specialized headquarters tour

Few brands elicit as emotional a response as Specialized, and to walk around their offices, the passion is pervasive. And it’s easy to see why. Behind these doors are the usual assortment of cubicles and desks, but they’re tucked around huge open spaces, killer play areas, a massive R&D lab, and an entire room dedicated to nothing more than designer Robert Egger’s one-off custom creations. Curious to see how the Big Red S houses their employees?

Walk in the front door and their museum is directly to your right. It’s open to the public, so swing by anytime. We’ll come back around to it later in this post. Take a left and you roll up on the cafeteria…

…where they have Bagel & Donut Fridays. Free pastries, cold-brew coffee, kombucha, yogurt and other delicious snacks. We lucked out that we just happened to visit on Friday! The official reason for the weekly smorgasbord is to bring a couple hundred employees from all departments together to mingle. Another reason might be because they’re sort of in Silicon Valley (the outskirts, anyway) and fancy lunch programs as employee perks are common. Any other time of day, there’s a full cafe with fresh and hot lunches, smoothies, salad bar and more.

Directly across the hallway is their Body Geometry fit studio. They have multiple work stations so they can handle training classes, and they are testing new scanning equipment (more on that in a separate post). The Retül fit bike sits on the platform…Specialized bought that brand a few years back and offers several packages for sale to retailers and fitters, whether you’re a “S” dealer or not, but the software for matching you to a bike is specific to their bikes.

Around the corner are the locker rooms with more showers than I’ve ever seen at any headquarters. With so many employees (most, from the lunch time bustle) head out for mid-day rides, then grab lunch when they get back. Lockers, towel service and soap is all provided. Honestly, it’s pretty impressive. I didn’t grab a photo, but there’s also tons of indoor bike parking…

…and this giant workshop (on left). Employees get deals on bikes, and they get assembled here. And if memory serves, they have access to this enormous room full of tools and supplies to tinker with their own bikes. There’s also a rental program (free) so they can check out any of Specialized’s bikes to try out for a week. Then return it and try something else. Then something else. And so on.

The play area sits central inside the main building. To the right, through that opening, are offices. If we head down the path on the left and take a sharp left, we get to their Apparel Lab:

Inside here they can prototype and customize any piece of clothing. This is where their apparel gets designed and tested, and where sponsored pro athletes can get things tailored for them.

They even have rolls of technical fabrics and a custom sublimation printer and heat press to create one-off jerseys, shorts and other kit for top athletes or special events. On the table are some of the printed patterns for a pair of bib shorts, laying behind two custom tops they did recently.

Keep walking down that path and you come to a wide open area that’ll soon be converted to additional R&D space. Turn to your right and you’ll see the key-card accessed R&D lab of Specialized designer Robert Egger…inside which very few photos were allowed (despite our pleading). Here’s what we can show you:

They have their own paint booth for special editions. And, if you work there and will pay for the paint, they’ll create your dream paint job for nothing more than the cost of supplies.

If you know what you’re doing around an airbrush, they’ll even let you try painting it yourself.

 

Let their pros handle it and designs go from this…

…to this. This particular bike was nicknamed the Disney Cruise Ship thanks to its color selection and details, like deep sparkle paint.

Inside the walls was one of several small trailers they’ve built, shown here in extreme closeup because there was a bike in front of it that we weren’t supposed to photo. Inside is a desk, letting it serve as a private workspace when you need to focus. Most all of the offices are open floor plan, so finding one of these offers a little solitude.

Circle around and you’ll be skirting an oversized concept showroom bike shop, which was locked up with covered windows. Outside it was a (likely replica) VW bus that Sinyard sold to pay for his trip to Europe, which is where he happened upon the right contacts that led to importing parts…which is how Specialized started. Keep reading…

As if the coffee machines in the cafeteria weren’t enough, several office halls have their own coffee stations with pour-over equipment. Seriously.

A big part of their dealer training is SBCU, which has this workshop for technical lessons on things like BRAIN shocks and forks and other parts, plus a classroom outside with props…

…like this to help dealers spot the difference between real Specialized bikes and counterfeits.

And now we’re back to the museum. Inside is a replica of Mike Sinyard’s first office, which (according to legend) wasn’t much more than a stock room with a desk.

