Cyclocross Race Bike Shootout: Specialized Crux Pro Race Ultegra Di2 Review

Race ready rig delivers great handling, sublime shifting, and stop-on-a-dime braking

Cross
The bike feels comfortable on your shoulder, but the weight is definitely noticeable.

The bike feels comfortable on your shoulder, but the weight is definitely noticeable.

Editor’s Note: This article is part of our Cyclocross Race Bike Shootout series, which includes reviews of top competition steeds from Jamis, Trek, and Van Dessel, as well as a SRAM Force CX1 and tests of several wheelsets and ’cross tires.

As any devotee of Specialized knows, the Morgan Hill, California-based company has a long and storied history in the design and manufacture of race bikes. Through the years, competition steeds bearing the Big Red S have scored top podium placings at everything from the Tour de France, to mountain bike world championships, to U.S. cyclocross nationals.

It will come as no surprise then that the Specialized Crux Pro Race ’cross steed is most at home when carving corners or hopping barriers. With its aggressive geometry, stiff-as-stone composite frame, carbon tubeless-ready wheels, electronic shifting, and best-in-class hydraulic disc brakes, this is a bike that begs to be ridden hard and fast.

Of course, all that speed comes with a price. In a sport where having two bikes is the accepted norm for even upper-echelon amateurs, the Crux Pro Race’s $7300 price tag may be a barrier too tall for some. But those with enough “bunny hop” in their wallet will get a bike that’s built to win.

Good looks and a top-shelf components spec are hallmarks of this bike's attractive package.

Good looks and a top-shelf components spec are hallmarks of the Crux Pro Race’s attractive package.

Tool for the Job

Like the Jamis Supernova Team we previously reviewed, the design of the Specialized Crux Pro Race conveys a decidedly one sided answer to the stiffness-versus-compliance argument prevalent in ’cross racing. While some will proffer that a little bit of give helps keep you fresher at the end of a race, this bike was created to put you at the front of the field from the get-go.

The frame’s stout downtube, carbon cranks, beefy chainstays, and unshakable front-end stiffness are together both efficient and precise. This is truly a bike that can be rammed hard into tight corners and still comfortably sail out the other side. Frame geometry of our size 58cm tester (outlined below in the comparative table) features a tight 102.5cm wheelbase, middle-of-the-road 67mm bottom bracket drop, and short’ish 425mm chainstays, which equate to a ride feel that’s both stable and snappy.

Steering is taut and precise thanks in part to a headtube and steerer assembly that tapers from 1-1/8” at the top to 1-3/8” at the crown, which along with the stoutly-built Specialized FACT carbon fork helps increase strength and stiffness.

Here’s a look at several key metrics from three size 58cm bikes in this test. We’ll add the Van Dessel Full Tilt Boogie’s key measures as soon as it arrives.

Specialized Crux Pro Race Ultegra Di2

We had slippage issues with the Specialized CG-R single bolt seatpost.

We had slippage issues with the Specialized CG-R single bolt seatpost.

This Crux Pro frame was not designed to soak up bumps, which is in part why it comes stock with Specialized’s CG-R seatpost. This odd-looking S-shaped carbon perch is designed to enhance comfort and compliance, but frankly we’re not feeling it. If anything it led to a little unwanted bounciness on extended bumpy grass sections. We’re also not fans of the post’s single-bolt design, which even when over-torqued, led to a few up-turned saddles after botched remounts. Better to spec a lightweight 27.2mm two-bolt post, in our opinion.

That modification could also help address our other primary concern: weight. Our size 58cm tester came in at 18.5 pounds sans pedals, which felt a little portly when you factored in the required financial outlay. But the only time we really felt the extra heft while racing was during extended shoulder carries. Otherwise, the bike just felt fast, especially when accelerating out of corners and charging through straight high-speed sections.

The frame also has some nice ’cross specific touches, such as recessed water bottle bosses that can be covered with stickers to clean up the look and feel, and an indentation in the downtube and a flattened top tube that make lifting and carrying more comfortable and stable.

Acting the Part

The Crux Pro’s race theme is furthered by what we feel are the best cyclocross brakes currently on the market, Shimano’s R785 hydraulic disc set-up with IceTech pads and 140mm rotors. We’ve seen other race rigs outfitted with 160mm rotors up front, or even 160mm front and rear, but feel that the 140mm set-up is all you need if racing ’cross is going to be the bike’s primary purpose.

With just a whisper of hand force, the R785’s do their thing and do it in a controlled and precise manner. Honestly, though, just about any disc brake set-up will open up a whole new world of race-day performance if you’re coming from a cantilever set-up. The ability to carry speed longer, then feather your way through corners is a quantum leap forward. Yes, we know disc brake set-ups are heavier, but if you’re wondering weather it’s worth the trade-off, just look at the front row of any high level U.S. pro men’s race and more and more European affairs. Hydraulic disc brakes are increasingly becoming the norm.

The bike comes stock with Shimano IceTech 140mm front and rear.

The bike comes stock with Shimano IceTech 140mm rotors front and rear.

Of course we’d love to see a thru-axle set-up, which would help address occasional bouts of rotor ting and further increase front-end stiffness. But the noise issue was only sporadic and could usually be fixed with a quick caliper adjustment.

Shifting is also top-shelf thanks to the internally routed Shimano Ultegra Di2 electronic drivetrain. We were initially skeptical about the necessity of what seems a luxury item. But the reliability and speed of shifts is a huge advantage. On courses with rapid transitions from fast to slow we were able to pedal longer in a tall gear, then rapidly move the chain up the cassette in time to tackle a steep section. The net effect was the ability to carry more momentum.

