BIKE TESTS: SPECIALIZED TRANSITION S-WORKS
October 30, 2009


(Photo: John Maynard)

The Specialized Transition S-Works debuted at the Tour de France in 2007. It replaced an aluminum version that had become overshadowed by top-flight carbon bikes from other manufacturers. With its introduction, Specialized instantly became a major player in the world of top-flight time trial bikes. The bike was a huge step forward as it pushed the UCI limits of bike design and used extensive wind tunnel testing to perfect that design. This use of the wind tunnel changed the way Specialized approached the Transitions development and led it to become one of the first mass-produced bikes to be designed as a complete system. Specialized designed the Transition with the frame, seatpost, crankset and brakes as one integrated unit. The Transition quickly became one of the premier time trial bikes in the pro peloton and a dream bike for thousands of racers all over the world.



THE FRAME
The Transition is constructed using Specialized FACT 9r carbon, a triple monocoque frame and features Specialized’s N’Aero tube shaping in a compact frame design. Everything on the Transition has been designed to make it as fast as possible. To slip through the wind, the Transition features a one-inch steer tube, internal cable routing and proprietary center-pull brakes. The Specialized S-Works FACT N’Aero carbon monocoque fork blades align with the head tube gussets and the downtube. Every tube on the Transition is designed to be right on the edge of the UCI limit for the legal frame design. Specialized finishes off the Transition S-Works with a bold red paint scheme and striking white graphics.

THE PARTS
The Specialized Transition comes with SRAM Red derailleurs mated to SRAM’s ten-speed time trial shifters. The SRAM components are mated to Specialized’s S-Works 175mm FACT carbon crank and Transition-specific red anodized center pull brakes. Specialized provides their own aero seatpost. The seatpost features two positions with different offsets—the first is a relatively standard 78-degree position while the other is an extremely steep 82.5-degree position. A second post is also available, which repeats the 78-degree position but offers a more relaxed 74-degree position. Specialized even offers a Team-Issue seatpost that features 73- and 75-degree positions. Up front, steering is handled by a one-piece Easton Attack carbon aerobar setup. The S-Works Transition comes equipped with Zipp 404 wheels and Specialized S-Works Mondo 700 x 21c tires. A Specialized Body Geometry TriTip saddle rounds out the components.

THE NUMBERS
Our large Transition had a 72-degree head tube angle, with an adjustable seat tube angle via the Specialized seatpost. The Transition featured a 56-centimeter top tube. Chainstay length measured out at 39.5 centimeters, but it can be micro-adjusted to allow the rear wheel to be brought in as close as possible to the seat tube. The Transition has a wheelbase of 99.8 centimeters. The Specialized Transition weighed 18.8 pounds without pedals.

THE RIDE
After just a few pedal strokes, it becomes clear that the Specialized is made for going fast. Once in the aerobars, it is easy to focus on the road ahead. Putting power to the pedals is not a problem, as the oversized bottom bracket shell and chainstays keep the rear end stiff and allow the S-Works carbon cranks to transfer power with ease. With the fore and aft adjustment of the seatpost, it was easy to find a comfortable position. The S-Works Transition is very stable and is simply the best-handling time trial bike that we have ridden. The 72-degree head tube angle allows one to stay in the aerobars around corners that caused other riders to sit up and break from their aero position. The bike’s handling made descending on the Transition stable and fast compared to other time trial bikes. Due to the rider’s forward position and short chainstays, descending on the Transition was not at the level of a standard road bike; however, anything other than the tightest corners could be taken at close to full speed. When the road tilted upward, the Transition again did better than most time trial bikes due to its stiff bottom bracket and long top tube. While the bike itself does not hinder climbing, most riders found it difficult to climb in the low forward position of a time trial bike.

The brakes are worth mentioning, as they are specific to the Transition and provided excellent performance. Oftentimes, due to the internal cable, odd routing and lack of return springs in aero brake levers, brakes on the time trial bikes often lack in performance. This is not the case on the Transition. The brakes felt crisp, offered good modulation and provided solid stopping power. Specialized did a good job of identifying a potential weakness and going the extra mile to maintain performance.

The Easton Attack bars are narrow, and most testers said they would have liked to have had a couple more centimeters for out of saddle efforts and tight corners. The only other complaint came from the Specialized TriTip saddle. While most testers liked the saddle, a few testers felt that the nose of the saddle was too wide and had a squared-off profile that caused chafing during hard efforts.

THE VERDICT
The Specialized Transition is an all-out race bike. It is meant for speed and delivers. While there are plenty of time trial bikes on the market, few can match the Transition’s mix of aerodynamic proficiency and spot-on handling.

PRICE: $8800
INFO: www.specialized.com
WEIGHT: 18.8 pounds

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