Specialized Transition Pro review£3,499.99

Ready to race package

BikeRadar score3/5

With the insane-looking ultra-aero Shiv only currently available to sponsored athletes, the four-bike Transition range is still Specialized’s anti-wind workhorse. The Pro gets a heavier frame construction than the S-Works model, but it’s still loaded with fit-tweaking, time-cheating features.

Ride & handling: Stiff frame and deep-section wheels deliver fast and powerful ride

It’s clear in the ride character that this bike is about straight-line flat-out speed. While the soft-feeling brakes and a tendency for the front end to tuck under in slow speed turns make traffic-work nervous, the open road is where it comes alive.

The massive hindquarters maximise power transfer and once you’ve overcome their inertia, the Mavic Cosmic Carbone wheels spin with an ego-stoking momentum. Stir in aerodynamic detailing, plus aggressive positioning, and it holds a gear and a smooth cadence well.

Our test times were consistently faster than average and it’s easy to see how the Transition family has picked several top-level victories in time-trials and triathlons. Its weight does start to cut into sustainable speed quickly if you point it upwards though, so it’s better suited to flatter races.

Specialized really score in the potential for tuning without having to chop steerer or seatpost. Overall comfort levels are okay too, considering the direct drive of the frame and the deep-section tubes, and being able to get such an accurate fit from the parts supplied boosts long-distance comfort.

There's initial slow-speed steering wander, but you’ll appreciate the extra stability at high speed. This makes it a reassuring ride on descents too, as long as you know you don’t need to do much braking.

The deep-section main tubes and wheels mean it’s more vulnerable to crosswinds than most bikes though. And there's no getting away from the fact that at 1,690g, the frame is no lightweight.

Chassis: Weighty frame and fork mean it’s not so happy going up hills

The aero assault starts straightaway with a narrow 1in (rather than conventional 1.125in) diameter head tube, which keeps the extended headbox as narrow as possible. The front end of the top tube also drops dramatically to keep head tube height as low as possible.

Two small fins on the deep ellipse down tube also sync with the trailing edge of the fork. The deep, rounded V-section top tube extends into the curved wheel-hugger seat tube with expander wedge-locking mechanism for the aero seatpost.

A big bottom bracket section extends into tapering rectangular chainstays, with the rear gear cable popping out at a kinked elbow, just ahead of the rear wheel, and there’s a similar kinked shoulder on the deep, flat seatstays. This keeps the chainstays flat to the wheel and your feet for minimal frontal section.

Horizontal slotted dropouts allow tweaking of wheel-hugger and tyre clearance, while the centrepull rear brake bolts underneath the chainstays in already ‘dirty’ air – in other words, it won’t add extra drag. There’s a conventional bottle mount balanced on the fin of the down tube too.

Rear brake and gear-end cables vanish vertically into internal sleeves behind the stem. The full guidance trunking inside is certainly a bonus for home mechanics, but use of full outer cable adds more than 100g of extra weight, compared to a naked or thin-sleeved cable.

Loops on the belly and behind the rear mech look ugly too, and even with an agricultural centre hanger, the centrepull front brake can snap off the down tube fins if the forks are pushed round too far. The Pros use FACT 7r carbon (compared to the FACT 9r of the S Works), which makes for a hefty frame.

While the shallow straight-legged forks take the sting out of potholes and dodge drag nicely, they’re also heavy. You only get four frame size options too, although there’s fit-tweaking potential through componentry.

Equipment: Adjustable post and stem allow accurate fit tuning but brakes are scary on twisty downs

This includes flippable chuck plates on the seatpost top to give fore and aft saddle positions, and the stem is also supplied with three asymmetric shims to give six different angle settings. Forward-swept Vision base bars also offset the short top-tube dimensions, but the endless extensions need to be trimmed.

The Light Specialized-branded carbon crankset compensates in part for the high frame weight and you get a SRAM Red rear mech upgrade. Cosmic Carbone wheels are a solid aero option, but the centrepull brakes and sharp-edged Vision levers leave a lot to be desired.

Specialized transition pro: specialized transition pro
Specialized transition pro: specialized transition pro

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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