Along with Tyler, I was lucky enough to be invited to the Specialized 2011 product launch in Keystone, CO. I was able to pick and choose which bikes to ride, but top on my list was the Shiv. This time trial/triathlon machine has been ridden to Time Trial World Championships, Tour Prologue wins and victories in many triathlons. I was able to ride the bike for a short time and speak with Specialized product manager Mark Cote.
The Shiv has had a short but interesting history. First ridden by sponsored teams and triathletes, the Shiv was declared illegal by the U.C.I. While this doesn’t matter for the triathletes, Specialized had to tweak this bike multiple times in order to conform to the U.C.I. rules. Only the original version is available to the public.
Check out more pics and a full fit and ride report after the break…
The fit is a bit tricky since the stem and the base bar are fixed. Rather than doing standard sizing, Specialized uses the X and Y coordinates to size the rider. All you need to know is your stack and reach to get the right size. I hopped on the 480, meaning 480 mm from the center of the bottom bracket to the center of the aerobar pad, measured along the top tube. Due to the nose cone/fork assembly the base bar has to be placed fairly far forward, making the cockpit length a bit on the long side. Talking with Cote he said the bike typically runs a size smaller than a comparable Transition.Â To help adjust cockpit length the bike comes with two seat posts. One is for a forward position that gives an effect seat angle of 75 to 76 degrees, and the other is a rearward post that creates a 74 degree seat angle.Â Depending on where you place the saddle on the post you can achieve anywhere from an 80 degree angle to 73 degrees. Arm pad height is adjusted via shims that give anywhere from 0 to 115 mm of height adjustment. The width is also adjustable by simply moving the pads. Since I was just riding the bike for a short while I didn’t go through the full fit process, but I was able to find a reasonably comfortable position quickly. WithÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Shimano SPD SL pedals the Shiv weighed in at a respectable 18 lbs. 7 oz.
The Shiv has one single purpose; go as fast as possible in a straight line, so of course aerodynamics are at the forefront of the bike. Specialized designed the tubing based on wind tunnel data that looked at the bike and rider, not just the bike. At the front, the nose cone and fork assembly is designed to cheat the wind. The steerer tube taper from 1″ to 1 1/8″ to provide stiffness and aerodynamics. The front brake is housed is also hidden in the nose cone assembly. Front brake assembly is not as hard as it looks, once it’s dialed in your set and offer more adjustment than you might think. Specialized places a small barrell adjuster at the end of the base bar for on the fly adjustability. You can also remove the inside conical washers of the brakes to give the extra width often needed for race day wheels. The rear brake is tucked behind the bottom bracket and seat stays to keep it out of the wind. Finally, horizontal dropouts allow you to put the wheel as close to the frame to cheat the wind even more. All of these features, combined with tube shaping make the Shiv one of the most aerodynamic bikes on the market. Triathletes that travel will be happy to learn that you can pack the bike easily. Simply removing the top cap and twisting the bars inward will allow it to fit into a standard bike box.
On paper the bike is superb, but it has to perform on the road. I knew the bike would be plenty stiff for me, this is essentially the bike that Fabian Cancellara has powered to World Championships and the Tour de France Prologue win. If it can handle his huge watts, it’s fine for me. The oversized bottom bracket and carbon cranks never wavered and I noticed no flex during out of the saddle efforts. The Shiv also has a way of holding it’s speed as well. It seemed that every time I put in a short effort, the bike would hold that speed even when I backed it down a bit. It could be the aerodynamics or the efficiency in putting the power to the road, either way it’s great for the rider.
What I wasn’t expecting was how comfortably it rode. All the cracks and bumps in the road were hardly noticeable to me. This is a big plus for the Ironman athlete that will be training and racing on this bike for long periods of time. Specialized sponsored triathletes and Cote himself have raced the Shiv over the Ironman distance. It also handles predictably and is stable at high speeds. During a short decent I was able to take corners in the aero position without turning white with fear. Of course you do feel a bit more crosswind pushing the bike around, but that’s expected with the massive surface area this bike presents. The average male rider won’t be pushed around, but smaller athletes will have more of an issue.
My only gripe comes with the water bottle mounts. There is only one set on the down tube, none on the seat tube. The cut out is not so severe that two holes couldn’t be drilled and mounts placed on the seat tube. For long distance riding like Ironman racing, this forces athletes to use a rear or front mounted drink system.
The Shiv is available as a Module only, meaning you get frame, fork, stem, bars (with shims for adjustment), seat posts ( one forward, one center), bottom bracket and cranks. Just add shifters, derailleurs, wheels and a saddle and your set. The Module is S Works only and retails for $5,500. That’s no small change for sure, but you will get every penny’s worth on the road.