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Specialized S-Works Crux 2022

9
£11,300.00

VERDICT:

9
10
An exceptionally light gravel bike that excels on the climbs and is a blast to ride fast
Very light
Fast on the road
Fast off the road
Clean frame lines
Comfortable
Might not be 'gravel' enough for some
Weight: 
7,200g

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The 2022 Specialized S-Works Crux is an exceptional gravel bike for fast riding and it can still excel on the cyclocross course. The lightweight package is combined with brilliant low-speed stability that makes this insanely good at climbing, be it fast or technical, and it's a blast to ride on the lanes too. This machine is one that will best suit racers and roadies who want a fast bike for mixed surfaces. Oh yes, and as you've probably noticed it's outstandingly expensive although there are less pricey models available in the new Crux lineup too.

The Crux was always a pure cyclocross race bike, but when I first saw the redesigned model I, like pretty much everyone, wondered what the Aethos was doing wearing a set of gravel tyres. It's a bit more nuanced than that, but in essence, that is what you're getting with this new model.

> Find your nearest dealer here

> Buy this online here

The low weight makes this thing an excellent climber and it is a joy to ride on faster gravel as well as on the road. Okay, it might not be the best for loading up with luggage, but for going fast it is fantastic.

The ride

Climbing is the Crux's party trick and it isn't just good for winching your way up the steep stuff. I was dead impressed at how well the Crux climbs the technical stuff. There's a byway near me that goes up what can only be described as a river. It's a great test of both your skill and a bike's capability, and it is here if you're in the area and want to give it a go. 

On a climb with decent step-ups and large rocks to navigate, the low weight of the front end is a real help as it is super easy to pop the front wheel up. Those rocks and step-ups, combined with the gradient, eventually slow you down and it is here that the bike displays impressive slow-speed stability. I was easily able to ride on narrow strips of smooth ground to the side of some of the rocky sections, and cleaning the whole climb does wonders for your confidence. Shame there was no one around to witness such sublime skills.

2022 Specialized S-Works Crux - riding 4.jpg

On faster sections, the longer wheelbase comes into play, as does the longer reach and lower stack, to deliver a long and low riding position that is just on the fun side of stable. It was great fun flicking from one line to the other – the Crux is great at making you feel like a more skilful rider than you are.

Where I feel that the Crux really shines is when you're piecing together gravel sections with stretches of road. Around me, that's the only way to do gravel riding, but with how well the Crux rides on tarmac that just isn't an issue. The bike is so nippy that twisty back lanes are some of the best places to ride this bike. The tyre size provides a huge amount of cornering grip and there's no issue when you run into a section that is poorly surfaced.

2022 Specialized S-Works Crux - riding 5.jpg

Comfort from the 38mm Pathfinder tyres is good but not revolutionary. Realistically, the comfort you get from an off-road bike is going to come down to the tyres you use and the pressure you run. It isn't as plush as something like the Diverge with its FutureShock, but I wouldn't say that the Crux is a harsh bike.

2022 Specialized S-Works Crux - tyre.jpg

If you've got the wider, smoother gravel roads that we generally associate with North America, you'd probably want something with aero tube shapes to help you along while you ride at over 30km/h for the 200 miles of the Dirty Kanza race. But on the twisty and tight gravel stuff around me, with its endless up and down nature, the Crux's low weight, nippy ride and excellent handling are just what I want.

And then if you're looking for a gravel bike that is still an excellent road bike, this is a serious contender. The rather slick Pathfinder tyres will be helping here, but I'd be happy to stick a set of proper road tyres on the Crux and use it as a slightly more relaxed road bike. It'd make an excellent endurance bike, for example.

Frame/fork

When it comes to the frame, Specialized has used the same layup tech that it developed for the Aethos. This was explained well when we took our first look at that bike, but in essence, the tube shapes do away with the need to reinforce certain areas with extra material. Less resin gets used and thus you have a lighter frame.

