Which groupset?

The age old “help me decide” question.

Looking for a new gravel bike. The 3 candidates are the new Crux Expert (with Rival AXS), Aspero (with Rival AXS) or OPEN UP (with Rival AXS or Campy Ekar).

I do have Rival AXS on my road bike and love it. So I know I’d like it on the gravel too, but curious about Ekar as OPEN has bikes available to ship with that group.

Main question: Which group and why?
Secondary Question: Which frame and why?

Thanks, happy Friday!

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The geometry on those 3 bikes is pretty different. I would go with the frame that fits your needs best.

I’ve not ridden Ekar, so sorry, no opinion there.

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Thanks! I had compared them on geometry geeks… the up has a taller stack, but they all have a quite similar reach. The Aspero and Crux look more similar than not to my, admittedly, non-expert opinion. Can you share anything else about why you feel they’re so different?

I appreciate your input!

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The guys at CyclingTips made a video and wrote an article making geometry at a high level pretty easy to understand. I’ve read several articles on this topic and these are the best. Simple and brief. These should help.


We love those posts, spending other people’s money!
I think the decision matrix to me would be something like this:

(1) Decide on a bike first, not a group set. If you are willing to spend the money, you can get any groupset on any of the bikes.

(2) Prioritize what feels best.

Personally, I was torn between Force eTap AXS (Rival hadn’t been released then), Erkar and perhaps Rotor’s groupset. I went for Force eTap AXS. My reasoning was that I didn’t like Campag’s shift logic. I tried it on another bike once and didn’t care for it. SRAM eTap’s shift logic instantly clicked and I love the hood shape. And I decided against Rotor when someone who is in the know told me that they had problems with it.

13 speeds are great, I think it is the minimum number of gears where I feel you make no compromise going 1x in the real world. I have 12 speeds and there are times when I could use a 13th cog. Ideally, I’d love something like Rotor’s 10-39-tooth cassette with 13 speeds on my bike.

PS Can I throw you a curve ball: have you considered 3T’s Exploro? It has been designed by the same person who did the Open UP, Gerard Vroomen. It is a bit sportier than the Open UP, although it has a bit of a marmite look to it.


Thank you! That’s excellent feedback. I haven’t used Campy, in any form, ever. But know I love AXS.

As for the 3T, I like the idea of it, but my eye doesn’t like it at all unfortunately.

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The fit and finish of Campy groupsets is great from what I hear, and the groupset works the treat. But the UI of SRAM’s eTap groupsets is second-to-none. I definitely would advise trying a bike with a Campy groupset first. Also, have a look at Ronald Kuba’s youtube channel, he has recently reviewed Erkar and other Campy groupsets. (He is an amateur that became Slovakian TT national champ and participated in the TT world championships.) He has used all top-end groupsets from all manufacturers and doesn’t seem to favor one strongly over another. He said Campy’s brakes needed a breaking-in period, but after that were the best of all. (AFAIK they are made by Magura, so that’s not a surprise, Magura knows what it is doing.) And that after a while, Campy’s shift layout become second nature to him. But that it took a while.

Another point that was important for me was the lack of a spider-based power meter. Yes, I could have used power pedals instead.

Yup, the design is quite marmite, and I can’t bring myself to love the design. But the bike is great, I test rode it for a bit. It is more aggressive than the Open UP, which could be a plus or a minus, depending on your taste. And I currently ride another creation of Gerard Vroomen, the 3T Strada. That is beautiful to my eyes and exceptional to ride. But not great on gravel (clearance becomes an issue).

Oh, and this thread might also be of interest to you.

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Both the Crux and the Open have a 70mm BB drop, IIRC. The Aspero has a 76mm BB drop. I looked at the Open earlier this year but went with the Aspero based on my desire for a lower BB on my gravel bike. Been very happy with my decision…a lower BB provides more stability and a lower CG.

As for the groups, while I have it yet ridden Ekar, I’m a fan of their stuff and the shifting is second nature to me. I may switch over to Ekar later this year, but no final decision yet.

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Hearing you’ve never ridden Campy, I have to agree that you should absolutely try it first. It has thumb shifters, so it’s quite different. So, you’re looking at different geometry and different shifting systems. I know in todays world it’s really hard to find bikes to try, but if you look at the geometry of your current bike and compare it to the others using the advice from CT above, you’ll have a good idea how the different frames will feel, so then you just need to find a Shimano/SRAM/Campy bike to try the shifting.

