Review: 2014 Specialized CruX Elite EVO Rival Disc

If you could have one – and only one – bike, the CruX Elite EVO might just be the choice.

2014 Specialized CruX Elite EVO Rival Disc, MSRP $3,200.

Back in the late 1990s, Specialized was a true value leader. It was tough to find more bike for the money than a Specialized, particularly the Stumpjumper and S-Works line of mountain bikes.

Over the past few years, though, Specialized has gotten a little overzealous with going up-market, becoming one of the first bike manufacturers to sell a mountain bike with a $10,000 price tag. However, with the recent release of the 2014 Specialized CruX Elite EVO Rival Disc, Specialized has refocused its efforts on offering standout value. For $3,200, the CruX Elite EVO is like having four bikes in one.

The CruX Elite EVO is certainly a looker.

At first glance all I could think of was the famous line in Spinal Tap when Nigel Tufnel evaluated their Smell the Glove album cover. “How much more black could this be? And the answer is…none. None more black.” If being murdered out is your style, then the black components, matte black frameset and black wheels on the CruX EVO don’t disappoint. Even the cranks are black.

Highlights of this build include a full carbon fiber frameset and seatpost, (recalled) SRAM hydraulic disc brakes with Double Tap Rival 10-speed shifting, room for 40c knobby tires, and a svelte 18-pound weight when you swap on better wheels and tires. More impressively, the CruX Elite EVO is a bike that can do everything including going off the front in a weeknight training crit, blasting through mud bogs in a local cyclocross race, racing gravel laden double centuries, and even ripping a little mellow singletrack.

How much more black could it be? None. None more black.

Developed specifically for the burgeoning “gravel grinder” subset of racing – combining long road races with dirt and gravel country roads – the Specialized CruX Elite EVO is engineered to provide fast, aerodynamic and comfortable performance for dirt-based endurance races like the Dirty Kanza 200. Two-time winner Dan Hughes piloted a standard Specialized CruX cyclocross bike for back-to-back victories in 2012 and 2013, making small tweaks to the bike including more compact gearing. Specialized essentially took Hughes’ setup and adapted it into what is now the CruX Elite EVO – the bike pro rider Rebecca Rusch piloted to a Dirty Kanza 200 victory in 2013.

Sporting a funky looking FACT CG-R carbon seatpost, 50-34 compact front chainrings, an 11-28 cogset, SRAM hydraulic disc brakes and more relaxed “American style” cyclocross geometry with a lower bottom bracket, the CruX Elite EVO is tailor made for long days in the saddle. And with generous amounts of clearance around both the fork and the bridgeless chainstay/bottom bracket junction, the CruX Elite EVO can handle up to 40c tires. The fork can accommodate an even bigger tire.

The CG-R carbon post sucked up bumpy roads, making for an incredibly smooth ride.

The FACT CG-R seatpost incorporates Zertz vibration damping, and when paired to the FACT carbon frame, the CruX Elite EVO is incredibly comfortable even on the most miserably bumpy and chunked-out roads. For enhanced stiffness and lightning fast acceleration, the CruX Elite EVO sports a burly tapered head tube with tapered FACT carbon disc fork and an oversized BB30 bottom bracket.

A perfectly flat top tube makes for painless shouldering.

A particularly nice feature on all Specialized CruX frames is the flat and wide top tube underside which makes shouldering the CruX an absolute pleasure, eliminating the shoulder soreness that can be caused by thinner, rounder top tubes.

The SRAM hydro disc brakes transformed the performance of the CruX Elite EVO. Now we just need to get the recall replacements.

For me, the highlight of the CruX Elite EVO’s performance came with the SRAM S full hydraulic disc brake system. Yes, this is the system that was recalled by SRAM in early December due to seals that could potentially fail in sub-zero conditions. Although I experienced a little bit of braking sponginess during a two-mile dirt and snow descent in 15 degree temperatures, the SRAM hydraulic disc brakes have otherwise been flawless over more than 1,000 miles of riding during the test period. Once you ride hydraulic discs on the road and dirt, going back to cantilevers or calipers is like going back to drum brakes on your car after having four-wheel discs.

The CruX Elite EVO is a fully capable trail rig.

The hydraulic discs combined with a set of 40c knobby tires set up tubeless opens up a whole new world of off-road discovery for the CruX Elite EVO. Depending on your mountain bike chops, the CruX Elite EVO can be piloted to hang with most hardtail cross-country mountain bikes. Braking control and modulation is remarkable, and the ability to run as low as 35 psi on the trail means stable traction and comfort even over rocky terrain. Although they look a bit oversized at first, the giant SRAM brake hoods that house the hydraulic master cylinder are very ergonomic, making for multiple comfortable hand positions.

Of course we don’t recommend that anyone ignores a recall warnings. If you happen to have a set of SRAM road hydros, better to go through the recall process (get your free replacement mechanical disc brakes), and get excited about SRAM’s version 2.0 hydraulic disc brakes that are slated for release in the spring. Here is all the information you need.

