Review: Specialized Fuel Cell, Reserve Rack, Air Tool
article & images by Andrew Strauss
Nov 4, 2014  hits 112,349

The Specialized Fuel Cell on my Shiv

The Specialized Fuel Cell is a Shiv specific storage system designed to mate perfectly to the frame and not add any frontal area to the bike. Specialized goes so far as to say that its design reduces drag. This would make it possibly the ideal storage system for the Shiv, and as such it has been something that I wanted to get my hands on ever since it was announced.

The product consists of 3 parts: a mount, the main hard storage compartment, and a soft rubber cap. The mount attaches to the bottle bosses on the seat tube, and allows for quick and easy removal of the Fuel Cell. The top cap has a small compartment designed to provide easy access to Gels and nutrition while riding. Tools and spare parts that aren't regularly needed can be stashed away in the main hard storage compartment, which can only be accessed after removing the rubber cap.

I found the weight of the product to be minimal and a decent tradeoff for the added storage. Crosswind handling didn't substantially change after installing the Fuel Cell. I also like the look of the Fuel Cell, but some people seem to hate it. This seems to be very subjective.

Design

I really like the way Specialized designed the mount, as it allows one to remove the Fuel Cell to load up with parts and nutrition. This is much easier than if the main storage compartment had mounted directly to the frame.

The main storage compartment is where one will store the bulk of their spare parts. It feels a lot narrower than I was expecting, but it has to be narrow in order to not add frontal area to the bike. This won't be an issue for most people as it is wide enough to easily hold tubes and CO2 cartridges. What will be an issue, however, is how short the main storage compartment is. When I first went to load it, I actually thought it was the perfect size as all my parts fit just fine. My excitement was short lived, however, as I realized that the rubber top cap had to sit inside of the main storage compartment as well, and that meant most of my spare parts would have to be removed. I tried to force the rubber top cap into position, and was able to get it into place with a little pressure (compressing my tube in the process), but as soon as I let go, the top cap popped right off.

This brings me to my main gripe with the Fuel Cell. The top cap has no active retention mechanism. There is no lock or latch to keep it in place. It just uses a friction to sit on top of the main storage compartment. If you compress the items in the main storage compartment at all, they will eventually push the top cap off once you release your hand. The top cap also has a way of working loose as you ride and the items in the main compartment bounce and wiggle around.

This problem was so bad that I found myself checking the top cap every 5 minutes during my rides to ensure that it was still there, but still wound up losing it on a training ride. After losing the top cap, I used electrical tape to cover the top of the Fuel Cell for Ironman Boulder. I actually came to prefer this to the rubber top cap as I was able to cram more stuff into the main compartment. I contacted Specialized about replacing the top cap, and they were friendly and sent out a replacement for free, but I am still undecided about whether I will use the top cap at all, or just keep riding with the electrical tape.

A bit of searching on the internet brings up some solutions to the top cap issue. Pro triathlete Erik Linkemann uses clear plastic tape to hold the top cap in place. Kevin Taddonio uses a marker to draw a line indicating the depth of the rubber cap, and doesn't cross this line when filling the Fuel Cell. He made a video to show people struggling with the Fuel Cell how he loads it.

What it will hold

Due to the limited size of the main compartment, you have to really minimize the amount of parts you carry to make it all fit. I tend to be more of a pack rat, and carry everything I might need. My flat kit consists of the following:

  • Spare tube (Q Tubes w/ 80mm valve stem)
  • 2 CO2 Cartridges
  • Inflator head
  • 2 Tire levers
  • Smallest multi tool I could find
  • Master Link

I used to keep all of these items in the smallest saddle bag I could find. That worked, but in terms of aerodynamics wasn't the best solution. I had hoped that I could fit everything in the Fuel Cell, but there is not nearly enough room for it all.

