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Interview: Specialized’s MTB Product Team on Moving to Auburn, New Suspension Concepts, & Rider Feedback

Jun 20, 2024
by Brian Park  
Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
This older lugged and bonded carbon trail bike test mule was in a container behind the office. You can see where the team chopped the previously-connected seatstay lugs to test a less rigid setup.


Words: Brian Park & Dario DiGiulio
Photos: Brian Park


Last month Dario and I traveled down to Auburn, California to tour Specialized’s new facility and record a podcast. We were the first media through the door of their new Auburn Innovation Centre, and got to peek behind the curtain of the Ride Dynamics team, arguably the most influential product development team in our industry.

The office itself was still under construction. Builders everywhere, our hosts Sam and Brad Benedict being called for “where does this CNC machine go?” decisions regularly, and a far cry from the slick, polished offices you’d expect find at a major brand. In contrast to Specialized’s Morgan Hill headquarters, this new office in Auburn feels much more practical, with less glamour—a place where things get done with a minimum of distraction. It’s a whole lot closer to good riding, and house prices are slightly less insane than Morgan Hill too.

We recorded a podcast with Sam and Brad Benedict, as well as the Ride Dynamics R&D manager Chance. They had a lot to say, and we got a couple of secrets out of them, so it runs almost two hours long. Below are a few of the key sections from the podcast transcribed, but it’s worth a listen if you get a chance.


This episode of the Pinkbike Podcast is presented by Specialized
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Podcast Topics

00:00 Introduction to Specialized's Mountain Bike Innovation Center
06:55 Creating High-Performing Bikes
43:23 Exploring New Designs & Listening to Rider Feedback
56:36 The Role of the Ride Dynamics Team
01:00:57 Prototyping & Testing Suspension Innovations
01:08:13 Iterating on Existing Frame Formats
01:18:44 Exploring a New Air Spring Technology
01:21:38 Optimizing for Fun in Bike Design



Characters:

Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
Sam Benedict, pancake enthusiast and Global MTB Category Leader at Specialized
Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
Brad Benedict, MTB Product Manager at Specialized

Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
Chance Ferro, Ride Dynamics R&D Manager at Specialized
Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
"Marketing Todd" aka Todd Cannatelli, MTB Marketing Manager

Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
Dario DiGiulio, Pinkbike Tech Editor & Hulkamaniac
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Brian Park, Shadowy Industry Cabal Member

bigquotesThe only thing I'll say, and it's completely unrelated to the fork, is that during one test session on the shuttle, someone driving the vehicle that was neither Brad nor myself, actually... hit a pedestrian crossing the sidewalk very lightly. They were perfectly fine afterwards. Just the sweetest elderly couple in the South of France.Marketing Todd

bigquotesThat level of incrimination just to avoid telling us about the fork only has me more intrigued about the fork.Brian





Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
Brad showing Marketing Todd and me the construction progress at their Auburn Innovation Center.


Interview

Brian: I am here with Sam and Brad Benedict. We're here to check out your new facility in Auburn. What are you guys doing here? What's it called?

Sam: We've now been calling it the Auburn Innovation Center. This is one of the better names that we've ever come up with. (laughs) Auburn is where we are in the world, and innovation inside of a building… that we call a center. Auburn Innovation Center.

Brian: Let's go further back. You guys are long time Specialized employees and riders. You've worked on a lot of projects. What's like the worst project you've ever worked on?

Sam: Actually, one thing I'm really proud of—

Brian: That wasn't the question.

Sam: —But it'll lead into the worst product. So one product I'm really proud of is, when we did Autosag, I made the stand that you put your bike in front wheel first. They still use them in bike shops. I see them all the time.

But the worst product I ever made was this: these multicolored plastic keys to help measure your sag. And they just were terrible. Worst product I've ever made.

Brian: What about you Brad?

Brad: I can't say I have a worst product… I've had some challenges, worked on a lot of Command posts and Wu posts—which I very much believe in the theory behind it. But we definitely had some issues over the years.

Brian: I like the Wu post. I think there's definitely something there.

Brad: The Wu post is a very fascinating seat post.(...) I'm gonna change my worst product ever to this: I didn't actually make it, but when we did the very first 650B Stumpjumper with the infamous headset cup, I got blamed for it. But I didn't make it. So there you go.

Brian: Continue to blame him. (laughs) It's still your fault. I mean, that's one of the things about being product managers and being responsible for product is you're responsible either way. Live and die.

