Crux DSW Review: The Ultimate Aluminum Gravel Bike

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Discover why the Specialized Crux DSW is considered the ultimate aluminum gravel bike. Explore its innovative design, performance on various terrains, and how it compares to other gravel bikes in the market. Perfect for cyclists seeking a versatile and high-performance ride without the premium carbon price tag.

Crux DSW
Crux DSW

Review: The Specialized Crux DSW Feels Like All the Bike You Need

The Specialized Crux DSW presents itself as a premium aluminum gravel bike, designed to compete with the best in the market. Offering the same geometry and tire clearances as its carbon counterpart, the Crux DSW aims to deliver high performance at a more accessible price point. This review explores the bike’s features, performance, and how it stacks up against other options in the market.


  • Shares the same geometry and tire clearances as the carbon Crux gravel and cyclocross bike.
  • Available in both frameset and complete bike options.


  • Price bumps up against entry-level carbon bikes.
  • Stock build could use some comfort upgrades if you’re riding for more than a few hours.

Size Reviewed: 52 cm

Weight: 9.2 kg (20.2 pounds)

Price: $2,600

Brand: Specialized


The formula for building an aluminum gravel bike is fairly straightforward: meet a price point, offer appealing paint schemes, and provide a durable, versatile bike. Specialized, however, takes it a step further with the Crux DSW, positioning it as a premium alloy gravel bike. With claims of being the lightest aluminum gravel bike frame ever made, the Crux DSW promises to challenge the perception that only carbon frames can offer top-tier performance.

Build Details

The Crux DSW boasts a weight of 1,399 grams for a 56 cm frame, making it just about 1 pound heavier than traditional carbon gravel bikes. It shares the same geometry and tire clearances as the carbon Crux, making it a versatile option for both gravel and cyclocross enthusiasts.

Frame Construction

The Crux DSW uses Specialized’s D’Aluisio Smartweld (DSW) aluminum frame construction, which employs hydroformed aluminum tubes to reduce weight and increase strength at weld points. This technique ensures a lightweight frame while maintaining durability and performance. Additionally, the Crux DSW features a hydroformed one-piece downtube and bottom bracket area, a rare and complex construction method that further enhances ride quality.

Components and Features

The Crux DSW is equipped with a SRAM Universal Derailleur Hanger (UDH), ensuring compatibility with future drivetrain upgrades. The bike features a 12r carbon fork, three bottle cage mounts, and a BSA-threaded bottom bracket. Cable routing is kept simple and functional, with brake hoses and shift cables routed through the down tube and seat stays, accommodating both mechanical and electronic shifting systems.

Geometry and Fit

The Crux DSW shares its geometry with the rest of the Crux family, striking a balance between gravel, road, and cyclocross bikes. It features a 72 mm bottom bracket drop, which is higher than most gravel bikes but standard for cyclocross. This geometry provides a performance-oriented fit, with a slightly aggressive stance suitable for various terrains.

Geometry Table

Size (cm)495254565861
Stack (mm)530547560578598621
Reach (mm)375382388397405415
Wheelbase (mm)100810141023103310451059
Chainstay Length (mm)425425425425425425
Head Tube Length (mm)100115130147167190
Head Tube Angle (°)70.571.2571.57272.2572.5
Fork Rake/Offset (mm)505050505050
Seat Tube Length (mm)466496521546576606
Fork Length, Full (mm)401401401401401401
Front Center (mm)594600608618630644
Seat Tube Angle (°)75.5747473.573.573.5
BB Drop (mm)747472727272
Trail (mm)746967646260
Top Tube Length, Horizontal (mm)512539549568582599

Riding Impressions

Riding the Specialized Crux DSW offers a similar experience to its carbon counterpart. The bike handles quickly and responsively, making it suitable for tight singletrack and gravel paths. The aluminum frame, coupled with an aluminum seat post and handlebar, provides a firm ride with some degree of flex, ensuring comfort during extended rides.

Handling and Performance

The Crux DSW’s geometry allows for agile handling, making it adept at navigating various terrains. Compared to more traditional gravel bikes, the Crux DSW requires a bit more effort to maintain a straight line, which can be attributed to its all-rounder geometry. However, this same geometry enhances the bike’s performance on singletrack and other challenging paths, where its quick handling becomes an asset.

Comfort and Touchpoints

Despite being an aluminum bike, the Crux DSW offers a comfortable ride, thanks in part to its well-designed touchpoints. The flared drop handlebar, bar tape, and saddle provide solid ergonomics, ensuring a comfortable grip and ride. For those spending significant time on gravel, upgrading to wider tires or a suspension seat post might enhance comfort further.

Build Options and Pricing

Specialized offers the Crux DSW in both frameset and complete bike options. The complete bike is available with a SRAM Apex XPLR groupset, priced at $2,600. The frameset alone is priced at $1,700, providing flexibility for riders who prefer to customize their build.

Comparison to Competitors

The Crux DSW’s price point places it in competition with entry-level carbon gravel bikes. While aluminum is often perceived as inferior to carbon, the Crux DSW challenges this notion by offering a high-performance aluminum frame that rivals the weight and handling of many carbon bikes.


The Specialized Crux DSW proves that aluminum can compete with carbon when designed and built to high standards. It offers a versatile, performance-oriented ride that is suitable for a variety of terrains and riding styles. While its price may be close to entry-level carbon bikes, the Crux DSW’s build quality and handling make it a compelling option for those looking for a premium aluminum gravel bike.

For riders who value performance and versatility without the premium price tag of carbon, the Specialized Crux DSW stands out as an excellent choice. Its innovative construction, responsive handling, and thoughtful design elements ensure that it feels like all the bike you need, whether you’re tackling gravel, cyclocross, or mixed-terrain adventures

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