We know that with these long lazy sunny days of heat and dust and Pimms you don't want to be reminded of the cold and slop and pain of cyclo-cross, but it's not long before the days start to get shorter and a young man's thoughts turn to the 'cross season and that sweet drizzly hour of hell.
But all that aside, look at this, not something you see very often these days, a cyclo-cross bike designed just for cyclo-cross racing. Blimey. The Specialized Crux Elite is a bike for going fast for 60 odd minutes, it's not some drop-barred jack of all trades hybrid with room for racks and mudguards, road gearing and lazy geometry, it looks like it's been put together by someone that has actually done a cyclo-cross race or two. Being overly critical at 21.5lbs for the 56cm it's less Elite and more Sport but the Top 10 is somewhere the Crux has aspirations to thrive.
The top-tube of the E5 aluminium frame is sloping but not so much that you can't wedge a shoulder under it and it's shaped to be comfortable once in there, up front the down-tube flares out to meet a tapered head-tube with an 1-1/2" lower bearing on the integrated headset. The rear-brake and gear cables are routed internally through the main triangle, as well as keeping things neat and tidy and away from the mud it stops annoying snagging and grabbing when fumbling the bike into a carry when racing. The rear brake cable disappears into the top-tube before popping out to loop into a cleverly integrated seat-clamp and cable-guide and both gear cables hide in the downtube to emerge from a cowl just in front of the bottom-bracket, the latter is a feature spotted on the super top-end Giant TCX at Eurobike last year, and here it is already on a bike-shop bike, how's that for trickle-down?
Sticking out the bottom of that bulbous head-tube is an equally chunky carbon legged but alloy steerered S-Works FACT fork, the top half of the fork legs are as fat as your forearm before tapering down to the fork-ends. This all looks pretty sturdy and should go a long way to keep the steering snappy and stop any of the fork flutter and front-brake induced shudder encountered by some, and to that end Specialized have bolted a dedicated cable-hanger to the fork, it's even got an adjuster in it.
The frame is clean of any mounts or eyelets for mudguards or racks, this is a bike designed for racing, the only concession to it possibly being used for longer than an hour on a Sunday are the double water-bottle mounts. Those that want a more Sports Utility 'Cross (SUX?) bike with more mule tendencies should look at Specialized's Tricross range, where the cringeworthy yet descriptive Freeroad moniker is still being used, and the bikes have accessory mounts and wider gearing.
Tiagra 9 speed STI units pull on a Tiagra front mech and a Deore LX rear mech which dangles on a replaceable rear-mech hanger that suggests that the Crux is designed for more rough and tumble work than a road mech can cope with, although the long cage does look a little incongruous. The FSA Omega chainset has cyclo-cross friendly 46 and 36 tooth rings, linked to a wide ranging 9-speed 11- 32 cassette in a nod to the fact that not all of us have thighs of Nys.
Specialized's supply the stem and oversize bars with a now familiar shallow drop and there's a neat little shim between the stem and the steerer that with a simple rotation alters the angle of the stem between either +16 or -8 degrees, so 4 stem positions are quickly and easily possible. Seating is a rather comfortable looking steel railed "Body Geometry" Riva Road saddle that sits on a Specialized Comp FACT carbon seatpost that's got Zertz inserts in, apparently. Wheels are respected Mavic CXP22 rims laced to no-name sealed bearing hubs with Specialized Houffalize CX Sport 700x32c tyres that are quite a favourite bit-of-everything tyre around here, and these have Flak Jacket puncture protection too.
The cantilever brakes are unbranded but listed in the catalogue as Tektro to cope with the stopping in a traditional way and get those that "need" discs on a 'cross bike all flustered, the front brakes are a Froggleg-style sticky-outy for extra power while the rear have an inboard design for added heel clearance. In the spares box with the reflectors you get cable-adjusters for the brakes for on-the-fly brake fiddling, and a set of shims for the Tiagra STIs so the levers sit closer to the bars, which is great for those with smaller hands.
On paper the Crux looks a hell of a well thought out and feature heavy cyclo-cross race bike for a thousand notes, now we just need to find some mud to check this out.
Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.