Most bike engineers are using wind tunnels, clay, string tufts and CFD to design their bikes to be as fast as possible. To that end, Trek has been right there; those were the tools used to create the Speed Concept, one of the most successful bikes in the triathlon market.

But for the first time, someone is venturing outside the wind tunnel—well out of it, into the lava fields along the Queen K Highway north of Kona. Out onto the Beeline Highway in Phoenix. And onto the roads of Madison, Wisconsin. Yes, the tunnel and CFD is of utility and massive value. But increasingly for Trek, tools like wind vanes have become as valuable a data point as drag numbers. Because, as it’s often said: we don’t race the bikes in the wind tunnel.

Today, Trek officially debuts the newly revamped 2014 Speed Concept, a bike that was seen under Fabian Cancellara at the Tour of Austria last week and has been scrutinized by the forum communities. It’s a bike that Trek says has a revised Kamm tubeset shape, has a massively reduced frontal area (a claimed 30 percent reduction in the cockpit area alone) and is a claimed 437 grams lighter than its previous frame. There’s a new rear brake stiffener that doubles as an aero “fin,” a completely new aerobar with a central tower and increased fit variance, and a collection of new tri-specific storage solutions.

Further, Trek claims integration has been simplified, claiming to save an hour in the average build time, carving built time in half.

LAVA magazine is slated to receive the new Speed Concept from Trek for test tomorrow (Tuesday, July 16), and we will post some details of our test bike on Wednesday, as well as ease of install, which is something noted as focal element for Trek in the literature provided to LAVA. In the meantime, we wanted to pass on the general details we’ve been afforded.

THE BASICS

For the uninitiated, the new bike looks strikingly like the previous iteration of Speed Concept; it has the same bayonet-style fork, employs Kamm Virtual Foil Kammtail technology and has an integrated aerobar. The bikes has been a worldbeater; while many bikes have a year or two life cycle, the Speed Concept, which debuted in the spring of 2010, is still one of the fastest bikes on the market, and exists as one of few “baseline” models that many test against.

But the devil is in the details, and there, the bike veers off into a plethora of new directions. Royce Breckon, Assistant Road Brand Manager with Trek Bicycles said that somewhere in the realm of 25 to 30 folks at Trek had a hand in the creation of the new Speed Concept, and athletes from Chris Lieto to Trek staff age group triathletes chimed in on practicality and utility.

THE DETAILS

Frame: For starters, the Waterloo, Wisconsin-made frame now features a descending gusset at the toptube/seattube junction, something mildly reminiscent of the Cervelo P5. The Kamm Virtual Foil (KVF) Kammtail tubeset use remains throughout the frame (the lopped-off “virtual” trailing edge “curves” along with windflow) but takes on a slightly changed shape with a 5:1 airfoil ratio.

The seattube also fairs the rear wheel to a much greater degree that it did before, curving on radius with the rear wheel from bottom bracket to the seatstays.

In lieu of a vertically-affixed wedge bolt that secured the seatpost, the new Speed Concept appears to have horizontally-loaded bolts that forward-load the post from the back of the frame. 

The redesign results in a frame that Trek claims is 437 grams lighter than its predecessor.

Fork: The SC KVF carbon fiber fork will be available in two iterations: a deep 6:1 ratio aero tri version (which Trek says maintains air attachment without stall from 2.5 to 12.5 degrees of yaw), and a shallower, UCI-legal version for it’s ProTour teams like RadioShack.

Aerobars: This is a key engineering advance that is a first to market: a single tower that raises the basebar aloft for aerobar pad placement. The aerobar extensions themselves emanate from a singular, central bracket arm. The result is an aerobar without individual left and right pad brackets. The centralization of the affixment of aerobar to frame, Trek says, carves 30 percent of its frontal area.

Brakes: The front and rear brakes take on the same general function and design, down to the cover for the front brake. The biggest advance is the use the “Speed Fin” below the bottom bracket on triathlon bikes, which, on top of serving as a brake stiffener, the upside-down dorsal fin serves to act as a leading-edge fairing for the rear tire and wheel. UCI bikes will have option to install a brake stiffener absent the trailing fin.

