As we begin our second innings with the Specialized brand, we recollect some fond memories of how it started. We had heard a lot about the brand, but none of us had ever ridden a Specialized when it was first launched in India around 2014-15. We traveled to Bangalore to Bums on The Saddle store to test ride some of the demo bikes. The Allez and Sirrus awaited us.
The smooth welds made the Allez very attractive. However, the best part was the ride quality, which I can remember even now after 8 years. With its slightly curved top tube, the vibration dampening on the Allez was so good that I could not believe the frame was not made of carbon fibre. Similarly, the very first pedal stroke on the Sirrus made me realize that it was far more responsive than similar hybrids of other top brands I had ridden. We were sold on the brand within a kilometre of riding these bikes.
Ok, this was our tryst with Specialized, but what is the brand’s history? Way back in 1974, Mike Sinyard sold his VW van and went to Europe to get some artisanal components, which he brought back to the USA to sell. He continued his hops across the continents for a few years, trading components. The first ever product they manufactured was Touring Tires in 1976. The first Specialized bicycles were made in 1981 with three models: Allez, Stump Jumper, and Sequoia.
The First Innings
The Specialized launch was a weekend of fun and riding with Naveen John and the rest of the team from Specialized & BOTS.
The 2015 Roubaix launched with the first generation of Future Shock. It was a novel idea with scientific backing. The ride quality lived up to the hype, and it is heartening to see that this has stood the test of time and has gotten further improved with the Future Shock 2 and technology moving to the seat post area as well in the new Diverge.
I have always believed in intent. It is probably the reason why I like Specialized. There is a very clear goal for each bicycle or product, and it reflects in the development process, design, and final product. For example, they had a bike called the Specialized Alibi. This was designed for commuting. They wanted a bike that was easy to ride the 10 odd kilometres to work while requiring very limited maintenance. The Alibi frame geometry was upright, the saddle was comfortable, with a single chainring and chain guard, solid rubber tyre didn’t need filling the air and never got punctured. Even the pedal was much wider to ensure it was safe to ride with dress shoes or even heels. I haven’t seen a better commuting bike in India.
Our biggest gripe with bike manufacturers has been that there is too much emphasis on groupsets with compromises on frames, wheels, tires, and saddles. A first-time buyer can easily get lost while navigating the maze of groupsets and will have very little bandwidth to check on the other, more important parts. Specialized, instead, focus on the frame, wheel, tire, saddle, and the bike as a whole. I have often seen the same groupsets perform better on a Specialized as every aspect, from cable routing to cables’ length, is optimized.
This is further reinforced by the fact that Specialized is one of the very few bike brands whose components are equally sought after for their quality in the aftermarket. So many of us swear by their saddles, tires, etc. Even when they don’t manufacture some of the components like wheels and shocks, the Specialized teams work closely with OEM manufacturers to custom design and tune the components in line with the bike’s ride quality.
Now, they have a complete in-house facility in Morgan Hill, California to conceptualize, design, prototype, and fine-tune the products. And I have heard that the employees get to ride together once every week.
Talking of teams, Specialized is among the very limited brands which support multiple teams in the pro peloton in road racing. I think even the thought process around developing each frame size from scratch rather than scaling up or down from a standard 56-road frame came through based on their interactions with pro riders in their teams.
“Cycling should not be uncomfortable,” believes Dr Andy Pruitt, the co-founder of the CU Sports Medicine and Performance Center in Boulder, Colorado, and longtime exclusive consultant for Specialized. He was an independent contractor with Specialized for 20 years before he retired in 2019. In that period, he helped develop the shoes, the saddles, and the Body Geometry based bike fit to ensure rider comfort. He also brought in Retül.
Retül is a video-based bike fit system. This acquisition allowed them access to data of riders who had used the bike fit, to take input for the frame design. Based on this huge collection of data, they took the bold step of getting away with separate frames for women.
Okay, these bikes have a clear intention and are a complete package. They perform well without sacrificing comfort. So what was wrong? Well, the bikes were not available in India! Now they are back, and as an added bonus, they are priced very well.
We have received a few Allez & Tarmacs. Roubaix, Diverge bikes are expected by the end of May.
Change is a constant. A case in point is the most popular Allez series which has evolved from 1981. The new intent of the Allez is refreshing, quoting in their own words “All too often, corners are cut to meet price-points in the entry-level road bike market, but the Allez redefines what it means to be “entry level.” Focusing on weight, refinement, and reliability like nothing else in its class, Allez is the first to make these technologies accessible to everyone. Whether you’re just getting into road cycling, commuting, or looking for a new bike, the Allez is just as performance-packed as it is versatile.”
The future will continue to be “Special”. Visit our physical (Kondapur, Hyderabad) or our web store to get your own Specialized bike.