There are also a couple other notes to make with the CruX Elite EVO. First, although the internal cable routing is very clean and aesthetically pleasing, internal cable routing for a hydraulic disc brake can make for headaches and potential system re-bleeding anytime the rear brake needs to be removed from the frame. I’m a big fan of form follows function, so I’d prefer having an externally mounted rear disc cable.

Internally routed rear disc cable looks clean but complicates removal matters.

The Axis 2.0 wheelset that comes standard on the CruX Elite EVO is durable and fully murdered out in black, but they’re rather portly with non-tubeless, 38c Specialized Trigger tires, pushing the CruX EVO to 21 pounds. This is no problem a little extra money can’t fix, because if you’re going to use the CruX Elite EVO for multiple purposes, you’re going to need an extra set of wheels anyway.

I threw a set of Stan’s NoTubes Alpha 340s on with 25c tires for road duty, bringing the weight down to a very reasonable 18 pounds. Figure another pound extra for a relatively lightweight yet durable off-road tubeless setup, and you have a 19-pound bike that can hang across an incredibly wide range of terrain.

At first the tiny 25c road tires look odd given how much clearance the CruX Elite EVO offers, but the upside is the range of tires size options on the CruX Elite EVO is amazing. Riding a road bike with 28c or 30c slicks inspires so much more cornering confidence at high speeds – something you can’t do on a traditional road bike with brake calipers.

Versatility is paramount with the CruX Elite EVO.

So who is this bike for? It’s probably better to ask who isn’t this bike for. This bike isn’t made for the hardcore road or crit racer. They’d be better served with a traditional, race-specific road bike.

But for anyone who wants the speed of a road bike, the masochistic fun of a cyclocross bike, the mild trail riding capability of a mountain bike and the more relaxed “American style” ’cross geometry for all-day gravel grinder comfort and high speed stability, the Specialized CruX Elite Evo Rival Disc is a great choice.

All seasons and all conditions versatility are what the CruX Elite EVO is about.

For $3,200 and the price of an extra wheelset, you are essentially getting four bikes in one: road, cyclocross, fully rigid mountain and gravel grinder. The CruX Elite EVO is the ultimate quiver killer, and the worst part about getting one is seeing all the dust that will collect on your other bikes when they’re demoted to garage rafter duty.

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About the author: Kurt Gensheimer

Kurt Gensheimer thinks the bicycle is man’s most perfect invention. He firmly believes ‘singlespeed’ is a compound word. He sometimes wears a disco ball helmet. He is also known as Genshammer. He is a Gemini and sleeps outside in a hammock.

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  • Teleken says:

    This gives me flashbacks to John Tomac racing XC with drop bars.

    Mmmmm- flashbacks….

  • mr.habanero says:

    I bought a chinese carbon road frame anf looking back l should of bougjt a cyclocross frame just for all the reasons you gave.

  • Kjeld says:

    Mellow singletrack? I’m pretty sure one could rail that on all but the gnarliest singletrack.

  • Roger says:

    I’m I in the right web page, MTBR right?

  • Captain Cobb says:

    Cute… I thought this was a mountain bike website? It doesn’t even have mounts for bikepacking gear.

  • William Gibson says:

    So, 21 lbs for $3200… ,”18lb” with flexy Stans wheels with a 185 lb weight limit and road tires? Now you’re at $3750.
    Meh indeed!

  • Angry Singlespeeder says:

    Yes you are on the right website. And when I blow by you on a singletrack downhill riding this bike, you’ll realize that this bike is every bit worthy of being reviewed on MTBR. Just because it has drop bars and narrower tires, don’t be so closed-minded and write it off as a road bike.

    – ASS

  • Shawn says:

    I’m guessing the response from Captain Cobb has to do with the fact that you prefaced a review of a cross bike on an MTB website with the statement ‘If you could have one – and only one – bike, the CruX Elite EVO might just be the choice’. It’s a statement that was designed to get a response like you got from Captain Cobb. You can review anything you want, but the bottom line is this is not what the majority of your audience on this website has an interest in. And you’re response – quintesential ASS. Could you be any more full of yourself? Why would he care if you blow by him with this bike or not? What is the relevance? You obviously both ride much more than the average recreational biker and have exeptional fitness and skills since you can effectively ride singlespeed. So, most probably you could blow by the average mountain biker on any bike on most trails. That fact does not make it a ‘worthy’ option for a mountain biker. I like to play tennis, but Raphael Nadal could beat me with a frying pan. That doesn’t mean I expect or would be interested in reading a review on a tennis website for the latest non-stick cookware with the preface ‘If you could only have one – and only one – thing to both cook pancakes with and hit a tennis ball, ‘Uber-pan’ just may be the choice’.

  • Larry says:

    Cool bike; thanks for reviewing it.

  • duder says:

    Hey ASS, I think you have a Hakkalugi Disc (what I am currently rolling). Any significant contrasts noticed (outside of the things like hydros)?

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