For 2022, Specialized are targeting the gravel scene with the new S-Works Crux. To do so, the Californian brand have increased the bike’s tire clearance and reduced its weight, crossing its cyclocross genes with the lightweight technology of the Specialized S-Works Aethos. But can it deliver in the real world? We put it to the test!
Many of you will associate the Specialized S-Works Crux with the world’s biggest cyclocross events. Rightly so since this is where this bike’s home was for a long time. That will now change to some extent, though, as the steadily growing gravel market promises to be a lot more lucrative.
Since cyclocross and gravel partially overlap, it’s not surprising that some riders have chosen the Crux for fast-paced gravel races in the past and that the bike has been successful in this discipline too. As such, it only seems logical for Specialized to take this step and officially market the Crux as a gravel bike. But is it more than just marketing and has the conversion been successful?
The design of the 2022 Specialized S-Works Crux
The 2022 Specialized Crux relies on the same weight saving technology as the Specialized Aethos (review here), which is undeniable. At first glance, the bike looks like a gravel Aethos and it also has the same design features as Specialized’s lightweight all-road bike. For example, the cables around the cockpit of the S-Works Crux aren’t fully integrated, instead they’re routed externally from the bars and enter the frame behind the head tube, which we’re rather surprised to see at this price point. The seat post clamp is no longer integrated either, which seems like a step back from the previous model. While hobby gravellers might be put off by the looks or the cables interfering with handlebar bags, it makes life a whole lot easier for professional mechanics in CX races. External cockpit cables and a classic handlebar/stem combo also allow you to swap out components a lot more quickly, offering riders a much wider range of customisation options when dialling in the fit and riding position. Moreover, the designers had to make a few compromises in the interest of saving weight, as more integration usually means more weight. Apart from that, you won’t find dropped seat stays on the Crux either. Ultimately, the bike has more of a classic look along the lines of the Specialized Aethos.
Frame and geometry of the new Specialized gravel racer
Low stack and long reach: the geometry of the 2022 Specialized S-Works Crux is based on the cyclocross geometry of the previous model. This results in an aggressive, stretched riding position that feels integrated with the bike, keeping you centred and always in control of the agile handling. The moment you swing your leg over the S-Works Crux, the riding position motivates you to do a maximum effort lap rather than to go for a casual spin. This seems to be in line with the bike’s intentions: apart from three sets of bottle cages – two in the front triangle and one under the down tube – there are no other mounting points for bikepacking bags. The Roval Terra handlebar is on the racier side, too, with a compact 103 mm drop and 12° flare. While the flare doesn’t affect the riding position much, it gives you more control. If you want more drop or flare, you can easily swap the handlebar thanks to the classic stem. Despite the UCI approved cyclocross geometry, the S-Works Crux offers the same 47 mm tire clearances as the Specialized Diverge, aiming it squarely at the gravel scene since 700 x 47C tires are a great choice for almost all types of gravel riding. See the table below for the full geometry figures.
|Seat tube||466 mm||496 mm||521 mm||546 mm||576 mm||606 mm|
|Top tube||512 mm||539 mm||549 mm||568 mm||582 mm||599 mm|
|Head tube||100 mm||115 mm||130 mm||147 mm||167 mm||190 mm|
|Chainstays||425 mm||425 mm||425 mm||425 mm||425 mm||425 mm|
|BB Drop||74 mm||74 mm||72 mm||72 mm||72 mm||72 mm|
|Wheelbase||1,008 mm||1,014 mm||1,023 mm||1,033 mm||1,045 mm||1,059 mm|
|Reach||375 mm||382 mm||388 mm||397 mm||405 mm||415 mm|
|Stack||530 mm||547 mm||560 mm||578 mm||598 mm||621 mm|
The components of the 2022 Specialized S-Works Crux
For the components of the 2022 S-Works Crux, Specialized have reached for SRAM’s top shelf, equipping the bike with the RED eTap AXS groupset, though with the XPLR version of the derailleur and cassette. This combination works excellently on the S-Works Crux. The 1×12 drivetrain consists of a 40 t chainring and a 10–44 t cassette, which only falls short on very fast stretches of asphalt. Other than that, the gear range is wide enough for almost all speeds while allowing you to get up most climbs – especially considering the bike’s low weight and that you’re unlikely to be hauling luggage on the Crux. Thanks to the 1x drivetrain, the shifting logic is super simple: left shifts down, right shifts up. If you prefer it the other way around, you can reverse it in the SRAM app. Speaking of which, the shifters don’t rattle even on the roughest terrain, unlike earlier RED eTap AXS levers. SRAM seem to have finally addressed this issue on the current model. The SRAM RED eTap AXS crank features a dual-sided power metre as standard, meeting our expectations of a bike in this price range and the intended use of the Crux. The SRAM components are combined with a 27.2 mm Roval Alpinist seat post. For more freedom of movement when going off-road, it can be replaced by a 27.2 mm dropper post, for which the frame has internal cable routing. The Terra CLX wheels are also supplied by Roval, which are a great choice for the Specialized S-Works Crux. With an internal width of 25 mm, they happily accommodate high-volume tires, and the 32 mm rim depth is slightly aero while remaining nice and light for the climbs. The 700 x 38C
Specialized Pathfinder Pro 2Bliss Ready tires (review here) are fitted tubeless and perform brilliantly on dry to damp, hard-packed surfaces, rolling very fast on asphalt and hardpack thanks to the smooth centre tread. On this kind of terrain, they bite into corners, offering a lot of reserves and thus instill the rider with confidence. However, the braking performance suffers on wet and loose ground due to the smooth tread. The RED eTap HRD brakes are of little help, though they are very good, offering great modulation and reliable braking power. On rough or muddy terrain, we recommend using knobbier tires. Our size 56 test bike weighed just 7.15 kg, making it one of the lightest gravel bikes we’ve ever tested. And it’s also one of the most expensive ones we’ve ever tested. Coming in at jaw-dropping € 12,800 the price went up € 600 since the launch just some months ago.