One could put some of their spare parts in the top cap. The added weight would probably help keep it from coming off, but you would lose the ability to store gels in this location. Or you might cut a hole in the top cap to make the main cavity larger, but you would also lose the ability to easily access gels, and might still have issues with the top cap coming off. With both of these solutions, I would have some concern about parts coming out of the top cap. The top cap has an open slit at the top that was designed to keep lightweight gels in place while providing easy access while riding. I doubt it would keep heavier tools in place, but I have yet to try.

In a video that Specialized posted, Mark Cote showed how he setup his Shiv for IM New Zealand. He had a spare tube and tire lever in the Fuel Cell, and then put his CO2, inflator head, and pit stop on the reserve rack behind his saddle.

I think this is how Specialized envisions that the Fuel Cell will be used. One would keep a tube and tire lever in the Fuel Cell, along with some gels in the Fuel Cell's top cap. Then CO2, an inflator head, and extra gels would be stored elsewhere on the bike or in a jersey pocket. If you are OK with this type of setup, the Fuel Cell will work well for you. But if you are unable to store CO2 elsewhere on the bike, or are looking for one storage container to hold all your parts, the Fuel Cell will definitely not meet your needs.

I made a video showing what my Fuel Cell will hold, and comparing it to my old saddle bag:


Conclusion

The Fuel Cell is probably the most aerodynamic way to store spare parts and nutrition on your Shiv. If it will hold everything that you need, it is a no-brainer. But for those that wish to carry additional items, or want to store everything in one place, the Fuel Cell will not be a good choice. The rubber top is held in place by friction, and may come off if you overload the Fuel Cell or if the contents of the Fuel Cell push up on it while riding. Had there been some sort of active retention mechanism, the Fuel Cell would probably be able to hold a lot more stuff. I really wanted to like this product, but it doesn't suit my personal needs very well. I don't use any gels (liquid only), and carry a large parts kit. And while the product doesn't work well for me, it might be a good fit for you, but you will want to make sure it meets your storage needs before purchase.

Pros
  • Most aerodynamic Shiv storage solution
  • Easy access to gels while riding
  • Easy to remove
 
Cons
  • Limited storage capacity
  • Rubber top falls off easily due to friction fit

Most aerodynamic Shiv storage solution, but has a very limited capacity, and a cap that is prone to falling off.
Rating: 3.0


Tags » hydration,  nutrition,  shiv,  specialized,  tools

Fuel Cell 

The Specialized Fuel Cell is a Shiv specific storage system designed to mate perfectly to the frame and not add any frontal area to the bike. Specialized goes so far as to say that its design reduces drag.

  • Specialized's Fuel Cell attached to my Shiv.
  • Specialized's Fuel Cell attached to my Shiv.
  • Specialized's Fuel Cell attached to my Shiv.
  • Gels can be stored in the rubber top cap of the Fuel Cell.  They can be easily accessed while riding via a slit in the top of the rubber cap.
  • Gels can be stored in the rubber top cap of the Fuel Cell.  They can be easily accessed while riding via a slit in the top of the rubber cap.
  • Gels can be stored in the rubber top cap of the Fuel Cell.  They can be easily accessed while riding via a slit in the top of the rubber cap.
  • The rubber top cap is held in place via a friction fit.  It pulls off to allow access to the spare parts in the compartment below.
  • There is a tab on the top of the main compartment that is used to release the Fuel Cell.  The main compartment can then be removed to make loading easier.
  • There is a tab on the top of the main compartment that is used to release the Fuel Cell.  The main compartment can then be removed to make loading easier.
  • There is a tab on the top of the main compartment that is used to release the Fuel Cell.  The main compartment can then be removed to make loading easier.
  • The Fuel Cell's mount attaches to the bottle bosses on the seat tube.
  • The rubber top cap is held in place via a friction fit.  It pulls off to allow access to the spare parts in the compartment below.
  • The Fuel Cell and my old saddle bag.  The saddle bag looks much smaller, but it holds a lot more due to its increased width.
  • The Fuel Cell and my old saddle bag.  The saddle bag looks much smaller, but it holds a lot more due to its increased width.
  • The Fuel Cell and my old saddle bag.  The saddle bag looks much smaller, but it holds a lot more due to its increased width.
  • These are the items I normally carry in my flat kit: 2 tire levers, 2 CO2 Cartridges, a spare tube, a compact inflater head, a spare master link, and a small multi-tool.  The tube has not been unpacked or tested.  After filling it up and testing it, you wouldn't be able to get enough air out to make it this compact ever again.  But even with the tube in this state, these items will not fit in the Fuel Cell.
  • After losing the rubber top cap, I used electrical tape to cover the top of my Fuel Cell.  Specialized was friendly and replaced the top cap free of charge, but I am pretty sure that it will get lost again.  The top cap is held in place via a friction fit.  If the items in the Fuel Cell shift around on a bumpy road, they could push up on the cap and cause it to come off.

