The 2018 Specialized CruX cyclocross bike launched this summer with an all-new, race-focused frameset and a range of complete bike builds to suit most any budget. We got our hands on the CruX Expert X1 just in time for the NCCX series and threw it into the mix of test bikes. Actually, this was the first one to arrive in our office, but some tubeless seating issues kept it on the backup post for the first few races. Once we got the wheels and tires playing nice, things got fast…

2018 SPECIALIZED CRUX SPECS & ACTUAL WEIGHTS

2018 Specialized Crux Expert X1 cyclocross bike review details and actual weights

We tested the CruX Expert X1, which comes with their top-level FACT 11r carbon frame and sits just one step below the S-Works model. It uses their size-specific “Rider First” layups. The drivetrain is SRAM Force 1 with hydraulic disc brakes stopping 160/140mm rotors. The 40T x 11-32 combo was a good pairing, providing the right range for our rolly courses. The cockpit is all Specialized, with a new, minimally set back carbon 27.2 seatpost, and alloy stem and handlebar.

Wheels are Roval SLX 24 alloy built with DT Swiss 350 hubs and Competition spokes, treaded with the updated Terra Pro tubeless-ready CX tires. Retail is $4,200.

2018 Specialized Crux Expert X1 cyclocross bike review details and actual weights

The steerer comes tall enough to adjust cockpit height to your liking, and with carbon spacers to keep things light. The chainstay protector was securely affixed and hasn’t peeled up at all, but the placement and edging was a little sloppy.

2018 Specialized Crux Expert X1 cyclocross bike review details and actual weights

Unused ports are covered with small rubber grommets, including the hidden seatpost binder bolt.

2018 Specialized Crux Expert X1 cyclocross bike review details and actual weights

Thru axles are 12mm front and rear, and they’re standard widths (100mm up front, 142 rear)…their SCS system was replaced on the prior year’s models. Replaceable threaded alloy inserts bolt into the frame and fork. Both ends use a tooled stealth axle design, with a beveled shape to keep things aligned. A split collar on the bolt looks to expand slightly to secure itself into place, and also acts as a washer to the bolt can spin without rubbing the carbon the wrong way.

2018 Specialized Crux Expert X1 cyclocross bike review details and actual weights

Actual weight for the size 58 tested is 17lb 13oz (8.08kg) out of the box, and 17lb 6oz (7.88kg) after converting to tubeless. Going tubeless, as you’ll see next, offers a couple ways to drop weight. Another easy one is switching to a direct mount chainring. The stock setup uses SRAM’s direct-mount spider with a chainring bolted to it, which lets you change just the ring without removing the cranks, but you can drop another 30+ grams using the one-piece ring…more with 3rd party chainrings.

SPECIALIZED ROVAL SLX 24 TUBELESS SETUP TIPS

specialized roval slx 24 alloy road and cyclocross wheelset review

The CruX Expert X1 comes with their Roval SLX 24 alloy wheelset, which claims to be just under 1600g and measures 20mm wide internally. Which sounds ample, but this is where I had a few problems. The wheels ship with a tube in them and a very tight, molded rim strip that looks to be tubeless ready. Only after prying it up at the valve hole was it clear that it wasn’t meant to be a tubeless rim strip. Specialized confirmed, but it’s worth noting that several other CruX owners I spoke to said they thought the same thing when they first got their bikes, so it’s not just me.

specialized roval slx 24 alloy road and cyclocross wheelset review

The issue came with setup. I used what appeared to be an appropriately wide rim tape, and at first it worked. And it saved a lot of weight. The pics above show the 22g rim strip weight compared to the before/after rim tape weights. I’ll take 5g over 22g any day. And Specialized sells their Tubeless Plugs spoke hole covers if you want to really minimize grams.

After a couple rides, the tires stopped holding air. I tried more sealant, tightening the valve stems, but nothing worked. I was ready to switch the tires when I found the problem. The internal rim profile is shaped such that it uses a lot of the tape’s width to cover it. The result is that the edge of the tape ends up getting pushed toward the center of the rim as the tire is mounted, leaving it dangerously close to the spoke holes. In this case, it simply didn’t provide enough side coverage and air was leaking under it and out of the spoke holes. I’ll spare you my frustrations of having to switch bikes or insert a tube before two different races and suffice to say that wider tape solved the problem. I went with tape wide enough to run slightly up the sidewall and haven’t had any problems since.

FRAME DETAILS

2018 Specialized Crux Expert XX1 cyclocross bike review

The new CruX is shapelier than it first appears. The downtube is slightly triangular…

2018 Specialized Crux Expert XX1 cyclocross bike review

…the headtube is bulged where the tubes meet it…

2018 Specialized Crux Expert XX1 cyclocross bike review

and the top tube bends ever so slightly, with a flattish, shoulder-friendly profile. Cable ports on either side of the downtube accommodate a dropper post and front derailleur, if you decide to mount them.

