2012 Specialized Shiv Review
article & images by Nick Salazar
Jan 23, 2012
The fit of the 2012 Shiv is a bit of a divisive subject, and one I wanted to tackle before going any further. Specialized is very proud of their philosophy on geometry, yet it took me a while to wrap my head around it. Simply put, this is a very tall bike. It gets even taller when you add the semi-integrated S-Works aerobar, which adds about 5cm of stack to the pads. When I put together my bike, I had to size down to a Small, and also swap out to a lower stack bar. So did Craig Alexander when he set up his bike prior to the 2011 World Championships in Kona. Both of us would be riding a size Medium based on our optimal reach numbers, but can't get low enough without using a trick stem like the 3T Arca or a Look Ergostem. On Craig's bike, not only was a size Small necessary, but he had to remove the headset top cap in order to get the bars low enough on his Shimano Pro Missile Evo TT bar. On my setup, I chose the Felt Devox bars, used a zero-rise stem, and took out all the steerer tube spacers. Sure, I ride a fairly low position, but it's usually not this difficult to hit my stack numbers. Just for reference, my pad stack is 575mm, measured as the vertical distance between the bottom bracket and the top of my pads.
So why is Specialized making things so difficult for me and Craig? The answer is simple: we represent a minority of athletes. The vast majority, says Mark Cote of Specialized, ride much, much higher positions. In fact, he tells me that they designed the bike so that the median position on any size would put the aerobars at zero drop from the saddle. That's a brave choice, considering that most pros and elite age-groupers ride closer to 160mm of drop.
This is where fit philosophies can diverge. Specialized wants to make the bike usable for people as they are currently riding, not as they would ride if they adopted an idealized fit geometry. Mark Cote admitted to me that for athletes who have spent many years refining their positions and have settled on low, aggressive positions might find it challenging to fit on the new Shiv, just as I did. But Specialized is of the philosophy that even those who do spend a lot of time refining their position won't necessarily settle on low ones. The Spez philosophy is that the slightly higher stack is a good thing for triathletes, facilitates faster running, and they're making bikes to cater to that philosophy. Cote and his team at Specialized undertook a massive bike survey, measuring hundreds of actual age-grouper bikes, and based the Shiv geometry around those real-world positions. If you've long ridden a bike with a massive spacer stack, the Shiv might be your ticket to a slick, slammed-stem ride. Specialized built this bike for you.
Though riders like me might gripe about the difficulty of getting low, I have to recognize that Spez made a conscious choice to serve a specific type of rider, and that rider likely represents a pretty big segment of the market. And anyway, for the low-and-aggressive crowd, Specialized already makes a fantastic bike: the Shiv TT. If you're in the super-low category, get the TT version. But the bike at hand was designed for the masses.
Range of Adjustment
With the philosophy out of the way, we can talk about how this thing actually adjusts. The front end of the bike, while it looks very integrated, is actually very traditional. The fork features a standard 1-1/8" steerer tube, onto which any standard stem can be clamped. Rise is achieved through the use of standard round fork spacers.
The reason it looks so slick is that for the top-end bikes, Specialized has created a proprietary bar/stem combination that blends seamlessly with the lines of the Shiv. It will fit on any standard fork, but was born to be used on this bike. Instead of using round spacers, the S-Works bar has a set of spacers allowing for three distinct base bar positions at 0 rise, 25mm rise, and 50mm rise (finer adjustment happens at the pad level). Those spacers form a complete aerodynamic shape that begins at the front of the stem and extends back behind the stem to the cable entry port. It's a very elegant look, especially considering we're talking about a round stem.
The bar itself is very much like the bar on the Trek Speed Concept 9-series. It's a deep-section base bar, and uses custom hardware to allow the extensions to tilt up and down independently of the base bar. Pad stack can be increased by adding spacers below this hardware. The range of adjustment is impressive, even if it's more than I think is strictly necessary. My gripe is that it adds a lot of stack - about 5cm from bar to pads. My philosophy is that if you really want arm pad tilt, you might just be using the wrong extensions. For the (very) few riders who really get along well with an extreme mantis-like position, you can always switch to a different bar. On the Trek, I fixed the situation by creating some custom clamping hardware. Specialized may be releasing a similar solution for their bar some time down the road. My gripes aside, it's a great-looking bar and will work well for a wide variety of riders. Just not me.
Every S-Works and Pro level bike and frameset will ship with dual seatposts, and each of those posts is flipabble for a total of four seatpost positions. Right out of the box, you get the entire range of adjustment, which is a great move. (If you order an Expert or Comp level bike, you'll only get one post, but the other one is available from your dealer.) No need to go fishing for parts at your local retailer if you decide you want an additional measure of saddle range. The other benefit to setting up the posts this way is that they are very light. With no actual head hardware to adjust, Specialized gets to remove a bunch of bolts and a lot of metal from the equation versus other posts. And that's about all there is to say here. The solution works very well, and provides a huge range of adjustment.
Next up, we'll cover what is one of the cooler features on this bike: the integrated Fuelselage liquid storage system.
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