Simon Scarsbrook tests the Specialized Crux Elite Cyclo cross bike and find its to be a great all rounder
Multipurpose, the dictionary informs us, means ‘able to be used for many purposes’, something that one day can be one thing for one job, the next day another. Always though, the right tool for the job in hand. A multipurpose bike is ideal, then, if you’re new to cycling, and not too sure yet which direction your new obsession will take.
You’re eager to just ride and see where things take you, be it commuting, sportive riding, racing, or just riding alone or with friends. Or, maybe in these uncertain economic times, you are after just one bicycle, not too expensive, something for everything.
Question is, what sort of bicycle would not be too restrictive? Which is the right tool for any job? Is there a true ‘multipurpose’ bike?
Controversial as it may seem, I would suggest that the Swiss army knife of the bike world, one that would not just cope, but excel in all disciplines (OK, let’s not include track racing… or bicycle polo) would be the cyclo-cross bike; more specifically, example A, the Specialized Crux Comp.
Now, before you turn the page ?(‘Dr Hutch’ is particularly good this week, but stay with me), let us forget the ?cyclo-cross label for a moment. The phrase ‘cyclo-cross’ conjures up all sorts of nasty images, a few nice ones, but mostly nasty. Muddy, cold and wet racing around parks and woods for an hour or more usually. But, being a bicycle designed for just that discipline, to travel with speed over all terrain, the Specialized Crux is also the answer to most cyclists’ needs – a true all-rounder.
The aluminium frame has race-optimised geometry, specifically for off-road racing at its most challenging (designed in conjunction with British champion Ian Field, and ex-world champion Zdenek Stybar no less). It is light, with a full carbon FACT fork, and designed to be comfortable over rough ground, but also to transfer power when needed.
One look at its profile betrays similarities with other bicycles from the Specialized stable; its low front end and curved top tube mark it out as not a million miles away from the Roubaix model used to such effect by Tom Boonen in the Spring Classics, and also the Venge, Mark Cavendish’s favoured mount. Switch in a pair of skinny road tyres and the Crux, with its tapered head tube and internal cable routing, is instantly zipping along with the best of them.
Many bike manufacturers also produce specific ‘sportive’ models, offering the same benefits as their pure racing counterparts, but with more relaxed angles for longer days in the saddle and more predictable handling. The Crux fits that bill perfectly in terms of comfort and speed, supplemented with double bottle cage mounts and an FSA Gossamer compact chainset.
As an added bonus, the generous clearances front and rear allow a good deal of tyre choice. This makes it not only ideal for on-road sportives, but means it can also provide the perfect ride for the ever widening choice of off-road events – relatively new events like the Woodcote CX Sportive and also established ones like Hell of the North Cotswolds the Tour of the Cornfields and the Evans Ride-It series.
In a mixture of on and off-road, the Crux will be in its element. This sort of riding – country lane and tracks with maybe some bridleway thrown in, is a great antidote to the hustle and bustle of traffic-heavy roads, especially after a week’s commuting. Routes like the Tarka or Trans Pennine trails (or indeed any of the ‘Wild Rides’ from our sister publication Cycling Active) are ideal for the Crux. Fit a hybrid or touring tyre – something with a bit of tread on the edges but with a smoother central ridge – and you are able to flit from road to trail at will and, particularly in drier conditions, follow routes not confined to tarmac.
All bases covered
Cantilever brakes have in the past received criticism for a lack of power, unduly I think. With their simplicity and lightness they seem to be making a comeback in the modern peloton, with pseudo versions seen tucked into the framework of Giant and Ridley’s aero road bikes. The Crux comes equipped with Tektro 720 brakes, which, unlike some cantilever models, enable the use of a road-type brake block and all the adjustment that comes with them (a disc brake equipped model is also available).
The Shimano 105 levers on the Crux, in conjunction with the 105 rear derailleur make for very smooth shifting, regardless of any perceived ‘tight’ cabling under the bar tape. I found the lever shape perfect for riding on the hoods, even on uneven ground, and when my hands were cold it was still easy to change gear.
The handlebar, stem and seatpost are own-brand and do the job perfectly. The handlebar is 6061 alloy with a very comfortable shallow bend. Wheels are DT Swiss, the sort of wheel one would expect on a bike of this price, but they’re no slouch. The Specialized Tracer tyres already have a good reputation in racing circles for all but the boggiest conditions (for which Specialized can supply the very capable ‘Terra’ model).
My only bugbear? The lack of mudguard eyes for those winter training miles, but I can understand how that wouldn’t be a ?priority, and can easily be amended with a pair of clip-on SKS Race Blades or similar.Off road or on, the Crux is a bike for all purposes, and, if you just want to dabble or even to join the ever growing ranks of cyclo-crossers, you won’t go far wrong with a bike of this pedigree. This should be a bicycle with no label, no constraints, suitable for every sort of riding. It’s a ?Model T’ bike – available in any colour, as long as it’s black. With a touch of silver and a little red.