2018 Specialized Crux Expert XX1 cyclocross bike review

Specialized sticks with their OSBB, a narrower 68mm BB30 design. The shell is big, though, keeping it stiff under power.

2018 Specialized Crux Expert XX1 cyclocross bike review

No where on Spec’s website or in their presentation from this summer’s launch did they specifically mention “compliance” built into the frame, but it feels like they have. The shape of the chainstays hints at a little vertical compliance, and the seatstays are relatively thin…or it could just be that Rider First layup. Or that new, narrow carbon seatpost. Whatever it is, the bike feels like it mutes the bumps and rough, grassy terrain very well.

2018 Specialized Crux Expert XX1 cyclocross bike review

A narrower BB means very good ankle and heel clearance at the chainstays. They pull this off while maintaining adequate tire clearance, too, leaving enough room for mud/crud between their 700×33 Terra Pro tires. Fork clearance is even better.

2018 Specialized Crux Expert XX1 cyclocross bike review

Flat mount brakes round out the smooth, clean appearance of the bike.

RIDE REVIEW

2018 Specialized Crux Expert XX1 cyclocross bike review

My first race was on a warm, sunny day on green grass. Then this happened for the Hendersonville NCGP double header weekend. Actually, this happened first:

2018 Specialized Crux Expert XX1 cyclocross bike review

Eight to 10 inches of fresh pow and our 10am Masters’ wave made fresh tracks through all of it…because, seriously, who wants (or needs) to pre-ride this? Things warmed up, ruts were made, and then it froze again and we were left with this:

2018 Specialized Crux Expert XX1 cyclocross bike review

Laps of completely frozen ruts to grab and torture bike, rider and sanity. The beautiful part of all this is that the Specialized CruX and the tires handle all three days (grassy, snowy, and pure hell) in a composed manner. Geometry was dialed for high speeds and low. Rough terrain had no effect, and the ruts couldn’t shake it. They could shake my nerves, though, and this day’s race wore me out emotionally and physically. But the bike took it all in stride and maintained control and traction better than I thought anything should in these conditions.

2018 Specialized Crux Expert XX1 cyclocross bike review

While it’s hard to judge a bike’s performance when you’re off it half the time, the combination of steady slogging in this snowy mess and its fast, nearly perfect performance on the grass proves that Specialized has listened to its pro riders and absolutely nailed what a cyclocross race bike should be. Honestly, I just don’t have a single complaint about the bike – It’s light, fast, looks fantastic and handles perfectly.

specialized terra pro cyclocross tires review

The new Terra Pro tires are amazing, too. (UPDATE: These matched the tires shown at their Summer Camp product launch, so I thought they were the new ones. Turns out, the new ones start shipping in January and are identified by a silver hot patch, not the red one shown here. Review updated as needed for clarification) I’ve seen many friends and other riders on all brands of bikes running Specialized’s cyclocross tires, and now I know why. They work, really well. Our North Carolina race season typically sees everything from dry grass, clay, dirt, wet grass, mud, snow, slush and deep sand. Even a little gravel. I covered about half those during my CruX test and they stuck to the ground. Billed as a wet/mud tire, the deep angular knobs bit into the grass, shed the snow and mud, and even kept hold of the frozen dirt.

specialized terra pro cyclocross tires review

Cornering was predictable and controlled, although it took me a while to be fully confident in them after the initial setup issues caused them to burp and roll on several pre rides. That might have colored my final impressions, because despite no specific issues after fixing the rim tape, I still can’t shake the feeling they’d perform just a bit better on slightly wider rims. That said, I love the tread pattern and compound and definitely recommend these tires for mixed to wet conditions…or even just regular ol’ green grass. (NOTE: While the new tires should be available soon after this review posts, keep an eye out for this version online or in new/old stock in shops while supplies last)

What else can I say? Hmmm…something critical so this is balanced and all that. Ummm. Well, there have been some Specialized bikes I didn’t like all that much in the past. And if you’re looking for something unique, this probably isn’t it. Because there are a lot of folks racing on the CruX. I don’t blame them. It’s virtually flawless. I don’t want to send it back.

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42 COMMENTS

  1. It’s almost impressive that it took you 6 paragraphs to say almost nothing in the ride review. How was the front end, how stiff is the back end? How does it feel to shoulder, how does the BB clearance feel? How much flex could you get out of the frame? There’s just nothing to say how this bike rides. All you say is it’s dialed. How is it dialed?

    • I probably could have elaborated, but in my experience “dialed” handling is the result of two things: Proper geometry, and a frame stiff enough to keep it in line under hard efforts/cornering. This frame is plenty stiff enough to keep the steering working the way it should, and the geo is the right balance between optimum high and low speed handling. This isn’t always the case. Some bikes, like the Sage PDXCX, are optimized for Portland’s rough and tight conditions. This one worked better for our local conditions, which from what I’ve seen on my travels, fairly representative of many CX courses.

