Trek launched its production Speed Concept time trial bike during Saturday's stage seven time trial of the Amgen Tour of California. The 2011 line will encompass three model levels: 9, 7 and Alpha 2, with a number of component options within each level.
It was a big event for the brand, which saw company president John Burke, product manager Tyler Pilger and advanced concepts engineer Doug Cusack and three time Ironman champion Chris Lieto walk a packed room full of Trek dealers through the complete line introduction.
The majority of time trial bikes that any bike manufacturer sells are used for multi-sport racing and that is how Trek will market its Speed Concept.
"It really is an exciting day for Trek," said Burke, addressing the audience. "Today we introduce the most technologically advanced Trek ever, the all new Speed Concept bike. It is absolutely amazing; it's way beyond where anybody else is in the Tri world."
The new 9 Series bikes are available now.
"Today [Saturday May 22] Trek's lowest market share is in what category?" asked Burke of the crowd. "That would be the Tri market. My favourite of all fun facts is: tomorrow, what will be Trek's fastest growing category? Once again it will be the Tri market. We are fired up for this one."
Burke cited triathlon as one of the healthiest segments of the bicycle industry with growth of 30 percent per year over the past five years, 180,000 Ironman distance participants in 2010 and over 1.2 million multi-sport athletes in the US alone.
Speed Concept models
The production bikes break out into three levels: 9 Series OCLV, 7 Series OCLV and Alpha aluminium 2, which break down further.
The Speed Concept 9 Series OCLV bikes represent what Lieto, Lance Armstrong and the rest of the RadioShack team helped develop and compete on. The Kammtail is used in the down tube, seat tube, seat stays, handlebars and fork legs.
The 9 Series sports all of the Speed Concept features, except for the top tube mounted SpeedBox, which is an additional accessory to all of the Speed Concept bikes. The rear DraftBox (pictured left) is included with the bike.
The 9 Series level breaks down based on component selection to cost US$5,499 to $8,499 (£5,000 to £7,500). The model will also be available in Trek's Project One program from the outset, with five select choices and a full range of Signature series graphic packages.
The 7 Series bikes mate a traditional front end - headtube, steerer tube [the fork legs feature Kammtail] and front brake - to the Kammtail tubing and rear aerodynamic features. These Asian-made carbon bikes are claimed by Trek to still be 'faster' than anything on the market, save for the 9 Series model, yet range in price from $2,399 to $3,499 (£2,100 to £3,000).
"The only bike that measured faster in the wind tunnel than the Speed Concept 7 Series was the Speed Concept 9 Series," said Pilger. "The 7 Series offers amazing technology and an absolute best-in-class value."
Finally, Trek will also offer an Alpha aluminium 2 Series version, which still retains the majority of the Kammtail aero advantage in the down tube, seat tube and fork legs. The Speed Concept 2 Series will cost less than US$2,000; the UK price has yet to be set.
The Speed Concept
The 9 series bikes are quite similar to what was introduced at last year's Tour de France, although their details are sorted, which include the bike's bar and stem system, solutions for triathletes to affix nutrition products and tools to the bike, which makes the bike even faster, and even aerodynamic skewers that seamlessly integrate into the frame itself.
Imagine if the UCI let manufacturers design whatever they wanted for time trial bike and you would likely come up with something like Trek's Speed Concept with its stowage accessories. The accessories increase the bike's aspect ratio and further aid in reducing aerodynamic drag.
There's a lot going on with the Speed Concept that can be claimed as true innovation. The Kammtail Virtual Foil aerodynamic design is proven in the auto industry and because of that, but without third party wind tunnel testing, we feel we can credit Trek with true innovation and for developing the most interesting aero story the industry has seen to date.
Of course we must take Trek's claims for what they are, marketing claims, but if the Speed Concept proves half as fast as they say, then they will still have knocked it out of the park.
As a refresher to what was explained at last year's Tour de France, by Trek, about the Kammtail aerodynamic design, the shape takes a perfect airfoil shape, which puts the aspect ratio around 8:1 and lops off its tail.
This does two things: it tricks the air into thinking that it is flowing over a shape with roughly an 8:1 aspect, making it supremely aero, but it also allows the bike to physically lighter, have stiffer tube structure and remain infinitely more stable in crosswinds because of the actual 3:1 shape.
Furthermore, the virtual foil's tail can actually bend as the wind angle changes to make the frame even faster in crosswinds. Trek even claims that this makes the Kammtail the perfect aerodynamic shape, all the time, no matter the wind direction.
"One of the tools that we have at Trek that most other bike companies don't have is something called Computational Fluid Dynamics," said Cusack. "That's a virtual wind tunnel inside a computer. We can take shapes, put them in run them and find out what's the best shape."
The Kammtail comes from the auto industry, where it was developed to deal with the size and impracticality of designing the perfect airfoil for a car's body.
"When you take a car and make it into a really nice airfoil shape you have the benefits of the airfoil, but you have a lot of bad things that happen too," said Cusack. "It's the same problem we have in bicycles, so we went and tried all the shapes and looked at different things."
Trek uses the Kammtail in the downtube, seat tube, seatstays, fork blade, but each is uniquely refined for placement.
Once Trek had its prototype engineers took it to the San Diego low speed wind tunnel for competitive testing.
Cusack claims that, at first, they didn't believe the numbers themselves; the Speed Concept has such low drag it couldn't even be plotted on the same graph range as its competitors.
After checking and rechecking, Trek now claims that the 9 series Speed Concept is a third faster than the next fastest competitor's bike - over over 30 percent. "We can really say that the Speed Concept is the world's fastest bike," said Cusack.
Integration: an overall solution
"We really looked at the bike from an overall perspective," said Tyler Pilger, Trek's road product manager. "Aerodynamics, integration, fit and, right now, not everybody is looking at all three aspects.
"If you look at the front of the Speed Concept it is the cleanest bike out there," he said. "We carry that integration story throughout the bike."
The Speed Concept integrates its cables completely save for a short run of shifter cable from the middle of the aero extension to the base bar, from there the only other visible cable is the rear derailleur's cable loop from the back of the chainstay dropout to the derailleur itself.
The clean routing adds to the aero advantage and overall aesthetic of the bike. The brake cables do even better, never seeing the light of day from lever to caliper.
The brakes themselves are totally integrated into the frame and fork.
Like the 6 Series Madone introduced last year, the Speed Concept is able to go completely 'zip tie free' because of its non-drive chain stay mounted DuoTrap Ant+ compatible speed and cadence sensors. The integrated sensors work with any computer and power meter that uses the Ant+ protocol.
Then there's the whole topic of storage. As goofy and ridicule-laden as the topic can possibly be, any right minded time trialist isn't going to be caught with a Bento box on his top tube - the storage solutions that Trek provides, especially off the rear of the bike, apparently make it faster than it is without, according to the company's claims.
The reasoning seems sound, if just by looking how the Draft Box toolbox shrouds the rear wheel. The front SpeedBox is a bit harder to completely justify aerodynamically, yet it is a very clean solution as to where to put your gels and salt tabs especially when compared to the other options available.
Trek completes the Speed Concept by offering unparalleled adjustability to the aero extensions it provides with the bike and a full range of five sizes; the smallest size is equipped with 650c wheels.
The geometry for the Speed Concept is also slightly refined from what was offered with the previous TTX. The bottom bracket is a bit lower to bring the rider further down into the bike. The head angle is a half of a degree shallower and making for a more stable ride, lower center of gravity and better handling.
All of the models are compatible with Trek's aero storage solutions. The 9 Series bikes are available now. The 7 Series will be available in August. While, riders will have to wait until September for the 2 series.