The 2018 Specialized CruX cyclocross bike launched this summer with an all-new, race-focused frameset and a range of complete bike builds to suit most any budget. We got our hands on the CruX Expert X1 just in time for the NCCX series and threw it into the mix of test bikes. Actually, this was the first one to arrive in our office, but some tubeless seating issues kept it on the backup post for the first few races. Once we got the wheels and tires playing nice, things got fast…
2018 SPECIALIZED CRUX SPECS & ACTUAL WEIGHTS
We tested the CruX Expert X1, which comes with their top-level FACT 11r carbon frame and sits just one step below the S-Works model. It uses their size-specific “Rider First” layups. The drivetrain is SRAM Force 1 with hydraulic disc brakes stopping 160/140mm rotors. The 40T x 11-32 combo was a good pairing, providing the right range for our rolly courses. The cockpit is all Specialized, with a new, minimally set back carbon 27.2 seatpost, and alloy stem and handlebar.
Wheels are Roval SLX 24 alloy built with DT Swiss 350 hubs and Competition spokes, treaded with the updated Terra Pro tubeless-ready CX tires. Retail is $4,200.
The steerer comes tall enough to adjust cockpit height to your liking, and with carbon spacers to keep things light. The chainstay protector was securely affixed and hasn’t peeled up at all, but the placement and edging was a little sloppy.
Unused ports are covered with small rubber grommets, including the hidden seatpost binder bolt.
Thru axles are 12mm front and rear, and they’re standard widths (100mm up front, 142 rear)…their SCS system was replaced on the prior year’s models. Replaceable threaded alloy inserts bolt into the frame and fork. Both ends use a tooled stealth axle design, with a beveled shape to keep things aligned. A split collar on the bolt looks to expand slightly to secure itself into place, and also acts as a washer to the bolt can spin without rubbing the carbon the wrong way.
Actual weight for the size 58 tested is 17lb 13oz (8.08kg) out of the box, and 17lb 6oz (7.88kg) after converting to tubeless. Going tubeless, as you’ll see next, offers a couple ways to drop weight. Another easy one is switching to a direct mount chainring. The stock setup uses SRAM’s direct-mount spider with a chainring bolted to it, which lets you change just the ring without removing the cranks, but you can drop another 30+ grams using the one-piece ring…more with 3rd party chainrings.
SPECIALIZED ROVAL SLX 24 TUBELESS SETUP TIPS
The CruX Expert X1 comes with their Roval SLX 24 alloy wheelset, which claims to be just under 1600g and measures 20mm wide internally. Which sounds ample, but this is where I had a few problems. The wheels ship with a tube in them and a very tight, molded rim strip that looks to be tubeless ready. Only after prying it up at the valve hole was it clear that it wasn’t meant to be a tubeless rim strip. Specialized confirmed, but it’s worth noting that several other CruX owners I spoke to said they thought the same thing when they first got their bikes, so it’s not just me.
The issue came with setup. I used what appeared to be an appropriately wide rim tape, and at first it worked. And it saved a lot of weight. The pics above show the 22g rim strip weight compared to the before/after rim tape weights. I’ll take 5g over 22g any day. And Specialized sells their Tubeless Plugs spoke hole covers if you want to really minimize grams.
After a couple rides, the tires stopped holding air. I tried more sealant, tightening the valve stems, but nothing worked. I was ready to switch the tires when I found the problem. The internal rim profile is shaped such that it uses a lot of the tape’s width to cover it. The result is that the edge of the tape ends up getting pushed toward the center of the rim as the tire is mounted, leaving it dangerously close to the spoke holes. In this case, it simply didn’t provide enough side coverage and air was leaking under it and out of the spoke holes. I’ll spare you my frustrations of having to switch bikes or insert a tube before two different races and suffice to say that wider tape solved the problem. I went with tape wide enough to run slightly up the sidewall and haven’t had any problems since.
The new CruX is shapelier than it first appears. The downtube is slightly triangular…
…the headtube is bulged where the tubes meet it…
and the top tube bends ever so slightly, with a flattish, shoulder-friendly profile. Cable ports on either side of the downtube accommodate a dropper post and front derailleur, if you decide to mount them.
Specialized sticks with their OSBB, a narrower 68mm BB30 design. The shell is big, though, keeping it stiff under power.
No where on Spec’s website or in their presentation from this summer’s launch did they specifically mention “compliance” built into the frame, but it feels like they have. The shape of the chainstays hints at a little vertical compliance, and the seatstays are relatively thin…or it could just be that Rider First layup. Or that new, narrow carbon seatpost. Whatever it is, the bike feels like it mutes the bumps and rough, grassy terrain very well.
A narrower BB means very good ankle and heel clearance at the chainstays. They pull this off while maintaining adequate tire clearance, too, leaving enough room for mud/crud between their 700×33 Terra Pro tires. Fork clearance is even better.
Flat mount brakes round out the smooth, clean appearance of the bike.
My first race was on a warm, sunny day on green grass. Then this happened for the Hendersonville NCGP double header weekend. Actually, this happened first:
Eight to 10 inches of fresh pow and our 10am Masters’ wave made fresh tracks through all of it…because, seriously, who wants (or needs) to pre-ride this? Things warmed up, ruts were made, and then it froze again and we were left with this:
Laps of completely frozen ruts to grab and torture bike, rider and sanity. The beautiful part of all this is that the Specialized CruX and the tires handle all three days (grassy, snowy, and pure hell) in a composed manner. Geometry was dialed for high speeds and low. Rough terrain had no effect, and the ruts couldn’t shake it. They could shake my nerves, though, and this day’s race wore me out emotionally and physically. But the bike took it all in stride and maintained control and traction better than I thought anything should in these conditions.
While it’s hard to judge a bike’s performance when you’re off it half the time, the combination of steady slogging in this snowy mess and its fast, nearly perfect performance on the grass proves that Specialized has listened to its pro riders and absolutely nailed what a cyclocross race bike should be. Honestly, I just don’t have a single complaint about the bike – It’s light, fast, looks fantastic and handles perfectly.
new Terra Pro tires are amazing, too. (UPDATE: These matched the tires shown at their Summer Camp product launch, so I thought they were the new ones. Turns out, the new ones start shipping in January and are identified by a silver hot patch, not the red one shown here. Review updated as needed for clarification) I’ve seen many friends and other riders on all brands of bikes running Specialized’s cyclocross tires, and now I know why. They work, really well. Our North Carolina race season typically sees everything from dry grass, clay, dirt, wet grass, mud, snow, slush and deep sand. Even a little gravel. I covered about half those during my CruX test and they stuck to the ground. Billed as a wet/mud tire, the deep angular knobs bit into the grass, shed the snow and mud, and even kept hold of the frozen dirt.
Cornering was predictable and controlled, although it took me a while to be fully confident in them after the initial setup issues caused them to burp and roll on several pre rides. That might have colored my final impressions, because despite no specific issues after fixing the rim tape, I still can’t shake the feeling they’d perform just a bit better on slightly wider rims. That said, I love the tread pattern and compound and definitely recommend these tires for mixed to wet conditions…or even just regular ol’ green grass. (NOTE: While the new tires should be available soon after this review posts, keep an eye out for this version online or in new/old stock in shops while supplies last)
What else can I say? Hmmm…something critical so this is balanced and all that. Ummm. Well, there have been some Specialized bikes I didn’t like all that much in the past. And if you’re looking for something unique, this probably isn’t it. Because there are a lot of folks racing on the CruX. I don’t blame them. It’s virtually flawless. I don’t want to send it back.