Four Of The World’s Fastest Triathlon Bikes Tested

  • By Aaron Hersh
  • Published May 29, 2013
  • Updated Jun 30, 2015 at 12:05 PM UTC
Specialized S-Works Shiv. Photo: John David Becker

Specialized S-Works Shiv

$12,000 (with Zipp 404 wheels),
Verdict: Universally practical and aerodynamically competitive

Craig Alexander has to drop his bar nearly as low as possible to fit the Shiv—a good thing for most triathletes because few people can mimic his fit. The Shiv’s frame is designed to fit positions ridden by everyday athletes. Its stack height is taller than nearly all tri bikes with a similar reach length, matching realistic aero positions without relying on a tower of spacers. They can be used to elevate the rider farther, and the aerobar offers a seemingly infinite range of adjustment. The bike can solve just about any fit problem.

Instead of dropping the stem-and-steerer tube in favor of a unique integrated system, the Shiv blends the standard components together without sacrificing practicality. Brake calipers strike a balance between functionality and aerodynamics. They aren’t quite as effective as the Shimano stopper used on the Orbea Ordu, but still provide more than adequate power and modulation. Adjustment and service are also easy. Packing the bike into a travel case and reassembling it are simple to do.

Point the Shiv in a straight line and it calmly holds its course. It feels almost impervious to the shivers and twitches that plague some triathlon bikes. Despite its inclination toward going straight, it deftly moves through sweeping turns. Its monstrous downtube and head tube catch a bit more wind than the other bikes in this test, but the bike’s predictable handling characteristics help resist any input from the wind.

There has been a deluge of new component kits in the past year, but, even with an upgrade just around the corner, Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 remains unmatched. Front shifting feels almost automatic, the rear derailleur stays tuned barring a disaster, and shifting from the brakes is a real speed and performance advantage. Zipp’s 404 Carbon Clinchers might be the best wheels for racing/training double duty. This kit makes the Shiv ready for anything, but at a hefty price: It’s $8,700 more than the cheapest Shiv.

Specialized designed this bike for real-life triathletes, not just endurance all-stars. The bike’s aerodynamic performance reflects those goals. As yaw angle increased, its drag dropped, meaning the Shiv is comparatively faster in conditions frequently experienced by amateur triathletes.

RELATED – Craig Alexander’s Kona Pro Bike: Specialized Shiv

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FILED UNDER: Bike / Gear & Tech / Hi Tech Upgrades / InsideTri

Aaron Hersh

Aaron Hersh

Aaron Hersh is the Senior Tech Editor of Triathlete magazine. To submit a question, write Aaron at

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