As the popularity of gravel racing increases, so too does the number of companies introducing gravel road bikes or, as is the case with Specialized, creating gravel versions of an existing cyclocross bike. The latest gravel-centric bike from Specialized is the US$7,000 CruX Expert EVO Di2 (UK pricing and availability TBA.)
The EVO designation means different things to different bikes within the Specialized line. In general, ‘EVO’ is used to denote bikes that break from the norm, being built to be racier, more aggressive, or in the case of the CruX EVO, of which there are now two models, better suited to endurance gravel events than hour-long races between the tape of a 'cross course.
The CruX Elite EVO Rival Disc was introduced with the rest of the Specialized line last summer. It features the same carbon frame and fork used throughout the CruX line but adds a 50/34T compact crankset, 38mm-wide tyres and Specialized vibration-absorbing CG-R seatpost.
The new CruX Expert EVO Di2 builds on the general concept of a gravel racer through the addition of a third set of water bottle bosses underneath the downtube and a build kit focused on longer rides over roads less traveled.
The brakes and drivetrain consist of Shimano Ultegra Di2, with the addition of a Specialized Pro FACT Carbon crankset with 50/34T chainrings paired to an 11-28T cassette. The Roval Rapide CL 40 carbon disc wheelset is shod in 38mm-wide Trigger tires. The CruX Expert EVO Di2 also gets an S-Works FACT carbon CG-R seatpost. Last but not least, the new bike will come equipped with the SWAT storage system, which holds tubes, a CO2 inflator and cartridges and a multi-tool.
While there’s a great deal of debate about what exactly a “gravel bike” is, this particular machine was developed with input from Dan Hughes, four-time winner of the Dirty Kanza 200, a grueling 200-mile gravel road race though the Flint Hills of east central Kansas. Last year Hughes, owner of Sunflower Outdoor & Bike Shop in Lawrence, Kansas, rode a prototype version of this bike to victory at the DK200. “It represents sort of an evolution and solidifying of the concepts that were present on my bike last year,” said Hughes.
The project had been in the works for almost as long as the CruX has been in the Specialized line. “Dan started asking for a third water bottle cage so he could race it in the Dirty Kanza," said Specialized performance road R&D team member Don Langley. “We had noticed the growing gravel race scene and [Specialized product manager] Chris Wehan and I really wanted to make some gravel-racing CruXs. Dan thought the current CruX at the time would be perfect with a few tweaks.”
“We added the SWAT compatibility for the production models and made a ‘Specialized Edition’ of the dream machine Dan originally dreamed up,” Langley added.