Tri Bike Review: Specialized Shiv S-Works

  • By Aaron Hersh
  • Published May 30, 2012

Last autumn, when the new Shiv was still just a rumour, Specialized brought a Kona-bound shipping container to the Interbike trade show with the words “Aero/Fuel/Fit” stencilled on its side. Although the bike is now best known as the machine Craig Alexander rode to a 13-minute personal record on the Ironman World Championship bike course en route to his third Ironman world title, the Shiv wasn’t designed for thoroughbred athletes such as him. It was designed for amateur athletes who can’t sustain Alexander’s position. The geometry is the difference.

The fact is most triathletes require an aerobar position that is much higher than allowed by many bikes designed for Tour de France time trialists. If we compare the Shiv’s stack and reach frame fit measurements to other high- performance bikes, the Shiv has a head tube height that is centimetres higher than the average of its closest competitors. And that is just the frame’s fit characteristics. Instead of using a true integrated aerobar attachment system that can limit the range of fit adjustability, Specialized used a stem and spacer system with a traditional wide range of adjustment but shaped the spacers to blend with the frame. Like the Trek Speed Concept 9.8, the Shiv comes with a bar that can be adjusted in all directions. All this means you’ll be able to ride faster without feeling like you’re licking your front wheel.

Almost every aspect of the bike attends to the specific needs of the multisport athlete. The internal hydration reservoir cleverly dubbed the Fuelselage holds about as much fluid as a standard large bottle. There are two advantages to concealing fluid in the downtube. First, it can replace one water bottle from elsewhere on the bike, shielding it from the wind and improving aerodynamics. Second, it might replace weight that would otherwise commonly be carried up on the aerobars. Since the fluid in the bladder is much lower, it lowers the bike’s centre of gravity and subtly improves handling. Sucking fluid from the Fuelselage, however, takes more force than drinking from a bottle between the aerobars with a straw.

The giant tubes are another triathlon-only attribute that maximise performance. These tubes are more aerodynamic than the standard-depth tubes Specialized uses on its road time trial bikes, but they violate UCI rules. As a result, Specialized’s wind tunnel tests have shown that this highly adjustable bike is just as aerodynamic or better than the time trial version that is far less functional.

On the road, the Shiv handles as a triathlon bike should: It’s stable and fast in a straight line, but it still allows for cornering prowess. The bike doesn’t feel agile and nimble, however, while being thrown around underneath an athlete. Once the Shiv is up to speed it feels like it just wants to continue humming along at a fast clip, perfect for triathletes, and just how the Shiv was intended.

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