Bold claims are nothing new in the cycling world. Every year bike and component manufacturers trot out new product billed as having some combination of latest and greatest, lightest and fastest, best in every way. But even in a world where hyperbole is often the norm, not exception, recent claims emanating from inside the Win (not wind) Tunnel at Specialized world headquarters in Morgan Hill, California, push the envelop of possibility.
In a nutshell, the Big Red S says that the combination of its new S-Works Venge ViAS aero road bike with new Roval CLX 64 aero carbon wheels (120 seconds), S-Works Turbo tires (35 seconds), S-Works Evade GC skinsuit (96 seconds), S-Works Sub6 Shoes (35 seconds), and S-Works Evade helmet (46 seconds) can save you more than 5 minutes over the course of a flat’ish 40km time trial.
That’s right — 5 minutes, which exceeds the margin between first and second place overall in nine of the last 10 Tours de France (if you still count Lance), and is greater than the time gap between race winner John Degenkolb and 47th place finisher Ian Stannard at the most recent running of Paris-Roubaix. In stick-and-ball-sports parlance it’s four touchdowns, 10 runs, or a 20-point basketball blowout.
The laggard products in this TT whitewash included the Specialized Tarmac SL4 with non-specified lightweight alloy wheels, 23mm Continental GP4000 tires, an average short sleeve jersey and bibshort, a Giro Synthe or S-Works Prevail helmet, and a pair of current generation S-Works 5 road shoes. Most are solid products that you’d not deem slow.
“We fully expect your bullshit detector to be going off right now,” conceded Mark Cote, Specialized’s category marketing manager for road, who led an international group of cycling journalists through an extensive day-long presentation in late May. “But this is real. It’s all been verified right here in our tunnel. The goal was to test against product that’s already being raced at the top level, and speak to the rider who thinks they are on top gear already.”
The centerpiece of that speech is of course the new S-Works Venge ViAS, a $12,500 Shimano Di2-equipped super bike with massive amounts of component integration, aero enhancements — and potentially major headaches for mechanics. Specialized calls it bar none the fastest bike (not just road bike) it’s ever built, a project that took 15 engineers over four years of design work, prototyping, testing, and validation. The only thing that’s not new on the bike are the clamps that hold the saddle rails in place.
Everywhere you look are modifications to cheat the wind. Brakes are uniquely tucked behind the fork and seat tube. The slammed cockpit (called Aerofly ViAS) hides every inch of cable and housing. Frame tubes are specially shaped to combat all manner of speed reducing drag. The bike simply looks fast.
Specialized says testing occurred both in the tunnel and outside on a 20km test loop with exposed flats, a small amount of climbing, and some turns. Comparison was made using partner company McLaren’s Midas super-computer, which it claims could strip out all other variables and isolate the effects of equipment changes.
Max aero gains were seen in downhills and on the flats, with smaller numbers on the climbs in part because the new Venge is “a few hundred grams” heavier than the Tarmac SL 4. Specific weights have yet to be provided.
“I thought it was a concept bike when I first saw it,” said sprint star Mark Cavendish, who showed up at the PR presentation via a Skype video call, and has since been racing the new bike at the Tour of Switzerland. “I’ve been on the old Venge for five years and it was definitely time for an update. Then you see the thought that went into this new bike. It’s bicycle engineering taken to the next level.”
Cavendish, while typically candid, indirectly draws a paycheck from Specialized. And we haven’t done anything more than fondle the new bike and listen to the PR spew. So all these claims must be taken with large helping of salt. But suffice to say it was an impressive presentation — and total pricetag. Cost of bike, wheels, tires, helmet, skinsuit and shoes is a college fund-killing $13,575.
Head to page 2 to learn more about the new bike and how much time it claims to save you. And keep clicking through to read about the other new gear and see an extensive photo gallery, geometry chart and wind tunnel test graphs, and visit specialized.com/5minutes.