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SPECIALIZED CRUX Expert

Review: SPECIALIZED CRUX Expert

scottmares's picture

Right Out of the Box

5
First Impressions

So we got the bike and were really excited to get it out of the box and put together. The paint scheme is a little unconventional but that's alright with us as we are also a little unconventional. But we did like the way the bike looked. It was apparent to us that Specialized was going for a "over the top" look with this bike. Some of the things that were over the top were the red cable housing and red SRAM Hoods. These especially stood out against the white frame and handle bar tape. We love white handle bar tape by the way to us its very Euro.

Ease of Assembly

The bike came about 90% assembled so putting it together really was no big deal.

Bling Factor

The bling factor was that there was so much red and white on this bike. Another little thing that went with all of the red cable housing was the carbon crank! The FSA SLK crank is really pretty against the white frame. The cool thing was that the red cable housing actually went with the crank because the SLK decals were red as well. The house brand saddle was really euro and also went well with the complete package.

Road Test Ride

5
Climbing

Taking the bike out on to the road was a lot of fun as the Aluminum frame was stiff and made climbing easy and lively. I really didn't have too much trouble getting up the hills here in the pacific north west.

Cornering

The One thing I love about climbing is that you get to fly the bike down the other side. This was no exception in this case at all. Carving just the right line through the corners going down the hills was a lot of fun. I think I need to down load the sound effect of a plane in a dive for these situations and play them on my iPod when I am descending. However, I would leave off the end where the plane crashes and explodes into a big ball of flames though. The frame is quick and stable and this made the Crux Expert a lot of fun going through the corners on the road. No complaints or worries here with the Crux Expert.

Handling

Like what I talked about in the above section the Specialized Crux Expert is one stable platform. The handling of the bike is nothing but pure joy. Its nice when you can tell you can do just about anything with the bike and you know your going to be ok. This bike does give its captain that message of "you can do that". It could double as your road bike if you could only have one bike. If you do take it out on the road or a group ride you will be just fine. You really won't feel that you are at a disadvantage with the people that you are riding with. Most of the people probably won't notice that you are on a cross bike until you stop for a nature break that you are on a cross bike. But then again the bike is pretty striking to the eye.

Ride Feel

Because of the aluminum frame you will feel the road a little bit more than if you were on carbon so you may opt for some larger tires for a little more comfort. This bike does have a very solid feel to it and that is because of the stiff fork and the shaped frame set. The bike really wasn't made for comfort so much as to kick some butt. So if you decided to get on the gas on the road the bike will get up and go. Just make sure you hold on when you do.

Dirt Test Ride

5
Climbing

We took the bike out to our favorite stomping ground at Powell Butte park here in Portland. There is plenty of climbing in this big park. Some of them are gradual and some are pretty steep. The stiff aluminum frame allowed all of the force that I was putting into the pedals to go straight to the tires. And that meant right up the hill. So this bike will climb on the dirt. You do have to supply the motor though..

Cornering & Handling

Even though the Specialized Crux Expert is a lot of fun on the road it's WAY more fun off road. Our test area Powell Butte park is just loaded with lots of fast turns. It has some long and gradual sweepers, some shorter off camber, quick blind corners and our test track is 50% single track and 50% fire road. Remember that this is Portland and so it rains here all of the time and we have mud on a regular basis. So the single track is muddy. Some of it is the tacky stuff but mostly its the slick oily kind that cx racers dream about. So I didn't have any problems with the bike in any of the corners and even when I did get into a little bit of a pinch I could correct it no problem. I found that the bike didn't fight me at all. So in that aspect of correcting a mistake the bike was very forgiving. Just take a few minutes and take a look at the vid of me taking the bike through the single track at Powell Bute park.

Ride Feel

On the dirt the bike feels really stable and sure footed. The aluminumframe will make sure that you feel connected to terra firma. For a cross bike the tires will make a big difference in the ride feel department. Either way the frame and fork will keep you informed on the changing conditions that you are rolling over at high speed.

Trainer Test Ride

5
Ride Feel

The bike is very stiff and stable and gave very little flex. Some of our cyclocross specific work outs call for standing for periods of 20 or more minutes and during that time you can really see how much a frame flexes.

