With most of the top competitors now running full-carbon machines, Todd Wells' (Specialized) aluminum CruX seems like somewhat of an outlier – particularly since he rode a carbon Specialized last season and that design is still available. Digging a bit deeper, though, it quickly comes to light that the brand-new, all-alloy chassis is not only now the most race-specific platform in the company's 'cross lineup but Wells' particular machine turns out to a precursor for a next-generation carbon flagship.
Comparing the two current platforms side-by-side quickly reveals the differences. While the CruX Carbon inherits the geometry and feel of the old S-Works Tricross, Wells' new alloy CruX sports tighter and quicker-handling geometry with chain stays that are a full 15mm shorter, a wheelbase that's roughly 20mm tighter, plus a head tube angle and fork rake combination that yields a nearly 10mm decrease in trail – all of which are major changes.
Wells' machines further differ with custom geometry that essentially borrows its rear end from a stock 58cm alloy CruX but splices that to a front end that's both longer and lower than the current 61cm. In effect, this yields a potentially more aggressive position than the current stock model but according to Wells' mechanic, Myron Billy, the more tangible effect of the longer front center as it pertains to 'cross is that it has eliminated the possibility of toe overlap in tight corners.
Wells' current CruX also isn't really any heavier despite the all-alloy construction and stiffer and more precise handling 1 1/8"-to-1 1/2" tapered front end – our own in-house test samples are separated by just 30g and 10g for the frame and fork, respectively, with a 52cm aluminum CruX posting a race-worthy 1,510 actual weight.
It's a safe bet that that number – respectable as it is – is set to go down next year by a considerable margin as Wells' custom frame is the latest effort at company designers at finalizing geometry before cutting molds for a new CruX Carbon likely to be introduced for next season. In addition to being expectedly lighter, stiffer, and better handling than its predecessor, we venture to guess the fortunate timing for Specialized's frame engineers relative to recent UCI developments might even see it with disc tabs front and rear.
With 2010 model year CruX Carbon models still sitting on dealer floors, Specialized naturally wouldn't confirm any information regarding the new bike but Wells' comments suggest that equipment developments in the 'cross might be as exciting as some hope for next season.
"There is a chance I'll be racing on disc brakes next year but not this year," he told us.
For now, the rest of Wells' gear is fairly standard at this level, including a SRAM Red transmission, Specialized's own FACT integrated carbon cranks, Zipp 303 Cyclocross carbon wheels, ultralight TRP EuroX Mag wide-profile cantilevers, Crankbrothers Eggbeater 11 pedals, and various cockpit and seating components also from the big 'S'.
However, those wheels were wrapped with Specialized's decidedly non-standard prototype 'cross tubulars. Keen-eyed readers will note that Wells was frequently pictured running his usual Dugast Rhinos in Fort Collins' greasy mud at the New Belgium Cup but the former two-time US national champion says he ran both the Rhino and new aggressive-tread Terra and that it was more a matter of supply than preference as he currently has just one set each of Specialized's trio of new designs.
The oversized BB30-compatible bottom bracket shell houses Specialized's own carbon crankset.
"I thought the tread of the Terras worked great and was comparable to the Rhino," he said. "The casings of the Terra are a little stiffer than the Rhino so to get the same feel I had to run slightly less pressure in the Terras – two psi. I felt like the Terra treads cleaned well and bit into the slick mud as well as the Rhinos and I felt like the two tires were very comparable."
Total weight as pictured is just 7.61kg (16.78lb) – but we're guessing the weekend's mud added quite a bit more!