Specialized Shiv tri bike review
The Shiv is a pure triathlon bike. Although it has a tamer, UCI-legal stablemate that shares some of its DNA, no attempt has been made to make the tri version of the Shiv comply with the UCI’s regulations on frame design. Which is how it’s ended up being so odd-looking.
The tube profiles may resemble the familiar aerofoil shape, but it’s their dimensions that make the difference. Aero tubes on UCI-legal bikes can’t exceed a 3:1 ratio of length to width, whereas some of the Shiv’s tubes are four times as long as they are wide. That may sound like a small alteration, but Specialized claim the improvement in aero performance it produces is big.
No one can fail to notice the Shiv’s enormous head and down tubes. And the typical reaction to their size is a remark along the lines of ‘that can’t be good in a crosswind’. But, according to Mark Cote, Specialized’s aerodynamics R&D manager, that’s exactly where those big tubes work best.
“The Shiv’s side surface area can be slightly intimidating to look at, but it’s actually designed to work better in a crosswind. [It moves] the centre of pressure a little bit lower and the bike ends up effectively sailing in a crosswind – it takes energy out of a crosswind to push you forward.”
Those big tubes combine with a host of other features to cheat the wind, such as the ‘Control Tower’ stump and fairing mounts that tidy up the airflow behind the stem; the Fuelselage hydration bladder that’s hidden in the down tube; and rear brake that sits behind the bottom bracket to keep it out of the airstream coming off the seat tube.
It seems strange though to have the front brake mounted slap bang in the middle of the bike’s face, rather than behind the fork. “We found that mounting a brake behind the fork generally requires you to offset the down tube farther away from the front wheel,” explains Cote. “[Doing that] would generate more drag than can be saved by taking it off the front.”
The callipers on the bike are Specialized’s own, as is the majority of the finishing kit, including the aerobars, stem, seatpost and saddle.
The saddle is Specialized’s Sitero, which props you up on your sit bone. It’s as odd-looking as other saddles that work on this principle, but it’s surprisingly comfy. With the exception of the FSA chainset, Shimano supplies the drivetrain, which is made up of a mix of Tiagra and 105 components.
The Shiv’s big head tube and broad down tube may make the bike look as though it has a beer gut, but they do help it stay smooth and fast. It’s prone to catching crosswinds, but not as much as you might expect. You get a little shove when the wind blows, but it shrugs off the gust almost as quickly as it catches it.
In terms of climbs and corners, handling is competent and reliable. It’s able to make it through turns and over hills perfectly well without ever throwing up any worrying, or exciting, surprises. It’s consistent, which is good since you know what to expect. But although the Shiv takes everything in its stride, it just lacks the edge that makes you want to blast up a slope or pitch it into a bend at full pelt.
Which is odd, because what the Shiv is really good at is high speed. It’s not lightning-quick to accelerate, but it doesn’t ever feel like it wants to stop picking up pace. Riding it is like getting swept away on a wave – you’re carried along, gradually gathering momentum and continually gaining speed as you go. The faster you go, the more speed it seems able to squeeze out and as you ride you find yourself constantly on the verge of grabbing another gear.
So on to our conclusion then. In short? The Shiv may not be pretty, but it sure is fast.
Does everything it needs to very well. Just lacks a little something to make it exciting.
Decent enough, but gears and wheels are the obvious areas to improve.
Superbike performance at a reasonable price.
Plush aerobar pads, great if odd-looking saddle and enough fit adjustment to make you feel at home.
(Images: Jonny Gawler)
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