Race Test Ride

5

Here in Oregon its cyclocross heaven. You can race cross a lot, the fields are big and deep and so is the mud. We got to race this bike at the Apple Core race just north of Salem. What a mud fest! We had 2 bikes in the this race and we held the Crux Expert in the pit for the second half of the race. I selected the new carbon redline conquest for the first half of the race. It had been raining for several days and the apple orchard course was 2 miles of peanut butter and grass. So? So that is BAD news for a rear derailleur, combine that with some small branches that are laying on the ground and your in a mine field. If you didn't have a spare bike your chances for finishing the race that day were severelydiminished. I had gotten it right with the bike order and tire selection. The redline got me through the first half of the race but its tight rear triangle was filling up with mud and grass. At the half way mark it was time to switch. I came in to the pitdumped off the Conquest and grabbed the Crux Expert and charged back into the fray. The Specialized Crux Expert was the better bike for the mud. The Specialized Crux Expert has more mud clearance and did not clog up with and took me all the way home. In addition I had the Terra Mud tubular on a set of 303 Firecrest wheels. Big difference that made. After that weekend the Crux Expert was the bike I reached for first.

We Liked

There are a ton of things that we liked about this bike. So instead of writing paragraph after paragraph about this little feature and that little feature I thought I would just make a list of them with a little comment after the feature.

1. Internal cable routing, because I hate grabbing cable when I shoulder the bike.

2. Shaped tubing, makes it easy on the shoulder and stiff where you apply the power.

3. Sealed BB with water drain, Love this because then the water has a place to leave the bike when you race it and then wash it.

4. No need for a pulley. Pulleys are shelves for mud and you don't need one with this bike and that's because of the internal cable routing.

5. Nice fork, I like straight forks and the Specialized fork does not chatter at all. Very nice, positive steering

6. Great components, SRAM, Wheels, FSA Cranks, all all near or at the top end of the food chain with out breaking the bank.

7. Specialized stem, the stem is super adjustable! What they did was make the stem with a shim that has a wedge built into it. Because of this the stem has 4 positions that it can be put into vs. the typical 4 a normal stem has. Very clever.

8. Cool paint job, Well lets face it if you cant be fast you should look fast and Specialized got a really cool Atypical paint job to show off all of the features of this bike.

We Didn't Like

I really didn't care for the cable housing that came with the bike. When I put the bike together and in our first race the rear derailleur cable housing blew up on me making me DNF.

Heavy seat post and bars. These are house brand components and can be easily changed out.

Please don't put a saddle with a cut out on a cross bike. Even though the saddle that is on the Crux Expert is comfortable and works fine. We live in Portland OR and the mud in races and in training comes up though the cut out. the simple solution is we ended up putting a piece of duct tape on the bottom to cover the slit up.

Upgrades

In the grand scheme of things the upgrades are pretty minor. The list is pretty short and if you don't have the cash to get all of these items changed out its ok. The Specialized Crux Expert is a rocket with out those minor upgrades. However, I would definitely change out the cable housing. The other items that I would upgrade are the handle bars, Seat post and saddle. All of these items are their house brand items. However, I would not change out the stem. The Stem is very unique to Specialized in that it has 4 positions. This means that you can get a better fit on the bike with this stem. High five to the person that did that over there at Specialized.

The Final Say

It looks like Specialized has found the right combination of ingredients to make a real winner. The Crux Expert Force is just that a force to be reckoned with. There is no doubt that most companies will be looking to see what this bike is all about because its a winner in several areas. The price point is really good for what you get. The Geometry is spot on with a nice 72.5/73 that gives the rider a quick but stable handling bike in all situation and is not too quick to the beginner. This is our favorite bike that we got to test all year and we found ourselves reaching for it every single time. If you don't have race wheels don't worry because the wheels are pretty good at 1625g and at $500.00 MSRP you can afford to have an extra set when you compare them to other wheels in the same weight range. The upgrades that we suggest are pretty minor to get this bike to world class. All you need to change out are the cable housing, bars, seat post and wheels. But if you don't have the cash its ok. You will want to leave the stem though as its pretty trick with 4 positions available for fine tuning the fit.

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