It’s also comforting to know that you can go from big ring to small ring with very little fear of dropping the chain. In a half dozen races on all sorts of terrain, we suffered just one chain drop and that coincided with a crash. We’ll leave the drivetrain talk there for now, and promise a deeper dive into the electronic shifting for cyclocross is a future post.

The rest of the Crux Pro’s component spec is what you’d expect of a $7300 bike. Tubeless-compatible Roval Control CX Carbon SCS wheels are wrapped with 33c Specialized Terra Pro tubeless ready tires. The 60tpi rubber is billed as a mud tire, but we’ve had good success is a variety of conditions save mud, which has yet to be an issue here in Colorado. And so far there’s been nary a burp despite consistently running pressures below 30psi. Our one knock on the tires is durability. After just a few months of dirt and occasional paved use, the center knobs on the rear are all but gone. The carbon wheels, meanwhile, have thus far delivered reliable trouble-free performance, which certainly in part accounts for this bike’s up-scale price tag.

The oversized downtube has a special indent designed to make grabbing and carrying easier.

The oversized downtube has a special indent designed to make grabbing and carrying easier.

Specialized goes house brand with its Pro FACT carbon 46/36 OSBB crankset as well. Its stiff and light, but also very susceptible to scratching as you’ll see in the photo gallery below.

The cockpit is a melding of Specialized Comp alloy 125mm drop bars held in place by a Specialized Pro SL alloy stem. Nothing wrong with these choices, but a little carbon would help bring weight down.

Braap Braap Hot Laps

To add a little diversity of opinion to our test, we enlisted a half dozen upper-level amateur racers and spent a day spinning hot laps around the Valmont Bike Park cyclocross course in Boulder, Colorado. The prevailing sentiment regarding the Specialized Crux Pro Race was, “ Can I borrow this bike for my next race.” Indeed, overall testers felt this was a truly exceptional race worthy steed.

“I was really impressed with how well it tracked,” said one cat. 2 level racer. “And it felt very stable at speed.”

“It transitions well across surfaces from grass to gravel,” said another open category racer. “I felt like I could really attack turns, and it was plenty stiff even when you’re out of the saddle and mashing.”

“The best feature was the bike’s acceleration from a stand still,” said a third tester, who races in the top 15 in Colorado cat. 3 races. “I am not the most skilled cyclocross racer, so I tend to lose speed in corners. But this bike jumped away with a few heavy turns of the pedal. It made bikes I’ve ridden in the past feel sluggish.”

...or standing, is speedy and efficient.

Climbing, whether seated or standing, is speedy and efficient.

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a dedicated cyclocross race bike that’s outfitted with the latest advances in cycling technology — and you’re not scared off by the $7300 price tag — the Specialized Crux Pro Race is a sure fire winner. Or if you want two bikes for the same price, you could opt for a pair of $3600 Crux Experts, which have the identical full carbon frame with racy geometry, but are instead outfitted with mechanical Shimano Ultegra and TRP hydraulic disc brakes.

Pros
  • Exceptional electronic shifting
  • Best in class braking
  • Reliable tubeless tire set-up
  • Good all-around tires
  • Stiff tubeless-ready carbon wheels
  • Chain catcher included
  • Stiff frame
  • Snappy handling
  • Concealable water bottle bosses
  • Easy-to-grip downtube
  • Flattened top tube
  • Stability at speed
  • Hydraulic brake hoods provide better hand grip
Cons
  • Heaviest bike in test
  • Most expensive bike in test
  • Single-bolt seatpost
  • Seatpost bounce
  • Maintaining rotor-pad tolerances
  • Accidental shifts when shouldering
  • Tire tread durability
MSRP: $7300

MSRP: $7300

Specialized Crux Pro Race Ultegra Di2
  • Price: $7300
  • Weight: 18.5 pounds
  • Frame: Specialized FACT 10r carbon, disc-specific, 1-3/8″ lower bearing, OSBB
  • Fork: Specialized FACT carbon
  • Front Derailleur: Shimano Ultegra Di2, 11-speed, braze-on
  • Rear Derailleur: Shimano Ultegra Di2, 11-speed
  • Crankset: Specialized Pro FACT carbon, 46/36, OSBB
  • Cassette: Shimano Ultegra, 11-speed, 11-28
  • Chain: Shimano Ultegra, 11-speed
  • Brakes: Shimano 785, hydraulic disc, Ice Tech resin pads w/ fins
  • Levers: Shimano 785 Di2, 11-speed
  • Rotors: Shimano IceTech, 140mm front and rear
  • Wheels: Roval Control CX Carbon SCS
  • Tires: Specialized Terra Pro, 60TPI, 2Bliss Ready, folding bead, 700x33c
  • Bars: Specialized Comp, shallow drop, alloy, 125mm drop, 70mm reach
  • Stem: Specialized Pro SL, alloy, 4-bolt
  • Seatpost: Specialized CG-R, FACT carbon, single bolt, 27.2mm
  • Saddle: Body Geometry Phenom Comp, hollow Cr-Mo rails, 143mm
Overall Rating

4 out of 5 Stars

For more information visit www.specialized.com.

About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympic Games, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner, who joined the RoadBikeReview.com / Mtbr.com staff in 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying time with his wife Lisa and daughter Cora.


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  • drsmile says:

    That Specialized seatpost clamp design has been around for a long time, it sucked 10 years ago and I’m sad to see Specialized hasn’t changed the design yet. It’s hard to ride a bike when the front of the saddle is poking you in the jewels!

  • jdo says:

    Specialized’s experiment into “Zero Bead Hook” design is a complete failure. It is impossible to run these tubeless below 35lbs with out a small of catastrophic burp. I weigh all of a 155lbs, race 20-35 CX races a season. At least with the Control SL SCS, don’t expect to get low pressures without burping.

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