Review: Culprit Croz Blade – Stiff, Fast Aero Disc Brake Road Bike (Updated)

Culprit Croz Blade disc brake aero road bike review with actual weights

Culprit’s been teasing the Croz Blade disc brake aero road bike for quite a while now, but they’re finally rolling off the line. We nabbed one of the first production bikes for a quick test before it had to join the demo fleet at Sea Otter.

Quick refresher: The Croz Blade is a switch hitter, letting you run TRP’s integrated rim brakes or any disc brake. That’s the attention grabber, but the frame itself has plenty to boast on its own: It’s stiff and fast and reasonably good looking, particularly if you opt for one of the darker graphics packages (my opinion). Even the components, which are designed in conjunction with and made by Trigon, are really nice. While founder Josh Colp hasn’t had a chance to do full wind tunnel testing on the frame, my test rides were in all manner of brutal wind conditions and it was damn fast.

With just a couple weeks in the office, the test had to be damn fast, too. The bike had to be built from scratch first, which isn’t usually the case with review bikes. After wrapping up our review of their Arrow One road bike, we ended up keeping the frame as a long term test mule and putting our own bits on it. That group was stripped and awaited install on the Croz Blade. So, this gave us the rare opportunity to weigh each and every bit of the frame and Culprit’s house brand components.

Once built, it was off to Florida for a week of coastal flatland riding…

UPDATED: 130mm dropouts available, plus photos of bike with rim brakes and more added at bottom of post.

FRAME, COMPONENT & BIKE WEIGHTS

Culprit Croz Blade disc brake aero road bike review with actual weights

A size 58 frame with hardware (bottle cage bolts, derailleur hanger and seat collar) came in at 1,214 grams. The fork with a very long uncut steerer is 463g without the cable cover (you’ll see).

Culprit Croz Blade disc brake aero road bike review with actual weights

Culprit’s frames come with their own seatpost (228g), stem (146g) and handlebar (204g). It’s worth noting that Trigon, who manufactures Culprit’s components, also makes parts for some of the top brands in the world and all of these performed quite well.

Culprit Croz Blade disc brake aero road bike review with actual weights

Put it all together with Culprit’s bar tape, 2012 SRAM Red (10-speed), Prologo saddle, Token disc wheels wrapped in Maxxis tires with TRP rotors and Bengal mechanical calipers and you get a 16.4lb  (7l43kg) bike without pedals. Not too shabby for an aero bike with cheap mechanical brakes and deep clincher carbon wheels.

DETAILS & INSTALL NOTES

Culprit Croz Blade disc brake aero road bike review with actual weights

The fork has a mostly UD carbon finish with woven sections at the base of the steerer tube for reinforcement. The backside of the crown is shaped to make the rim brakes flush with the design. If you’re running discs, a cover hides those mounts and the cable.

Culprit Croz Blade disc brake aero road bike review with actual weights

Disc mounting tabs are minimal, and the use of a spacer on the lower mount lets them all but disappear if you’re running rim brakes. The fork blades are thin but quite stiff.

Culprit Croz Blade disc brake aero road bike review with actual weights

The chainstays house cable entry/exit ports, rim brake mounts and Di2/EPS battery mounts. The recesses on the inside edges are for brake pad clearance.

Culprit Croz Blade disc brake aero road bike review with actual weights

All cables and hoses are run internally, and there are plugs/ports for electronic wiring, too. It’s a simple swap to go from mechanical to electronic.

Culprit Croz Blade disc brake aero road bike review with actual weights

Alloy dropouts face the outsides, giving the skewer a stronger clamping area to dig into, and they’re easily replaceable. Like the fork, the disc mounts are pretty minimal, with the rear one hidden behind the seatstay. If you weren’t running discs, most riders wouldn’t even notice the mounts. Hub spacing is 135mm, with adaptive dropouts for 130mm non-disc brake wheels…pics at bottom of post.

Culprit Croz Blade disc brake aero road bike review with actual weights

Culprit’s handlebar has cable tunnels and grooves, making a very nice, round package once it’s taped. The small indent just in front of the shifter mount provided a nice shape for the outside of my palm. His bar and stem are both very, very stiff when sprinting, but they also seemed to damp vibration well enough.

Culprit Croz Blade disc brake aero road bike review with actual weights

All put together, it’s a pretty good looking bike. Head angle on the top three sizes (58 tested, the largest they make) is a race ready 73º. The included seatpost has three positions, which really helps make this bike suit a variety of riders. Set it back and ride like Lemond or push it forward and this could be a great triathlon bike.

