Specialized’s consumer-focused Aethos superbike might seem an unlikely jumping-off point for the brand’s redesign of its offroad Crux. Formerly Specialized’s cyclocross bike, the latest Crux is now positioned as a lightweight gravel racer that might still get around a muddy field should that remain a thing you’re into.
So, where does the Aethos come into the equation? When making the Aethos, Specialized set aside aerodynamics and went after a combination of low weight and user-friendliness. Aiming to tailor it to the people who are likely to own it, not the racers they might aspire to emulate, the result was a kind of everyday superbike.
Taking frame building technology developed while creating that bike, along with importing the same rider-first set of priorities, the new Crux looks to do the same for the off-road crowd. The outcome is a bike with similarly round tubes along with seatstays that connect where you’d expect them to. It also features a normal stem, normal bars, simple cable routing, and sweet mother of mercy, a threaded bottom bracket.
Designed to be both simple to maintain and reliable to use, it jettisons a host of popular features that can occasionally combine to make owning a bike somewhat miserable. Aiming to be comfortable to ride, versatile, and easy to keep rolling without recourse to a pro mechanic, this doesn’t mean the new Crux seeks to take it easy.
The lightest gravel frame
Pretty high up its sell-sheet is the fact that, apparently, the new Crux is the world’s lightest gravel bike. Clocking in at just 725g for the S-Works frame and 825g for the standard version, Specialized suggest this leaves it weighing less than the full bottle in your cage. Only strictly true if you have a really big water bottle, it’s impressive nonetheless, especially when you consider that the bike can accommodate tyres up to 47c wide.
To hammer home how comprehensively its latest design slippers its competition, Specialized has also created the concept of clearance to weight ratio, or CTW. By this measure, Specialized reckons its bike is well ahead when it comes to both these critical criteria.With its ability to accommodate a wide range of tyres allowing it to accomplish an equally wide set of tasks, the frame itself has been designed to emphasise comfort. Not that this means the geometry has been rendered upright and sedate. In fact, the Crux has geometry not massively removed from a racing bike. Instead, it wants to use this comfort to ease your journey across a range of terrain. At the same time, although it manages a third bottle cage on the downtube, in keeping with its racey premise, you’ll have to make do without rack or fender mounts.
Last year’s model
Despite the fact you’ve got former Specialized sponsored rider Tom Pidcock, plus stars Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel all racing cyclocross in the winter, the sport remains a niche segment compared to road or gravel. In fact, it’s so niche the marketing for the Crux barely mentions it. However, as most cyclocross riders will know, a cyclocross bike is basically already a gravel bike.
Add in a few marketing images of riders carrying rather than riding their bikes and a few millimetres of extra clearance, and you end up with a machine that can happily get stuck into both genres at a competitive level. So despite the dusty trials emphasised in its promo literature, this means the Crux is still only a tyre and ratio swap away from being race-ready at your local winter series.
Sitting alongside Specialized’s established Diverge gravel bike, the Crux remains distinct in its more aggressive angles, lower weight, lack of mechanical dampening, and absence of rack or fender mounts. Although not necessarily what the brand is aiming at, it’s also likely to ride pretty well on the road too.
Already sneaking itself into a few high profile gravel races, you can get a closer look at the new Crux at Rouleur Live. Taking place in London between the 4-6th November, more information and tickets can be found here.