Brad: So as a product manager, you always think it's glorious. And you're like, dude, so many people love this bike. And I can't think of the 20,000 emails that you receive of being like, this bike is sick. You get the six emails that are like, why would you do that with a rebound? Your chainstay protector is horrible. What is up with this color? So you always think about those six people. And you're like, you sold 10,000 of these to people that seem to love them.

Brian: Yeah. I think there's a bunch of products that over the years have gotten maybe a negative rap on online, (...) because nobody goes out onto the internet and goes “My dropper post is perfectly adequate.” Like you just don't put that on the internet. Right?

Sam: That's really not what the internet's for. No.

Brian: But if you sell 50,000 dropper posts and you have a 2% failure rate, that's still a lot of really angry people on the internet.


Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
"The Spesh dude looks exactly how I imagined a Spesh dude." - the PB comments
Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
Brad at team lunch.


Brian: How did you guys start a Specialized? What was your path into the brand?

Sam: So Brad and I were actually brothers. You can probably tell by the last name, but we came in from totally different paths. We were both downhill racers. Brad was good. I was not. And after I graduated college, we both were doing the race scene in the US.

I have a degree in finance. So when I finished racing that season, I started applying to jobs all over California, banks and finance institutions. And after a month, I was like, this sucks. Like, all respect to people that do that. But I just knew right then and there that was not going to be for me. So I called a friend of mine who was my old giant rep, actually. And I said, I think I should get a job at Giant.

He was like yeah, you don't want to do that. You want to get a job at Specialized. I'm sure Giant is very different now. I applied online, I knew nobody, knew nothing about the inner workings or any of that, and just happened it was to be like a mechanic or something.

I said I was a good mechanic, which I think would be a lie at best. So they saw right through that, so I got hired as an SBCU professor and started just teaching about products. And really, that was where I recognized I was super into products. I loved the details.

I might now hold the top three record for most jobs at Specialized since, but I’ve been here since 2007.

Brian: What's your title now?

Sam: I'm the Mountain Category Leader, which at Specialized we have a lot of fake job titles and that would be one of them.

Brian: Senior Director of Popsicle Sticks and Dreams. What about you, Brad?

Brad: I was racing downhill bikes in 2009. I was racing with Duncan Riffle, I might have some timing a little bit off. It was the off season, and I had made some poor financial decisions, so I was sleeping behind a couch. We were getting ready for the season coming up, I didn't have any job. We were making money racing bikes, but we were not making good money racing bikes.

I don't remember who it was, but they asked if I wanted a part-time job mopping the floors and cleaning bikes. I said alright. So I went in and I think I was supposed to work one or two days a week. I was like, I know how to wash a bike better than anybody else. So I'm out there and there's like 50 bikes and I clean all these things. Like it was a race bike and these things were, again, I'm not a good mechanic, but I can wash a bike. So these things were freaking perfect. And I would mop the floors every single day.

I think it was Andrew Hammond that said I was just supposed to work part time and then kept asking me to come back and asked me to come back. And soon enough, I was working five days a week. And then I was like, well, I'm going to go back and race some bikes.

So while I was at Specialized, I got to meet a couple of people on the team. I don't know who all was working for Brandon Sloan at the time, but you kind of see him around. You meet everybody. I was “in the industry.”

Anyway, I went back to racing. I was on the side of the La Bresse track in France. And I remember looking over and it was Buck, Brandon Sloan, Jason Chamberlain. And they’re like, “weren't you the guy that was washing the bikes and mopping the floors?”

And I’m like, “yeah, I do this on the side. I'm not super good at it, but like I do this on the side too.” So I went racing some more bikes and then I ended up having a job offer from Mike McAndrews in, I think it was 2009.

So I've been here since 2009 working on suspension. That was where we had started the RX tune process. And what I had come in to do was put a lot of detail into all the mountain bikes, like focus on the actual ride, focus on the rider, focus on the rider's needs. And I was literally living it seven days a week, and it turned into a job. I learned how to ride 80%, 100% of the time.

Sam: I'll clarify three things. One, I was the person that recommended that Brad be hired and—

Brian: So it was nepotism? (laughs)

Sam: Yeah, that was the concern. People were like, we need somebody to wash bikes. I was like, you should see this guy's bike. I'm telling you…

Brian: I don't think it counts as nepotism if you get your brother a job washing bikes.

Sam: It definitely doesn't count because it's Specialized. If you recommend somebody to get hired, you get a little bonus. They only gave me half the bonus because he’s my brother. I was like, “So what? He's still good at it!”

Second thing, he’s so good at washing bikes, we created a Standard Operating Procedure for how to do it so everybody else could just copy it.