Culprit Croz Blade disc brake aero road bike review with actual weights

Even with a full 1.5″ tapered headtube, the frontal profile is fairly sleek.

Culprit Croz Blade disc brake aero road bike review with actual weights

 

The stem is simply massive, with a wide clamping area. It works great, but the hole on top and bottom between bolts and behind the handlebar creates a gap. While you’re set up may differ, this one created wind noise similar to blowing across the top of a Coke bottle. A piece of electrical tape over the bottom hole fixed the issue, but it took a while to figure out where the wind noise was coming from!

Culprit Croz Blade disc brake aero road bike review with actual weights

The bottom bracket section and chainstays are stout, which translated into impressive stiffness. The bike is made for PFBB30, but the group we had was GXP, so we needed adapters.

Culprit Croz Blade disc brake aero road bike review with actual weights

Aaaahhh, the cable routing. The drivetrain routing is fine, and installation is straightforward. No complaints there, though it’s worth mentioning that if you cross the housing in front of the headtube, the cables will cross each other inside the frame. But the brakes…

Colp says this bike was absolutely designed with hydraulic disc brakes in mind. The mechanical brakes shown here stuck out a bit from the side, but something like the new SRAM Hydro disc calipers would streamline it quite a bit. Appearances and aerodynamics aside, the cable routing for the discs would absolutely benefit from being run with hydraulic hose rather than cable and housing:

Culprit Croz Blade disc brake aero road bike review with actual weights

The front brake’s housing had to be fed up from the bottom and caught in a loop to pull it out of the hole just above the cantilever brake mount. This created a pretty tight radius curve, which seemed to add friction to the line.

 

Culprit Croz Blade disc brake aero road bike review with actual weights

Then the line is run through the cover, which holds it close to the top of the crown. It looks good, but creates another tight bend, giving that section of housing a tight “S” bend. On the bottom, the housing pops out pretty low, putting more bends and tension in the line and making it difficult to feed it straight into the Bengal caliper’s stop. Different mechanical calipers (TRP Spyres come to mind) might have a better angle, but this really illustrates why hydraulics are the way to go here.

Culprit Croz Blade disc brake aero road bike review with actual weights

The rear brake’s assembly was a bit easier, but this cable required installation before inserting the fork. Check the pics of the head tube further up and you’ll see that being able to reach into the frame and guide the housing out of the hole at the top is the easiest way to do it. The full length housing did create some cable drag, another ill remedied by going to hydraulics. I take the time to mention all this because not everyone will pony up for hydros…the bike will work fine with mechanicals, just choose some really slick cables and housing. RIP Gore Cables!

Culprit Croz Blade disc brake aero road bike review with actual weights

 

Another problem with mechanicals (depending on model) is potential heel clearance. Granted, I wear a size 47/13US, but something to be aware of. Honestly, I never really noticed any rubbing, but everyone’s riding style is different.

Culprit Croz Blade disc brake aero road bike review with actual weights

More pics of the cable routing.

Culprit Croz Blade disc brake aero road bike review with actual weights

 

RIDE REVIEW

Culprit Croz Blade disc brake aero road bike review with actual weights

 

Like the Arrow One, this bike is stiff. Really stiff, particularly at the headtube and bottom bracket. Stand up and hammer, crank the bike from side to side, or just perform the ol’ shimmy-the-handle-bar-and-watch-for-flex test. Give it your worst, and I bet you’ll find the same thing I did. It’s rock solid.

Combined with the deep-ish carbon wheels, the bike rolled along with that hollow carbon hum so common on triathlon bikes with full disc rear wheels. Not quite as loud, but present. And the overall feel was one of a tri bike’s ruthless efficiency, except with road geometry. Crit racer geometry, but road geometry nonetheless.

Culprit Croz Blade disc brake aero road bike review with actual weights

My route in Florida revolves around Ormond Beach’s Loop Ride and other popular north-south roads throughout Flagler and Bunnell. They’re quite flat, save for the Granada Bridge, but run the gamut from heat-cracked old pavement to smooth, fresh asphalt. And the winds typically show up on at least one side of the river, often times on both and magically switching direction all too often. So, my test rides had headwinds, side winds and tail winds, some upwards of 15mph. Regardless of wind direction or speed, I felt fast on the Croz Blade and was able to hold higher-than-normal speeds for me, by what seemed to be 1-2 mph faster on average.

