After a long drive South from B.C., which included a stop in Bend, Oregon, to ride with Kirt and Lindsey Voreis, Pinkbike has nearly arrived at the Sea Otter venue. Before going any farther though, we stopped in at Specialized HQ to catch up with Nic Sims and to take a peak behind closed doors.
That big red letter means that there is no mistaking where we've arrived at, even if it was 3am when we pulled into the parking lot after making the long haul from Bend, Oregon. Specialized HQ is located in Morgan Hill, California, about an hour away from the Sea Otter venue, and situated in the middle of rolling green hills that look to have more than a few great spots to ride.
The massive bike rack outside the front door is another give away. Employees are encouraged to not only ride to work every day (there is staff parking inside as well), but also take part in the lunch rides.
Still looking ready to shred, Palmer's '97 NORBA bike is displayed proudly in the museum for everyone to see when they enter. Bikes have come a long way, but this bad boy gave me goosebumps. Manitou's X-Vert carbon (with extended travel and integrated stem), those old and much sought after Michelin tires and a very patriotic GripShift shifter and derailleur combo. Judging by the size of that ring, Palmer was looking to hit mach chicken during his race runs!
There was no doubting where Palmer called home.
These are the steeds of some very tough men. Specialized has a long history on the road as well, including supplying bikes for sprint legends Mario Cipollini and Tom Boonen, as well as Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck, among others. There is a good chance that these bikes have broken the posted speed limits on the roads that they were raced on.
Specialized has a Sam Hill room - no joke. Koala bears, kangaroos, and walls covered in everything Sam. The fake grass on the ground is a nice touch as well!
Guests who visit the Sam Hill room, including Kirt Voreis and Brendan Fairclough, have carved their names into the table - it would have been rude to not join them!
Sure, employees have access to the in-house gym and can head out for lunch-ride hammer sessions, but it is still nice to get around the office without walking.
This is the staff parking, full of Specialized bikes, as you might expect. Pretty much everyone at Specialized rides, whether it is to commute to work or out on the lunch group rides.
Tough day in the office? Head down to the gym to work off some steam. There are even yoga classes if you are looking to get your flex on.
Is this the very first mountain bike? It even comes complete with a sundial computer. Flat tires look like they might be a bit of a bitch to change though...
Two motorized creations from the artistic minds behind Specialized. The bike's creators fired them up for us - both are fully functioning motorbikes. Despite my urgings, I wasn't allowed to jump on and light it up.
Ski bikes have never really caught on, but this thing is bad ass.
Toy or full sized bike? Specialized is well known for producing some very cool custom bikes, many of which have made appearances at various trade shows over the years.
Specialized's Nic Sims was doing his best to keep me out of this concept drag bike, although I am willing to bet that he jumps in it every now and then once everyone else has gone home!
Specialized is very serious about security. This guy was standing guard in front of the door where Sam Hill's carbon 29'er DH bike was being worked on. Not.
Hands up if you know who the Samurai of Slide is. This is Noriyuki Haga's World Super Bike helmet, complete with a big red "S" decal on the back! Specialized supports a number of different racers in the motorized world, including both F1 drivers and Moto guys.
This is one of the very first Venge prototypes, with the high-end production version being engineered with help from the Mclaren Formula One team. Expect that collaboration to continue over to the dirt in the future.
How is this for unique?
The suspension engineers have their very own machine shop to use when one-off parts need to be created for projects.
This is what the internals of Specialized's Brain Fade shock look like. The brass weight sits on the spring and acts as the inertia valve.
The suspension area has a number of different dynos that they use, including a hand dyno (left), as well as full on hydraulic machines that are used to run forks and shocks through testing cycles that can reach up to 300,000 cycles.
You'll be able to read about Specialized's updated Command Post when we cover it during Sea Otter, but this cutaway gives you a good idea of how the system works. The silver collet expands into reliefs that have been machined into the inner walls of the post, holding it in place. Pushing on the remote lever pulls the cable, which retracts the collet and allows the post to move up or down in its travel. The collet then expands once the lever is released.
This suspension post was designed and built in 1993, although it never took off. I'm going to go ahead and guess that it's appearance may have had something to do with that...
The prototyping room is responsible for building the first versions of any of the new bikes. There were a few things in here that I was told not to photograph, despite how much I know you'd all love to see them - sorry!
Does this steel sled look familiar? Once the general layout is agreed upon, a steel test mule is built to prove the concept.
Just behind the building is a massive pump track that is open for all employees to ride. Video by Brett Hornfelt.