I Tried This $6K Gravel Bike, and I Was Hooked Within 10 Seconds

·4 min read
specialized crux expert gravel bike review - woman standing next to Crux pro on gravel road
specialized crux expert gravel bike review - woman standing next to Crux pro on gravel road

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Jenny Sugar

After the pandemic shut down many gyms and fitness studios, a lot of people had to say goodbye to indoor cycling classes. They were left to either hop on the Peloton train or start biking outside, picking up road biking on paved roads or mountain biking on rugged, rooty trails.

Both bike types have their advantages: a road bike allows you to go faster and cover more ground, while a mountain bike lets you venture off the beaten path and explore all types of terrain. If picking just one sounds hard, you're in luck: gravel biking, a combo of the two, is gaining popularity for its best-of-both-worlds vibe. Like mountain bikes, gravel bikes have thicker, more knobby tires that allow the bike to grip dirt and roll over rocky, unstable surfaces; like road bikes, they have a lightweight frame built for speed. In short, gravel bikes give you the freedom to travel on all kinds of road surfaces. They're also perfect for dirt roads, which tend to have relatively little car traffic and feel safer than other roads. (More than 900 cyclists were killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2020, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as reported by the National Safety Council.)

In the market for a gravel bike? Cycling brand Specialized sent me their Crux Expert ($6,200) to review, and it rides like an absolute dream. I was previously a road biker, but I'm now hooked on gravel biking. Keep reading for my review and to learn more about the best features on the Specialized Crux Expert.

specialized crux expert gravel bike
specialized crux expert gravel bike

Image Source: Specialized

specialized crux expert gravel bike
specialized crux expert gravel bike

Image Source: Specialized

specialized crux expert gravel bike
specialized crux expert gravel bike

Image Source: Specialized

Specialized Crux Expert Review: First Impression and Specs

The first thing I noticed after unboxing the Crux Expert is how light it is - in fact, according to Specialized, the Crux is the lightest gravel bike in the world. Thanks to its carbon frame, it's even lighter than my road bike, weighing just under 18 pounds (8.1 kg). I can easily hold it above my head with one hand (see below).

Sitting on the bike, I noticed that the handlebars are angled out slightly to the sides (more so than my road bike), which helps the bike feel more stable. The brakes are easy to reach, and the shifters are easily accessible. The shifters are also electronic and battery operated, so there are fewer cables (just ones for the brakes) - you just tap a button to shift instead of having to lift or push a lever. (The bike comes with one battery and a charger; it takes about an hour to charge the battery, which gives you about 60 hours of riding.) Speaking of fancy features, the bike has hydraulic-disc brakes, which have smoother speed control and better stopping power than traditional mechanical brakes.

The bike doesn't come with pedals, so you have to add your own - either clipless (clip-in) or flat, depending on the shoes you prefer to wear when riding. You'll also need to add your own water-bottle cage, and you may want to swap out the seat, depending on what you find comfortable.

woman holding specialized crux expert gravel bike overhead in front of green field
woman holding specialized crux expert gravel bike overhead in front of green field

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Jenny Sugar

Specialized Crux Expert Review: Ride Experience

Testing the Crux for the first time, all I could think about was how smoothly the bike rode. The light frame made me feel like I was floating along the road, but I still felt stable and in control. I tested the bike on short six-mile rides, 12-mile rides, and longer 18-mile rides, and I was pleased with how responsive it was. The shifting, in particular, was outstanding - just a one-finger tap is required to shift up or down, and it's incredibly fast and smooth. Between the super-easy shifting and the handlebars' sensitivity to the slightest turn, I felt like I was one with the bike. The tires were able to handle any surface I threw at them, including sand, rocks, sticks, paved roads with cracks and potholes, and gravelly dirt roads.

Specialized Crux Expert Review: Cost

A Specialized Crux Expert costs $6,200 and comes in two color options: Satin Forest/Light Silver or
Gloss White Speckled/Dove Grey/Papaya/Clay/Lime. Pricey, yes, but it comes with top-of-the-line features - including the super-light carbon frame, hydraulic-disc brakes, and electronic shifters. The latter two actually require less maintenance than their traditional counterparts, which saves you money and time. (Electronic shifters, for example, don't have cables that wear out and cause bad shifting.) There are three versions of the Crux: you can get the slightly cheaper Crux Comp ($4,200) - which doesn't have electronic shifting - or go with the higher-end Crux Pro ($8,200).

If you have the cash to spend on a bike, everything about the Crux will make riding easier and let you focus on all the awesome places you want to explore: dirt, gravel, road, and everywhere in between.

specialized crux expert gravel bike review - woman riding Crux pro down gravel road
specialized crux expert gravel bike review - woman riding Crux pro down gravel road

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Jenny Sugar

Related: Ayesha McGowan Broke Barriers In Cycling. Now, She's Inspiring the Next Generation.