A little slice of nice

December 14, 2013 § 17 Comments

The whole Specialized – Cafe Roubaix brouhaha has ended. Mike Sinyard, the president of Specialized, flew up to Canada and apologized to Dan Richter, the owner of the bike shop, which is located in Cochrane, Alberta. ASI, the company that owns the worldwide “Roubaix” trademark, stepped in and told the shop owner that they would be glad to license the word to Richter for a very small fee.

Everybody shook hands and went home, except for Richter, who was presumably already home. I looked up Cochrane on Google Maps and confirmed what I’d assumed. Cochrane, on the outskirts of Calgary, is out in the middle of nowhere, about 450 miles from the huge U.S. city of … Missoula. It sure seemed like a lot of legal fees in order to crack down on Mr. Tinyshop.

In a sport that has a tough time stepping away from bad news, though, this vignette is a great example of what makes the bicycle industry less of an industry and more of a community. With annual sales in the neighborhood of $500 million in a market that in is estimated to be worth over $70 billion by 2015, Specialized, despite its relative market dominance, is a very, very small part of the community.

Specialized may represent the big corporate side of cycling, but in the global scheme of corporate entities it’s little more than a local bike shop on a very conservative steroid program.

Quick to blame, slow to thank

The rank-and-file bicycling community used Facebook and Twitter and email to send Specialized a message. The simple message was that bicycling remains a community that functions on the efforts of small shops. Sinyard got the message. The Internet, however much it may have taken a bite out of shop sales, has also contributed to more people riding more complicated machinery that requires, yes, a bike shop to repair and tune and ultimately replace what you bought online. Very few riders don’t have a bike shop to which they feel loyalty, and that loyalty is almost without exception the result of a good personal relationship they have with a real person behind the counter.

How many people can say that about their other shopping choices?

“I go to Wal-Mart because I love Fred, the greeter who’s there on Thursday mornings between six and ten.” It’s kind of hard to imagine.

Sinyard and Specialized got the message, and they acted with extraordinary swiftness. When’s the last time the CEO of IBM or Microsoft or Apple got on a plane to make a video and personally apologize for sending out a cease and desist letter?

We can criticize the steps that led to Specialized leaning hard on Cafe Roubaix, and we did. Can we also step back and thank Sinyard & Company for doing the right thing? I’m pretty sure we can.

I’ve ridden two Specialized bikes, the SL3 and the Venge. They were both extraordinarily good bikes. I bought them from PV Bikes, a Specialized store before the owner died, and the service I got at that shop was phenomenal. One of the biggest supporters of cycling and racing in Southern California is the Surf City Cyclery in Costa Mesa, run by Mike Faello. Mike and his team, with the full support of Specialized, put one of the very best faces on cycling in one of the country’s biggest markets.

Sinyard’s decision reflects well on himself, on his company, and on people like Mike who sell his Specialized bikes.

Thanks, Mr. Sinyard. Next time you’re in LA join us on the NPR and I’ll be honored to buy you a coffee, even though I plan to keep riding my Giant.

Readers inquire about Specialized products

October 14, 2011 § 4 Comments

Dear Wankmeister:

I’m trying to decide between a Venge and an SL4. They say the Venge is more for guys who are out in the wind, rouleur/solo attacking style, whereas the SL4 is more of a climber/traditional roadie frame. I’m a little of both. Your thoughts?

Stuey Sagbottom

Dear Stuey:

Both frames went through an extensive R&D period that included more hours in the wind tunnel than any bike, ever. They were also tested extensively beneath the pulsing quads of some of the greatest racers in the pro peloton. The consensus among people who have thoroughly tested both frames is this: they’re wasted on a weekend wanker like you, who wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between an SL4 and a wheelbarrow. In any event, as with every other piece of cycling equipment you’ve ever bought, you’ll still be gasping at the back when crunch time comes, and you’re ejected from the paceline’s rectum quicker than a bad burrito.

The Wankmeister

Dear Wankmeister:

I’ve heard people say that Specialized’s strategy is to vertically integrate and lock out all non-Specialized products from their shops in order to reduce competition, raise prices, and limit consumer choice. That’s why I refuse to shop at Specialized shops and why I support my LBS instead. I’m surprised you patronize such places.