      I did mention the rear end’s overall compliance and offered several reasons why that may be, which is an important characteristic. Even though races are short, if you’re getting beat up you won’t feel as fresh for that last lap effort. Laterally, it’s stiff for proper power transfer and solid handling. And I did mention the top tube’s shaping being good for shouldering, too…just further up in the article when discussing the frame’s features and design. I tend to spread my thoughts out throughout the entire article, not just the end ride review.

    • fraron…. Looking at the pic of the tire in the “chainstays to bottom brkt” it looks almost maxed out at a 33mm tire? Maybe room for a little bigger tire? Looks kinda tight to me.

    • For ‘cross racing, I’d agree that the max tire clearance is 33 to leave room for any mud buildup. The frame stayed impressively clear even on those two snowy days. The wheels kept spinning even when others’ bikes were barely rolling (if at all). Considering it’s meant as a UCI-legal race bike, that’s probably what they designed the tire clearance around…the Diverge is there if you want a gravel bike.

      • True story. With gravel really becoming it’s own segment, new cx bikes can stop trying to be all-rounders and get back to being race bikes. The Diverge has clearance up to forty something but the CruX doesn’t need any more than 33 – the UCI limit. Note that a lot of cx tires only come in one size: 700×33. Coincidence?

        • That is great and all, but I don’t want a dedicated cross bike that isn’t also very capable for gravel riding. Why would I want a bike that is only good for one thing and then sits for 8 months out of the year? Why would I want to buy another bike that is VERY similar to a cross bike but with better clearance. N=1 for me in this case. I guess I won’t be buying the new Crux.

  2. I know the first rule of the industry is “never read the comments” but kudos to the Big S for dropper post routing. I’ve definitely thought about it for some of the rowdier courses.

  3. “A narrower bb means very good heel and ankle clearance at the chainstays.” That’s not true. A crank with a narrow bb, say BB30, and a crank with a wider bb, like BB386evo, will have the same Q-factor, so clearance at the chainstays will be the same. The difference will be with the foot that is in the forward position, when the ankle passes by the bb during the downstroke, but you would have to be pigeon-toed to strike the crank in that position.

    • I’d disagree, but should clarify that I’m not talking about crank width and clearance, I’m referring to heel clearance at the chainstays. I tend to ride heels in a bit, and on frames that push the BB ultra wide and then have correspondingly wide set chainstays, I have more heel rub. On this frame, I had none. It’s rare (if ever) that you see frames using a wider BB standard and then bring the chainstays back inward for improved clearance. Q-factor has more to do with the crank’s actual width, not the chainstay’s width.

    • I diasgree (and agree with Tyler). Assuming identical q-factors, wider bottom brackets are typically accompanied by wider chain stays near the heel, reducing clearance.

      Forward position foot clearance to the crank is crank design dependent and not the same as CS-heel clearance.

  4. Except for the messed-up-looking chainstay protector, I think it’s a beautiful frame. I wish they had gone BB386evo.

    What is the depth of the rims?

  5. Over priced poor handling ok at everything, good at nothing typical big manufacturer stuff. For the price you can get a custom carbon fiber rocket ship that fits you like a glove. Not the 5’6″ to 5’11” frame lameness. I demoed this bike and it was dull and slow to respond. Is this a race bike or a gravel touring rando bike?

    • ^ I’ll second the responders comment. There’s no way, even without looking at any prices anywhere(I have, but not recently), that a competent frame builder will put a custom frame together AND supply parts, for the price of this. It’s just not possible unless they’re fasting while building it in an alley. It might matter more if Specialized wasn’t a bunch of litigious creeps.

    • (deleted). dont want no tube to tube heavy custom carbon bike for cross. parlee team stopped racing their zzero’s and went to the chebaccos.

  6. I have a complaint – who wants a thru-axle that requires a tool to come stock on a bike? Are you lame enough to care about being that much of a weight weenie on a cross bike with aluminum wheels? Then buy your own aftermarket super duper sleek awesome axles that will leave you stranded if you forget a tool. I personally don’t like needing a tool to take a wheel off, it makes me feel like I’ve traveled bike in time or to a velodrome.

    • I do as I hate the look of TA handles on road/cross bikes. And unless im wrong, the tool is an Allen key, which I always have on me on every ride I take.

    • If it’s anything like most of Specialized’s high end bikes, it actually comes with both the bolt on thru axles AND DT Swiss ratchet-handle thru axles.

      • It does not, and the hex-only TAs are my single biggest complaint about the bike. You should not need to use a tool to remove a wheel.

      • I’ve seen more than one rider snag course marker tape on QR handles. I’ve never seen anyone stop and fix a flat. There are 5mm wrenches at the pits.

What do you think?