Specialized Project Black hints at new 3D-printed saddle, tyres and TT bar
Specialized has showcased the products to be used by its sponsored teams in 2023. As you’d expect, the Tarmac SL7 is the model of choice for the five pro teams that will ride Specialized bikes this season, but a closer look reveals some yet-to-be-launched products being used by some of the riders.
Specialized calls this Project Black, stating it relies on feedback from professional athletes to develop and test “advanced pre-production products in real-world applications”.
The brand says the feedback on these designs then informs its future retail products. So what you see here, you might see in your local bike shop in the near future.
Specialized is tight-lipped about its new product pipeline, so spotting the new tech relies on a trawl through Specialized’s images from its pro team training camps. Here are three new products we’ve spotted on the pros’ bikes.
New Mirror saddle shape
There appears to be a new shape for the 3D-printed S-Works Mirror saddle in the offing. The new design looks to belong to the long, narrow genre of road bike saddles rather than the stubby saddles that have been in vogue in recent years.
This prototype has a longer central pressure-relief channel than current models too, which stretches right to the saddle’s nose. There also appear to be fewer, smaller perforations, which don’t stretch so far towards the saddle wings as with current models.
New S-Works turbo tyre tread
The painted-over model name on the S-Works tyres on Kasper Asgreen’s Tarmac SL7 is a dead giveaway he’s riding something new. There’s a hint of extra tread over the crown of the road bike tyre, whereas the current model S-Works Turbo 2BR 2Bliss Ready T2/T5 tyre has a slick central section.
Asgreen is a classics specialist, who won the Tour of Flanders in 2021 and came third in last year’s Strade Bianche, so it seems likely the new tyre is designed to give a little extra grip on wet roads, cobbles and the Tuscan white roads of the early-season races. Maybe there’s extra puncture protection hidden inside as well.
Tim Merlier was riding the same tyre as Asgreen. Although Merlier is a sprinter on the road, his background is in cyclocross, so we’d expect him to take a keen interest in tyre grip.
New custom time trial bars
The standard bars on the Shiv time trial bike major on adjustability, as you’d expect from a product designed to enable a comfortable fit for a wide range of users.
That’s not something pro riders need though, because once their position is dialled in there’s little need for further adjustment. This means riders are often provided with 3D-printed time trial cockpits with custom geometry to fit their exact dimensions and further optimised airflow. This is the case with the cockpits on the Shiv bikes for a number of riders including Yves Lampaert and Remco Evenepoel.
Since the UCI stipulates any products used by the pros also have to be available for Joe Average to buy, it’s likely we’ll learn more about these new products before too long.
An Evenepoel special
In 2023, Specialized will be supplying its Tarmac SL7 and Roval wheels, along with the S-Works Prevail 3 and Evade 3 helmets to five teams. Soudal Quick-Step, Bora-Hansgrohe, Total Energies and the SD Worx women’s team roll over from Specialized’s 2022 sponsorships, and it’s added a women’s development team for 2023, AG Insurance – Soudal Quick-Step.
It also has a special ‘Remco’s Reign’ S-Works Tarmac SL7 paintjob to celebrate Remco Evenepoel’s season as world champion.
The bike may look white overall, but the details are subtle, with a reminder on the front of the top tube of who is world champion. There are also rainbow-coloured highlights, including on the rear of the seat tube, where it’s presumably hoped Evenepoel’s rivals will see them.