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Reviews Specialized Shiv Elite triathlon bike review

Specialized Shiv Elite triathlon bike review

Little change for 2015 aside from a new paint job, but does that mean it's still one of the best tri bikes out there?

(Image: Jonny Gawler

The Shiv got the 220 test treatment last year and, aside from a new paint job, very little about it has been changed for 2015. And that’s no bad thing, because it’s a great bike.

>>> Specialized Shiv 2014 review

Being one of the dominant players in the bike market means it’s easy to dislike Specialized (especially given the company’s ill-advised legal action against a small Canadian bike retailer over its use of the word Roubaix – the name of a town in France long before it became the moniker of one of the brand’s road models).

But the reason it became a dominant player is that it makes a lot of good bikes – bikes that have proven their worth at the highest echelons of competition and won fans at every other level of the sport too.

>>> Best triathlon bikes of 2014

The build

In 2012 when Shiv first arrived on the scene, its most distinctive feature was its ‘nose cone’, an aerofoil that hid the brake caliper, smoothed out airflow and vaguely resembled the prow of a ship.

Unfortunately, it was deemed illegal by the UCI and had to be ditched. Although it wasn’t against the rules for tri, rather than stick with it, Specialized shifted it back and turned it into the head tube’s trailing edge.

The Shiv’s distinctive profiling shrugs off crosswinds by redirecting them downwards

Not only would the Shiv’s front end still benefit from the streamlining it provided but, coupled with the broad down tube, the pulled-back nose cone also provided storage space for the ‘Fuelselage’ – a system that hides a hydration bladder inside the bike’s frame so you can take a drink without sitting up.

All this, however, does give the bike a disproportionately large front end. It’s ironic that a bike named after a small blade should have a down tube that resembles one of the colossal swords carried by the characters from Final Fantasy.

The Sitero saddle, similar to ISM’s Adamo, is designed as a perch to push you forward over the aerobars

Aside from the Shiv’s big tubes, its other most notable feature is the Sitero saddle. It’s a stub- nosed wedge with a groove and cutout running along the middle. It looks desperately uncomfortable, but it works on the same principle as ISM Adamo saddles: you perch on the nose and let its two nubs support you under your ischial tuberosities (sitting bones).

Not only does the shape push you forward to make it easier to tuck over the aerobars and push the pedals, it also takes the weight off your perineum, making you faster without making your nether regions numb.

The transmission employs a Praxis chainset then it’s Shimano 105 all the way

Specialized also provides the aerobars, stem, brakes, wheels and tyres, while the drivetrain is made up of Shimano 105 shifters and mechs with a Praxis chainset.

The ride

The Shiv differs from most tri-specific bikes in that it doesn’t ride like a tri-specific bike. It rides more like a road bike. It virtually does away with that teetering, newborn Bambi feel you get while you accustom yourself to a tri bike for the first time. It’s easy to control and has the sort of chuckability that lets you flick round unexpected potholes and through sharp corners with confidence.

It’s surprising just how stable it is in crosswinds, especially given the girth of its head and down tubes. But the shape of those tubes has been devised to pull the centre of pressure created by crosswinds downwards, to reduce their ability to push you offline and increase their ability to push you forwards. It sounds hard to believe, but when the breeze does decide to blow, it’s almost as if the bike has sorted itself out before you’re able to do anything to settle it back down.

The Shiv’s brakes are smooth too, which is a relief given how easily it picks up speed. They’re not grabby, but they have the power to keep a tight rein on your speed when necessary. They’re direct-mount aero units rather than the traditional calipers, but have enough strength to let you fine-tune your pace and finesse yourself around even the tightest tri bike course.

Overall verdict

Handling: 92%

Takes high-speed straights and corners in its stride. Just lacks a little zip on the acceleration front.

Spec: 81%

Finishing kit is fine, but could the money saved in using their own bits be spent on an Ultegra drivetrain?

Value: 93%

Despite the own-brand kit, you’re still getting superbike performance at a competitive price.

Comfort: 93%

That saddle looks like a torture device, but it’s actually a surprising nice place to perch.

SCORE: 90%

Contact : www.specialized.com

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Mike Anderson was 220 Triathlon's staff writer between 2011 and 2014.