2009 Specialized Global Press Launch

Tour Tech: RBA Rides Cancellara’s Secret Weapon, The 2011 Specialized Shiv

July 3, 2009
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(Photo: Specialized/Carson Blume)

At Specialized’s Global launch outside Salt Lake City, Utah, Specialized rolled out all of their 2010 bikes and products. Despite all the attention given to new Tarmac SL3, one bike that is not even in production almost stole the spotlight. Tucked in the far corner of the mechanic’s tent were pre-production models of the 2011 Specialized Shiv time trial bike. While spy photos leaked out a couple of months ago and Fabian Cancellara used it with dominating force at the Tour of Switzerland, no one had yet had the opportunity to test ride one. When the offer was extended, Road Bike Action jumped at the chance to ride one of the fastest and rarest bikes in the world.

The 2011 Specialized Shiv looks fast even when standing still
(Photo: Specialized/Carson Blume)

The Design
One of Specialized’s two main objectives when designing the Shiv was to make it the most aerodynamic time trial bike in the world. In order to achieve this Specialized had to rethink the leading edge of the bike, the aerobars and placement of the front brake. Specialized’s solution was to develop an integrated stem and aerobar setup in which the front brake mounts rearward into the stem instead of the fork crown. While externally the stem appears to be little more than a carbon fairing running the height of the steer tube, it is actually a key structural element. The top and bottom of the stem feature internal aluminum supports. The top aluminum piece supports the integrated carbon fiber aerobars and mounts to the carbon fiber steer tube that tapers from 1-inch at the top to 1.125-inch at the fork crown. The bottom aluminum piece supports the rear mounted front brake and serves as a secondary attachment point to the fork via a carbon fiber bridge that mounts to the stem and underside of the fork. All of this creates a very smooth and integrated leading edge that also hides the front brake.

Externally the stem appears to be little more than a carbon fairing running the height of the steer tube, it is actually a key structural element and provides a mount for the front brake.

The Shiv doesn’t violate the UCI’s 3:1 tube shape rule because the leading edge of the frame is actually the stem and provides structural support.

The other design goal of the Shiv, was to make the bike as stiff as Specialized’s Tarmac SL2 road bike. In the end Specialized came close to accomplishing this with the Shiv being within 4-percent of the torsional stiffness of the SL2. Much of the bike’s stiffness comes from the bikes FACT 10r carbon frame with an oversized bottom bracket, chainstays, aero down tube and 1.125 lower headset bearing. The rest of the Shiv is made up of aerodynamically optimized tubes, internal cable routing, a FACT SL carbon crankset and carbon fiber aero seatpost.

A carbon fiber bridge serves as a secondary attachment for the stem to the under side of the fork. This also adds support for the stem mounted front brake.

Like the Specialized Transition, the Shiv features rear entry dropouts and oversized chainstays

The Ride
While my time on the Shiv was limited, I benefited from having just completed a long-term test of the Specialized S-Works Transition for the October issue. My time on the Transition gave me a good reference point to compare the handling and performance of the new Shiv. After some time getting fitted to the new Shiv by Specialized’s aerodynamic guru Mark Cote, I was off riding. Due to time restrains my arm position was about a centimeter lower than normal, but aside from that minor difference my position was spot on.

(Photo: Specialized/Carson Blume)

The first thing that I noticed is that the bike is fast ? very fast. Putting the power down the Shiv responds and every pedal stroke is efficiently transferred into forward momentum. It was hard to tell any difference in stiffness over the Transition, but the Shiv felt livelier and seemed to have more snap sprinting out of corners. Another difference is that the front of the Shiv felt smoother than the Transition. I suspect that most of this is due the carbon fiber steer tube, stem and aerobars that worked together to absorb road vibrations.

One thing that Specialized didn’t change from the Transition was the geometry, keeping the head tube angle, effective top tube length, and effective seat angle and chainstay length. This was a good choice as the Transition is one of the best handling time trial bikes on the market. The Shiv mirrors this performance and simply carves through corners. In full flight the Shiv is solid and stable, inspiring confidence to push just a little bit harder.

Riding the Shiv I consistently had the feeling that the bike’s limits were beyond my physical abilities. The bike is designed for the fastest time trialist in the world and it shows. In the hands of Cancellara the Shiv will cut a straight line to the top of the podium.


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