Sinyard got his start importing high end parts from Europe that were hard or impossible to find in the states. The bike in the first museum photo was the 1971 Holdsworth bicycle and trailer (which was outfitted with tubulars) used to deliver Bay Area orders.

Sinyard, at the beginning.

After a few years of importing products and then making tires, Specialized started with bikes…like this 1981 Sequoia built by Yoshi Kono, the noted “San Rensho” Keirin frame builder in Japan.

This one’s a prototype Stumpjumper from 1983.

A 1987 Specialized Allez.

The original full suspension bikes started out as modified hardtails with this unit to test the Horst Link.

Which became bikes like this FSR downhill model for Shawn Palmer in 1996.

Looks about like today’s enduro bikes, no? No.

Things progress quickly, showcasing more modern machines like Jaroslav Kulhavy’s 2012 Olympic XC race bike…

And Olympic gold medalist Gwen Jorgensen’s 2016 Amira road bike with heat sensitive Torch paint.

Other memorabilia is scattered about, like this 1990 Specialized/Dupont tai-spoke aero wheel designed using a Cray Supercomputer. They say it’s so good, the design is still in use today.

An entire wall shows off the different carbon pieces used to create different size frames. Size specific layups aren’t exclusive to Specialized, but it’s pretty cool to see it laid out life size.

Want more? Check out our tour of the Win Tunnel, and stay tuned for a gallery of prototypes and one-off concepts found on the second floor of the museum!

Specialized.com

77 COMMENTS

  1. Pretty much illustrates the reason their products are so monstrously priced and why I don’t buy them. They need a reset.

    • Right? What a bunch of jerks having fun doing something they are passionate about and enjoying the success their hard work has brought them. They need to reset and start giving bikes out for free, duh.

    • Actually it doesn’t. The reason their products are priced the way they are is because the market will bear those prices. It’s pretty simple really. If they were overpriced, they wouldn’t be selling.

      Maybe taking care of their employees upsets you.

    • I buy Specialized because their products are innovative and always one step ahead, and incredible quality. and the brand image, and they have history ..

  2. Prepare yourselves,

    Specialized articles: the one time the Bike Rumor comment section turns into Pinkbike.

  3. Been there couple of times but they only let me stroll the museum area. Either way is a must do for all Specialized fanboys. Haters gonna hate but the place is cool,there’s a magic aurea around it,even if you don’t ride Specialized.

  4. Specialized has done more to elevate this sport than almost any one single company. It’s funny to hear people throw out ill informed quips about Specialized because it makes them feel more “core”. Hey guys, maybe don’t have your ego so wrapped up in your brands, it doesn’t make you sound cool. PS: Most of us are just grown ups on bikes. LIGHTEN UP! I’d work for Spesh

    • What, like sue a small shop out of existence and steal the original Stumpjumper from Gary Fisher and Tom Ritchey?

        • I hope you are kidding with that comment. Cause all of that totally happened.
          Just look up the Cafe Roubaix case or the Epix Clothing case or Epic Bicycles in GA. Those are just two of them. Hell, he’s even gone after Portland Oregon for calling themselves “Stumptown” Something which they’ve been calling themselves for decades. Long before Specialized was around.

          As for the bikes, again, totally happened. Watch Clunkerz. Talk to anyone who was at the start of mountain biking.

          #NOTfakenews

          • It’s not like you’ll ever convince a specialized fanboy from worshiping their god-emperor or spouting their alternative facts.

            • Not likely to be able to convince you of being capable of independent thought, or to use logic and not just emotion to come to your conclusions. I just like bikes, don’t really care what brand. Please point out one alternative fact that I used……

          • Don’t forget, they just lost a patent lawsuit for stealing Stan’s rim profile. Yet another infringement by the big S.

          • Your facts need a little work. https://www.outsideonline.com/1920596/war-specialized

            I have seen Klunkerz and it left me with the opinion that Sinyard was the only guy around with any business sense in the group. Ritchey and Fisher did not invent MTB. They both made great contributions to the sport, but if left in their hands we’d all still be riding Kunkerz. (They have also made a lot of money in the industry) I don’t think the sport would be where it is with out the vision and business sense of Sinyard.

