Specialized unveils the Fuelcell

 Oct 10, 2012 article & images by Nick Salazar

Integrated storage is a trend among modern tri bike manufacturers, and Specialized has created a new solution just for the Shiv.

It wasn't supposed to be an official launch. Specialized isn't quite finished with their Fuelcell concept, and weren't quite ready to show it to the world. But they had some of the early prototypes finished and ready to go, and they didn't want to deny their athletes a competitive advantage if they had the product in place. So they brought their new Fuelcell storage system to Kona, which will be on the bikes of their marquis athletes including defending chapion Craig Alexander.

The Fuelcell is a storage unit that fills the negative space between the down tube and seat tube on the Shiv. The idea is a complement to the Fuelselage, the integrated hydration system on the Shiv. The Fuelcell has a rubber top with a slit that is easy to get into, but won't launch its contents during normal riding. It looks like a very simple way to store things like a flat kit, nutrition, etc. It's part of a growing trend among triathlon bike manufacturers to create special storage solutions unique to their own bicycles. The Speed Concept has the Speed Box, the Felt DA has the new VR bottle, the P4 had its integrated bottle, etc.

We talked to Mark Cote about the potential drawback of filling so much of the frame's negative space, and whether it becomes a handling problem during harsh winds. "People worry about that, but what they don't realize is that you won't feel the side force until you get sustained winds at 25 to 30 degrees of yaw. And that's a pretty rare event. We have been making products that fill that part of the frame space since the Virtue bottle with the Transition. The wind forces there just aren't as big a deal as people make them out to be."

I think this looks like a cool product. People frequently ask me what the best storage solution is on a tri bike, and the answer is always "it depends." It depends on your frame, your particular needs, what kind of training and racing you're doing, your preferences, etc. But if you have a Shiv, there's going to be a very easy option for you to pursue, once it's released.

Have a look at the gallery below for all the details. But give Specialized a bit of a break for some of the finer points. For example, it looks like the top corner of the Fuelcell doesn't perfectly mate with the Shiv's down tube. That's part of what gets refined between prototyping and production. I'll reserve judgment until everything is complete. For now, just take it for what it is - a great idea that's going to be proven by the best athletes in the world.

Tags » hawaii2012,  shiv,  specialized,  storage
  • This is the Shiv with a Fuelcell installed. It's a perfect fit for Specialized's flagship tri bike, and a very easy way to store items on the bike without resorting to bulky bags hanging out in the wind.
  • This shot gives you a good idea for the capacity of the Fuelcell, and shows how Ben Hoffman is using it. There's room to spare in this setup.
  • The rubber hood has a subtle name plate, and is slitted at the top for easy access to the goods. It looks like this prototype doesn't mate quite perfectly with the down tube, but that's the kind of thing that will get refined for production.
  • Here's the slot at the top. The rubber is very flexible, making it easy to reach in and grab your stuff when needed. Good idea!
  • Let's be clear, this bike belongs to the Hoff.
  • Ben Hoffman's front end - it's all Zipp.
  • Specialized has also been showing off their new McLaren helmet whenever possible. It's legal in Kona, since Kona is not governed by USAT and therefore doesn't have to abide by CPSC helmet standards. So many of Specialized's athletes will be using this lid, which tests faster than the CPSC-certified TT2. I think the distinctions start to get dizzying.
  • The McLaren helmets are gorgeous, smooth forms, and seem to fit into recent trends towards shorter-tail helmets with mildly truncated tails, and no frontal vents.
  • The McLaren lid also has the side gills which are for aerodynamics, not ventilation.
  • Our parting shot is a little gem from Specialized athlete Ben Hoffman. The Hoff decorated his Fuelselage with a little paper umbrella. I love it. Ben, if you have the cojones to ride with this on race day, I'll buy you dinner.

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