The 2012 Specialized Shiv debuted at the 2011 Ironman World Champ Championship, and promptly gained credibility when it was ridden to the win by Craig Alexander. The Shiv is instantly recognizable by its thick, UCI illegal down tube, which was designed to resist crosswinds. Since 2011, it has racked up numerous wins, including Tim Don’s world record finish at the 2017 Ironman Brazil. Specialized recently released a newly redesigned model at the 2018 Ironman World Championship. This review is for the older 2011-2017 model.
This is my personal ride and review. At first glance, the Shiv looks bulky and ponderous, but it actually handles quite well for a TT bike. Turning is very stable and controlled, even in the aero bars. The bike never feels twitchy. It’s not the quickest under acceleration, but once you get up to speed, it feels like an unstoppable freight train and it is very easy to maintain speed.
The big down tubed frame works as advertised, and effectively shrugs off cross winds. The big frame also gives the Shiv a very comfortable and smooth ride, even over rough roads and chip seal. I’ve had no issues with comfort, up to the 112 mile Ironman distance. I’ve also never had any complaints with the bike’s ability to climb. The bottom bracket feels stiff and has excellent power transfer, allowing me to spin up hills with no issues.
I test rode the Cervelo P2 extensively, back to back, with the Shiv when I was shopping. The Cervelo felt more agile and quicker to accelerate than the Shiv. However, I chose the Shiv because the ride seemed smoother and I liked the freight train feeling at speed.
On the negative side, the stock brakes are awful - mushy with poor stopping power. During my test ride, I got spooked because I applied the brake levers, and didn’t feel like I was stopping at all!
I immediately upgraded to TriRig Omega X brakes, which are a vast improvement.
On the road, the Omega X's stopping power and modulation are worlds better than the standard Shiv brakes. The rear still feels slightly soft when you clamp down on the lever due to the internal cable routing -- but the braking is much stronger. I have no issues descending at 45+ mph now. You can read my full Omega X review at my old blog.
Having been released in 2011, the Shiv’s integration was ground breaking at the time, but less than ideal when compared to newer bike designs. It comes with an integrated fluid bladder that sits inside the fat down tube and holds about 20 oz. of fluid. However, I found it hard to shove the bladder into the small cavity without bunching — if you don’t get it in there perfectly, the bladder will not fill completely. I even had the bladder “jam” on me during a race. I did not place it right, and the bladder got stuck/suctioned to itself inside the down tube cavity, which clogged the straw and prevented me from re-filling on the fly. After that, I installed an xLab Torpedo between the arms mount and bottle, forgoing the bladder altogether.
The bladder also means that there are no top tube bosses to bolt in a bento box. I instead installed a Dark Speed Works bento, which attaches by velcro. It works, but it’s not as clean as a bolt-on bento.
In terms of storage, again the Shiv was ground breaking in 2011, offering a “FuelCell” storage box in its frame. The box consists of an empty clear cavity (which barely fits one tube) and a rubber insert that can hold cO2, tire levers, and nutrition. It works, but it’s not as roomy as the draft boxes you see on newer bikes such as the Trek Speed Concept, Quintana Roo PR series, and Felt IA series. The FuelCell is also supposed to make the bike slightly more aero by taking up space in the frame cavity.
Lastly, moving to the rear of the bike, the standard Sitero saddle includes holes to directly bolt on a single water cage and “Reserve Rack,” which can hold 2 cO2 canisters on one side, and a pump (?) on the other side. It’s kind of a waste of space because I have no idea why you’d carry cO2 and a pump together. During long course races, I’ve zip tied an extra tire tube to the pump side for extra safety. The cO2 holder is also made of cheapish plastic. My lower cO2 mount has stripped from road vibration, so I can only carry 1 canister on the Reserve Rack now. I run an xLab Gorilla water cage to prevent bottles from ejecting. You can read my full review of the Sitero saddle at my old blog.
Overall, the Shiv is a comfortable, long distance hauler, with somewhat outdated integration features. But it remains a formidable, Kona proven TT rig.