2022 Specialized S-Works Crux - frame detail.jpg

The S-Works model I have on test here gets the FACT 12r carbon. A 56cm frame has a claimed weight of just 725g, and the fork is around 400g depending on how much steerer tube you chop off. This fork is shared with the Pro and Expert bikes that use 10r carbon. What I'm hinting at is that you can get a frameset that isn't much heavier for significantly less.

2022 Specialized S-Works Crux - front.jpg

There's no hiding of the cables within the head tube and I'm a big fan of this from a practicality standpoint.

2022 Specialized S-Works Crux - head tube badge.jpg

Also ticking a box for practicality is the threaded bottom bracket, and the mounting point for a front derailleur – more on that in the groupset section below.

2022 Specialized S-Works Crux - bottom bracket 2.jpg

Other things I like include the seatstays not being dropped, instead creating a smooth transition from the top tube into the back of the bike.

2022 Specialized S-Works Crux - frame size.jpg

The seatpost is a standard 27.2mm round model and the external band clamp is great to see.

2022 Specialized S-Works Crux - seat tube junction.jpg

What is missing from the frame and fork are mounts for things. I'd love to have seen some mudguard eyelets tucked away, and while there is a spot under the down tube to store a third bottle cage, you won't be able to mount a frame bag without the use of straps.

2022 Specialized S-Works Crux - bosses 3.jpg

The geometry is tweaked from the old Crux, and while it isn't a full-on adventure bike geometry, I'd certainly say it is more gravel bike than cyclocross racer. The reach is longer, the stack is shorter, the bottom bracket has dropped and the wheelbase been extended. The idea is to give you a bit more stability on the faster gravel paths while still being nimble enough to throw around the tight turns of a cyclocross course.

I'd say that Specialized has got the balance about right here. Some gravel bikes to me just feel dull and boring, but the Crux is just hands down a great bike to ride. I think one of the reasons it still feels fun is that Specialized seems to have added the length mostly at the back of the bike rather than increasing the fork rake or making the head tube super slack. It's a nice balance that I can see a lot of roadies being very happy with.

2022 Specialized S-Works Crux - back.jpg

There is one significant benefit to the geometry changes and that is that Specialized has been able to make space for impressively wide tyres.

2022 Specialized S-Works Crux - fork clearance.jpg

You can get a 47mm on a 700C wheel or a 2.1in on a 650B. That opens up the bike to some relatively serious technical ground if that's your thing, but what I care about is the space around a 33mm cyclocross tyre for mud clearance. In heavy mud conditions, build-up was impressively low and you could easily finish the muddiest races without having to swap bikes. The pros still will, because they have the spares, and mud does still bung up the gears, but as a privateer it's nice to know I'll at least make the finish line with the wheels still spinning.

2022 Specialized S-Works Crux - seat stays.jpg

Groupset

The SRAM Red eTap AXS groupset has a lot going for it, and this XPLR (explore for vowel haters) model is my favourite yet. The 10-44T cassette has plenty of spread, with gaps in between sprockets that don't feel clunky. Combine it with the 40T chainring and there was, for me, a gear for everything from techy gravel climbs to flat road stretches.

2022 Specialized S-Works Crux - drivetrain.jpg

The 40x44 will go up just about anything you think you can ride up, and the 40x10 is equivalent to something around a 53x13. That's plenty of gear to have for fast road sections, though I will note that every SRAM-equipped bike I've had with a 10T sprocket has not liked going into said sprocket. Nurse it onto the 10T with some careful pedalling and it's fine, but it's not what I expect from a top-end groupset.

2022 Specialized S-Works Crux - rear mech.jpg

Remember I was talking about how much I've loved riding the Crux on the road? Here is where the Crux runs into a potential, albeit rather niche, problem. You're not able to run a standard road 2x chainset, though 2x gravel setups such as GRX and AXS Wide are fine. You're also limited to a 46T chainring, and it's all because Specialized has had to make space for those wide tyres without affecting the chain line. I only say that because I can see this being a great road bike for people who don't just want to ride roads. It's basically an Aethos that you can point at a byway, so I'd be very interested to use this with Classified's hub gear system. One is on the way for testing, so keep an eye out for that.

