The 2014 Trek Speed Concept represents a refinement of the 2013 version and doesn’t appear all that different at first glance. But like comparing the technological superiority of Blu-rays over DVDs, the new Speed Concept makes its predecessor look obsolete.
The first Speed Concept impressed the aero community with its utilization of Kamm tail tube shapes, cleverly integrated storage solutions and wide fit range. If you were pressed to find a flaw, the difficulty of assembling the bike would have to be at the top of the list. Trek addressed this snag while also making the bike lighter and faster thanks to a real-world testing protocol combined with Computational Fluid Dynamic simulations and wind tunnel data. All of this comes without compromising stiffness or ride quality.
The result of Trek’s tests determined the new Speed Concept can save about two minutes in an Ironman race, depending on course conditions. To be more specific, the 2014 Speed Concept is predicted to be 1:39 faster at Ironman Hawaii and 2:28 quicker at Ironman Arizona compared to the 2013 Speed Concept averaging 20 mph. These claimed time savings immediately beg two questions — where did those numbers come from and what makes the new bike faster?
Trek ventured beyond the wind tunnel to ensure the new Speed Concept excels in real world conditions. To accomplish this, the company designed and built a mobile sensor system with extremely high fidelity and response that simultaneously measures yaw angle, airspeed, heading, location, and altitude. With this sensor attached to a scooter calibrated to collect data from a following cyclist, Trek put the Speed Concept to the test at three Ironman courses to compliment analysis from wind tunnel and CFD tests.
So where do the time savings come from? The Kamm Tail Virtual Foil (KVF) design has already been proven in the wind tunnel and on the road. The shape was tweaked slightly by reducing the frontal area of the seat tube and down tube by 13 percent, in addition to redesigning the fork, cockpit, and storage options. Those add-ons will actually shave an additional 1:30 off a rider’s bike split.
Two minutes may not seem like much over 112 miles. But considering the original Speed Concept’s pedigree as one of the fastest bikes on the market, it is remarkable Trek was able to improve on such a sound design.
There are really two models of this bike, one that is UCI legal and one that’s designed specifically for triathlons. The non-UCI legal bike has a more aerodynamic base bar and fork, and comes with a nifty brake cover called a Speed Fin that keeps debris out of the bushings, adds stiffness to the brake design and increases aerodynamics. The UCI-legal model doesn’t have the extended tail of the Speed Fin, which saves an average of 10 grams of drag, but is legal because it has structural functionality.
The geometry is unchanged on the new Speed Concept but Trek has dialed in the cockpit to offer a wider range of pad placements. The result is the ability to get lower and further forward.
The base bar was moved forward for better knee clearance, while the brake levers were moved back for added comfort while climbing. There are four extension options, which are adjusted by loosening two bolts compared to four that came on the old Speed Concept. There are six stem options, but the overall process of fitting and building the bike should be simplified thanks to a reduction of the number of fastener operations and tools needed. Trek claims the new Speed Concept will take about an hour and a half to build compared to the two and a half hours for the old model.
The Speed Concept is the pack mule of time trial bikes with an array of storage options to cater to even the most excessive hoarder-minded triathletes. The Draft Box that fits behind the seat tube has enough volume to store a tubular tire and was redesigned to be easier to install and remove. A behind-the-saddle contraption dubbed the 2-Pack securely holds two bottles and actually reduces drag. The Speed Box on the top tube holds up to seven gels, and a Torpedo Bottle Mount between the aerobars adds another hydration option. With two bottles on the back, two in the frame and one on the aerobars, one could conceivably ride with over 100 ounces of liquid.
Every detail of the Speed Concept was meticulously mulled over by Trek’s engineers to enhance the rider’s experience, resulting in an improved version of an already stellar bike. At the 2012 Ironman World Championships, Trek finished second in the bike tally behind Cervelo. We wouldn’t be surprised to see the margin shrink in 2013.