It wasn't supposed to be an official launch. Specialized isn't quite finished with their Fuelcell concept, and weren't quite ready to show it to the world. But they had some of the early prototypes finished and ready to go, and they didn't want to deny their athletes a competitive advantage if they had the product in place. So they brought their new Fuelcell storage system to Kona, which will be on the bikes of their marquis athletes including defending chapion Craig Alexander.
The Fuelcell is a storage unit that fills the negative space between the down tube and seat tube on the Shiv. The idea is a complement to the Fuelselage, the integrated hydration system on the Shiv. The Fuelcell has a rubber top with a slit that is easy to get into, but won't launch its contents during normal riding. It looks like a very simple way to store things like a flat kit, nutrition, etc. It's part of a growing trend among triathlon bike manufacturers to create special storage solutions unique to their own bicycles. The Speed Concept has the Speed Box, the Felt DA has the new VR bottle, the P4 had its integrated bottle, etc.
We talked to Mark Cote about the potential drawback of filling so much of the frame's negative space, and whether it becomes a handling problem during harsh winds. "People worry about that, but what they don't realize is that you won't feel the side force until you get sustained winds at 25 to 30 degrees of yaw. And that's a pretty rare event. We have been making products that fill that part of the frame space since the Virtue bottle with the Transition. The wind forces there just aren't as big a deal as people make them out to be."
I think this looks like a cool product. People frequently ask me what the best storage solution is on a tri bike, and the answer is always "it depends." It depends on your frame, your particular needs, what kind of training and racing you're doing, your preferences, etc. But if you have a Shiv, there's going to be a very easy option for you to pursue, once it's released.
Have a look at the gallery below for all the details. But give Specialized a bit of a break for some of the finer points. For example, it looks like the top corner of the Fuelcell doesn't perfectly mate with the Shiv's down tube. That's part of what gets refined between prototyping and production. I'll reserve judgment until everything is complete. For now, just take it for what it is - a great idea that's going to be proven by the best athletes in the world.