2022 Specialized S-Works Crux - UCI badge.jpg

Back to the groupset, and the bike also comes equipped with a power meter. This is SRAM's Red AXS model and it is one that I like a lot. The data is consistent, it connects easily, and from my experience it seems pretty robust too.

2022 Specialized S-Works Crux - crank.jpg

The brakes are also a big highlight of the SRAM Red groupset. The Crux comes with 160mm rotors front and rear, providing loads of stopping power for when you have a scary moment. The modulation is great and the levers are comfortable.

2022 Specialized S-Works Crux - rear disc brake.jpg
2022 Specialized S-Works Crux - lever.jpg

When you consider the simplicity of the shifting, it's a very good groupset overall.

Wheels/tyres

The Roval Terra C wheelset is light, wide and complements the bike well. I think the mid-depth looks great on this bike and they've been smacked into a few rocks without breaking or even going out of line.

2022 Specialized S-Works Crux - rim 2.jpg

The Specialized Pathfinder tyres were okay. On dry rides and for road sections the tread pattern is perfect, but introduce any moisture and you'd be wanting something with a little bit of bite. To be honest, though, half the fun for me is losing traction on a wet or loose corner, so I found the Pathfinders a blast.

2022 Specialized S-Works Crux - tyre tread.jpg

I did have some tubeless setup issues. A new set of valves and some fresh rim tape did the job for the rear, but the front is still losing air from somewhere. It's at a rate where my traction improves through the course of a three-hour ride, but it isn't the biggest issue.

2022 Specialized S-Works Crux - rim 1.jpg

Finishing kit

Roval also provides the Terra C bar which is very compact and slightly flared for a comfortable and easily accessible drops position. Wrapping the bar is Supacaz tape, which provides plenty of grip but could, for me, be a touch thicker.

2022 Specialized S-Works Crux - bars 3.jpg

The Alpinist seatpost comes from the Aethos and does a fine job of holding the S-Works Power saddle in place.

2022 Specialized S-Works Crux - saddle and post.jpg

Speaking of which, that's an excellent saddle for a bike with a long and low position like this – I was very comfortable on it from the off. Your bottom might disagree, of course.

For cyclocross racing

The first cyclocross race I tackled on the Crux was my first in ages, and I was properly excited to ride the Crux between the tape. The course was part of the Wessex League and featured long straights, plenty of fast corners, a decent drop into ruts, tight corners and a section of loamy singletrack that spat you out onto a brilliant power climb. I had great fun, thanks for asking, and went from the back of the grid to eighth – the effort gave me a sore throat, which turned into a cold and then Covid meant two weeks off the bike. Worth it.

The mostly dry, fast conditions for the race perfectly suited what the Crux has become, but it still rode well in the loamy forest section. Add in that it was nimble around the switchback turns and I'd say this is still a bike that is well suited for cyclocross racing. Exiting the loamy section onto the power climb really showed how well the Crux climbs, and I felt confident in attacking it each lap, knowing I could open a gap to whichever rider I was with at the time. My effort wasn't going to be wasted, and when you're averaging close to 180bpm for an hour, that's very nice assurance.

Cornering was a joy, and it was nice to be able to push the bike and have it simply track its way calmly through the corners.

> Beginner’s guide to cyclocross – get muddy, get fit (and get a new bike)

While I wasn't able to get a muddy race in on the Crux, I did manage to cake it in mud enough to have faith that the added tyre clearance is doing its job. Despite the tight gap between the chainring and drive-side chainstay, there was no build-up here, which is undoubtedly helped by the fact that there's very little build-up taking place right beside this area behind the BB.

> Buyer’s Guide: 12 of the best cyclocross bikes

This is very niche, but I would have liked a slightly more horizontal top tube for dismounts as I felt that I was leaning over a little more than I'd like when my hand was holding the top tube prior to actually stepping off the bike. That's minor, though.

