Jim Lamastra and his new Specialized Shiv headed to Clearwater

"A pointed weapon"

In 2002, during Jim Lamastra’s third triathlon ever, the fork on his Schwinn Super Sport broke underneath him during the race.  That’s when he first got a new bike, and first experienced the joy and thrill of a shiny, fast new ride.  Last month, Jim again took delivery of a new bike, this time a Specialized Shiv—the bike underneath the Ironman World Champion, the Tour de France Champion, and the World Time Trial Champion.  I sat down with Jim and Greg Jackson of Spin Bike Shop to talk about this magnificent machine, and the process that leads one from a Schwinn Super Sport to the world’s fastest triathlon bike.

Urban Dictionary defines a Shiv as “a pointed tool used as a weapon,” which seems like an apt name for this machine.  But the first words out of Jim’s mouth didn’t exactly read like a sales pitch.  “I’ll be honest.  I wasn’t in love with every picture I saw.”

And then Jim continued, “What I was in love with was the wind tunnel data.”  Even other manufacturers reluctantly concede that the Shiv’s drag numbers, across all yaw angles, are stunning.  Low drag numbers are the first step to a really fast bike.

But let us be frank:  The Shiv is not a bike for everyone.  As Jackson points out, “It doesn’t fit a lot of people.  It takes a true athlete to fit on this bike.  You need a lot of strength and flexibility to perform on a high level.”  [Here Jim interjects: “you know… Fabian Cancellara, Chris McCormack, Jim Lamastra…”] Before pulling the trigger, Jim wanted to make sure he would be able to ride on the radical design.  After measuring his existing bike, Greg and Jim went over the measurements of the Shiv to see if it would work.  Without the right fit, even the fastest bike in the world won’t help.

Greg was impressed with the comparison between the two bikes.  Despite the Shiv’s unabashed time trial geometry, which has to comply with UCI regulations that tri-specific bikes do not, the Shiv was a remarkable fit for Lamastra.  “It’s amazing that we drafted his Serotta in 2004—and we’ve made changes [to that fit] every year—but we got within millimeters of his current setup.”

So Jim made the decision.  There are only about 120 Shiv frames in the United States, and each one is built on backorder for a specific customer.  Jim’s showed up about a month ago.  There’s not very much extra stuff to buy, because the Shiv achieves much of its dramatic aerodynamics by integrating many of the components—designing the bike as a whole, rather than a frame with bolt-on pieces.  The headset, nose cone, brakes, fork, base bars, aero extensions, seat post, brake levers, crank, and bottom bracket are all integral to the bike’s design.  To this, Jim added Sram Red return-to-center shift levers and derailleurs, a Fizik Arione Tri 2 Carbon saddle, and Zipp 808 tubular wheels.  The bike, ready to race with bar tape, cages, and pedals, weighs 17 pounds.

Jim and Greg discussing the new fit

After Greg and his staff built the bike—a process in itself—Greg and Jim began to dial in the fit.  They started on the trainer at Spin, spending an hour finding optimal cleat locations, seat post height, and saddle position.  They then started adjusting the cockpit, balancing comfort and aerodynamics until they were both happy with the outcome.

Then it was time to hit the road.  I thought about going for a ride with him, but when Jim is focused on training for a race even his easy days tend toward 24 mph of easy spinning.  We talked when he got back.

I asked him what was different about this bike.  He was lost for words for a second, and then just said, “It’s amazing.  I don’t know what it is, but it just takes off as soon as you put any power in the pedals.”  And the fit?  “I can’t say anything bad about my Serotta.  I love that bike and the position I had.  On the Shiv, I feel very close to that position.  I think it’s very fast.”

After a few weeks, Jim headed back to Spin for some minor adjustments. He emphasized the importance of tweaking the fit, having balanced his desire for a steeper seat tube angle with comfort in his present position.  “I was concerned about the seat angle, but compared to the Serotta, I’m actually more forward now than I was.  I tried the saddle even more forward, but didn’t feel like I was running off the bike as well.  Now we’ve moved it back and I feel very confident going in to Clearwater.”

Clearwater, Florida—the site of the Ironman 70.3 World Championship, where Jim will race his new bike for the first time on Saturday.  He and his Shiv will be trying to better his 2008 performance there, where he clocked an eye-opening 4:07 on his way to 25th overall and third in his age group.  Of course, if he achieves his goal, it will be the result of years of discipline and careful training, a supportive family, and a little bit of luck.  But the Shiv will be a great new weapon in his arsenal.

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One Response

  1. Almost makes me want to retire from MTB and get back into Triathlons!

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