Specialized CruX Elite Carbon Disc Rival - first ride

Cyclocross bike with hydraulic disc brakes

BikeRadar score 4/5

The Specialized CruX Elite Carbon Disc Rival forms part of the second generation of Specialized’s CruX cyclocross range. The Elite has the same frame as the range-topping Pro Race (US$6,300) and comes with SRAM’s S-700 hydraulic disc brakes.

  • Pros: Great chassis, low weight, truly great braking
  • Cons: Average wheels shod with tyres more suited to hardpack conditions

Ride & handling: Another tick for hydraulic discs

The CruX’s frame feels impressive out on the trail; a firm feel translates into a flickable ride. We didn’t test the bike over traditional cyclocross terrain, instead taking it to the singletrack pathways and trails of the Copper Mountain snow resort, Colorado. 

Climbing aboard the 9kg (19.8lb) package was plenty of fun, and it handled the terrain superbly. The CruX, despite its mid-level components and wheels, just didn’t feel anything like its mass on the scales would suggest. 

On fast flats and descents it felt similarly impressive. The 33c Tracer Sport tyres have a closely spaced, shallow block tread and held onto the hardpacked dirt impressively – they also rolled superbly on a tarmac diversion, but we’ll reserve judgement on their merits for more typically muddy cyclocross riding.

The same can be said for the disc-specific Axis 2.0 wheels. Put together for Specialized by DT, they feature nicely sealed hubs matched to semi-deep alloy rims. It’s a package that’s stiff enough to encourage some off-road hooliganism, but the weight isn’t that impressive. 

Specialized CruX Elite Carbon Disc Rival

Braking is the big story on this CruX; regardless of whether you agree with the rising tide of disc brakes for road bikes, for cyclocross they do offer an advantage, and not just because of the bigger mud clearances.

The S-Series braking offers masses of feel throughout the full travel of the lever, once you’ve adjusted to feeding in the right amount of power to scrub off just enough speed. The braking comes in sooner than with a canti or cable system, and stays progressive throughout the lever travel. 

Even in panic situations where a mixture of terrain and talent threshold meant we stopped sharply, we didn’t lock the rear wheel. When we got out on the road for a short, steep, twisty descent it was much the same story.

All in all, the low slung, stable rolling and snappy handling CruX is an absolute blast to ride – well sorted and with impressive braking.

Frame & equipment: Clever touches plus S-Series highlights

The frame itself features full internal cable routing, including the hydraulic brake lines for SRAM’s new S-Series stoppers. The BB30 bottom bracket echoes the shape of those on Specialized’s road-going machines, albeit with a wider-spaced stay junction for mud clearance. Up front, a new disc-specific, all-carbon FACT fork completes the impressive setup.

Components wise, the CruX Elite Carbon has a decent enough array of equipment, the key parts being the S-Series hydraulic brakes and matching shifters. The shifters are 10-speed compatible, and drive a SRAM Rival rear mech over a gradient-friendly, 11-28T PG 1030 block. An Apex front mech handles chainring shifts over the alloy S-Series 46/36 chainset, and is the only really obvious cost-cutting measure.

Steering chores are taken up by a Specialized Pro-Set stem; its four-position angle adjustment is great for tuning or experimenting with your ride position, and is something we always look forward to using on bikes from the Big S. 

The Pro-Set holds in place a dedicated Specialized CX Comp handlebar, which has a super-shallow 125mm drop and a short reach of just 70mm. Out on the trail, these smaller dimensions encourage you to stay in the drops for just that bit longer, where bigger bars would normally see you shift to the hoods.

The geometry is very much like that of the previous CruX, which was quite North American in its approach. The 67mm bottom bracket drop on our 58cm test bike is low by European mud-plugging standards, but the 72.5-degree head angle, 73-degree seat angle and 1,025mm wheelbase make for a nicely neutral ride. 

The sculpted underside of the down tube is designed to aid grip in hike-a-bike sections

The steep seat angle means the bike responds well to changes in pedal power, allowing you to snap forward when necessary. It also allows you to back clear of the saddle when standing, getting your weight over the rear wheel and adding traction when needed. That’s something the lower bottom bracket, and therefore lower centre of gravity, will also aid.

The advent of disc brakes has meant there’s even more clearance available at the fork crown, chainstays and seatstays on this CruX. The frame’s down tube is sculpted inwards to make it easier to hold when you’re running. It’s a clever idea that’s come from racer feedback to Specialized’s design team.

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