Dilly Dipworthy

Dear Dipshit:

I’ve also heard that Banana Republic’s strategy is to lock out all GAP and J. Crew products from their store, and that Toyota refuses to share its manufacturing plants with GM. Who fucking cares? Some people like buying a car off a showroom floor, others like surfing Craigslist and spending six months traveling around LA County to the homes of  hookers, perverts, crazies, fraudsters, and axe-murderers in order to get the perfect deal on a lime-colored, low mileage 1997 Dodge LeDouche. My biggest gripe against Specialized is that they’re an adjective. See ya.

The Wankmeister

Dear Wankmeister:

Specialized bikes are made in Taiwan, a place that’s notorious for low-quality, gemcrack manufacturing. Give me a hand-crafted European frame any day. Plus, there’s no cycling tradition in Asia like there is here.

Sidney Sniffers

Dear Sidney:

I remember when the first Toyotas came into this country. Bigoted pinheads like you called them “rice rockets” and sneered at their shoddy quality and inferior design. You’re now collecting unemployment and the world’s biggest automaker is Japanese. You probably voted for someone in the Tea Party, if you even bothered to vote. Since you probably still drive a Dodge LeDouche, you’ve likely not heard that 99% of all bikes sold here are made in China and Taiwan. Among the Big Three–Trek/Gary Fisher, Specialized, and Giant, all are made in Taiwan. Last time I checked, Cav and Spartacus were making out okay on their “gemcrack” rides. Good point about no cycling tradition in Asia. There’s a much more vibrant bike culture in, say, Houston.

Raised eyebrowedly,
The Wankmeister

Dear Wankmeister:

I saw you on your new Venge on Tuesday and heard that you crashed it after the Pier Ride. Heh, heh. How do you like it?

Polly Perkinnanny

Dear Polly:

Have you ever heard of someone spending $4,000 on a new frame and then saying that it’s a piece of shit? Of course not. Here are a few iron laws about bike frame reviews: 1) You always like the bike you have. 2) The more you spend the better it feels. 3) Newer is always better. 4) Stern-O’s is newerer and betterer than whatever you’ve got, and has a lower serial number, usually 0001. Look forward to seeing you on the next Pier Ride and showing you a little move I learned from Walshie. Heh, heh.

The Wankmeister

Yo, Wankmeister:

Heard about your stooooopid Ride to the Rock on your stooooopid Specialized bike. Dincha get the memo? It’s off season, stupey-stoop-stoops. I’m talkin’ core. Build the core. Pray to the core. Turn the core into a rock-hard temple of fuckupedness. Ride tomorrow. Today? Core. Get it? Core it. Done, doodster.

Roger and out,
Mikey Mulligan

Dear Mikey:

I failed my first mammalian zoology exam because I couldn’t name all the bones that made up the orbit of the eye. So I’m no expert on body parts. But what is this core of which you speak? I remember last winter when Frankendave came up to me on the track and said, “You need more core work, Wankster.” Frankendave squats 800 pounds and has more muscled ribbing on his abdomen than a Trojan. He has a twelve-pack. He sprints so fast that he’s finished with his third cigarette before I’ve even gotten on top of the gear.  Then he took his index finger and poked it into the soft, flabby pouch of tenderness I carry with me wherever I go. As his finger vanished to the second knuckle, he thought it was funny. Then the joint disappeared. Pretty soon, his hand was buried up to the wrist, and he looked perplexed. Then the first half of his forearm vanished, and he got scared. That’s when I tensed my bowels. My jellied midriff went taut as I flexed my kidney and pancreas hard. Now his entire arm was locked in a vicegrip of blubber and internal organs. As the circulation shut off and his face turned purple, I pulled him up closely. “I think my core is fine, buddy.” I released him and he fell backwards, hitting his head (again) on the bike lockers. In other words, Mikey…my core is fine. And send me a picture of yours when you find it. I bet it looks a lot like Brett Favre’s, only lots smaller.

The Wankmeister

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