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Gravel Gear

Reviewed: Specialized Crux Pro Race

A pro-level racer with a mid-level price tag, the Crux Pro Race is as stiff as they come yet manages comfortable ride quality.

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MSRP: $5,200
Weight: 18.3 pounds
Torsional stiffness total: 3.33mm
Overall Star Rating: 5/5

Star Ratings:
Value: 5/5
Comfort: 5/5
Handling: 5/5
Acceleration: 3.5/5

We like: Arched top tube is comfortable when shouldering.
We don’t like: Build is heavy; SCS rear hub spacing limits wheel choice.

Avoiding the cliché of being “just right” is tough with the Crux, because that’s exactly how this bike feels. While it’s heavy compared to others in its class — by as much as two pounds — the Crux makes up for that with class-leading nimbleness on the race course. It’s clear Specialized thought about this bike with every aspect of racing in mind — from run-ups (comfortable curved top tube) to tight switchbacks (nimble handling and race-inspired cockpit), and even straightaway sprints (exceptional frame stiffness).

All this at an exceptional value puts the Crux in a league of its own. The Pro Race comes spec’d with mechanical Shimano Ultegra, which keeps the price down versus Dura-Ace or Ultegra Di2. For budget-conscious buyers who want race-proven performance, this is the way to go.

Part of the Crux’s relative heft seems to come from budget-conscious component selections in the cockpit. We’d certainly go with lighter bars. But the tubeless-ready Roval Control Carbon wheels are a great addition at this price point. Keep in mind, however, that wheel choices are limited because Specialized chose to create the SCS proprietary hub spacing to improve chain line. For now, you’re limited to Roval wheels with SCS spacing.

Surprisingly, the remarkably low deflection numbers in our lab tests — 3.33mm of total deflection — did not translate into harshness while in the saddle. The CG-R seatpost with Zertz vibration damping may have something to do with that. The bike runs true to size, and the cockpit feels race-inspired, with narrow bars and a negative-rise stem complementing the short head tube.

In real-world conditions, we didn’t oversteer once. Entering and exiting corners on the Crux is fun and natural. The stiff frame, solid carbon rims, and race-ready geometry (including 425mm chainstays and a 155mm head tube for a low, aggressive riding position) all combine for one of the best-handling ’cross bikes we’ve ridden.

The Crux’s one glaring flaw, while not a fatal one, is sluggishness off the line. This is an exceptionally stiff bike, with a total deflection sum of less than 4mm, that should jump forward eagerly with those first few pedal strokes. Instead, it lags ever so slightly. We’ll chalk that up to the weight. Again, that can certainly be addressed, though not on the cheap.

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