Reserve Rack 

The Specialized Reserve Rack is a mounting system that allows one to carry a single saddle bottle as well as some inflation accessories. The product comes with three pieces: a mount that attaches to your saddle rails, a wing that will carry inflation accessories, and an optional Rib Cage.

  • Specialized's Reserve Rack can hold 2 CO2 cartridges on one side and a pump on the other side.  The CO2 cartridges thread onto a coupler that comes with the Reserve Rack.  Elastic bands hold the CO2 coupler and pump to the Reserve Rack.
  • Specialized's Reserve Rack can hold 2 CO2 cartridges on one side and a pump on the other side.  The CO2 cartridges thread onto a coupler that comes with the Reserve Rack.  Elastic bands hold the CO2 coupler and pump to the Reserve Rack.
  • Specialized's Reserve Rack can hold 2 CO2 cartridges on one side and a pump on the other side.  The CO2 cartridges thread onto a coupler that comes with the Reserve Rack.  Elastic bands hold the CO2 coupler and pump to the Reserve Rack.
  • The mount that comes with the Reserve Rack clamps onto your saddle's rails.  There is no angle adjustment on the clamp.  In order to use the clamp, your saddle needs to have standard rails, and enough room to get the clamp in.
  • The mount that comes with the Reserve Rack clamps onto your saddle's rails.  There is no angle adjustment on the clamp.  In order to use the clamp, your saddle needs to have standard rails, and enough room to get the clamp in.
  • The mount that comes with the Reserve Rack clamps onto your saddle's rails.  There is no angle adjustment on the clamp.  In order to use the clamp, your saddle needs to have standard rails, and enough room to get the clamp in.
  • This is the wing that holds inflation accessories.  The wing gets sandwiched between the mount, and the bottle cage.  The bolts for the bottle cage go through the holes on the wing.  In this photo, 2 CO2 cartridges have been threaded onto a coupler that comes with the Reserve Rack.  If you prefer to carry Pit Stop instead of CO2, you may store it where the CO2 coupler is attached in this photo.  This means that your choices are 2 CO2 cartridges + pump, or Pit Stop + pump.  Neither of these combinations suits my personal needs, but you may find that these combos suit you.
  • In this photo, the wing and cage are attached directly to the Sitero's bottle mount.  This way you don't need the mount that comes with the Reserve Rack, and results in a slightly cleaner setup.  I am using the Rib Cage that comes with the Reserve Rack, but you could in theory use the wing with any bottle cage.
  • In this photo, the wing and cage are attached directly to the Sitero's bottle mount.  This way you don't need the mount that comes with the Reserve Rack, and results in a slightly cleaner setup.  I am using the Rib Cage that comes with the Reserve Rack, but you could in theory use the wing with any bottle cage.
  • In this photo, the wing and cage are attached directly to the Sitero's bottle mount.  This way you don't need the mount that comes with the Reserve Rack, and results in a slightly cleaner setup.  I am using the Rib Cage that comes with the Reserve Rack, but you could in theory use the wing with any bottle cage.
  • In this photo, the wing and cage are attached directly to the Sitero's bottle mount.  This way you don't need the mount that comes with the Reserve Rack, and results in a slightly cleaner setup.  I am using the Rib Cage that comes with the Reserve Rack, but you could in theory use the wing with any bottle cage.
  • In this photo, the wing and cage are attached directly to the Sitero's bottle mount.  This way you don't need the mount that comes with the Reserve Rack, and results in a slightly cleaner setup.  I am using the Rib Cage that comes with the Reserve Rack, but you could in theory use the wing with any bottle cage.  I have added a camelbak Podium Chill bottle.
  • View from the back with a bottle attached.
  • In this photo, the wing and cage are attached directly to the Sitero's bottle mount.  This way you don't need the mount that comes with the Reserve Rack, and results in a slightly cleaner setup.  I am using the Rib Cage that comes with the Reserve Rack, but you could in theory use the wing with any bottle cage.  I have added a camelbak Podium Chill bottle.
  • In this photo, the wing and cage are attached directly to the Sitero's bottle mount.  This way you don't need the mount that comes with the Reserve Rack, and results in a slightly cleaner setup.  I am using the Rib Cage that comes with the Reserve Rack, but you could in theory use the wing with any bottle cage.  I have added a camelbak Podium Chill bottle.
  • While testing to see if the Rib Cage that comes with the Fuel Cell was more prone to bottle launching than my other cages, I tried the cage on a different rear mount to compare how the cage preformed on different setups.  While using an XLAB Carbon Wing setup as shown, the Rib Cage launched just as frequently as when I used it on the Reserve Rack.  I found that the Rib Cage launched less than my cheapo no-name cages, but more than my XLAB Gorilla XT.  The Rib Cage held bottles decently when full, but tended to launch more as I emptied the bottles.

