There is no doubt Cyclocross (CX) as a sport is starting to gain some momentum in Australia, with races popping up all over the place, with more and more entrants and spectators across every iteration.
For mountain bikers and road riders alike, there is something appealing in riding through deep mud on relatively skinny tyres, carrying your bike up a steep hill on your shoulder, off camber cornering in the drops, navigating strange obstacles like a small show-jumping horse and having beer thrown on you (OK, maybe it’s just the beer), all while your heart rate red-lines for 45 minutes.
Growth in the sport however is not the only aspect driving growth in CX bike sales – riders are picking up CX bikes for commuting, for a bit more flexibility on and off-road and in many cases, because it’s so damn fashionable (especially if you have a tattoo and/or a beard – I have the former and therefore qualify as a CX Hipster).
I started riding a Focus Mares AX, which by all accounts, was an excellent bike for the price tag. This bike taught me the fundamentals of CX and helped me to a great result in the State Championships, as well as getting me to and from work on many occasions. As with everything, it came time to upgrade to something a bit better…
I can’t even compare the S-Works Crux with my older CX bike – it would be like trying to compare a Toyota with a Ferrari. Every aspect of the ride has been improved and upgraded – making it an absolute thrill to ride, each and every time.
The FACT 11r Carbon Frame is light, stiff and responsive, with a geometry that makes it easy to handle (noting that I am a size smaller than what I would be on my road bike) and easy to shoulder when racing. The matt black finish, combined with the red and white is just mean (and on a practical level, easy to clean). The little detail on the top tube – mud splatter with the logo – is a nice finish.
The bike comes kitted with a SRAM Red 22 (2×11) groupset – which was probably the most significant upgrade. For those who don’t know SRAM – it uses “DoubleTap” shifting, whereby a short “tap” of the lever changes on to a smaller cog and a longer “push” of the same lever takes you in the other direction. A bit different if you have used Shimano or Campy, but I can’t really say it’s better or worse – just different.
The benefits of the Red 22 groupset are that it’s smooth, quiet, crisp and powerful. You can also shift up to three gears at once – which has helped me out of a few tricky situations with unforeseen steep grassy hills. Mostly though is the Yaw in the front derailleur, which on a simple level means you can cross-chain (big front cog with smallest rear or vice versa) without chain rub – meaning you genuinely have 22 gears.
The Crux also comes fitted out with SRAM Red Hydraulic Disc Brakes – which offer powerful stopping in all conditions, including knee deep mud (I’ve tested that one). The brakes deliberately have a large amount of movement at the lever, which eliminates the instant powerful grab which can be unnecessary at times. It hardly takes anything to move the brakes (hydraulics are such a wonderful thing) and the overall experience is very smooth. I did find a little bit of noise in the wet with the Avid rotors, but swapping these out for Shimano rotors seems to correct the issue.
The Stan’s Ironcross ZTR wheels pictured are my day to day wheels – strong and light alloy wheels with a fantastic hub that have responded well to the battering (some might call it learning) I have given them. I’m running tubeless (no question in my opinion) on Specialized Terra CX tyres, which are more designed for mud than tarmac, but we will see how they go. The bike also comes with some phenomenal Roval Carbon Disc wheels with tubular tyres. An amazing set of wheels I will be saving for races!
Another cool inclusion on the S-Works model is the Roubaix seatpost – which helps dampen some of the vibration, especially on cobbled or rocky surfaces. It does put the seat position back a little (check your stem to seat end measurement or get a bike fit) but I do appreciate the added comfort and curious looks from other punters. I have kept the Phenom saddle on – it’s light and comfortable enough over 3+ hours, but this is purely a personal thing.
Finally, the carbon S-Works cranks just add to the finishing touches of the bike. Beware though, although these are tough as nails, my adventures off road on rocky singletrack have put a few scratches on these guys, which lead to me getting the little rubber caps for the ends.
The S-Works Crux is the Ferrari of Cyclocross bikes. Not only does it perform without exception, but it looks the goods. I couldn’t be happier with the upgrade from the Focus, although like I said, it is probably unfair to compare the two I was riding.
If you are looking for a CX bike for either fun, practical riding or racing, have a look at the entire Crux range at your local Specialized Dealer – such as Cyclery Northside.