Skip to main content

Specialized CruX Elite X1 review

Promising privateer racer with some compatibility issues

Image 1 of 11

The Specialized CruX Elite X1

The Specialized CruX Elite X1 (Image credit: Josh Patterson / Immediate Media)
Image 2 of 11

The SRAM Rival X1 crankset with a a 40t chainring

The SRAM Rival X1 crankset with a a 40t chainring (Image credit: Josh Patterson / Immediate Media)
Image 3 of 11

The Specialized CruX Elite X1 is a good option for the amateur racer who doesn't plan to switch out wheelsets

The Specialized CruX Elite X1 is a good option for the amateur racer who doesn't plan to switch out wheelsets (Image credit: Josh Patterson / Immediate Media)
Image 4 of 11

The 1x11 drivetrain provides a wide enough range of gearing for cyclocross

The 1x11 drivetrain provides a wide enough range of gearing for cyclocross (Image credit: Josh Patterson / Immediate Media)
Image 5 of 11

Specialized's Terra Pro tires are tubeless ready and perform best in loose and/or muddy conditions

Specialized's Terra Pro tires are tubeless ready and perform best in loose and/or muddy conditions (Image credit: Josh Patterson / Immediate Media)
Image 6 of 11

SRAM's Rival X1 group provides crisp, reliable shifting. The braking is equally impressive, with ample modulation

SRAM's Rival X1 group provides crisp, reliable shifting. The braking is equally impressive, with ample modulation (Image credit: Josh Patterson / Immediate Media)
Image 7 of 11

A small but thoughtful detail, the cable exits from the rear of the stays, eliminating noise and keeping things looking clean

A small but thoughtful detail, the cable exits from the rear of the stays, eliminating noise and keeping things looking clean (Image credit: Josh Patterson / Immediate Media)
Image 8 of 11

The CruX Elite X1 uses a 135x12mm thru-axle at the rear, which for the moment at least brings compatibility issues with it

The CruX Elite X1 uses a 135x12mm thru-axle at the rear, which for the moment at least brings compatibility issues with it (Image credit: Josh Patterson / Immediate Media)
Image 9 of 11

Upfront, the CruX Elite X1 uses a 100x12mm thru-axle. This is fast becoming the new 'standard'

Upfront, the CruX Elite X1 uses a 100x12mm thru-axle. This is fast becoming the new 'standard' (Image credit: Josh Patterson / Immediate Media)
Image 10 of 11

There's plenty of clearance for mud, or for wider rubber, on the CruX Elite X1

There's plenty of clearance for mud, or for wider rubber, on the CruX Elite X1 (Image credit: Josh Patterson / Immediate Media)
Image 11 of 11

Lots of bottle mounts! These three mounts make the CruX compatible with the SWAT system. Not useful for cyclocross racing, but a good storage system for gravel riding

Lots of bottle mounts! These three mounts make the CruX compatible with the SWAT system. Not useful for cyclocross racing, but a good storage system for gravel riding (Image credit: Josh Patterson / Immediate Media)

This article originally appeared on BikeRadar

Specialized gave the carbon models within the CruX family a subtle yet significant makeover for 2016 model year. The CruX Elite X1 boasts front and rear thru-axles and a solid component spec, but it also comes with significant compatibility issues.

  • Highs: Agile racer with predictable handling and stiff frame
  • Lows: Forward-thinking axle standards leave little room for aftermarket wheel options
  • Buy if: You don’t need a quiver of wheelsets and plan to race it stock

Built for speed and precision

In its stock form, the CruX Elite X1 has the potential to be a potent weapon for recreational racers

The CruX typifies North American cyclocross frame design, with a low bottom bracket to carve through corners and a relatively slack head angle that gives the rider confidence at speed. Its handling is not as intuitive through tight, low-speed turns as some European cyclocross bikes with high and tight geometry, but it doesn't require an excessive amount of rider input, either. If, like me, you approach cyclocross from a mountain bike background, you'll appreciate the dogged handling of the CruX.

That's a lot of bottle mounts! Not useful for cyclocross racing, but the SWAT storage system is useful for carrying essentials on longer rides

The full carbon fork is appreciably forgiving, thanks to a tapered steerer that only increases in diameter to 1 3/8in at the crown, rather than a full 1 1/2in. This bit of engineered flex helps front end track well through hard-packed bumpy courses and aids in reducing high frequency buzz through the handlebar.

All in all, the CruX provides a confident ride and ensures that every last watt propels the rider as far along the path to the finish line as possible.

Sorted frame design with unsupported ‘standards'

Plenty of clearance for mud or larger treads on the CruX

The CruX Elite X1 cuts a clean silhouette. Its full carbon frame has internal routing for the shift cables and rear brake line through the down tube. Even the front brake line is routed internally through the left fork leg.

Clean lines, yes, but this also means that maintenance could get a bit more involved when working on the hydraulic brakes. Thankfully, Specialized had the foresight to include SRAM's Connectamajig couplings, which will reduce maintenance headaches, should you need to lengthen or shorten the brake lines.