Electronics Battery Integration: The new iteration of the Speed Concept solves for a big need for tri bikes: hidden integration. It will feature dedicated cable stops and a proprietary seat tube-located battery mount, certainly to accommodate Shimano’s new Di2 internal battery. And with rumor that Campagnolo too has a small, cylindrical battery in the wings, hiding the bulky componentry is looked after.

Integrated Storage: The previous Speed Concept was a Swiss Army Knife in terms of integrated utility, highlighted by the Draft Box, a utility box mounted behind the seatpost that served to stash all your flat kit necessities; tube, levers, Co2 cartridges and heads and a multitool—it returns again on the new Speed Concept. Also returning is the Speed Box, an integrated Bento Box for race-day food storage. But it undergoes some changes: Trek says a silicone design makes it an easier access point. Trek says it can store up to eight gels, or two gel flasks.

New, however, is option for the Carbon Computer Cage—effectively a horizontally oriented “Between The Aerobars” bottle cage, which will mount on center between the aerobar pads, atop the aerobar extension bolt point. In addition, Trek will offer a team-issue computer mount that will extend forward and up, above the forearms. So for those worried about BTA setups, it’s evidently been accounted for.

A final integration element comes with the 2-pack Aero: a behind-the-saddle two-bottle bottle holder. But it’s much more than that, serving to aid in the trailing edge aerodynamics off the back of the rider, with other storage capabilities beyond the bottle storage.

The combination of the accoutrements, Trek says, makes the bike faster with that without them. Some are listed as “drag neutral” not providing an aero advantage or disadvantage, items like the redesigned Draft Box and Speed Box. But new items, like the 2-Pack rear hydration can certainly aid in the aero configuration.

The new Speed Concept features a redesigned integrated aerobar with a single central fixture between basebar and aerobar pads and extensions, cutting a claimed 30 percent of frontal surface area over its predecessor.

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This is the revamp of a bike model that, while “relatively” long in the tooth in an industry of annual quick-turnover models, has maintained its stead in the face of several new bikes that have hit the market after the Speed Concept, and simply failed to measure up. When it was launched, the Speed Concept was one of the first triathlon bikes to truly hide all the cables, to integrated the brakes and use tri-specific, tri-legal functionality add-ons (Draft Box, etc.) to improve the aerodynamic performance of the bike.

Trek executed one of the most interesting tests in development of the new frame: wind study, in Kona in conjunction with the Hawaii Ironman, and in the Phoenix/Tempe area for the Ironman Arizona. The study is a telling chart of wind cycles; wind direction and speed through the course of a day, from Oct. 11 to Oct. 15 in Kona and annual data for Phoenix. For athletes doing these races, it’s not only valuable “FWIW” data. But it also puts a find point on the fact that yes; frame shape is not only key, but also critical. The faster you can get through the wind, the faster you can get off the course and avoid peak winds that—as the studies show—tend to increasingly hamper a rider as the day goes on. 

In a nutshell, Trek claims a savings of 99 seconds on the Hawaii Ironman course for the average age grouper at 20 miles per hour over the previous Speed Concept. Trek’s Ironman Arizona wind predictor estimates a savings of 148 seconds over the 2013 Speed Concept for that same 20mph rider on the Tempe course.

It’s one thing to say you have the fastest in the wind tunnel, but we went out and made the effort to see what real world conditions are,” Breckon said. “We went out and measured it and made a point to figure out exactly what the conditions are.

FIT

Fit on the previous Speed Concept was a hallmark, and that will continue with its new version. The Speed Concept’s fit guide ascribes, as it did before, to arm pad and basebar stack and reach metrics. Trek again uses a size chart to determine the proper frame size and stem. Stem options will again include a low/near, low/far, medium/near, medium/far, high/near and high/far, providing over 14 centimeters of height adjust per size. Aerobar pad reach, pivot and extension will be nearly infinite as well.

The basebar has been moved forward by 4mm and 10mm of fore/aft adjust has been incorporated, resulting in 4-14mm more knee clearance that prior. Conversely, and happily, the brake lever has been moved by 30mm for easier reach and greater comfort, particularly while climbing.