I’m a huge Ekar fan, it seems to be a good group set from all the feedback I’ve heard or read.

Personally I wouldn’t consider anything with a press fit bottom bracket. I know and ride with people who’ve got Open’s and most of them creak. It’s just not acceptable for that price point. I’d pick the Crux any day.

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That’s a valid point, which I had not considered. Although my Diverge I just sold also had BB386EVO and did not cream. Maybe just a one off? I don’t know.

I would pick the CRUX for a multitude of reasons, fantastic geometry (if it fits you) and you have a groupset that you are familiar with and works well.

Its also an awesome frame if you were to want to upgrade wheels to something super light in the future, as well if you want a bike to travel with.

Also, threaded BB, classic looks :slight_smile:

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I currently ride a Aethos on the road, so the Crux certainly speaks to me. Thanks for your help!

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This is definitely a valid point…for me, a lower BB outweighed the pressfit BB, however. So far (knocks wood), I am creak free on the Aspero, but I also went with a thread together Wheels Manufacturing BB instead of a true pressfit.

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Can’t comment on the frames but I’ve been running ekar on my gravel bike for 6 months. I love it. And with a second set of wheels with the 9-36 cassette and 40t chainring, it’s a really nice road bike too. Could easily toss on a 42t or 44t chainring if I was racing in the road. But all my races are gravel now

The creaking on the Open is almost always the rear derailleur hanger. (Trust me on this.) It’s a “unique design” – just grease the inside two pieces and you’re good.

That “click” travels through the frame and will sound like the BB. It’s not. Take the cranks off and flex the frame and you’ll still hear it.


I had something similar on my Revolt. LBS took the BB apart and told me it was pristine. They did a once over everything and told me they thought it was the rear derailleur or cassette. No more click.

I started with Cannondale CAAD12 as my first bike, moved to the 2018 Roubaix, then over to the new Venge Pro in a horrific purple color, Tarmac SL6, Roubaix 2020.

Then I made the huge mistake of getting a 3T Exploro RaceMax. Jesus Christ what an uncomfortable bike. Like riding a steel pole. Sold it and went to a Diverge (I know, they are different kinds of gravel bikes, but still).

Couldn’t have been more happy being back on Specialized.

Currently riding the Diverge on gravel, Venge for fast group rides, and Aethos for hilly holidays abroad.

Once you find a brand that suits your body, I would stick to it.

I hate that Spesh is so expensive, but they do a lot of things right. For example, there were not other seat posts for the 3T, so couldn’t get the setback I was used to. Cable routing was horrendous, their support was non-existent.

Spesh might be a bit overrated and stupid expensive, but they also create killer bikes. And their Pro/Expert series bikes is all you need.

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Buying new is hard for me. The manufactures bundling & discounts on the groupset is usually significant., but always a compromise. Over the life of the ‘bike’ I quickly end up thinking of it as a “kit of parts”:

  1. frame
  2. group set
  3. wheels
  4. “trim kit” (bars, stem, saddle, pedals. As well as then the lights, computer, saddlebag, repair kit. These odd bits add up!)

Except for the proprietary bits, these all become interchangeable. Once you have a really good set of wheels (or two: road & gravel) and a good groupset, changing up frames is fairly easy.

Which Groupset? Since you already have AXS, then I would stick with that.

For me… the Shimano groupsets have been (by far) the least maintenance, most reliable, and the easiest to find parts/repairs all over the world. YMMV. If you have a favorite local shop, as the mechanics there what gives them the least issues over several years. There is no one winner, but knowing what your local resources are good at is a huge advantage.

Jumping from rim to disc wheels and from mechanical to electronic groupsets was a painful ($$) transition. Things have mostly settled down (thru axles, center lock, flat mount brakes, …) But now that I’m across the transition and have picked up (all used) 3 pairs of really good wheels (road race, gravel/winter, 650b adventure) and two complete groupsets – I have the freedom to pick up frames from the local racers, people just upgrade every year, shop employees who get great discount on new stuff and sell off the “old” stuff (last years), etc.

Which Frame: Crux (for now.) Gravel frames are still changing so fast it’s crazy. Innovations are coming out left and right. I like my gravel bike ride like my road bike. The crux won’t have all the “adventure biking” features like all the mount points for bottles, bags, fenders, etc. I also prefer riding 2x front rings. It will be harder on your body after long rattly rides than something like the Open.

This is also the reason not to think of this purchase as locking you in.