Review: Culprit Croz Blade – Stiff, Fast Aero Disc Brake Road Bike (Updated)
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
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’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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’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.
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.
Even with a full 1.5″ tapered headtube, the frontal profile is fairly sleek.
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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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!
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.
More pics of the cable routing.
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.
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.
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.
Here’s what the rim brakes look like installed, and with Di2.
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.