Specialized Shiv dominates world TT podiums

Shiv under men's individual TT winner for fifth year in a row

The Specialized Shiv has dominated the TT podium at the UCI road world championships in Florence this week. With Tony Martin's (Germany) win today, the American brand has been beneath the best riders in all four elite time trial titles.

On Sunday, two sponsored teams - WorldTour squad Omega Pharma-QuickStep and women's team Specialized-Lululemon – took top honours in the team time trial, an event held for the second year running. Yesterday, Eileen Van Dijk (Netherlands) dominated the women's individual event. Today, Martin won the 57km TT in equally emphatic style.  

Over the last three years in fact, Specialized riders have won seven of the eight elite TT titles across men's and women's disciplines on the Shiv. The only blemish is Judith Arndt (Germany) who won the women's TT title in 2012 on a Scott.

Go back even further into the world TT record books and the bike has always been beneath the best TT rider; before Martin it was Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) who took two world titles on a Shiv (2009, 2010).  

The bike was developed by Chris D'Alusio, Specialized's director of advanced R&D who started working on the project with Cancellara (Switzerland) in 2008 and who finished third today behind Martin and Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain).

D'Alusio told BikeRadar from Florence that the aim was to build a bike that handled well and suited bigger riders – both Cancellera and Martin stand around 6'1" (1.85m).

Tony Martin powering his Shiv to gold at the world championships

It departed from its extremely narrow predecessor, the Transition, by being much wider, which created a more stable platform and changed – and improved – its aerodynamic performance.

"The breakthrough was understanding aerodynamics in 3D not just 2D and that getting wider won't kill you," said D'Alusio. "You're better off having the air attached and controlling the flow [over the bike]. We wanted it to ride more like a road bike, so that bigger riders could really handle the bike the way wanted it to.

"With the Shiv you can really power through a corner and really hold the line – that's what we were going after. You can make a bike really slippery but you can lose so much time in the turns or when you're climbing out of the saddle."     

But of course, it also comes down to having the best riders on the bike – something D'Alusio admits, adding that the best riders are often attracted to the best technology.

The bike had its share of controversy, too. In 2010 the bike fell foul of UCI rules because of its nosecone on the first iteration. Since then the bike has been tweaked three or four times, but the only real difference is the nosecone removal.  

Fabian Cancellara on the Shiv in 2009 (note the now-illegal nosecone)

So it's no surprise that the bike elicits affection from the company employees at the HQ in California. Chris Riekert at Specialized marketing told BikeRadar, "With this bike we've never lost the elite men's title, which is pretty freakin' remarkable."

So what of the future for the Shiv? Will it come out as a new iteration or will it be bettered by something else in the pipeline? Specialized just invested in a wind tunnel. Riekert pleaded the Fifth Amendment when asked if there was something new coming. You do the math.

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