Mid-term review, S-Working hard: How is the Specialized CruX S-Works coping with a full season of ‘cross?

by Tom Hill 0

It’s now a couple of months since our tester, Rich Norgate received the top-of-the-range, money-no-object, how-much-you-could-buy-a-car-for-that Specialized CruX S-Works. During that time, he’s packed in the first half of the ‘cross season, travelling Yorkshire to tick off Points Series rounds each Sunday, as well as a “day off” from intense one hour efforts to take on the Three Peaks Cyclocross.

Still good looking

There’s still a while to go before Rich can hang up his race shoes for the season, but we thought it was a timely opportunity to check in and find out how things have been going. If you’d like the full details of the spec, then check out his First Look, here. We’ll also run a full review come January. In the meantime, over to Rich…

Twit-twoo

Above my pay grade

It’s safe to say this bike is well above my pay grade (in every sense of the phrase), but my word it’s one hell of a bike to swing a leg over. My first impression was; wow, that paint job is going to be a ray of sunshine in the depths of our grey, wet and windy winter. In some ways, it’s a superficial thing, but a good looking bike is a huge psychological boost when the rain is pouring down. Anything that helps you get out is a bonus.

As you would expect for the price, Specialized has selected what it thinks are the best components available. Overall, it’s pretty hard to argue with the finery that’s hanging off that pink and blue coat hanger. I’ll review each component in more detail come the final test, but here are a few notes so far…

£8000 is an enormous amount of money for a bike

Gearing up for ‘cross

To say the XTR DI2 is a good match for the rigours of ‘cross would be slightly unfair, it’s incredible. The intensity of racing is demanding on the body so anything that requires less thinking is helpful, and the ability to shift with such ease is more than a luxury in the heat of the action: it means that I’m more often in the right gear, which means I’m faster. Simple. The clutch rear mech keeps things silent while rattling over rough ground, and I am getting used to trying not to think about how much it would cost to replace should the worst happen.

Yes to Di2

The gearing is perfectly suited for ‘cross racing; at I first I thought 42 / 11-32 might be a little big but it’s been perfect on a variety of courses, although, I’m still yet to do a proper winter conditions race as the weather has been benign until now. I did decide to change the gearing for Three Peaks, but thankfully the advent of large ratio cassettes meant I could leave the 42 tooth front ring on. I opted for an 11-42 cassette and it was perfect. By the time I was off the bike I was faster running and dropping into the 11t was great for the road sections. One other big change I made for the Peaks was to swap the Roval wheels for a more robust set. I’m sure they would have been fine, but I couldn’t bring myself to subject the wind tunnel tested, aero wheels to take a battering over Yorkshire’s finest limestone.

Larger cassette, and cheaper wheels were the only changes Rich made for Three Peaks (Photo Credit: Stephen Smith @steph3nsmith)

I decided to swap out the Specialized tyres to Isla Bike Greim Pros for racing – mainly because I know them,  but other than that the bike shouldn’t need any tweaks for the rest of the season. Of course, for the price, this should be a given, but personal preference is always a funny thing. What works for some doesn’t always work for others. Thankfully the CruX and I are getting along just fine.

Ride notes

Being a tall fellow I’m riding a 58cm frame, but the bike is still surprisingly light. I’m sure it makes a difference, even if it is hard to fully measure how much.  One area it is really noticeable is the pick up out of corners. Doing well in ‘cross is dependant on being able to get back up to speed in short efforts over and over again, so anything that helps that is very useful indeed. The handling of the bike is very confidence inspiring; it seems to balance feeling stable and reassuring with all the nimbleness you would hope for in a bike that needs to weave through tight corners between the tape. The long seat mast and slender stays seem to give the bike some welcome compliance when seated too. It was a godsend at Round 3 in Beadle, when the course was still so bone dry and was littered with sunbaked horse tracks. Despite the rough ground, the bike tracked well and nursed my back around.

XTR DI2 rear mech – and a relatively tight 11-32 cassette – all good on course though

Show and tell

The bike is also proving popular with people at the races. I do have to admit I’m quick to say it isn’t mine – as I mentioned, I’m not sure if my ability warrants such a high end bike, and it sometimes feels a bit showy, but who doesn’t like having their bike complimented? From a results point of view, my performance from last year to this is night and day different; I’m now regularly in the top 20 and even sneaking in a few top 10s: not bad considering the talent turning out at the Yorkshire points series. I have trained a little more specifically this year, and I’m still gaining experience, but the bike is definitely making a difference.

The S-Works handles impeccably (Photo Credit: Joe Cotterill @jcz__photos)

One thing that’s playing on my mind is it’s hard to say if I’d be as happy if I’d have actually paid for the bike and was looking for performance gains over the (still excellent) Elite or Expert models, but rest assured it certainly brings a massive smile to my face. It also helps when people say from behind the tape ‘wow that’s a nice bike’ while your heart rate is maxed out in a race.

Who doesn’t match their shoes to their bike? Some blingy Giro Empires doing the bike justices there. (Photo Credit: Joe Cotterill @jcz__photos)

There’s still one big part of the jigsaw to put together, and that’s what will it be like in the mud. Due to the incredible summer and dry autumn I’m yet to race it in a proper winter cross race (I missed Harrogate due to a surfing trip) but I’m sure we’ll get one so I’ll report back once the heavens open.

Easy shifting from the Dura Ace STIs

Keeping on testing

Rich will report back at the tail end of the ‘cross season. If you see him on the distinctive bike at a race, pop over and say hi – he’s a lovely chap. Also, give @gritcx a follow Instagram if you don’t already. We’ve been enjoying Rich’s takeover of our “stories” from the races each week.

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