Specialized S-Works Crux 2022
Seatpost Roval Alpinist 27,2 mm
Brakes SRAM RED eTap AXS HRD 160/160 mm
Drivetrain SRAM RED eTap AXS XPLR 1x12
Stem S-Works SL 100 mm
Handlebar Roval Terra 420 mm, 12° flare
Wheelset Roval Terra CLX 12 x 100/12 x 142 mm Through Axle
Tires Specialized Pathfinder Pro 2Bliss Ready 700 x 38C
Cranks SRAM RED eTap AXS Power Meter 172,5 mm
Cassette SRAM CS-XG-1271-D1 10–44T
Size 49 52 54 56 58 61
Weight 7,15 kg
Riding the S-Works Crux!
For those who’ve ridden the Specialized S-Works Aethos, the 2022 Specialized S-Works Crux will feel like an Aethos in off-road mode. And the fact that the Aethos won our big road bike group test proves that this isn’t a bad thing. For those who haven’t ridden the Aethos: the S-Works Crux is fast uphill, downhill and on the flats. It’s always quick to accelerate while being very direct and precise. The bike’s agility trumps its composure, which isn’t on par with that of its sister model, the Diverge. Nevertheless, the straight line stability is there, making the S-Works Crux perfect for high-speed American style gravel. If you’ve got the skills, you could ride this bike on moderate off-road paths and trails, but you’ll quickly venture into underbiking terrain. It’s not made for that: the geometry is too agile, precise and aggressive, the handlebars are too narrow and the setup is too stiff. You’ll notice this in terms of comfort too. It’s comfortable enough for fast gravel roads and all-road use, offering sufficient vibration dampening, but it’s too stiff for rough gravel roads or forest paths full of roots.
The CX genes of the Crux are undeniable when it comes to performance, so die-hard cyclocrossers shouldn’t worry. However, the 2022 model doesn’t have the slightly flattened top tube that made the predecessor more comfortable to shoulder. On the upside, the increased tire clearance is handy for cyclocross too. With a stipulated maximum tire width of 35 mm, there’s a lot of clearance between the tires and the frame and you shouldn’t have any problems with mud. So the worlds of cyclocross and gravel can be combined very well, depending on the conditions and the type of rider, which explains why many performance-oriented riders already swore by the old Crux. It took just a few small changes to make the Specialized S-Works Crux gravel bike conversion official for 2022.
Who is the Specialized S-Works Crux for?
The 2022 Specialized S-Works Crux is the right bike for those in pursuit of maximum speed on gravel and those who occasionally enjoy all-road rides or want to have fun on easy flow trails. With a second set of wheels, it can almost be turned into a full-fledged all-road bike, competing head to head with the Specialized S-Works Aethos. Despite the new Crux being aimed at gravel, it’s still a great choice for riders who want to go all-out at cyclocross races. For those who like taking things a little easier, want to ride rougher trails, commute comfortably in all weather or set off on fully-loaded bikepacking adventures, this isn’t the bike to get. There are better gravel or even mountain bikes for that kind of riding, as you’ll find in our group test in issue #019. If you’re unsure what kind of gravel riding you like, we recommend completing our personal gravel bike buyer’s guide first.
Our conclusion on the Specialized S-Works Crux
By increasing the tire clearance, Specialized have managed to make the Crux an attractive option for many gravel riders, though not at the cost of its CX race performance. Therefore, the bike is predestined for high-speed American style gravel. We would have liked to see more integration, but the compromise seems to have paid off as the Specialized Crux is super-fast on all kinds of compact terrain. If you prefer loaded touring, the Diverge is still the better choice.
- consistently high-end spec
- full-on race performance
- super light
- up to 700 x 47C tire clearance
- compromised integration
- no additional mounting points
For more information on the Specialized S-Works Crux, visit specialized.com.
Did you enjoy this article? If so, we would be stoked if you decide to support us with a monthly contribution. By becoming a supporter of GRAN FONDO, you will help secure a sustainable future for high-quality cycling journalism. Click here to learn more.
Words: Photos: Robin Schmitt