On the eve of the kick-off of the 2021/22 cyclocross World Cup, Specialized introduces the new version of their Crux at the re-scheduled Sea Otter Classic. Normally held in April, Sea Otter was postponed, then cancelled, then postponed, until it was finally able to move forward with an October 2021 date.
As it turns out, October is a great time to introduce a new cyclocross bike, with the eyes of the world on the United States and the 3 World Cups taking place on American soil over the next week.
The top-end Specialized S-Works Crux with SRAM Red eTap AXS wireless shifting
I've got a soft spot for the big "S" from Morgan Hill. My first enthusiast quality bike was a Specialized Rockhopper (way back in the late 1980's) and I grew up right down the road from Specialized HQ. As a cyclocross fan, racer, and retailer the Crux can't be avoided, they're everywhere at the races on the West Coast, and the "old" version of the Crux made my list of the hottest 'cross bikes of 2021. Let's take a look at the features and my reaction to the latest Crux.
Weight - the new Crux is very light
At 725 grams claimed frame weight (for the S-Works version, the other models are about 100 grams more), this is a VERY lightweight frameset, especially one intended for off-road use. It's inspired by the Specialized Aethos road bike. Some carbon frames are hundreds of grams more, the aluminum Focus I'm riding currently clocks in at about 1,700 grams, and even high-end steel pushes 2,000. That's a meaningful, noticeable difference you can feel with the bike on your shoulder.
Most of the colorways offered are blacks and grays, but this flashier model is "love it or hate it"
7.25 kilograms (that's 15.98 pounds) is ridiculously lightweight for a machine with these capabilities. Admittedly, that's when kitted out with a super high-end component spec, but even with a more pedestrian selection of parts, privateer racers can easily build 18 pound bikes.
Big tire clearance
As the lines between cyclocross and gravel bikes continue to blur, tire clearance is an area where big improvements have been made. The Crux now accepts 45mm gravel or adventure tires, which is great for higher air volume when you're riding trails that would be better served by a mountain bike. Drop down to UCI CX-legal 33mm tires and you've got big mud clearance all around.
Threaded bottom bracket
The Crux gets a traditional, English-threaded bottom bracket. Yay!
Internal cable routing
Like many other recent model introductions, the Crux uses internal cable routing. While I'm sympathetic to the extra work for mechanics who have to setup and maintain these bikes, from the rider perspective, I love internal cable routing. There's nothing to snag on apparel during hectic racing, and with no cable stops in the way, post-race cleanup is much easier. The bare inner shifting wire is also better protected from mud, wet, and grit.
Specialized athletes like Maghalie Rochette have the new model already, so you can check it out at this weekend's Trek World Cup, if you're lucky enough to be there in person, or at the Sea Otter Classic trade show, also happening now.
These features come at a hefty cost
The price tag on the new Crux is pretty shocking. A bare frameset is $3,200, step up to the S-Works version and it will set you back $5,000. The top-end S-Works Crux complete bike with SRAM Red eTAP AXS goes for $12,000, which is substantially more than several automobiles I've owned. Inflation, the theme of 2021, is at work. They do at least give you a power meter crankset for that price.
The $4,200 Crux Comp
For those without a trust fund, I'd expect the $4,200 Crux Comp to quickly become popular at your local 'cross and gravel races, with totally race-worthy SRAM mechanical Rival 1x parts but the same super light frame, a fine choice for riders who may want to upgrade parts piecemeal later.
What is a cyclocross bike, exactly?
I'm not clear why Specialized marketing keeps referring to the new Crux as a gravel bike when they already have an excellent, dedicated, high-end gravel model (the Diverge) in their line-up. There's nothing here that screams gravel - no top-tube braze-ons for a "feed bag", no place to put a rack or fenders, and so on. If you want those features, including the clever SWAT internal on-bike storage compartment or Future Shock suspension, you're still looking at the Diverge for those. I know gravel is hot and more marketable, but the Crux looks like a pure cyclocross race bike to me!
Regardless, as with Cannondale's new SuperSix EVO model which does double duty in "CX" (cyclocross) and "SE" (gravel) editions by adding different components to the same frame and fork, you can use the new Crux for either purpose, if you're willing to do without those gravel-focused features. Cannondale did manage to beat Specialized to the launch by a couple weeks as well.
There's an awful lot to like here. While the Crux is not the bike I'd personally choose for gravel exploring or adventure riding, it would be high on my list for a cyclocross race bike that can pull double duty for gravel and road use during the week. Gram-counting racers will clearly appreciate the light weight. I also love the clean, traditional lines (there's no dropped chainstay, for example) and internal cable routing on the Crux.
The cost is clearly a downside. I'd be terrified of rock chips and might apply some frame protection like All Mountain Style or Shelter to provide an additional measure of durability to the carbon frame and fork. That's admittedly a small concern and a reasonable trade-off for such a race-worthy, high performance 'cross bike.
It's also worth noting there are no complete bike options equipped with Shimano, as Specialized has gone with all SRAM groups across the Crux line. I would have liked to see a GRX Di2-equipped option here to go head-to-head with SRAM, because I prefer Shimano's hydraulic brakes. YMMV.
Overall though, with relatively few, and minor, downsides and a whole lot of upsides, the new 2022 Crux looks like a clear winner.