Even with the stiff frame and seatpost, the bike did a decent job of mitigating road noise. Cracks and bumps transmitted fairly directly, but the constant buzz of old roads seemed damped a bit.

Culprit Croz Blade disc brake aero road bike review with actual weights

 

Just as I did with the Arrow One, I came away impressed by the Croz Blade. My only real complaints were during installation, once I had it on the road, they disappeared. Josh has been helping develop bikes for others for years, and it shows in the ride quality.

Perhaps you’ve noticed I haven’t mentioned the disc brakes yet. They’re an aside. Get good brakes and braking performance should be good. The Bengals were acceptable, but by no means the best mechs I’ve ridden – stopping power was adequate for Florida’s flat roads, but I’d want SRAM’s new hydros if I were heading to the mountains. The point of offering disc or TRP’s TTV cantilevers is simply to be choice, but that novelty will wear off and shouldn’t be the selling point for this bike.

Instead, I’d say the rock solid ride and seemingly impressive aerodynamics are the qualities I’d appreciate mile after mile. And, if I were into triathlon (I’ve done a couple), this would be a great choice for something to ride and train on everyday, then slap some aero extensions on it for race day and move the saddle forward.

If you get a chance to demo a Culprit, I’d recommend giving it a whirl.

UPDATES:

Culprit-Croz-Blade-cantilever-rim-brakes02

 

Here’s what the rim brakes look like installed, and with Di2.

Culprit-Croz-Blade-cantilever-rim-brakes03 Culprit-Croz-Blade-cantilever-rim-brakes04

 

The bike comes with both sets of brakes, and as the hydraulic models become available, those will be options. Note that these are TRP’s new Spyre mechs, which weren’t available at the time we received our test bike.

Culprit is offering a promo through May 17, 2013, on both the Croz Blade and Arrow One. Hit the links for PDF special order forms. More info at CulpritBicycles.com.

Comments

Ajax - 05/09/13 - 10:58am

Disc brakes, but not 135mm rear spacing? No thanks.

1Pro - 05/09/13 - 10:59am

a very adaptable and versatile bike. Too bad it doesn’t have modular dropout to convert widths and SS capability. Add tire clearance and on the fly graphic conversions and you have the ultimate swiss army bike.

Ced G - 05/09/13 - 11:18am

On an only slightly related line of inquiry, what are the best cabling options for road bikes now that Gore has gone?

Tyler Benedict - 05/09/13 - 11:23am

Ajax – it does have 135mm spacing at the rear, referenced in the post.

1Pro – agreed, a spacer or adapter to allow 130 hubs would be a nice addition.

Evan McIntosh - 05/09/13 - 11:28am

After viewing this bike in person, I am impressed with some of the innovative features that Culprit is employing. No, they haven’t created the perfect disc road bike but, I am curious to see where this brand goes with it. Personally, I thought this bike was stunning to look at, even in a size large enough to fit giants…aka Tyler. As disc and frame technology for the road advances, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Culprit to become a well recognized name and I think this bike, when set up with hydraulic brakes, will be killer. Cool stuff.

Thumper McDonut - 05/09/13 - 11:55am

Evan, you need to differentiate between “innovative features” and “simple gimmicks.” Variable cable routing and multiple brake mounts are an innovative feature? Mountain bikes have had this for years and many road bikes have started showing up with them recently.

So, now what? - 05/09/13 - 12:14pm

@1pro. modular dropout, excellen idea! Heck, lets go one step further and have a thru axle for the rear hub. I know there are some for the front why not the back. Thats what l want.

Mindless - 05/09/13 - 12:32pm

It is time to use 142×12 and 15mm axles. They are light, stiff, safe, and it is faster to change than a QR with some newer models.

Ernst - 05/09/13 - 2:39pm

The yellow paint scheme reminds me of the 2001 Festina team bikes… not sure whether that is good.

dale - 05/09/13 - 4:10pm

Just some honest feedback – the frames grab my interest, but the brand name “Culprit” and logo style might not serve the overall effort too well. It feels a little too GI JOE or something. I mean, I like the bikes but I have to be honest that I do case about the name and logo as well. I have similar reactions to brand names like Velovie and a few others. But then, Ritte, who are basically doing similar things with less actual hi tech innovation, they manage to make their fairly generic bikes look damn sexy.

Just my 2cents and hope not to offend.

velorider - 05/09/13 - 8:15pm

Looks and cache are a real thing, dale — no question. Look at Storck: somehow another Chinese Mold X managed to trick everyone into thinking they are some sort of high end esoteric pinnacle of amazingness….when in fact they just have the highest profit margins as their only real claim to brilliance.