To summarise the cyclocross performance: you're going to absolutely love the low weight just for the punch out of corners. The tyre clearance is also a huge asset, especially if you've only got one bike.

Value

And then we turn to the question of value. This is a top-end bike with a top-end price. Before I compare it with some similarly priced alternatives for those of you who actually have £11k, I will say that, like the Aethos, you will have just as much fun on the less expensive Pro (£7,400), Expert (£5,800) and Comp (£4,250) models. In fact, if you have this much money and want a bike primarily for cyclocross racing, get two of the Comp bikes and stick one of them in the pits for emergencies.

I won't even try to justify the price, but I will say that if you've got the cash then the Crux won't disappoint.

> Cyclocross v gravel bikes: get to know the clever differences that set them apart

How does it compare? Well, Trek's Checkpoint SLR9 is £11,100, so £200 cheaper and comes with a very similar spec sheet. You've got more colour choices here if satin black isn't your thing, but really, the Checkpoint is more towards the adventure end of the gravel market as it has internal storage and a plethora of mounting points for bags.

Cervelo's Aspero-5 (£10,199) is another option and is similar to the Crux in that it isn't decked out in mounting points, instead being marketed as a race-focused bike.

Conclusion

Stupidly expensive it might be, but the Crux is a brilliant bike for racing cyclocross, batting through the lanes or flying along twisty gravel trails. It climbs incredibly well, not just in terms of its acceleration but also on the technical stuff, and is a barrel of laughs in the corners too. It's probably not going to be your first pick for adventure riding, but for the fast, hilly riding that it is designed for, it is exceptional.

Verdict

An exceptionally light gravel bike that excels on the climbs and is a blast to ride fast

If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website

road.cc test report

Make and model: Specialized S-Works Crux

Size tested: 54

About the bike

List the components used to build up the bike.

Frame

S-Works Crux FACT 12r Carbon, Rider First Engineered™, Threaded BB, 12x142mm thru-axle, flat-mount disc

FORK

Fork

S-Works FACT Carbon, 12x100mm thru-axle, flat-mount disc

COCKPIT

Handlebars

Roval Terra, carbon, 103mm drop x 70mm reach x 12° flare

Stem

S-Works SL, alloy, titanium bolts, 6-degree rise

Tape

Supacaz Super Sticky Kush

Saddle

Body Geometry S-Works Power, carbon fiber rails, carbon fiber base

SeatPost

Roval Alpinist Carbon Seatpost

Seat Binder

Specialized Alloy, 30.0mm, titanium bolt

BRAKES

Front Brake

SRAM RED eTAP AXS, hydraulic disc

Rear Brake

SRAM RED eTAP AXS, hydraulic disc

DRIVETRAIN

Shift Levers

SRAM Red eTap AXS

Rear Derailleur

SRAM Red XPLR eTap AXS

Cassette

SRAM XPLR, XG-1271, 12-speed, 10-44t

Crankset

SRAM Red AXS Power Meter

Chainrings

40T

Bottom Bracket

SRAM DUB BSA

Chain

SRAM RED 12-speed

WHEELS & TIRES

Front Wheel

Roval Terra CLX

Rear Wheel

Roval Terra CLX

Front Tire

Pathfinder Pro 2Bliss Ready, Transparent Sidewall, 700x38c

Rear Tire

Pathfinder Pro 2Bliss Ready, Transparent Sidewall, 700x38c

Inner Tubes

Presta valve, 48mm

Tell us what the bike is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?

Specialized says: "The Crux is the lightest gravel bike in the world, with the exceptional capability of massive tire clearance and performance gravel geometry. It's not just the ultimate expression of gravel performance, it's your one-way ticket to gravel enlightenment."

Basically, it's a fast gravel bike that will do cyclocross too.

Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options

Top of the line. You can get the Pro, Expert and Comp models for significantly less.

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork
 
10/10

Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?

