame.  But really it’s not that bad of a hill climber, particularly when I have my road wheelset on.  The CruX came outfitted with 12-28 rear cassette, though for some reason I was thinking it had a 12-25.  So when I bought the cassette for my road wheels I bought an 11-28, thinking I was gaining a smaller gear.  Needless to say, I didn’t pick up any low-gearing advantage and next time I might consider an 11-32 cassette if I felt like I would be doing a lot of extending climbing.  That being said, some of my fastest climbing times have been on this bike (i.e. not my Tarmac) with the stock gearing so I guess that’s worth something.

Sprinting: frankly, it accelerates on a bad-ass level.  Some of this likely has to do with it being a really good geometrical fit to my body and some of it is the stiff frame and admirable FSA crankset.

Overall: so overall I’ve been very happy with this bike.  I should probably make a disclaimer that I am generally happy with all of my bike purchases until I find that next one that I like even more.  But this bike has a “fun factor” that exceeded my expectations.  I have yet to actually use the bike for its intended use, which is cyclocross racing.  But hopefully my Fall schedule will clear enough on a few weekends for me to get out and try my hand at a Bamacross race or two.  Even if not, this is going to be a great bike to use for some cooler weather training as I try to maintain my girly figure until the Spring race season picks up.

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set up for road riding

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Fulcrum 7 road wheels with Hutchinson tires

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set up in stock cyclocross wheels and tires

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this has definitely seen its share of mud and grass

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tapered headset and wide Tektro canti brakes

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the cassette somehow stays fairly clean

excessively fast tire wear  on rear tire - no doubt from all of my pavement riding

excessively fast tire wear on rear tire – no doubt from all of my pavement riding

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taking a break while exploring double oak mountain

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