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Gravel Gear

Specialized Crux Expert X1

The Specialized Crux Expert X1 is one of the best cyclocross bikes this season.

Size Reviewed






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The redesigned Crux has a singular purpose: racing. Look elsewhere for a big clearance gravel bike or aggressive commuter. That lack of a wide-ranging agenda is very much to the Crux’s advantage. Aggressive geometry and ’cross-specific details, such as tube shapes tailored to shouldering, combine to create Specialized’s best ’cross bike to date, and one of the best bikes this race season.

The Crux delivers quick handling, and it’s easy to flick around during manic race starts. Specialized blends a nimble ride with a low bottom bracket (69 millimeters of drop) that supplies stability on loose, off-camber terrain. It has a 1,026-millimeter wheelbase and 72-degree head tube angle that reinforce the bike’s stability for diverse cyclocross courses.

The 900-gram (size 56cm) frame is constructed with Specialized’s stiffest carbon fiber, which makes the bike zip off the starting grid. Despite the light weight and stiffness, the Crux avoids skittishness; instead, it feels planted, even under hard input in tight and fast corners.

A short 155-millimeter head tube and long 563-millimeter top tube offer an aggressive position, while the 73.25-degree seat tube angle keeps the rider in a powerful stance over the pedals. While it’s possible to achieve a more forgiving position with headset spacers and a few other tweaks, the Crux is all aggression, with the long and low position that racers crave.

’Cross-specific details help spice up the Crux’s straightforward design. A flattened top tube provides an ideal grasping point when hauling it up stairs like a suitcase. An open front triangle provides more room for shouldering as well. The Crux frame is compatible with single- and double-chainring drivetrains and features internal cable routing to protect the bike’s shifting and braking in mucky conditions.

When it comes to muddy courses, the Crux offers eight millimeters of mud clearance when paired with a 33-millimeter tire. The S-Works Crux model also features a new hydrophobic paint that Specialized says helps prevent mud from sticking to the frame. The Crux Expert does not have this paint scheme, sadly.

The Crux Expert X1 comes equipped with SRAM’s Force 1x drivetrain and hydraulic disc brakes, offering a simple, smooth, and lightweight build. But the Roval SLX 23 Disc tubeless-ready wheels didn’t jibe with the rest of the spec. At this price point, the bike should be race-ready out of the box. Yet the Roval tubeless wheels are nearly a pound heavier than a set of Zipp 303 carbon tubulars. Serious racers should reserve the stock wheels for training.

The good news is that if you do want to swap your wheels on race day, Specialized ditched the unconventional SCS rear spacing and opted for the ubiquitous 142×12-millimeter axle, opening up a wide range of wheel upgrade options. Up front, the Crux’s carbon fork is built around a 12×100-millimeter thru-axle.

Specialized ticks all of the boxes with the new Crux. It’s light, it’s fast, and it feels like a purebred racer. Sacrificing the “do everything” mindset has allowed Specialized to craft its best ’cross-specific bike yet.

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