Specialized is one of the most famous manufacturers of bicycles in the world today. This is an American brand, which is recognized as the fourth in US in terms of production. Specialized manufactures bikes for professional and casual riding + equipment and accessories.
Founder of the company is young entrepreneur Mike Sinyard from California, whose passion for riding bikes developed very early on in his life. His father bought him a cheap bike that needed some repairs. In result, they ended up making a great bike, so the family council decided to start buying used bicycles, restore them in the backyard and sell them at the flea market and newspapers ads. These were the beginnings of Specialized.
Officially, Specialized company was registered in 1974. Back then, Mike went on the bike tour around Europe in search of accessories for bicycles. At that time, he did not have any production at all, there was only a small workshop in which Mike himself did not work so much as his father did in his spare time.
By luck, in Italy Mike was able to meet with representatives of Cinelli and Campagnolo companies. The stars were on the side of a young entrepreneur and he was promised by Cinelli and Campagnolo to start supplying accessories for bicycles, which were practically not produced in United States. Mike had a small amount of money with him, and he immediately bought a first batch of accessories.
When he got back home, he rented a small warehouse and started selling imported parts. Revenue was only around 200 dollars, but Mike wasn’t about to give up. From there, things went uphill fast. Mike was able to make quite a decent amount of money for the first year by selling imported parts. In the second year, the company has doubled its income which was around 128 000 USD.
Mike did not like the quality of Italian bicycle tires and in 1976 he began his own production. First Specialized tires were made for touring bikes. Mike had a sincere desire not only to earn money, but also to supply the American market with necessary high-quality parts and components. In 1978, he began production of road tires with Kevlar sidewalls. The money that company was making was already enough for their own production of bicycles, and Mike immediately seized this opportunity.
In the late 70, he released their first road bike and not long after that a touring bike. He ordered frames and tires for production in Japan and was very pleased with their quality.
In the early 80, Mike met Tim Neenan, who designed a mountain bike. Tim suggested Mike to start production of mountain bikes. In first year they released 500 mountain bikes, which were selling fast.
Mountain bikes were inexpensive (about 750 USD), and the quality was on top. Bikes weighed about 14 kilograms, Specialized borrowed many parts from other manufacturing companies, and not only bicycle companies, but motorcycle companies as well. In general, the experiment was a success, and the company has expanded.
In 1982, Mike’s company opened their own office. In 1983 he assembled his first mountain biking team, which he sponsored. It is clear that it was an excellent advertisement for the company and everybody benefited from that. Professional cyclists tested new models, won prizes at championships, and Mike was increasing companies production capacity.
In 1988, the Specialized brand launched a lightweight bicycle with a carbon frame. In 1989, started ordering aluminum composite wheels for their production.
Everything was great until the crisis of the 90. Couple more of successful bicycle manufacturers appeared on the market. The company was losing its market share fast, so it was necessary to urgently adapt to the market. Mike decides to improve the situation by releasing budget models under the name “Full Force”. The attempt failed, but the brand survived the crisis and by the end of the 90 things went uphill again.
In 2009, Specialized began working with the “McLaren Design Office” (Formula 1). They set a goal to create a fast and light bike for cycling. The experiment was a success. Now Specialized is a thriving company with a large network of dealers around the world.
The brand has an impressive list of innovations, including the use of new materials for production. For example, the world owes them with the appearance of twenty-nine inch wheels (“29er technology”), which had better characteristics and overall had a big impact on world of cycling.
“Smoother is faster” – improved the comfort of road bikes, which have become much softer.
Also, they came up with “FSR” technology wich improved the suspension and chain. Thanks to this technology the bike no longer lifts off the ground on uneven terrain and small bumps.
Now Specialized is producing mountain bikes (hardtail & full suspension), road bikes, hybrids (city bikes), BMX, electric bicycles and bikes for kids. In each category there are professional bike models for different sports disciplines, including cross-country, trail, downhill, slope style, Dirt jumping, cyclocross, track and marathon events. Perhaps it will be easier to find a model that the brand does not produce. Also, Specialized produces equipment and accessories for bicycles.
Advantages and disadvantages
I was able to find only a couple of mentions of their shortcomings. For example, riders complain that the Camber Comp EVO 29 (2014) downhill bike comes without telescopic seat post, and the Rock Shox Reba RL 29 fork on inexpensive models is too flimsy. But it is easier to adjust than, for example, the Rock Shox Pike in carbon version of the Camber EVO. So there are the pros and cons. Specialized Hardrock Sport Disc 29 (2013) has problems with switching gears, barely adjustable derailleurs and slippery grips. But by other parameters their bikes are superior to the competitors.
Specialized bikes are a great choice for a reasonable price. You can find any of their parts, so the problem with repairing a bike is non-existent. They have a lot of great models in production, which are known for their durability, robustness and design.