Aerobar extensions will come in four iterations: s-bend, straight, ergo and short erg. Extensions can be shortened by cutting. Once fixed to the bike, the extensions have upwards of 40mm of adjustment. The extensions are also set on a tilt cradle, allowing for pad/extension tilt upward for those that choose not to ride with the pads and extensions in a horizontal position.

Frame sizes are Extra Small (with 650c wheels), Small, Medium, Large and Extra Large.

Seat posts are offered in 275mm and 335mm options. The 9-Series post is reversible, and will be made available in two versions: a standard 15mm offset, and an extreme 50mm offset version, providing a range from 74 to 82 degrees of effective seat angle. The 7-Series post will be reversible, and available in a 17mm offset.

All told, while stack and reach remains the same, the pad fit range increases, providing for improved “lower’ and “further forward’ options than before.

Swiss time trial powerhouse Fabian Cancellara of the RadioShack Leopard-Trek road team unofficially unveiled the new Speed Concept during the time trial at the Tour of Austria last week. Photo courtesy Trek

WHITE PAPER

Trek’s Whitepaper espouses the benefits of its on-site, real-world wind studies as paramount in the development of the frame and its shapes. That established, the wind tunnel (with the use of a new mannequin with articulating legs that they’re calling “Manny”) play a valuable as well.

The mobile, real-world testing began in 2009, when Trek crafted a yaw and airspeed sensor that lived at the end of a pole extending off the front of a bike. A wind vane was added to the equation, with Trek staff executing initial testing out the front door of Trek headquarters in Waterloo, Wisc., initially on a bike and summarily on a scooter, due to the massive battery pack the software pulling down wind data required.

We’ll analyze the findings later, but the synopsis of testing reveals a new bike that has a 13 percent frontal area reduction over last year’s bike, while maintaining torsional and bending stiffness. The lateral width of the lead tube and fork leading edge comes up by 60 percent, which, as we are finding in the trend toward wider tire design, there is a benefit of increased aerodynamic stability.

The main frame’s added surface area at the toptube/seattube junction not only stiffens the bike, but it is intended to increase side surface area, and reduce drag at high yaw angles, taking advantage of the opportunity of wind-axis lift, a.k.a. “The Sail Effect.’

Trek says in its white paper that the introduction of a “mono” aerobar extension takes an extra set of brackets out of the wind, creating a 20-gram drag saving from zero to 12.5 degrees.

With the behind-the-saddle Draft Box storage box, Trek  says the redesign was meant to complement the bike aerodynamically, but on a functional front, Trek wanted there to be enough side-to-side volume to be able to shove a tubular tire into it. The result is a piece of equipment that is drag neutral; it’s a tool that can store your stuff, without incurring a drag penalty.

And against competing brands? A chart provided claims wind tunnel data, garnered at San Diego Low Speed Wind Tunnel in November of 2012, had the Speed Concept slower than the Cervelo P5 inside of 7.5 degrees of yaw. But extending from there out to 20 degrees, the Speed Concept began exhibiting lower drag numbers, performing its greatest advantage over the P5 at 15 degrees, where it existed at about 150 grams of drag, around 15-20 grams of drag lower than the P5. Throughout the test sweep, the Speed Concept maintained a claimed edge over the other bike tested, the Specialized Shiv.

Trek’s comparative analysis versus the Cannondale Slice RS and the Cervelo P5-Six.

Trek’s comparative analysis versus the Cervelo P5-Six and Specialized Shiv Tri.

PRICING & AVAILABILITY

The Speed Concept 9.9 (stock color matte black/gloss black) with Shimano Dura-Ace di2 componentry and a Bontrager Aeolus 5 D3 carbon wheelset will price at $11,550.

The 9.5 (stock color white/black) with Shimano Ultegra mechanical, Bontrager Race Lite tubeless-ready wheels, as well as the 9.5 WSD (Women’s Specific Design, stock color orange/black) with Shimano Ultegra, Bontrager Race Lite tubeless-ready wheels, will retail at $6,090. Framesets will be available as well, with prices not yet set.

All three iterations of the Speed Concept will be made available to Trek’s in-house Project One full parts and paint customization platform.

Availability dates have not yet been provided, but will be updated here as well as in our follow-up this week on our test bike build and initial ride.

Check in at lavamagazine.com for more info as it arrives, and check trekbikes.com for info as well.