And then third, I think it's an important point too that what Brad started doing when he started working full time was working on suspension tunes. He has a unique ability to feel a bike. We always joke around that if you took 20 PSI out of my shock I would never know, but if you move one of his clickers one click, he'd be like, “who the hell touched my bike?” It is a unique skill and talent to be able to understand what's happening to your bike and then actually do something about it.


Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
Time for the internet sleuths to decipher the squiggles and predict the 2028 Enduro's geometry.

Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
I was very jealous of all the Wilton Vises in the facility.
Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
Seriously, Wilton, if you want to sponsor Pinkbike just let me know.


Brian: Okay jumping forward, why Auburn? Why this facility? What's the goal?

Sam: I've been with the brand for 17 years. I've always been around the mountain bike side of things. And Mike invented the brand kind of in the Bay Area, and moved it to Morgan Hill and this is South Bay area in California in the early eighties. And it's a great place for a lot of reasons. And the office is unbelievable. I mean, just like absolute candy land for anybody interested in bikes—our capabilities to create and innovate is amazing and something that we're really proud of and worked very hard for.

However, I don't think you will find any hitters of Trailforks in Morgan Hill. So really the problem we were trying to solve was we work our freaking butts off to serve riders all around the world and those riders come in all different shapes, sizes, needs, wants, all that jazz, and frankly, they all ride on different terrain. And so to develop the best bikes that we can for those riders, doing it in Morgan Hill is a challenge. And so we've been trying for years to find ways to get out into the world and actually spend time with those riders in those different terrains.

After years and years and years of doing this, we're like, man, this is just wildly inefficient. We are spending a lot more time traveling to get with these riders, ride on these different terrains. We don't have the best ways to tune, record, test out when we're remote. So what if we just went to a place where the access to unique terrain and more riders was easier?

We just started with the problem, and then we looked at a whole bunch of other different things that we wanted to solve, like affordability, weather, schools, all sorts of different areas. And we just started putting things into a matrix. And we tried to make it as objective as possible.


Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
Not the glamorous entrance you might expect.
Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
Ingredients.


Brad: There's never a short answer to it, but we used to go over and ride Santa Cruz every single day. Brandon and I'd hop in a van and we'd go and we'd ride over there and you're like, “there's a car in the parking lot. I wonder who it is.” And you could spend two hours riding and maybe never see them.

Over the years it’s just got more and more crowded. So on the bike development side, it just became a little bit more difficult. We are making bicycles and everybody out there during the day, likelihood of you knowing them or them doing the same thing as you is pretty high. So we really started to explore where else can we start going that has a little bit more privacy?

And in the middle of that, we always get feedback about our bikes and we're self-aware of what is going on, but we realized through a lot of rider feedback that we needed to expand much further beyond Morgan Hill and Europe. So we started traveling to different spots throughout the year. We'd go to North Carolina for a week. We'd go to Bellingham for a week. And Auburn was another stop that we had utilized for trips throughout the years. First week we'd devote to competitors’ bikes, and we would just ride competitors’ bikes for an entire week. The second week we would have all of the engineers that were responsible for working on our mountain bikes come up and join the team. We might have performance evaluations on specific bikes while we were there, but the Auburn area had really opened up that there's a large radius of different terrain from here that is extremely repeatable.

For us and developing bikes, you can find extremely repeatable trails. And we thought if we came here, we can probably develop trails that are also more fun for us. So that's a long background to how we ended up here

Brian: The riding is better than Morgan Hill for mountain biking, it's got a nice airport nearby.

Brad: (laughs) The airport is nice. It's very handy.

Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
Our visit was against a steady backdrop of construction activity.

Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
Obligatory 3D printer photo.

Brian: Tell me about the facility. You've got a couple of floors, one for the mountain team, one for the gravel team. You've got a bunch of machines.... Actually, most importantly, what are the machines you got?

Sam: So we're in a very strangely shaped building that we thought would suit us well. We're about 24,000 square feet and we are four stories. It uhhh has good bones, I'll say like for the people listening, we're in it in the building right now and it's full of people drywalling and building things and right now everything's getting put together. New lighting going in, there's new coffee machines, everything.

This was a building that was, I wouldn't say dilapidated, but there was plenty of opportunity to work on the good bones. (laughs) And got a good deal on it.

We didn't plan on a building this size. We actually were looking at much smaller buildings, but learned a few lessons from other buildings we bought: whatever you think you need, like double it. Because it's going to fill up pretty quick.


Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
The shop is always busy.

Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
They can turn ideas around quickly here.
Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
Austin Owen, the man who runs the machines.


