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We highlight some of the best time trial bikes on show in Germany this year
The 2011 Roubaix SL3
Plus updates on the Secteur, Tarmac, Transition and Shiv
The all-new Roubaix SL3, a completely redesigned Allez platform and the new CruX cyclo-cross line were the main points of interest on day one of Specialized's 2011 road press launch in Keystone, Colorado.
Specialized also announced updates to the race oriented Tarmac and endurance focused Secteur, as well as keeping us in the loop with respect to which version of the time trial specific Shiv is going to be mass produced.
Roubaix SL3 is unveiled
We first spotted what we thought might be the Roubaix SL3 at this year's Paris-Roubaix, where Fabian Cancellara rode it to victory with an untouchable 50 km solo breakaway. So impressive was his performance that he was accused of having a hidden motor in his bike, something that he of course vigorously denied. But the story wouldn't go away, prompting the UCI to announce that it would be scanning bikes for illegal devices at races in future.
Specialized, who sponsor Cancellara and his Saxo Bank team, took it a little further. The Roubaix SL3 was unveiled with a giant (hopefully fake!) Duracell battery attached to the downtube.
"We want to come clean. The 2011 Roubaix SL3 will not have batteries," said Specialized's Road Product Director Brent Graves.
Joking aside, the full carbon Roubaix SL3 is Specialized's best attempt yet at making a comfortable road bike that can still win the toughest one day race in the world. It's the flagship of their endurance road area, which also includes the Secteur, Ruby and Dolce.
"We've made sure the Roubaix delivers the highest performance for the greatest number of riders," said Graves.
How? Specialized say the smoothness is a combination of vibration damping and vertical flex engineered into the frame (we're not going to use the term "vertical compliance" if we can possibly avoid it).
The damping is done via the Zertz elastomer inserts in the seat stays and in the forks. These aren't anything new, but Specialized has changed the way they're inserted into the stays. They're now mechanically fastened to a cavity in the seat stay. The seat stays themselves have been redesigned to accommodate this.
The flex is introduced through shaping the tubes and using a different modulus of carbon fibre. The shape is flattened so it will flex up and down at the seat tube junction, but not flex sideways. Specialized claims the SL3 has a vertical deflection of 5.7mm/kN, 0.6mm more than the SL2 and (naturally) more than any of their rivals.
This vertical comfort is all very well, but the bike has to handle confidently and respond quickly when a rider puts the power down. To this end, Specialized have kept their curved "cobra" top tube, which widens and feeds into a beefy tapered head tube to ensure plenty of stiffness at the front end. The forks feature a raised bearing to allow for a "more efficient carbon structure" between the crown and the steerer. The fork has been redesigned slightly too, using a two bladder moulding technique to make it stiffer.
The bottom bracket to chain stay is once piece, again with the aim of increasing the efficiency of power transfer. There's also internal cable routing throughout to allow for Shimano DI2.
Specialized say a painted 56cm Roubaix SL3 frame weighs 965g, nearly 100g lighter than the current model S-Works Roubaix SL2.
The SL3 frame design will be used in the 2011 Roubaix Pro and Expert models, while last year's SL2 design will trickle down to the 2011 Roubaix Comp and Elite frames.
On the road
We were able to take the Roubaix SL3 for a 50 mile spin from Keystone to Silverthorne, up the Ute Pass road and back. The smoothness of the ride was immediately apparent, and we enjoyed the confident handling on the descents and in the wind. The power transfer was excellent too. It didn't lose its nerve in the gusty cross/headwind on the way out, and it rewarded us with a top speed of 35mph on the flat on the way back.
The geometry of the Roubaix with its massive head tube made it tough for us to get an aggressive position. If we were going to race on this bike we'd opt for a smaller frame size and a longer stem. However, if you're willing to sacrifice a bit of aeroness for comfort, this bike will suit you.
Secteur: the aluminium Roubaix
The Secteur series of road bikes is a more affordable, mostly aluminium version of the Roubaix. The Secteur features the same geometry and design as the Roubaix, right down to the Zertz inserts in the carbon seat stays, fork and seat post.