    • Could you name me a few things Specialized invented or did to elevate the sport more than other companies as I honestly cannot think of much, other than selling a lot of bikes…

  5. I like how they make it sound like they came up with the Horst Link design. Ummm….Pretty sure AMP Research was making them before Specialized was.

    • Correct, Amp was offering the B4, I think, in 1990. That picture states development in ’91/92. That said, Spesh did license the design I believe.

      • They didn’t license it till 95 or 96 I think. They had their own FSR design with the suspension mount to the seat collar.
        But yeah, AMP had been doing the Horst Link design back in the 70’s on motorcycles and then into the mountain bike arena in the late 80’s.
        Horst Leitner was done with the bike world and licensed it to Specialized and then eventually sold it to them i think in 2000.

  6. Nice to see Aldo Ilesic’s london red hook crit frame! Awesome paint job! Better than last years London frame that’s for sure. Now, let’s see if he wins this time!

  7. “And Mike Sinyard came down from the mount, and laid His hands on the lowly bicycle, and it was good. And the downtrodden bikers prostrated themselves and worshipped Him.”

  8. They do a great job of going after customers and not just selling bikes but selling “an experience”.Always start with knowing who to sell to and let them know you are “family” as opposed to just doing a great product and hoping someone will buy. Sure they make some good stuff but one pays big dollars for the aura of association.

      • ….so you don’t want a cycle company to design a product with the desired/intended experience in mind? How does one avoid that? Blindly glue tubes together and hope it works?

  9. emotional is the WORD, dammmm. We can all get uppity about Specialized in one direction or another, but the underlying thread here is that the people, them people kinda like us but that work at Specialized are riders. Mike was a rider first, then a businessman, and they make a huge effort to support their peoples access to riding. thats pretty cool.

  10. Organization health can sometimes get missed through the lavish, autonomous, creative caves that they build.

  11. All – I had a chance to ride alongside Mike at the Turbo Levo launch and had a very nice conversation with him. Lining up a formal interview for my podcast, and I’ll definitely post on Bikerumor when it’s live (it’ll be a bit, got several in the queue before it). I can say this about my tour: First, the building and the amenities they provide for their employees are amazing. Second, everyone there is excited to be there. Yeah, maybe they’re drinking the Kool-Aid, but better that than hater-aid. I’ll take the Kool-Aid any day. Everyone was stoked to be there, and if they need to roll out early or wanna take a long ride, it’s cool. Get their work done without needing a strict 8-5. Third, anyone that’s able to build a company of this size is going to have detractors, either personally or of the company, brand, its actions, etc. Mike and his staff own their mistakes and weren’t afraid to talk about them. I’m not a fan boy, but I’m impressed with what I saw and the company they’ve built.

  12. The Sinyard worship seems a bit weird, but they build nice bikes. I’ve owned and still own, Cannondale, Klein, Litespeed,Titus, Schwinn, Merlin, and Specialized. For me, it always comes down to the bike shop and the relationship we build.

  13. I have nothing against the big S. They have long been the company everyone loves to hate and hates to love. They’ve brought many innovations and much creativity to the cycling world, but at the same time have made some sleazy moves throughout their history. Cyclists will debate their travesties and virtues until the end of time. However, one thing in particular that I find in poor taste regarding the story presented here are Mr Sinyard’s monuments to his success. The recreated original office and all his pictures are an acme of self-aggrandizement. I know many with money and power that have never felt it necessary to put their stamp, name or history out there for glory. Conversely, I know plenty of people however that do and find them far more unpleasant to be around.

  14. SHAUN Palmer, not Shawn – how old r u

    can you ask sinyard why sworks tarmac frames are so expensive AND heavy AND unaero all at the same ?

  15. I will never ever buy anything specialized. It’s a marketing company that happens to sell bicycles. that been said, I think Sinyard is a nice decent guy, who is still on the company, a company that he just happens to work for, more that his own. He could have sold it and move away, he prefered to stay… He was importing Cinelli bikes, funny there is no single Cinelli logo in that first office recreation, typical fake marketing thing. This is not a museum, just a gimmick for marketing, just another one from the big S. He killed the california mtb market by working with the japanese, which was a great and fair move if you ask me, nothing beats the japanese; ask sram.

