Race ready

First Look: Specialized CruX Elite X1 2018

Tester: Beth Bryn Hodge

When I was a kid my parents scrimped and saved to get me a pony (stick with it…). This pony was a fairly average looking brown colour, four legs and a tail. I loved this pony, but I secretly wished I had the flashier black one that my mate had.  Her pony was pukka, and knew it, trotting about the place like he owned it.

When the Specialized Elite X1 CruX turned up at my door a few weeks ago, I opened the box with the glee of that 10-year-old who got that flashy pony after all. The inside of the drab cardboard bike box was glowing hot pink like a Barbie nuclear reactor playset. But let’s not be so superficial, there is way more to this bike than just its flashy skinsuit. So let’s get this pink hottie naked, people and see what the bike is really made of.

Pink is not just for girls

You might already have noted that I’m a girl and I am riding an ‘acid’ pink bike. In the past it would have been fair to already assume that this is a bike made for a girl – in fact a few folk have already made that observation. Wrong. In an interesting move, and one that the company has clearly spent a long time considering, Specialized is no longer making women’s specific frames. It has instead applied the ‘Rider First Technology’ already used on the road side of the big family ‘S’, meaning that any frame in the CruX should be true to a rider size, male or female. Beyond that, key differences can be handled through changing bar width, stem length, crank length and saddle. To help with fit, the CruX comes in a huge range of sizes, from the wee 46 right up to a 61.

So there, pink – in this case at least – is for everyone [Tech Ed Tom rejoices].

Going thermonuclear. The CruX lights the way even when the sun is setting.

The CruX of the matter

Specialized has focused the 2018 CruX range for taped cyclocross courses across the world, with the development of the Diverge catering for those off road adventures beyond the tape. It doesn’t mean that the CruX is not capable of getting into the wild, but one of the nice things about a brand as big as Specialized is that it can, allow its models to er, specialise (with an ‘s’; we are British after all) rather than tread the line of ‘Jack of all trades’. The race focus is perfect for my intentions, as that is where the bike will see most action, but I’m also intrigued to know how this streamlined race machine copes off the course.

Race ready

Our CruX Elite X1 was built to deliver a no-nonsense approach to the discipline of cyclocross

-Specialized

The Elite X1

I’ve been given the CruX Elite X1 to test, which sits one below the top bike in the 2018 Crux range. There are four CruX models for 2018 – two carbon, two aluminium. The Elite X1 retails at £3,000, with the top model in the range, the CruX Expert retailing at £3,900 and the entry level bike, the Crux E5 coming in at £1,300. An S-Works Frameset is also available for £2,500. 

The Elite X1 is the cheaper carbon option available. I say cheaper, as lets face it, £3000 is still no small amount of money for a bike. It’s fair to assume that a good amount of this investment goes into the frameset. For a bike that is all about going fast, weight is key, and the CruX Elite X1 weighs in at a claimed 900gms on a 56cm frame. This, Specialized say, is 400gms lighter than the previous frameset – near enough a 30% weight drop. The frame (and matching forks) is made up of the Specialized FACT 11r carbon layup, which, apparently “takes advantage of the highest quality carbon production methods in order to create a bike that’s as responsive as it is lightweight”. There we go. 

Both frame and forks feature bolt-thru hubs. This is increasingly becoming the norm, and there are clear advantages in terms of stiffness on disc-braked bikes. On a race-specific bike, I am a little concerned that the allen-bolted thru-axles will hamper a quick wheel change. 

Lots of exposed seatpost equals comfort over rough ground

Alongside weight in the ranking of ‘important things for racing’ comes geometry, and Specialized has embraced a modern approach to a ‘cross race bike, which features a low bottom bracket for fluid cornering. While we are on the frame, it features a flat bottomed top tube and loads of space (even on this 52cm model), which should equate to easy shouldering. Another nod to race comfort comes from the dropped seatpost collar, by a solid 2cm, exposing more of the seat post which Specialized say will absorb more of the inevitable trail vibrations.

Plenty of mud clearance

Cockpit view

Finishing kit

Clearance should be no issue with 8mm on the fitted 33mm tyre. While we are on the subject, the CruX Elite X1 comes with the Specialized Terra Pro 2Bliss Tubeless ready 700 x 33mm. These come sat on Specialized Roval SLX 24 disc wheels.

Bars, stem, seatpost are Specialized own, and the saddle is also from the Specialized line; the Body Geometry Phenom Comp.

1x for simplicity

SRAM Rival 1x, seems to be the de-rigour OEM choice for most drop-bar off road bikes. This makes sense. It brings with it proven performance, without the absolute expense of SRAM Force. On this race bike, we will be expecting clean and efficient shifting, the benefits of reduced weight, thanks to no front derailleur, and no dropped chains. All in all a simple, effective set up designed for the job of keeping you moving over the mud.

All the SRAM

Full Specification

  • Frame // Specialized FACT 11r carbon, 12x142mm thru-axle
  • Fork // Specialized FACT 11r carbon, flat mount disc, 12x100mm thru-axle
  • Wheels // Roval SLX 24 Disc, sealed cartridge hubs, DT Swiss Competition spokes, 24h
  • Tyres // Specialized Terra Pro, 2Bliss Ready, 700x33mm
  • Chainset // SRAM Rival 1 (40t chainring)
  • Bottom Bracket // BB30, 68mm
  • Rear Mech // SRAM Rival 1 11-speed mid-cage
  • Shifters // SRAM Rival 1
  • Cassette // SRAM PG-1130, 11-32t
  • Brakes // SRAM Rival 1, hydraulic disc
  • Stem // Specialized, 3D forged alloy, 4-bolt, 7-degree rise
  • Bars // Specialized Shallow Drop, 6061, 70x125mm, 31.8mm clamp
  • Bar tape // Specialized CX Pro Gel
  • Seatpost // Alloy, 2-bolt clamp
  • Saddle // Body Geometry Phenom Comp, Adaptive Edge design, Hollow Cr-Mo rails, 143mm
  • Size Tested // 52cm
  • Sizes available // 46, 48, 52, 54, 56, 58, 61cm
  • Price // £3000

Ready for action

Testing and racing

I’ll be testing the CruX Elite X1 all CX season, on the race course and adventures in between. For me, everything starts on the bumpy inner field of Herne Hill Velodrome. I’ll then be putting this pink speed machine through a truly solid test at the 3 Peaks – above and beyond the call of duty. Keep an eye out for how it gets on when I report back soon. 

Beth Bryn Hodge

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