Continuing our look back at the last 12 months, we take a look at the time trial bikes that struck a chord with our testers.
From the wallet-busting Felt B2 and its little brother the B12, to the rapid Cannondale Slice Ultegra and the clock-beating Giant Trinity, there’s something here for every time trial enthusiast. While the prices and specifications of these five bikes vary considerably, they all have one thing in common – a top rating.
Some manufacturers of time trial/triathlon bikes seem to go for aerodynamic efﬁciency at the expense of everything else, from handling to reliable braking. Felt, on the other hand, have always maintained a friendly ride. The latest iteration of the B2 is absolute bliss to ride, without losing any of its blistering pace either.
Where Felt have always scored is ride smoothness that keeps you fresh. The new lighter ﬁbre mix hasn’t removed any of the shock-absorbing qualities, so it’s a fatigue-reducing, climb-quickening double win for the new B2. If the question is B2 or not B2, then the answer is an overwhelming “yes” – though UK buyers will have to splash out £6,300 for the SRAM Red, Zipp-equipped B2 Pro, or go for the £4,400 B10 which has the same geometry but is made from a different grade of carbon.
While the organic-looking, wind-tunnel-honed, Ironman-winning aerodynamics of the B2 have largely been left untouched for 2011, there’s a whole new structure under the skin. The key element is a new higher modulus (more carbon ﬁbre, less resin) UHC Advanced material that saves signiﬁcant weight while still delivering the same stiffness and strength.
While Cervelo deﬁnitely dominate the bike charts in Canada, Argon 18 have been quietly turning out some distinctive, multi-World-Championship winning bikes for the past 22 years. The E80 blends the rare elements of economy, exclusivity and real-world performance into an outstanding package.
Not only is the position of the bike immediately engaging, efﬁcient and comfortable, but it just seems to thrive on whatever drive you can supply. Testers who were lagging and trying not to bring up their breakfast on the the other test bikes were suddenly charging off the front and turning everyone else’s legs into a fry-up on the Argon. Despite heavier overall weight than some of its peers, it could make life very hard for them at will too, even on gradual rise and corner kick sections where they should have had the upper hand.
Cannondale’s rapid but forgiving Slice has been one of our favourite rides for a long time. Another outstanding performance this time proves the old ‘if it ain’t broke don’t ﬁx it’ adage still holds true for 2011. Opting for evolution over revolution, Cannondale have once again crafted a real slice of genius.
The handling stability is particularly helpful in setting up a reassuringly conﬁdent character straight away. While it’s not the quickest witted dodging through potholes and other Tarmac trauma, you’ll have no doubt about hitting sweeping corners and short descents in a deep tuck rather than dithering about on and off the base bars.
Where the Slice really shines in competition terms is long-haul event situations, and it’s easy to see why athletes like Chrissie Wellington have been producing devastating results aboard a Cannondale. Despite the powertrain stiffness and steering accuracy, it’s a surprisingly comfortable cruiser.
Felt’s carbon-framed contender is a smoothly speedy and well-equipped ride for efﬁcient spinners, but not so great for those big-gear grunters. So, unless you’re an habitual big-gear mangler or steep-hill stomper, the smoothness and reduced fatigue may well pay more long-haul dividends than the potential speed dilution of the ﬂexy power train.
First impressions of the Felt depend entirely on which direction you’re headed in. When we rolled out in ﬂat or down-sloped directions with a steady start rate or low heart rate in mind, then the easy speed of the sculpted aerodynamics and deeper-than-average wheels was noticed by all our Felt pilots straight away.
Despite the deeper wheels transmitting more road shock, the skinny frame sections, plush saddle and well-designed cockpit mean very little of it got to the rider. Even over proper back-road asphalt acne, the B12 stayed smooth and serenely comfortable. This enables you to stay down in a tuck and tick over the pedals without any interruption.
Giant’s Trinity is a fully equipped speed machine that’s perfect for focused riders who want to fulfil their potential at a bargain price. It’s a focused clock-beater, with a low ride position, uncompromising power delivery and a spec chosen for maximum speed.
As soon as you climb onto the Trinity it’s very obvious this is a genuinely performance-focused bike with no tall head tube or high-rise aero bar concession to bad backs or ample age-grouper bellies. The very long, slightly kinked extensions are mounted underneath the wing bar and the pads very close to the top of the wing bar too. That means body position is low and aggressive in feel.
Giant have certainly ticked all the equipment boxes for a serious attack on the clock. The carbon extensions of the Contact aero bars are low and long, and tip shifters help maintain aerodynamics on flatter, longer courses. While 42mm alloy rims add weight, they give the wheelset a tangible aerodynamic and momentum-retaining edge that’s more obvious at higher speeds.
Cervélo charge a premium for their wind-beating warhorse the P3C. While several aero boxes aren’t ticked, the position, propulsive delivery and precision handling still build into a blisteringly quick machine well worth its money.
The good news on gusty days is that riding the P3 is as close as you’ll get to feeling like you’re in a custom race car seat. Cervélo worked very hard on clean sheet ergonomics for the P series bikes, and it shows immediately. Rather than relying on muscle and grip, arms, shoulders, back and pelvis all fall into place perfectly with a limb-locking security that any mad scientist’s lab would be envious of.
The P3 squeezes forwards with undiluted intent from the ﬁrst muscle pulse and there’s an overwhelming feel that you’re surﬁng the sweet spot of a potentially massive wave of speed. How far you can ride that wave depends on how fast you can spin the pedals. The unmistakable feeling that the bike is pushing you forward rather than holding you back makes a massive difference when it comes to encouraging you to dig deeper.
Although Specialized have recently updated their Shiv line of time trial bikes, we’re willing to bet that you’ll still be able to buy the original Shiv for some time yet, hence its inclusion in our best time trial bikes of 2011.
The Shiv’s strong points are its out-and-out speed, stiffness, relatively light weight and incredible handling. It’s rare to find a time trial bike that does all of this. For example its predecessor, the Transition, was very slippery and stiff but suffered in the weight and handling stakes.
The end result is a bike that’s addicted to speed. It accelerates quickly and stays there, and, like a Formula One car, it doesn’t like going slow. We found in training it was 2-3km/h faster than our road bike (power, wheels and kit being the same). Most of that is the position, some of it’s the frame.