Everything seems well finished.

Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?

FACT 12r carbon, but Specialized doesn't provide details of what that means, other than that FACT is short for Functional Advanced Composite Technology.

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

It's more like an endurance road bike than a gravel bike. Long and low with a slightly extended wheelbase and dropped BB over the old Crux. It's a geometry that roadies and gravel racers will love but could be a bit twitchy for more sedate adventure gravel riding.

How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?

One of the longer reaches and lower stack heights on the gravel bike market.

Riding the bike

Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.

The bike is very stiff. That's part of what makes it a brilliant climber, but it also makes it less comfortable than something like the Diverge.

Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?

A very stiff frame and wheelset with plenty of stiffness around the BB area.

How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?

With the way that the Crux accelerates, it feels very efficient.

Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?

No.

How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? Lively.

Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?

For a gravel bike, this is very lively. It is great for techy climbs and twisty singletrack.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?

The bar tape could be swapped out for something thicker to add comfort.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?

The wheels really complement the frame's stiffness.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?

The Pathfinder tyre's slick central tread makes this a very speedy bike in dry conditions and on roads.

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
 
10/10
Rate the bike for acceleration:
 
10/10
Rate the bike for sprinting:
 
10/10
Rate the bike for high speed stability:
 
7/10
Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for low speed stability:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for flat cornering:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for cornering on descents:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for climbing:
 
10/10

The drivetrain

Rate the drivetrain for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the drivetrain for durability:
 
7/10
Rate the drivetrain for weight:
 
9/10
Rate the drivetrain for value:
 
8/10

Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?

As with all SRAM AXS groupsets that I've used, the 10T sprocket wasn't the best in terms of shifting performance. Otherwise, the groupset is brilliant.

Wheels and tyres

Rate the wheels for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels for durability:
 
9/10
Rate the wheels for weight:
 
9/10
Rate the wheels for comfort:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels for value:
 
8/10

Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?

A great match for this bike. The wheels are light, stiff and wide.

Rate the tyres for performance:
 
7/10
Rate the tyres for durability:
 
7/10
Rate the tyres for weight:
 
8/10
Rate the tyres for comfort:
 
7/10
Rate the tyres for value:
 
5/10

Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?

Good for dry conditions, but not much else.

Controls

Rate the controls for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the controls for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for weight:
 
9/10
Rate the controls for comfort:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for value:
 
5/10

Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?

The flared bar is really comfortable and the SRAM Red shifter bodies offer a solid grip over rough terrain.

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes

Would you consider buying the bike? I wish... I'd have the Comp model.

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes

How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

It's one of the most expensive gravel bikes on the market. Trek's Checkpoint SLR9 is £11,100, so £200 cheaper and comes with a very similar spec sheet, though the Checkpoint is aimed more towards the adventure end of the gravel market as it has internal storage and a plethora of mounting points for bags.

Cervelo's Aspero-5 (£10,199) is another option and is similar to the Crux in that it isn't decked out in mounting points, instead being marketed as a race-focused bike.

Rate the bike overall for performance:
 
10/10
Rate the bike overall for value:
 
5/10

Use this box to explain your overall score

Hideously expensive but absolutely fantastic to ride. If you've got the money, it is the perfect bike for a roadie who wants to go fast on hilly gravel rides.

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 27  Height: 177cm  Weight: 62kg

I usually ride: Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7  My best bike is:

I've been riding for: Under 5 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, club rides, general fitness riding, I specialise in the Cafe Ride!

Son of a Marathon runner, Nephew of a National 24hr Champion, the racing genetics have completely passed him by. After joining the road.cc staff in 2016 as a reviewer, Liam quickly started writing feature articles and news pieces. After a little time living in Canada, where he spent most of his time eating poutine, Liam returned with the launch of DealClincher, taking over the Editor role at the start of 2018. At the weekend, Liam can be found racing on the road both in the UK and abroad, though he prefers the muddy fields of cyclocross. To date, his biggest race win is to the front of the cafe queue.

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