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Check out the fastest bikes from the World Championships time trial

Peter Stuart
26 Sep 2019

Rohan Dennis's mysterious unmarked bike, Evenepoel's slick S-Works Shiv and Dowsett's highly tuned Canyon were rapid machines

The men's elite individual time trial at the World Championships in Harrogate was one of the most eventful of recent years, with a resilient Rohan Dennis winning by 70 seconds to make amends for a chaotic season, but perhaps the unmarked bike he rode stole the show.

First off, however, we were captivated by Remco Evenepoel's stunning Specialized S-Works Shiv TT, a brand new frame that first broke cover at the Tour de France and sports a set of disc brakes and an intriguing new aero design.

Belgian 19-year old Evenepoel, who finished second behind Dennis, had a fetching custom paint scheme on his Shiv, showcasing the stars of the EU flag to commemorate his victory at the European Championships last month.

His Roval rear disc wheel, notably not a rebadged Zipp sub-9 as used by many competitors, was also decorated with the Riding for Focus logo, a charity set up by Specialized to encourage children to use cycling as a means of improving academic work.

Evenepoel's spare TT bike also caught our attention, which remained the old Shiv model and also used a 55-42 chainset. Interestingly, both Evenepoel and Dennis steered clear of the 1x setup used by other riders on the relatively flat course.

Rohan Dennis's mystery bike

To the world of cycling tech enthusiasts, it is no secret that Dennis opted not to use the Merida's time trial frame. Though we cannot confirm which bike Dennis was riding, we find it highly likely that it was in fact a BMC TimeMachine 01 FRS.

Dennis used a fairly standard Dura-Ace setup. We were unable to rotate the bike to get a good look at the gear ratio, though we suspect his front chainring would have been in the 55-58 tooth territory.

What really caught our attention was the incredible custom-moulded time trial extensions and cockpit at the front of the bike. 

These were created by Dutch company SpeedBar, which - contrary to our expectation - was not a 3D printed solution, but in fact custom-moulded carbon. The level of integration of elbow pads, Garmin mount and shifters really impressed us.

This would be a highly expensive solution, but as experts of aerodynamics will know, the benefits to be had from aerodynamic efficiency at the cockpit and handlebars is huge.

Dennis also rode in a high front end position, which seems to follow the recent trend of world-leading time triallists to move away from a hunched over low position, for both power and aerodynamic gains.

Dowsett's veteran TT setup

For fans of domestic UK time trials, Alex Dowsett was by far and away the biggest favourite. His Canyon SpeedMax CF SLX is highly-tuned to his riding style and aerodynamic idiosyncrasies, honed on domestic dual-carriageway time trial courses.

Dowsett embraced a 1x setup, using a single SRAM front X-Sync chainring, which alternates the thickness of the chainring teeth to ensure there is little movement of the chain and low chance of chain-drop.

He coupled that with a Sram Red AXS rear derailleur with a 12-speed rear cassette, ranging from 10-32 teeth sprockets. The lower 10-tooth sprocket means that Dowsett could opt for a relatively small 53-tooth front chainring and still enjoy a very large gear-inch - equivalent to a 58-11. 

One welcome flourish was the use of an oversized CeramicSpeed jockey wheel, which improves the efficiency of the bike's transmission.

Dowsett also used a set of custom-moulded bars provided by British brand Drag2Zero, headed by aerodynamicist Simon Smart.

Dowsett's saddle is unknown to us. We suspect it is a Specialized Power Saddle, using Specialized's newly released with Mirror Technology, which has a short nose to accommodate the Dowsett's TT position.

We couldn't help noticing that Dowsett's front tyre had had its logo and brand name scratched out with a marker pen. A sign, we couldn't help speculating, that perhaps he has diverged from the tyre spec provided by his official sponsor.

The competition proves that time trial remains a rare refuge of individuality in pro cycling, with riders often not complying with components and kit provided by sponsors. Long may it last.