New for next year is the use of the SRAM Apex group (double compact chainset) on the Elite model. Specialized say they will be one of the largest supporters of SRAM Apex in the future.
Tarmac given a new fork
The race specific Tarmac has undergone a few tweaks for 2011. It keeps its aggressive geometry and makes very few admissions to vertical flex - there's no Zertz inserts in the seat stays or the fork, and the seat stays are triangulated for more stiffness.
More stiffness seems to be the mantra for most ProTour riders. For them it equates to more confident and positive handling and better power transfer.
The Tarmac is already very stiff, but Specialized have come up with a new fork with a bigger cross section so the blades are much wider and stiffer than the pervious version.
Is it a case of stiffness that goes up to 11? Possibly, but again you can't argue with the results. Riders on board Tarmacs have won more than 25 ProTour races this year, and given that Alberto Contador, Fabian Cancellara, Frank and Andy Schleck will all race them at the Tour de France, there's no doubt the frame will enjoy more success.
Allez gets extreme makeover
One of the most exciting bikes shown at Keystone was the well-known Allez. which has been completely redesigned for 2011.
Like the Secteur aligns to the Roubaix, the aluminium Allez now aligns to the Tarmac. The geometry is identical to the Tarmac, which makes it an ideal entry level race bike.
Stiffness has been emphasised on the Allez so it should tackle road races and criteriums with equal aplomb. Its stiffness to weight ratio has been increased by 20% compared to the current model Allez, and while it's not at the level of the Tarmac SL3, it's not far off.
There are two versions of the frame: the top level E5 and the A1, which is 75g heavier than the E5.
The E5 features a 1 1/8" to 1 1/2" tapered head tube, while the A1 has a straight 1 1/8". Both frames have the Tarmac-like triangular seat stays, raised bearing placement in the fork, oversized chain stays and a braze-on rather than clamp-on front derailleur to help increase bottom bracket stiffness.
Most importantly, it's been ridden to victory in Specialized's famous Friday afternoon lunch ride, a world championship for those who take part.
Cyclo-cross: Enter the CruX
The final machine to be launched on day one at Keystone is the CruX, a new cyclo-cross platform for Specialized. This doesn't take the place of the popular Tricross series, but it's aimed at a higher level of performance.
The CruX comes in carbon S-Works and aluminium E5 frames. A key feature on both is the internal cabling in order to keep things clean in a mud-fest as well as making it less painful to shoulder your bike. On the front, a 1 1/8" to 1 1/2" head tube is aimed at increasing stiffness, while a one piece forged front brake cable hanger should help reduce brake chatter and squeal.
The CruX will be available as both a complete bike and a frameset.
Transition and Shiv: Ignore the UCI
Specialized's two time trial frames, the Transition and the Shiv, are essentially unchanged for 2011.
They have both come under scrutiny by the UCI, the world governing body for cycling, and this has dictated which markets they're aimed at.
The Transition because the fins behind the fork are deemed to be a non-structural fairing, which is illegal under UCI rules. But it only seems to be at the ProTour level. So ProTour riders have been racing fin-less Transitions this season, however these bikes aren't available for general sale. If you are doing a UCI race on a Transition, then it's best to check with the commissaire beforehand about the legality of your bike. It may well be allowed.
The Transition will be offered in six sizes, but the S-Works module will be discontinued as it's been superceded by the Shiv.
The Shiv in its first and fastest incarnation has been banned by the UCI, mainly because of its "nose cone", again deemed a non-structural fairing. Thus, ProTour riders have been racing on modified Shivs that aren't intended to be sold to the public yet, and Specialized won't say when they will be.
Specialized have instead turned to the lucrative triathlon market, where the Shiv has been fully approved by the World Triathlon Corporation, who govern Ironman races and USA Triathlon (the International Triathlon Union hasn't approved it, but they don't typically allow full time trial bikes in competition). While the Shiv is still available in relatively limited quantities as a frameset module, it does mean you can buy a faster bike than the one Fabian Cancellara is allowed to race.
Prices for all 2011 Specialized bikes are to be confirmed, but the word is that they'll be "aggressively priced", which is good news for the consumer.
And that's all from day one at Keystone. Stay tuned for more road (and mountain bike) offerings in the coming days.