Cross Dressing Up Pt1
VecchioJo race tunes the recently tested off the shelf Specialized Crux cyclo-cross bike
This Specialized CruX Elite was tested a while ago and turned out to be a great race-ready bike that was a bit held back by some of the parts fitted to meet its friendly £1,000 target. Proving the capability at the heart of the bike there’s a lot of Crux bikes racing the CX circuit now, albeit mostly in a somewhat customized form from the out-the-box version, and some of them have been between podium familiar legs, so deep down the CruX is pedigree, it just needs teasing out.
Specialized haven’t asked for the bike back yet so I've been holding onto it as a winter project slowly upgraded to race speed over the season, and here’s the, er, crux, without throwing too much money at it. It would be easy to splash the cash and buy some posh wheels and a whole basket of lightweight kit but the project is going to be undertaken in the mindset of someone who might have bought the entry-level Crux to give cyclo-cross racing a go and has caught the bug, so the bike’s going to be enhanced on a privateer budget, most benefit for least cash.
The Crux suffers from the pressures of meeting a price-point where compromises have to be made to reach a certain cost, the frame and fork are perfectly capable for thrashing about for an hour, and much more if you wanted but is race hampered by a few component choices. The first changes have been cheap quick and easy; the stock rangey 11-32 cassette has been replaced with a more race-bred 12-27 as some of the gaps between the gears on the original ratio were big enough to break an ankle in, the new one has more cadence happy skips between the gears. This comes at the expense of climbing ease should the marker tape ever lead sharply uphill, but there’s usually not much on a ‘cross course that demands a 32 sprocket and the 139g weight saving between the old and the new should mean the bike is slightly easier to chug up the grassy banks.
The long cage Shimano LX rear-mech has been swapped for a shorter cage Ultegra mech, an old one recovered from the shed, continuing in the tradition of cyclocross bikes being the happy retirement home for old bits of road kit. And it’s 44g lighter in the world of marginal gains. With the tighter cassette and shorter cage derailleur comes a shorter chain, all working together to bring crisper shifting and all but ban the annoying chain-slap that plagued the CruX with it’s original waggedy long rear mech and lengthy chain required to stretch across the broad gears.
The gumpy Specialized Riva saddle has been chucked and replaced with a sleeker, racier and 57g lighter Oval saddle and because it’s white the bars have been re-wrapped with white tape to match. Collar and cuffs, collar and cuffs. And white tape is faster, any fool knows that.
The reliable but surprisingly hefty Houffalise tyres have given way to some lighter Bontrager ‘cross rubber that saves about 80g per wheel, so with these few simple and inexpensive swaps there’s been about a 400g saving, that’s nudging 1lb in old money, not that weight saving is the essence of the project but it all helps, especially when you might have to lift the bike onto a shoulder a dozen times an hour.
Something that always helps with any bike upgrade in both weight and ride feel are some new wheels, the stock ones on this CruX are heavy, really heavy, and are starting to show their age and value getting more than a bit baggy and the bearings are making complaining noises. So some new hoops are next on the list alongside a new bottom-bracket as this one’s beginning to choke with the mud, and with it a new chainset maybe as the FSA Omega here is a solid lunk of kit to force round. That's what I'll be aiming for in part 2… I'll let you know how it goes.