Air Tool Compak 

Specialized's Air Tool Compak is designed to be a small floor pump that is easy to travel with and take on adventures.

  • The Air Tool Compak fully assembled and ready for use.
  • The padded case that comes with Specialized's Air Tool Compak.
  • Everything fits nicely in the case, and there is definitely some extra room should you wish to store some other small items.
  • The handles locks onto the side of the pump.  The hose wraps around the top of the pump, and is held in place via a clip on the side of the pump.  There is a grove in the top of the pump for the hose.  This keeps the hose in place, and prevents the pump from sliding out while traveling.
  • This is the button in the center of the handle that you push to unlock the handle.
  • This is the button in the center of the handle that you push to unlock the handle.
  • The handle has a locking square fitting on the bottom which keeps the handle in place.
  • The top of the pump has a grove for the hose.  This keeps the hose in place, and prevents the pump from sliding out while traveling.
  • The head is reversible.  It can be unscrewed to switch from Presta to Schrader.
  • This is the Air Tool Compak's pressure gauge.  I didn't even notice it at first.  After you start pumping, a stick slides out indicating the current pressure.
  • This is the Air Tool Compak's pressure gauge.  I didn't even notice it at first.  After you start pumping, a stick slides out indicating the current pressure.
  • This is the Air Tool Compak's pressure gauge.  I didn't even notice it at first.  After you start pumping, a stick slides out indicating the current pressure.  It indicates both BAR and PSI
  • This is the Air Tool Compak's pressure gauge.  I didn't even notice it at first.  After you start pumping, a stick slides out indicating the current pressure.  It indicates both BAR and PSI
  • Here you can see the amount the handle will extend while pumping.  I found using the pump to be easier than I though it would be, and totally acceptable for a pump of this size.
  • These are the patch tools that come with the Air Tool Compak.  On the left you have several stick on patches.  On the right are two tire levers.  These all can be stored in the handle during transport.  I was disappointed by the fact that they included a patch kit instead of some tools.
  • Here you can compare the size of the Air Tool Compak to a standard floor pump.  The pump in this picture is a Topeak Joe Blow Sport II (on top).  It is a bit longer than the Air Tool Compak.  You can't tell from this photo, but it is also quite a bit wider.

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