The rear shift housing exits cleanly through at the junction of the seat- and chainstays. This small detail keeps the loop of housing leading to the rear derailleur in line with the frame, rather than sticking out in harm's way. It's a small but thoughtful detail that should reduce the likelihood of snagging and prevent the cable from rattling against the stays.

Very clean routing for the rear derailleur

While we're on the subject of rattling, the CruX Elite X1 is the quietest cyclocross bike I've raced. The internal routing completely prevents cables from banging against each other and the clutch-equipped SRAM 1x11 drivetrain makes chain slap nearly non-existent.

Cyclocross is a painful sport, so creature comforts such as an easy-to-shoulder arched top tube and the ‘love handle' indention on the underside of the down tube for grab-and-go maneuvers make run-ups and transitions that much more bearable.

So there's a lot to appreciate in the details that go into the CruX's carbon frame – but axle standards are not among them. I use the term 'standard' loosely in describing the thru-axle system Specialized choose for the CruX.

The 135x12mm rear thru-axle standard isn't widely used, yet

Front and rear thru-axles have become commonplace on most model year 2016 cyclocross bikes. What hasn't been settled just yet is what, exactly, the thru-axle standards will be. Specialized opted to go with a 100x12mm thru-axle for the fork and a 135x12mm rear thru-axle.

The 142x12mm standard is well-established mountain bikes and is the predominant rear thru-axle standard for road and cyclocross.This 135x12mm spacing is unique to Specialized.

Specialized notes, that the absence of a single dominant axle standard lead the company to optimize this design for the CruX and that this is an open standard that other manufacturers are free to use. To date though, there are no aftermarket options available for the 2016 CruX that don't require significant modifications.

We may see wider wheel availability next year. For now, the lack of aftermarket wheel options is a factor that riders accustomed to swapping multiple wheelsets to match course conditions should weigh very carefully.

Solid equipment for the amateur racer

In its stock form, the CruX Elite X1 is a very capable platform for privateer racers.

SRAM's Rival 1 group fires off shifts with precision. The single 40t chainring mated to the 11-32t cassette provided all the range needed for most 'cross courses.

SRAM's hydraulic brakes have abundant stopping power, but more importantly, their modulation is quite good — they make it easy to balance on that delicate line between scrubbing speed through and breaking traction.

SRAM's Rival X1 group performed flawlessly

The alloy-rimmed Axis 4.0 SCS wheelset is tubeless compatible as are the grippy Specialized Terra Pro treads. The dearth of wheel compatibility is slightly offset by the fact that a backup Axis 4.0 SCS wheelset can be had for just $250, which isn't bad for a tubeless-compatible wheelset that weighs in at 1,625g. They're reasonably stiff, although freehub engagement could be quicker.

The tubeless-ready Specialized Terra Pros are well suited to loose or muddy courses

The total weight for the 52cm bike tested here is a very respectable 8.5kg / 18.7lb. Going tubeless and swapping the alloy house-branded stem, seatpost and handlebar for lighter bits will get the CruX Elite X1 down a fighting weight well below 8.2kg / 18lb while still leaving enough money in your wallet to pay for a season's worth of post-race beer and waffles.

Verdict

To put it bluntly, the 2016 CruX doesn't play well with others. If you're a weekend warrior and plan to race the CruX Elite X1 in its stock form, then it's a solid contender. The frame is stiff but not punishing, the geometry is designed for speed, and the kit is a good value for the money. If, however, you have been or are looking to invest in a quiver of tubular wheelsets then this bike is a poor choice.

 

Specification
Name: CruX Elite X1
Built by: Specialized
Price: £2,500.00 / US$$3,000.00 / AUS$$3,999.00

Bottom Bracket: SRAM BB30
Brakes: SRAM Rival X1
Cassette: SRAM PG-1130, 11-speed, 11-32t
Chain: SRAM PC-1130, 11-speed
Cranks: SRAM Rival 1, 40t
Frame Material: Carbon
Front Derailleur: N/A
Front Tyre: Specialized Terra Pro, 2Bliss Ready, 700x33mm
Grips/Tape: Specialized CX Pro Gel
Handlebar: Specialized Comp, 42cm, alloy,125mm drop, 70mm reach
Rear Derailleur: SRAM Rival 1, 11-speed
Rear Tyre: Specialized Terra Pro, 2Bliss Ready, 700x33mm
Saddle: Body Geometry Phenom Comp, hollow Cr-Mo rails, 143mm
Seatpost: Specialized Sport, alloy, 2-bolt, 27.2mm
Shifters: SRAM Rival X1
Stem: Specialized Comp, 100mm
Weight (kg): 8.2
Wheelset: AXIS 4.0 Disc SCS
Year: 2016
Chainring Size (No of Teeth): 40
Weight (lb): 18.7
Bottom Bracket Height (cm): 27.9
Chainstays (cm): 42.5
Seat Tube (cm): 51
Standover Height (cm): 77.3
Top Tube (cm): 53.5
Wheelbase (cm): 101
Frame size tested: 52cm 

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1