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From the pages of Velo: Time Travelers

Specialized Shiv TT

by Nick Legan

When the Specialized Shiv was initially launched, it looked a bit different than the bike we tested. It had a nosecone, or at least that’s what the UCI eventually labeled it. But according to Specialized’s aerodynamicist Mark Cote, the Shiv TT, launched in 2011, is actually faster in a headwind and only slightly slower in a crosswind than the previous nosecone version. A new front triangle and fork meant that the nosecone wasn’t necessary.

It also meant that the Shiv became much easier to work on. The front brake is now easily accessed. What about the integrated brakes on the Speed Concept or the BMC? Wouldn’t that be faster? Well, Cote has an answer to that as well: “The juice isn’t worth the squeeze. There aren’t substantial gains; there are gains there, but they aren’t huge.”

Riders like Alberto Contador and Fabian Cancellara have used the Shiv to great effect. We set out to see if it was a better time trial weapon than the Trek Speed Concept (a bike both Contador and Cancellara have also used).

Quantitative Testing: 24/30 points
The Shiv is actually a bit faster in a pure headwind than the Speed Concept. Their driveside yaw results (a measure of the drag at different wind angles) are virtually identical, too. But the Trek performs four to five watts better on non-driveside yaw angles (46 grams at 10˚). That’s not a huge difference, but over the course of 100-plus kilometers of time trialing, it could be a decider.

Subjective Ride Quality
Comfort: 5/10 points
Comfort isn’t really the name of the game with time trial bikes. But the contact points on the Shiv are particularly harsh. The arm pads are very wide, but in practice the rider’s elbows only make contact with a very small portion of the pad. By comparison, arm rests from Profile Design or Syntace are plush.

Acceleration: 8/10 points
The huge bottom bracket area of the Shiv ensures that power is transmitted efficiently to the rear wheel. Specialized’s solid time trial chainring stiffens up the S-Works crank appreciably as well.

Handling: 7/10 points
The Shiv is a straight-line machine. In the aerobars, it’s easy to avoid road obstacles, but with so much weight on the front of the bike the Shiv doesn’t turn easily. It requires a lot of rider input. But that’s a good thing — you don’t want a time trial bike to be twitchy. That said, other bullet bikes from Cervélo or Giant that we’ve ridden in the past handle a bit better.

User Friendliness: 10/15 points
This is where the super slippery front end of the Shiv loses some points. It’s great that it performs so well in the wind tunnel, but the fixed position base bar and single width extensions limit adjustment severely. In my case, when running the arm rests narrow, to my liking, the extensions sit wider than the arm rests. The ability to rotate them in would have helped significantly. Cote admits, “It’s a fine line between adjustability and integration.”

The fixed base bar is a limiter. Specialized ships a myriad of spacers to put the aerobar extensions in the necessary position, but that doesn’t help with the basebar. The Shiv is only available with a single length stem (and a fairly long reach basebar), so reach is determined by frame size. Thankfully, Specialized offers the bike in six sizes. But you’ll want a very careful bike fit before you order.

Otherwise, working on the Shiv is a treat compared to the Trek. Its cable routing works wonderfully, and with its exposed brakes, adjusting between training and race wheels is much more straightforward.

Value: 15/20 points
Sold only as a module (which includes the frame, fork, headset, bars, stem, brakes, bottom bracket, crank and seatpost), the Shiv allows riders to use derailleurs and saddle, pedals and wheels they prefer. Those are good options and lend value in the form of choice. But the $6,100 price tag still makes us balk.

Weight: 5/5 points
Regarding weight, Specialized’s Cote says, “We designed the Shiv to be as light as possible. Contador’s built right at 6.8 kilos. Cancellara’s, with a disc and a (Zipp) 1080 front wheel, only weighed 16.1 pounds.” The Trek is chunkier, not typically a big deal, but a lighter bike never hurts.

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