    I´m sure he does not like many of the things of the new specialized, but so many great brands have died and/or turned to mediocre products that I think the guy had no other choice, and overall he made the right moves every time. Again, will never buy anything S, though. But business related, it’s all great, just like Apple. And just like Apple, it’s a shit brand. An example for any MBA, a shit for any decent cyclist that has been in this for a while and knows what is and what is not proper cycling culture and material.

    • “It’s a marketing company”

      I see this phrase used a lot, but I never really understood what it means, in a literal sense. I think it’s used the same way as “paradigm shift” or “corporate synergy” or “deep dive” or “diverse market bifurcations,” but I could be wrong.

      So, are you implying they don’t make anything? They just take photos, make ads, and products just show up at retailers? If I go to Asia, the factories are just filled with Social Media Managers and Marketing Communications Directors?

      I took a tour of their HQ and they do not have an Engineering department; it’s all Marketing people writing copy and taking photos (apparently of products they don’t create, design and manufacture).

      Last magazine I looked in, they had as many ads as all other companies “marketing” their wares (read: one). Shockingly, one of their ads had a guy riding a bike down a hill, and below it were words that said something about how great they are and how awesome the things they “market” are compared to other products from other companies (who actually MAKE stuff). I am pretty Specialized were the only company that had an ad that said their products were the best; all the other companies just had a big peace sign and a humble statement (e.g., “Our products are pretty good, but we’ll let you decide. We’re not as good as Specialized, but we’re humble and don’t want to make us out to be more than we are.”).

      Is that what “marketing” company means?

  16. Love Specialized, and Trek. When they produce a kick ass product, it makes everyone else produce a kick ass product or get left behind. More choices = we all win.

  17. One of my best experiences working at a shop was my time at tech class. Admittedly, there was a ton of Kool-Aid being dispensed. However their SBCU staff was amazing and inspired me as a new service manager to strive and aspire to great things, not just be a wrench. I give kudos to those guys for being a part of my career that continues today.

  18. Dunno.

    Maybe it’s the lighting or the flash from the camera used (or the unrelenting overhyped marketing goop) but the place seems “stale.”. (BR, consider investing in some remote flashes for indoor shoots like this, would help provide depth and warmth.)

    Or maybe a half-baked attempt to seem like a S. Valley new age tech firm ’cause of the CA address. It’s the bike industry, so I’m accustomed to expecting less for more (and more) $$. Here’s to hoping they TRULY are treating their employees well.

  19. Such a joke. Dream job? Haters gonna hate? This isn’t where bikes are made and I doubt their overseas factory workers are enjoying donut Fridays and midday rides. Call it what you want and eat it up if you don’t care but this is just a shameful display of wealth and privilege.

  20. I only support the small mom-and-pop bike brands and bike shops.

    Until, that is, they become too popular and too big, after which I dump them for selling out. I prefer that they waddle in mediocrity so that they retain their street cred, and I sound cool at the trailhead, like that smarmy guy at the cocktail party who takes pride in being into bands no one has ever heard about.

  21. jesus. some people need to lighten up. Sinyard = dark Sythe Lord? Come off it. He played hard in a business where it is hard to make money. He built a real company. Don’t like them? Fine, don’t buy their bikes. And for the record, I wouldn’t call his office recreation a shrine of ego aggrandizement. I’d think of it more as a testimony to what hard work can achieve. Specialized is not a monolith, it started in a garage, and through the hard work and creativity of people, became something big and successful. And for the record, trademark infringement is a serious concern, and has to be proactively protected or people will take advantage of the investments Spec have made for their own benefit. In the IP world, you snooze, you lose.
    And for the record, I’m not a Spec fan boy, and have never owned any of their gear. I just don’t think they are the evil empire.

  22. In the 90s specialized jumped on the bmx bandwagon and produced some really, realy bad bikes. Later I learned about thier business practices. I will never like or respect this company… although I do run a used S bottle cage on my road bike… reluctantly :0)

  23. The only thing I owned that says Specialized is a pair of leg warmers I needed and wanted to support my local bike shop.
    The photo’s for your story were pretty uninspiring. It may of been your lighting, or just the composure, but it sure didn’t inspire me to work for them. Your previous photo’s of small time builders in cluttered workshops with lots of old industrial machinery wowed me into thinking it would of been great to take up frame building in my younger days.

What do you think?