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Long term test: Specialized S-Works Trivent

We put Specialized's new S-Works Trivent through a season of training and racing. Find out how they hold up.

I need to start this review off with a confession, I don’t like riding with tri specific shoes. There, I‘ve said it. Of course tri shoes holds the edge in speed when it comes to transition, for actual riding I have always found them to lack the same support, comfort and foot hold of their road brethren. Despite the oft-cited mantra of racing with what you train in, I inevitably reached for my road shoes on training rides, and reserved the tri shoes for race day only. So it was a pleasant surprise when I put on the new Trivent S-works for the first time, and found a pair of shoes that perform every bit as well as my road shoes.

To receive the S-works designation, denoting Specialized’s top tier offerings, the new Trivent shares the same carbon sole as the road version, which are light and thin, yet stiff enough to handle Protour caliber wattage, and features the built in cant or Varus wedge that is part of Specialized’s Body Geometry fit system. The S-works Trivent also share a similar fit to the road shoes, I found the toe box to be slightly more snug, but not enough to switch sizes. As always, it is important to try any shoes on before you buy. But what really sets these shoes apart is the innovative heel opening and closure system which provides large entry and exit opening.

The heel of the S-works Trivent completely disengages and folds backwards, creating an unusally large and stiff opening held at the ready with a magnet until you slide your foot in and ratchet close the Boa closure. Once you’ve jumped aboard your bike and slide your foot in, two quick turns of the dial and the heel is drawn close by the Boa system, holding your foot securely. Arriving at T2, simply reverse the steps, and you are off the bike and on to the run.

Specialized has cleverly named this feature the “drawbridge” heel, and emphasize its speed and ease in donning and doffing for quick transition. It does work as advertised, the large opening makes it very simple to slide your foot in, no more fumbling to fish your foot into the opening and under the velcro strap, and can save seconds even for someone well practice at the flying mount. There is even a cleverly place, small plastic notch, on the inside of instep for an elastic to keep you shoes level on the bike, a nice touch that shows the desigers sweated the details.

However to me, the real benefit of the S-works Trivent is the comfort, something every triathlete can benefit from, whether you are fighting for podium spots or a PB. The boa dial offers a level of security and micro adjustablilty that is hard to achieve with velcro straps. Particularly in the heel, an area where few tri shoes have offered me the secure hold I am use to from full blown road shoes. The Boa dial not only draws the heel towards the back of the foot but the sides in around as well, holding the heel more rigidly than even many road shoes. Through numerous training rides as well as races up to 70.3 distance, not once did I wish for road shoes.

The seamless inside of the shoe is great for sockless training or racing, while the large mesh exposed section on the upper provides great ventilation. That ventilation does make the shoe less useful for the shoulder seasons, or cooler races, so you may find you need to break out the toe warmers earlier than you are use to. The other down side of the Trivent is the high cost. They sit firmly in the high end of the market, but they do offer a level of comfort and performance few tri shoes offer. Of course, they are still less expensive than purchasing a pair of tri and road shoes.