Review: 2013 Specialized Shiv Pro

 Nov 7, 2012 article & images by Nick Salazar

The ultra-sleek, ultra-stealth Shiv Pro frameset is absolutely the coolest-looking stock frame on the market.

I've spent a lot of time with the Specialized Shiv. TriRig covered its original launch back in October 2011, we reviewed a complete S-Works bike, and we've seen it under countless pros over the last year. Just run a tag search for Shiv and you'll see the myriad articles I've written about these fine machines. But now I'm revisiting the bike, to use as the backbone of a special project build I have in mind. There are a couple manufacturing endeavors that we have in the works, which will be unveiled as 2013 rolls on. One of them I can tell you right now: we're building a Shiv-compatible version of our Omega brakes, so of course I need a Shiv to show that off when it's done. And the other projects we have in mind are top secret for now, but I can tell you that they'll also be Shiv-compatible hardware, and so the lovely frame you see in this article will get dressed up with those bits as well.

Oh, and one other spoiler. I'm basically going to eradicate all the complaints I had about the Shiv when I originally reviewed it. This bike is going to be an absolute monster when I'm done with it.

But that's all in the future. Right now, I just want to explore the merits of the frame at hand. As mentioned, I've already covered the Shiv from tip to tail, but I've never built one from scratch. The S-Works bike I reviewed in January 2012 was mostly built when I got it. I just swapped out the bar and saddle. And since that bike had Di2 on it, I didn't even have to recable the shifters just the brakes, which were dead simple. This time, I'll be building from the ground up. And starting from the bare frameset was an eye-opening experience. I've built up quite a few frames in my day, and I can say that Specialized has done an absolutely fantastic job spec'ing the Shiv Pro. There is so much to like here that I barely know where to begin. As usual, I'll go from front to back, but before we get to the meat of the review, I have to comment on what is at once the most superficial, and maybe the most exciting thing about this frame.

Carbon, Carbon, Everywhere!

The Shiv Pro comes in an all-nude carbon finish, with a big decal set so you can finish it in whatever color(s) you like. Or leave it stealth. It's up to you, and it's VERY cool that Specialized gives you the option.

I've probably spent more words on this site talking about "nude carbon" than I have talking about frame geometry. And that tells you where my silly priorities are. What can I say? I absolutely love the look of a stealth bike, especially when it exposes the unparalleled beauty of raw carbon fiber layup. And especially when that layup is made of sheets of unidirectional fabric. The Shiv Pro frameset represents the boldest statement of any manufacturer on the market in terms of a willingness to fly the carbon flag.

The ENTIRE frame is left completely bare, covered only by a smoke clearcoat that makes the bike appear mostly black, but allows the carbon to shine through when the light hits it just right. For nuts like me, this is the most beautiful paint scheme a bicycle can have. There are a couple shots of the carbon layup in the gallery below.

Then, Specialized includes five different colors of decals, with enough copies of each to adorn both sides of your bike as well as the head tube. You can mix and match colors, or really get creative with them. For now, my frameset remains beautifully nude, and completely stealth. I love it.

Okay, now that I've completely geeked out about the nude carbon, let's talk about the actual features of this frame, and why I like it so much.

Tags » frames,  shiv,  specialized
  • This is the Specialized Shiv Pro frameset. It comes in a totally blank nude carbon finish, with a dark clearcoat making it look essentially black. But the carbon is visible in the right light. Specialized includes a huge packet of decals so you can finish the frame off in whatever colors you like.
  • The frameset is beautiful like this, and I'm looking forward to getting it built up.
  • The smooth, hourglass-shaped head tube keeps air flowing smoothly over to the massive down tube. Specialized has an enormous amount of resources and engineering brainpower behind the Shiv. They no longer think about simple cross-sections, but how the entire three-dimensional surface works as a whole to keep the wind flowing smoothly over the bike. This version of the Shiv is the fastest chassis Specialized has ever built, according to engineer Mark Cote. It even beats the original nosecone version.
  • Just aft of the steerer tube is a protrusion with the cable entry ports, as well as the lid for the Fuelselage. The entry ports offer simple, worry-free cable routing - stick the housing in one end, and it comes out the other in one piece. No split housing. This makes it very, very easy to wrench. The only real drawback is that because the ports are about 30mm above the top tube, you are forced to have cables sticking up above the plane of your stem, to give them a smooth path into these ports. One of my projects with this frame is going to be opening up a hole for the cables to route through the *front* part of that protrusion, instead of the top. Using my Sigma stem, they'll be completely hidden, making them invisible to the eyes and the wind. Stay tuned!
  • The rear cluster gets just as much thought as the front end of the bike. The seat stays have assymetrical wing-shaped profiles to promote better airflow around and past the spinning wheel.
  • The bottom bracket is Specialized's OSBB, which for most intents and purposes is basically BB30.
  • Under the BB there's a removeable cover that makes cable routing a snap.
  • The entire Shiv Pro frameset is actually nude carbon, but uses a smoke-colored clearcoat which essentially makes it look black. But check the next picture ...
  • ... In the right light, you can see all the beautiful, nude carbon on the frame. I absolutely love it.
  • You can see the seams in the carbon, and other joints on the bike, when the sun hits it just right. This is one of the coolest things about the Shiv Pro frameset versus other color schemes. There's no paint, just a dark clearcoat. I love seeing the carbon construction underneath.
  • The Shiv is characterized by smooth shapes everywhere, which provide a clean surface for the wind to flow over.
  • The OSBB is nice and narrow, and compatible with virtually any crank on the market, including 30mm spindles. Hooray!
  • The fork has integrated bosses for the TRP brakes that Specialized stocks with the Shiv. Later this year we will be developing a specical version of the Omega brake built to be used on these mounts. That means it'll also work on the Specialized Transition, Kestrel 4000, and many rear brakes that use the same TRP mounts.
  • These are all the colors Specialized includes in the decal packet for the Shiv Pro frameset. This is actually only half of what you get - there's a second copy of every decal shown here, so that you can decorate both sides of the bike. You're free to mix and match, or even use a different color for every letter.
  • This Pro frameset comes with both the 10mm and 25mm offset seatposts. Both are reversible, effectively giving you four different seatpost positions. And the one-piece construction keeps things much lighter than an adjustable post. I really like how Specialized did this. It's the best of all worlds: light, adjustable, and aerodynamic.
  • The seatposts have a barely-visible ruler guide to help you ensure your seat height remains constant. This is a very handy feature, and the stealth graphics make sure it doesn't distract from the rest of the bike.
  • One of the benefits of OSBB/BB30 is the absolute simplicity of the design. Two little clips and two bare bearings is all you need. No threaded cups, no press-fit adapters. This is it.
  • And Specialized is nice enough to include a Shimano-compatible adapter with the Shiv for using any Hollowtech II style crank (the Rotor 3D uses this standard as well). If you want to run a SRAM GXP crank, you can buy a similar adapter from Wheeks Mfg that will work the same way. You just install your BB30 bearings like normal, and then slide these adapters into place. Then your Hollowtech-compatible crank will install like normal.
  • The most obvious reason I dislike the TRP brakes is how far they stick out into the wind. See the narrow fork blades behind the brake? THAT'S the frontal area you should be shooting for, not 10mm outside of it.
  • And another reason I don't like the TRP brakes is their spring retention. See these little coils? They're rather annoying to install, and it's easy to accidentally bend them in the process, rendering them weak and useless.

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