Ken & Damian, imported from Ireland just for this event, can barely contain their excitement: new bikes, awesome swag, and a cheerleader camp nearby. Check ’em out at Outsider.ie
Being a marketing guy turned media guy, I consider myself savvy to the ways of winning over the media. Getting the press to write good things about you can make or break a brand, so some investment in relationship building and education can extend a marketing budget considerably. Now, as part of the “media”, I’m fully aware of the “big schmooze”, and appreciate it for what it is.
WELCOME TO SANTA CRUZ!
The weekend with Specialized was great – it was a gas –they did it up right and treated us like media royalty. But I made sure to remove the rose colored glasses to more clearly evaluate the goods.
The S-Works Tarmac – Everything carbon and one sweet ride.
The 2-day affair was made up of product seminars in the mornings, and product testing in the afternoons (that’s “riding” to you Bubba). Approximately 50 journo’s from North America, Europe and Asia were flown to the U of CA at Santa Cruz, to see and try the 2005 lines of road and mountain bikes, shoes, helmets, glasses, and apparel. We’ll be bringing full tests of the line when we can get product, but for now, here are my first impressions.
Once I got over the excitement of seeing what’s new and cool on offer for ’05, I was even more appreciative of the amount of thought and common sense that has been put into the designs throughout the line. Many ideas in the line are so intuitive and so right-on, that more than once I was left wondering why no one had thought of them before. Kudos to Specialized and the efforts they’re putting into their stuff.
BIKES – S-WORKS TARMAC & ROUBAIX PRO
There’s your carbon frame in it’s “raw” state. Specialized is varying tube thickness, diameter, shape – using carbon fibre in the best ways possible.
What’s cool in the bike line-up are the evolved S-Works Tarmac and Roubaix Pro road machines. The top-o-line Tarmac comes in 2 frame versions – full carbon, or carbon-aluminum. I rode the full-carbon Tarmac and can tell you it was one great feeling bike – smooth, fast, precise, and downright comfortable.
Comfort was a big theme through the weekend, as virtually every part of the line-up has been designed to improve your riding comfort. What made the bikes feel so good is combo of carbon materials, Zerts road-damping technology, and smart designs.
Specialized believe that by building more parts of the bike themselves, they can better influence the ride experience, so you’ll see Specialized components in lots of places on board. Carbon is used in the frames (of course), and also in their own seatposts, stems, and handlebars. They also spec their own tires, and ergo-designed saddles. About the only thing they don’t make are the gruppo and the wheelsets.
Another well-thought design, the Roubaix sits you slightly more upright for way more comfort.
The Roubaix Pro is classified by Specialized as aimed at the “Endurance Road” category of rider – the guy who wants to race and use it for long rides, and still feel way better than beat-up when he’s finished. It’s got a taller headtube that raises your hand position slightly – (great for us old guys in our 40’s). The geometry is a standard road set-up – but not so “race-steep” that it’s stable but quick enough. I swung a leg over this baby and immediately felt more at home than on my regular ride (by another major US bike maker).
So this is what Cipo feels like…
HELMET – The Decibel
Love it or hate it, the big fish-mouth helmet design has become a Specialized trademark. And like everything else they showed us, there’s a lot of brain-power behind their brain-bucket. The Decibel is a new design for ’05, with more vents for better cooling. But what really impressed me was the Matrix frame that is molded deep inside the helmet. It uses carbon fibre x’s and y’s to strengthen the joints, and has the straps anchored to the cage and molded into the helmet so they don’t dangle and tangle like other designs.
Another good idea that’s been around for a while but only now seems to be enjoying worthwhile refinement is the ZERTS vibration damping technology. Basically ZERTS are rubber inserts, placed in strategic spots on the bike to soak up road vibration before it gets to you – the rider. They used the example of the hard rubber engine mounts in your car – every car has ‘em to smooth out the ride by reducing engine vibrations transferring into the chassis. You see ‘em elsewhere too – like the heels of running shoes, so it was only a matter of time before someone refined their use in bikes.
The ZERTS insert in the seatpost is only treatment of Specialized’s damping technology. The Alias seats are also designed to increase bloodflow in yer butt, so you can stay comfy longer.
The ZERTS show up as rubber inserts that control the flex of specific parts of the bike, like forks, seatstays, seatpost, and also in certain junctions like between the handlebar and stem, seatpost and downtube (ie: Transition TT bike). The amount of vibration damping can be controlled by varying the density of the insert. This has got to be a winning idea – we’ll look for a bar test soon…
The weekend was jam packed with info and new gear – obviously way too much for us to show in one story, but stay tuned for our take on the S-Works Road Shoe, their saddles, shorts, gloves, glasses and more. And with a little help from Specialized, we’ll be bringing you the PEZ-Test on their hot new bikes as soon as we can get one, or two…
In the meantime, check out their website at Specialized.com.