This article first appeared on BikeRadar.
The Specialized CruX model range has been slimmed down for 2019, with a single E5 aluminium bike, and three FACT 11r carbon-framed options that reach S-Works level.
The CruX has an aluminium frame and sports a full carbon fork, and a front mech hanger, but there are no concessions to mudguards or racks. This CruX is aimed at cyclo-cross riding, whether that’s for fun, or to race, and I like its undiluted character.
Equipped with SRAM’s practical Apex 1x levers, mech and brake calipers, Specialized adds its favoured Praxis Alba crankset, with a 40-tooth Praxis Wave Technology chainring, TRP disc rotors and a SunRace cassette. Everything else is Specialized’s own, with an alloy bar, stem, seatpost and Axis Sport Disc wheelset plus Tracer Sport tyres.
The Phenom Comp saddle is a tried and trusted shape, with good support and comfort, thanks to dense padding and a central channel with cutout.
My 56cm example weighs 9.66kg, so not light, but to be expected for the cost. It has a core that’s worthy of updates, with some nice touches such as the internally routed cable and hose, which enter and exit through protected ports.
With a 72-degree head angle, and 73.25-degree seat angle, the E5 Sport has a great blend of weight distribution and front-end stability for off-road riding. With around 35psi in the tyres, the rear end of the CruX can feel quite choppy over uneven hardpacked dirt or bumpy dry grassland.
The fork does a better job of absorbing vibrations and shocks, maintaining your chosen line, whatever the terrain, but the aluminium seatpost and frame don’t take the sting out of the hardest hits.
Quick-release wheels on a CX bike feel semi-nostalgic, so few and far between are they now, but the performance of the Axis Sport Disc wheelset is less memorable. The pinned aluminium rims are asymmetric, 26mm wide externally, 24mm tall and open the 33mm Tracer Sport tyres to 35mm. Acceleration out of slow corners and up gradients takes more effort than average, but they can be hustled along at a good speed, if you put the work in.
With their shallow, lightning bolt-like tread blocks and slightly taller shoulder knobs, the Tracers favour dry and soft conditions, as they lack the grip to deal well with wet terrain. On dirt, grass, gravel and tarmac, their low profile, low drag tread handles quickly and securely, with progressive grip in fast corners.
The drivetrain is faultless, with perfect chain retention from the Praxis ring and confident shifts from the SunRace cassette. The 40x32 lowest gear is fine for average terrain, but sharper climbs might see you wishing for a 36 sprocket, due to the wheelset’s rotational weight.
Hydraulic discs are a boon at this price, but the TRP rotors took a while to bed in, and suffered from rubbing.
Clearance at the chainstays is adequate, and there’s a bridge behind the bottom bracket shell to complicate matters. The curved, flattened top-tube keeps shouldering as comfortable as a near-10kg bike can be, and the E5 Sport’s ’cross pedigree is always apparent, with a confident, highly capable ride.
Highs: Carbon fork, drivetrain spec, handling Lows: The wheelset isn’t very lively Buy if: You want a decent first ’cross bike that you can upgrade in the future
BikeRadar Verdict: "The E5 Sport promises years of solid off-road performance"
BikeRadar Score: 3 stars
Price: £1,700 / $2,200