Specialized’s Shiv has been one of the most iconic yet unobtainable aero bikes of recent years, going through various frame-only iterations to comply with assorted time trialling rules.
This year, it’s available in several complete bike formats, and because it’s triathlon speciﬁc now, the gloves are off in terms of aero proﬁling. The Shiv Pro tested here wasn’t just impressively aero but outstandingly comfortable, too.
Ride & handling: Perfect for smooth cruising
The main draw of the Shiv is its chassis. The amount of positional adjustment available via the Control Tower makes it well worth booking time with one of Specialized’s in-house BG (Body Geometry) Fit experts if you’re not conﬁdent setting the bike up yourself.
Once it’s all fettled, the Shiv offers an outstandingly comfortable and friendly ride that made even ﬁrst-time aero bar users feel relaxed within a few miles. It’s not just the position tweaking adjustment that makes it so welcoming either.
The steering is both composed and conﬁdent, so you pop between base bar and extensions without concern, even if you’re leaving the braking late. We found ourselves staying in a tuck through more corners than normal too, and when we were on the base bar it carved round with ease.
While the sheer size of the down tube made us very sceptical of Specialized’s claims of ‘crosswind-optimised aerofoils’, it really does reduce instability caused by wayward winds. You experience very little deﬂection when you pass gate gaps or other causes of turbulence.
The ride feels calm and controlled, and when we installed deep-section wheels for part of the testing they just added to the relaxed and restful ride experience.
The fork, frame, saddle and bar also suck a remarkable amount of shock from the road, leaving us sitting pretty and spinning smoothly when the stiffer bikes on test were knocking their riders out of rhythm.
The ﬂip side to the smoothness is a noticeable sprinting reluctance from the Shiv, and it’s not a fan of steep muscle climbs either. The U-brakes feel a bit spongy, and this dents your conﬁdence on steep descents and in tricky trafﬁc situations.
Once you’ve coaxed it up to speed, though, it cruises beautifully, with the fatigue-reducing facets of its performance increasingly obvious the further you ride. Despite the high frame, cockpit and wheel weight, overall weight is still reasonable (8.67kg or 19.11lb as tested) so it climbs steady grades pretty well and sustains pace over rolling roads.
If you want something similar in a lighter, more responsive and versatile short-course shape, have a look at Specialized’s Venge aero road bike family.
Frame & equipment: Clever frame and cockpit
Now that the Shiv is free from the constraints of the tube ratio rules of the UCI, the massively deep down tube becomes the focus of this radical-looking bike. It’s so deep, in fact, that you can install an optional Fuselage drinking bladder inside the tubes.
The Shiv cockpit is just as innovative as the frame. A sandwich-style stem allows 60mm or 90mm effective lengths, while the extension clamps are on curved base sections for adjustable angle as well as fore and aft movement.
The integrated shiv cockpit is extremely aero and highly adjustable, but it’s certainly not light: the integrated shiv cockpit is extremely aero and highly adjustable, but it’s certainly not light Russell Burton/Future Publishing
The highly adjustable cockpit on the Shiv Pro
The bike comes with a full toolkit of different spacers to raise the arms and rests, and the pads can be adjusted to different angles and widths. While the stem to steerer junction is conventional, the supplied spacers are aero shaped to sync with the humpback frame section for the internal cable routing.
A choice of three different back covers keep the stem streamlined whatever stem height you run. The stem alone is 277g though, and the whole cockpit comes in at well over a kilo even without any extra spacers ﬁtted under the armrests.
The conventional ‘plug in’ fork with front-mounted U-brake isn’t particularly light either. The fact that you get two different seatposts supplied with the frame is a nice touch, and each one is reversible to give four position options, from super-forward TT style to conventional, relaxed road angles.
More Specialized own-brand innovation comes in the form of the superlight FACT carbon armed, oversized axle cranks. A wider than normal 52/36-tooth chainring choice and an 11-28T cassette helps you to maintain cadence efﬁciency on hills, and the SRAM Red mechs, shifters and KMC chain shift conﬁdently.
Specialized’s carbon crank is stiff and light, with a wide ring ratio for rolling terrain : specialized’s carbon crank is stiff and light, with a wide ring ratio for rolling terrain Russell Burton/Future Publishing
The carbon crank is stiff and light, with a wide gear ratio
In common with a lot of affordable top-end bikes, the Shiv Pro comes with conventional training quality wheels, leaving you free to upgrade to your choice of aero wheel rather than second-guessing what you might want.
Keen bargain hunters should be aware that the same frame (with an alloy – rather than carbon – cockpit) is used on the £3,000 Shimano Dura-Ace equipped Shiv Expert and SRAM Rival/Apex/FSA based Shiv Comp, which costs £2,200.
This article was originally published in Triathlon Plus magazine, available on Zinio.