I love visiting bike companies not just because it is incredibly cool to see how a part or a frame is made at a one man shop or a multinational corporation but because there’s always a ton of interesting tidbits I discover that speaks volumes about the brand.
Located a stone’s throw away from Silicon Valley, Specialized is perhaps the biggest bike manufacturer that I’ve photographed. It also happens to be one of the most photogenic with plenty of easter egg moments.
Perhaps it was influenced by the Valley, but Specialized felt more like a tech company that makes bikes than a bicycle company.
No, the Specialized headquarters don’t have a funky disorganized startup vibe straight out of HBO’s Silicon Valley. Nor does it have a flashy $303 million, Frank Gehry-designed building like Facebook. What Specialized does have though is a mixture of genuine fun and seriousness which was evident from things like their massive employee bike lounge and their state of the art R&D lab.
Fun like a bicycle company, laser serious like 1 Infinite Loop. Here’s a bit of what I saw during our epic three hour tour.
We started the tour at the museum which showcased the company's storied history.
Founder and Chairman Mike Sinyard talks in front of a replica of his old office. And that's Ned Overend listening in.
Sinyard wasn't happy with the bottles he imported from Europe, so he decided to make his own. Here's a bottle mold.
Specialized went to great lengths to replicate Sinyard's original office with the inclusion of plenty of these vintage cogs.
Sorry Fabrian, I blew out your yellow frame a bit.
1990/92 Specialized/DuPont tri-spoke developed with the aid of the cray supercomputer. Still plenty fast today.
The original bolted-on Horst Link prototype
The 2019 Stumpjumper.
Massive employee lounge/bike parking area
Various paint samples seen at the Industrial Design Center.
Plenty of natural light. Look at all those beautifully painted frames.
Anyone need a quick shot?
3D printed life-size models of the new Stumpjumper.
Design process on the finishes.
An old pair of Specialized shoes just chilling.
Back in the bike parking area was a bike covered with eyeballs.
Bike parking right next to the vending machine.
Not far from the Industrial Design Center is the new R&D lab with various exotic investments such as this CT Scanner capable of spotting imperfections within each layer of carbon fiber. Here's a screen of it scanning the SWAT door on the new Stumpjumper downtube stuffed with oreos.
And then there's this massive DMG Mori DMU 85 5-axis milling machine.
A part being made inside the DMG Mori DMU 85. The massive milling machine allows Specialized to dramatically cut down time needed to prototype items from linkages to items as big as a full size frame.
Working on a Marvel 8 Mark III vertical tilt-frame band saw.
When there's a machine stop there are machine shavings to be photographed.
There's also a full-blown weld shop.
Some 400 pieces of carbon layups are used to fabricate a single front triangle on the Stumpjumper.
Rolling carbon layers onto a tube mold.
Brenton telling us how parts are made at the carbon fiber lab for in-house rapid prototyping.
Another franken bike.
Right around the corner from the machine shop is the test lab where Specialized can quickly test, validate and improve a product. Again, speedy turnaround is key here where the combination of the R&D lab, the carbon fiber and the test lab enables Specialized to go from concept to product validation with minimal downtime.
A shoe last
A specially-made chain stay protector not only protects the frame from chain slap but also significantly dampens the noise.
A BMX with an epically long seatpost
Steel fork for stress testing.
A bunch of secret products chilling behind the red curtain.
Pump track for the employees.
Moving on to the suspension lab, here's a Bent fork stanchion.
Each shock and fork is meticulously tuned for every frame size by the RX suspension team to ensure optimal performance across the board from entry level models to the flagship S-Works.
Welcome to the Specialized wind tunnel, also commonly known as the Win Tunnel.
By building their own wind tunnel, Specialized is able to rapidly test their ideas freely without going through the hassle of a third party. This unique low speed tunnel has also been used to test other products such as Under Armour's speedsuit for speedskating as well as drones.
No, the Stumpjumper didn't spend time in the wind tunnel. But imagine the possibilities!
You can autograph here if you're one of the select athletes who spent time at the Win Tunnel.
Thanks for the tour, Specialized!