Thursday, May 31, 2012

Postcards from the Shiv

Paging doctor Amy to the Fuelselage operating room ...

This blog post is going to explain my most recent modification to the Specialized Shiv Fuelselage. But let me back up a minute and hop onto my soapbox. While I love my new bike this one part of the bike was maybe not entirely tested before release.

The reason I speculate this is that every single person I have found who has purchased this bike is monkeying around with their bladder to get it to work correctly better. It's a little bit annoying in that I didn't really choose to be a beta tester kind of way. But, whatever.

In my opinion Specialized would have been better served to partner with a company who knows more about hydration systems like maybe Camelback or Speedfill and having them come up with something awesome that's fully-functional rather than manufacturing something 100% proprietary that in my opinion doesn't work so well. But that's just my opinion.

So here are my current issues:
  1. The bite valve doesn't work well enough to allow enough fluid through the straw fast enough.Which is to say you have to suck kind of hard to make it work and it's kind of slow.
  2. The magnet is not anywhere near strong enough. If you go over any bump at all it comes undone.
  3. The straw is too floppy. If it's long enough to reach my mouth in aero without me looking down (in other words I can still look forward to see where I'm going) it is also long enough for the straw to fall into the wheel. And that seems dangerous. I'm not sure if it is actually since I didn't crash when it happened but it didn't seem like a good plan. Also if you're riding in a group when this happens your fellow riders will shriek "AAAAAMY FIXXXX your STRAW!!!"
  4. The liquid in the fuelselage gets warm quickly. 
Modification Round One - no pictures
So, first what I did was I swapped out the straw with a camelback straw and bite valve that I already had in my closet. I used that on last weeks long ride and it was a big improvement for issue number one.  I estimate that I took in about twice as much fluid on each swallow. It's just a much better valve than the one that came with the tube - in my opinion.

I also observed that the Camelback straw was actually by default more rigid than the specialized tube. But not rigid enough. The tube would fall down from the magnet and dangle and get caught in the tire. Not good. I actually wrapped it around the back of the aero bar to keep this from happening which worked but was a rather involved process for the mid-ride 20mph refuel without falling over - which is my goal.

Modification Round Two - lots of pictures
So onto step 2. I ordered the camelback tube director. This will hopefully allow me a much more rigid tube and even hands free access to the bite valve which is what I'm after.  I knew from the get go that the tube was too long for me and getting it shorter was a little complicated by the tube director accessory that has a wire in it.

What I needed to do. 1 Shorten the tube. 2. Attach it to the Specialized Fuelselage and put the magnets back on.

Known challenges at the start. The tube director does not fit through the holes at the top of the fuelselage so the tube director wrapping needed to be trimmed.

So - here's what I did:

First I used my kitchen scissors to cut the thick neoprenish cover around the tube and expose the wire.
Next I used wire clippers to shorten the wire and needle-nose pliers to bend back the sharp part because I think a hole in the tube would be not good.

Next I used electrical tape to wrap that sharp part again just hoping against hope not to puncture the tube during a ride.
Next step I reinserted the tube into the fuelselage pocket and this picture is just to show where they connect. Here's a tip warm the camelback tube under hot water for about 30 seconds before you do this.
Shove the blue part onto the white part. This step does take patience because it's a tight fit and I think it should be to make sure it doesn't come apart. And then tighten down the little back screw cover.   

Now we're going to put the magnet on. First warm under hot water and wiggle the bite valve off the tube.
Next shove the magnet sleeve from Specialized over the top of the tube and wiggle the Camelback bite valve onto the end. I didn't have enough exposed tube at the top of the tube director for all this crap so I tried to wiggle the black tube cover down the tube. I don't really know if it worked but everything fit. I could also have trimmed the magnet holder but I was afraid I would need it "as is" in the future so I didn't do that.

Here it is on the bike. It may still be a couple inches too long but I cut my first tube too short and so I'd rather too long than too short. It is actually nice to be able to have the straw in your mouth while you're in the bullhorns and so super short is no good.
Here's another picture.

As one final note I have learned through trial and error that in my experience the correct length of the straw is probably so that it reaches to the end of the aero bars. This lets it reach your mouth without stretching.
This is just to show you what tools I used. Scissors, Wire cutter, 2 sets of pliers and electrical tape. You can see the section of tube I removed. I actually did this twice so I removed a little more than double that amount in the end.

Okay so why go through all this hassle. Well I'm now 100 percent confident the the straw will not drop down into the bike and that is a big deal to me. Getting the straw to your mouth is not a huge deal even with the floppy straw but it required a little bit of thinking. Okay here I go for hydration - nice long straight stretch of rode. One hand off to get the straw. Okay, got it. pedal pedal oaky Now straw in mouth, good. Pedal Pedal. Okay drink. Finished okay pedal pedal, now take straw and make sure it gets to the magnet okay now back to riding. Repeat 15 minutes later. Now I'm hoping we're at grab straw, stick in mouth, spit out straw, clip to magnet all without getting out of aero.

In fact, in my practice attempt when I spit the bite valve out the wire keeps it kind of by my face which might be good we'll see.

Let me add that I didn't come up with this on my own. I found this idea by searching online for what others had done. I am also most likely going to add some velcro to the top of the tube for securing it over the magnet. We'll see. Others add on a rare earth magnet to the existing magnet for more power - that sounds more exotic but I don't happen to have a rare earth magnet in my garage at the moment and I do have velcro.


  1. Thanks for the good hints. I'll try some of these out.

    1. No problem. I should do an update post because I'm now onto my second bladder - excuse me, fuelselage - and I probably have lots more to share.

  2. awesome. thanks for sharing. ps. i pluck out the rare earth magnets from my dead electric tooth brush heads.