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Specialized S-Works Crux review

7 Dec 2021
Verdict:

The lightest gravel bike in the world, the Specialized S-Works Crux is a bona fide off-road race bike with performance to match its price

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£10,750
For 
Climbs like a road bike • Aggressive geometry
Against 
Expensive

Billed as the lightest gravel bike in the world, the 2022 Specialized S-Works Crux is cyclocross racer with enough tyre clearance to work as a general purpose speedy gravel bike. A more aggressive proposition than the Future Shock-equipped Specialized S-Works Diverge, the new Crux is more like an S-Works Aethos that got stacked and, while it's not quite as light as the road bike, the Crux's frame is claimed to weigh just 725g for a 56cm.

To put the process that went into developing the Specialized S-Works Crux Disc into some historical context, it took a Flower of Kent apple falling from a tree and hitting him on the head for Sir Isaac Newton to have his ‘eureka moment’ in developing the laws of motion and universal gravitation.

For Specialized engineer Peter Denk, meanwhile, all it took was finite element analysis (FEA), a giant supercomputer and 1,000 simulations to have his own ‘eureka moment’ of reimagined tube proportions and efficient positioning of carbon fibres.

The result was the 585g frame at the heart of the Aethos, the world’s lightest production disc brake road bike.

A year later, Denk’s epiphany has been applied to Specialized’s cyclocross model, the Crux, to arrive at the all-new Specialized S-Works Crux, which at 725g (56cm) is now the lightest cyclocross/gravel frame on the market.

 

2022 Specialized S-Works Crux: Shedding the pounds

The Crux has been on a serious diet. When you look back at the last iteration, released in 2018, a 56cm frame weighed a claimed 950g.

Thanks to the lessons learned from the Aethos, the Crux has trimmed 225g to arrive at that 725g claimed weight, which means this top-end S-Works build is just 7.25kg all-in, a full 500g lighter than its predecessor.

• Buy the Specialized S-Works Crux Disc frameset from Sigma Sports

You may point out that 500g is only the equivalent of a loaf of sliced bread, but in the world of performance cycling, where every gram counts, a saving of half a kilo is impressive.

What’s more impressive still is that this weight saving has not been achieved by speccing exotic components or making the tubes so skinny you live in fear of snapping the frame in two.

Specialized has reduced weight by rearranging where the carbon fibre layers are best used in the frame. No trickery – just smart thinking.

Of course, weight isn’t everything. For an off-road bike there are other key performance areas that might normally take priority, such as comfort or handling, but it certainly helps that the Crux goes uphill with such sublime ease.

A year ago, deputy editor James Spender wrote that the Specialized Aethos climbed like ‘an invisible force is pulling it’ to the summit. Riding the Crux, which is arguably an Aethos with chunky tyres, I got the same feeling.

It’s responsive, it’s stiff, and it does that special thing of making climbing easier.

While the Crux is traditionally the brand’s cyclocross bike, Specialized is promoting this latest version as a gravel bike first, cross bike second.

The reason is almost certainly to broaden its appeal, however there will be those who point out that Specialized already has gravel covered with its Diverge, so why push the Crux into the same segment? The answer is that the two bikes serve completely different purposes.

• Read our full Specialized S-Works Diverge review

The Diverge has a longer wheelbase for stability; it has the squidgy Futureshock stem suspension and more storage solutions and mount options than a piece of Ikea furniture.

The Crux has tighter geometry closer to that of Specialized’s Tarmac road bike – only a few millimetres different, in fact. There is no use of Futureshock, no mounting points, and ultimately a very different feel to the armchair ride of the Diverge.

• Read our full Specialized Tarmac SL7 review

Rather than just rumbling over rough terrain, the Crux skims over it like a flat stone skipping across the ocean, putting the emphasis back on bike-handling ability but doing so while going undoubtedly faster than the Diverge possibly could.

For me, some gravel bikes have been over-engineered to a point where the majority of gravel riding that I am exposed to – muddy singletrack and byways – is now too easy, and to rediscover the fun and challenge usually associated with riding off-road I’m forced into riding more technical trails, a move that would suggest I should probably just buy myself a hardtail mountain bike.

This isn’t the case with the Crux. It put an excited smile back on my face. 

Taking the scenic route

This is not to say the Crux is hard to handle, it’s just more reactive and requires more focus to negotiate a route around rocks and roots, rather than just blundering over the top of them.

And, equally, this is not to say the Crux isn’t capable off-road. Tyre clearance is up from 33mm to 47mm for 700c wheels, or 2.1in with 650b, a width that could get you across quicksand if need be. On this particular spec I had a set of 38mm Specialized Pathfinders, which dispatched whatever I threw at them with ease.

So maybe this isn’t the bike you want for touring around the world, but it’s certainly fast and fun for short outings, whether that’s a cross race or just a blast around your local woods.

I do have one complaint, though: £10,750 is fully £2,500 more than the 2020 Crux and far more than the vast majority of gravel or cross bikes.

Lightest gravel bike in the world or not, for that price I’d like the thing to ride itself.

Photography: Patrik Lundin

• Buy the Specialized S-Works Crux Disc frameset from Sigma Sports

Pick of the kit


NVPA winter kit, neon-velo.com

Blue is my favourite colour and over the last few years I have been slowly building a cycling wardrobe to reflect that. My latest addition is this winter kit from NVPA, Neon-Velo Performance Apparel.

Designed in London, made in Italy, it mixes stylish design with quality fabrics. The bibtights (£155) are fleeced, with ankle zips to make dressing easier, while the long-sleeve jersey (£139.95) uses the same fabric, with the fourth, zipped pocket being my favourite feature.

And let’s not forget the lightweight, packable gilet (£98). Who doesn’t love a gilet?

Alternatively…

Bargain hunt

If value for money is your thing, the Crux Expert is £5,500 yet still comes equipped with an 825g frame, 12-speed SRAM Rival eTap groupset and tubeless-ready Roval Terra C wheels.

Into the wild

And if multi-day adventures sleeping on roundabouts is more your bag, the Diverge, with its more relaxed geometry, bouncy Futureshock stem suspension and ample rack mounts, is probably the bike for you.

• Buy the Specialized Diverge from Sigma Sports

Spec

Frame Specialized S-Works Crux
Groupset   SRAM Red eTap AXS
Brakes SRAM Red eTap AXS
Chainset SRAM Red eTap AXS
Cassette SRAM Red eTap AXS
Bars Roval Terra carbon
Stem S-Works SL
Seatpost Roval Alpinist carbon
Saddle S-Works Power carbon rail
Wheels Roval Terra CLX, Pathfinder Pro 2Bliss Ready 38mm tyres
Weight 7.25kg (56cm)
Contact specialized.com

All reviews are fully independent and no payments have been made by companies featured in reviews