Culprit needs a bit of an image makeover in order to get broader appeal.

Ripnshread - 05/09/13 - 11:29pm

Yea but Culprits brand image is better than Neil Pryde here in the US…lol…NP uses a logo that is the same as the discount chain Target. And they put it huge on all the bikes…

Ajax - 05/10/13 - 12:22am

Wait. What? No 142mm thru axle for the rear? No thru axle front? No thanks. I’ll pass.

SLCBrandon - 05/10/13 - 12:51am

Ditto on the name and logo. Huge turn off, and, again, agree about Ritte. I know what they are but would buy a bike from them based on the “image” they portray. “Culprit” reminds me of Rock Racing/2007.

Big Cow - 05/10/13 - 7:39am

Many folks have mentioned that this brand is not that appealing, yet they get tons of very positive press from Tyler.

On the take?

Culpritbicycles - 05/10/13 - 8:09am

Thanks for all the comments. Culprit is a young brand with alot to offer. If you desire to test ride, Culprit will offer some of their test bikes at shops to be decided later in the summer in Southern California or you can stop by our booth at bike dealer camp to test ride both Arrow One or Croz blade.

Thanks for following the brand and hope you take advantage of our 15% off frameset discount offered for the next few days

Tyler - 05/10/13 - 8:18am

Big Cow – no, we are not on the take, nor do we get any financial or other consideration for any of our reviews. Ever.

We pride ourselves on being honest and straightforward, basing a review only on our actual experience with a product, and in many cases our reviews aren’t the first ones out on a given product because spend more time with it rather than push a short term test through just to get it out while something is fresh and hot.

In this case, as with the Arrow One, the bikes performed really well. They’re not perfect, and their graphics aren’t my favorite either, but they ride very nicely. Whether we agree with the branding or not, we applaud and celebrate anyone who’s willing to put themselves out there and go for it. In addition to these bikes, Culprit offers high end kids road bikes, creating options beyond overbuilt MTBs and department store bikes, and that’s pretty cool.

What it boils down to, for us, is that we cover new products, brands and technology, regardless of whether the logo and graphics are appealing or whether a company ever has any potential of an ad budget. We pay just as much attention to the little guys as the big guys. So, actually, it’s quite the opposite of being on the take.

Culprit has some interesting stuff and they’ve made their bikes available to us, so they get press. It’s as simple as that. We’d do the same for any brand, and I believe we cover a wider variety of products and brands than any other cycling media. Why? Because we just love bikes.

Nathan Miller - 05/10/13 - 10:00am

Ok, here is a bit of low-down on the Croz Blade. I live in Taiwan and have been testing this bike for Culprit since January of of 2013. 4039km on this frame, it is one banging stiff frame, it turns heads, it asks for more and then questions – is that all you got? Bombing downhill on this bike – stable, confident, did I mention fun. The stem and bars are also something else. Powering up a 20% ramp, at 87kg – I really have pushed this bike to it’s limits – let me tell you, the Croz Blade is one mean machine. I did a ride with a couple UCI pros during the Taipei Cycling Show, and there I was – an amateur, enthusiastic roadie on the Croz Blade – and guess what – the bike was so in the limelight.

Follow me on Strava: Nathan Miller

1Pro - 05/10/13 - 12:18pm

what? well that sums it up. quantifiable empirical data points.

“it is one banging stiff frame, it turns heads, it asks for more and then questions – is that all you got?”

Edu - 05/10/13 - 1:59pm

Remove the aero thing. That bike isn’t aerodynamic

Mervyn Venter - 05/24/13 - 8:17am

I recently bought a Croz Blade and wow…..

From the time I first contacted Joshua and even now, if I had or have any questions the responses have being great. I ordered the bike, was sent to a LBS for a fitting, which turned out to be free (great!), and was kept up to date on the build progress.

When it was ready , I was informed the shipping details and the wait was only a few days and I had it. Opened the box and all I had to do was put on the rear derailer , wheels seat, handle bar a few adjustments and I was ready to ride.

And what a ride!! Stiff, responsive and exciting… Very few vibrations on the road…..

I have to admit I have never ordered a bike online like this before and was a little apprehensive , but once I got the bike, all concerns were unfounded .

Also spoke about the packaging where the seat post came loose , no damage to anything but this could have being when customs opened it up ( live in Singapore at the moment), and I am sure this will be improved….

If you are looking for a cool bike that is a great ride, value for money, look no further……

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