Brad: The teams up here started very small. There were five of us since August of 2021. And we came up, everybody had individual ownership of what we needed to do. We just came in and like, we're here to develop bikes. We know that we need some tools and what tools do we need? So within about a month, we had two CNC machines. I had ordered a CTW shock dyno, and we just started to build out a space. We needed minimal machines because we still have our huge machine shop in Morgan Hill that can make all the larger parts. But we need quick abilities for rapid prototypes.

And at that time, I think it was two technicians, two or three engineers, and we were just trying to solve whatever problems came about.


Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
This is probably one of the more expensive pen holders in existence.


Brian: How many people work at Specialized? Couple thousand?

Sam: Couple thousand, yeah. Now that we have a lot of retail partners, the number is bigger, but yeah.

Brian: But it doesn't take thousands of people to develop a new bike. It takes a core group of five, six people to do the thing.

Sam: Yeah, Specialized is a big company for the bicycle industry, but not really a big company in the scope of the world. But like any company that is growing, you kind of keep adding on, adding on, adding on. And one thing that we really started to recognize was the teams were getting more spread out. It was very easy to add a teammate to a Zoom call. And we kind of just started to add more teammates, but maybe we didn't need to.

So we really, coming up here, we were able to really focus. There's a ton of teammates that are really important throughout the entire life of the product, but for us to create what we believe are innovative, pushing the envelope forward kind of products, we really needed to be tight and able to fail fast.

Being able to go, I have this idea. Here's why I think it's going to be good for the rider. Let's make it, let's try it and ride it on the trail. And like, that shouldn't take weeks, that should take hours. And that really is what was the driving force behind coming up here.

Brian: I mean, at a certain scale the level of collaboration becomes pretty crushing. Parts of that are really important, but parts of it also require you to just protect the team and let them focus on doing the work...

What's the next phase of this building once all the machines are in and the drywall is done?

Brad: Right now it's heavily mountain focused and we will bring more gravel teammates up, and we'll be an off-road office. I think it would be nice to have a little bit of downtime where there's zero construction. We're kind of going over three years and I think people are tired of hearing core drilling and concrete grinding and everything in between. So I think that we'll probably enjoy a little bit of work that's quiet for somewhere between a week and a year before we see what we're going to do next.


Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
To do.
Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
Work to be done.


Brian: Changing gears here, do you miss the suspension initialism wars? Like Team FSR versus Team VPP versus Team everything, everybody has a three-letter initialism?

Marketing Todd: I do not miss anything involving acronyms. They still stay with us and I “love them.” (laughs) But I find a way to fit them into most of the BS that I put out there. So yeah.

Brian: You’ve got to do it, otherwise somebody gets mad. (laughs) But today Specialized isn't constrained by having to do it. You don't have to do an FSR bike for the next Stumpjumper or the next whatever…

Sam: That's a very interesting question and something that we've also been focusing on quite a bit for the last few years here. We're not tied to the Horst-link on a bike, but we still have a lot of bikes coming out with it. And we have it there for a reason—we've discovered in the last few years how to utilize it better and how to control the ride better.

So no, we're not tied to anything. Everybody's always looking at something new. But what we have learned is that over time terrain, the way that the categories have advanced, that we just needed to use it differently.

Brian: What's your current take on high(er) pivots?

Brad: I haven't ridden a bike specifically that would say, this is the bike, and this is why I would ride this bike. I am a huge proponent of control on the bike, so some high pivot stuff the braking leaves a bit to be desired.

Now, could you mate all of those together and create a bike? Yes. Do I think that that's something that we have done? Yes. Will we do it in the future? Maybe. Momentum wise, I think they're great.

I spent a lot of time focusing on anti-rise and going into a whole other level of braking, to where we've got hundreds of runs on the exact same trail through different settings and just really focused on certain areas, and then bringing that onto different riders and really understanding what different riders are looking for.

And yeah, we're always open for something new.

Brian: Fair enough. Your mandate is probably to fit a wider range of riders than maybe some of the brands out there doing higher pivots, where they can have a much more specific use case than Specialized can.

Brad: There's a lot of cool bikes out there. You know, I spent some time on a Forbidden Druid and I can understand why people like this. Is it a bike for me? Not specifically, but you can see how they can point to this bike and say, I understand who the customer is here. It's not me, but it's a great bike.

So it's terrain specific, it's location specific… But yeah, we try and make it an extremely versatile bike, not saying the Druid isn’t versatile, but it's just not the ride that we are looking for at that given time.

And that's not, it's not meant to sound bad. We ride everything and we have a lot of teammates that go out and ride everything. How do we pick a lot of the positives out of a lot of these great bikes and put them all together into a singular bike?

Brian: I'm going over to Marketing Todd again. How annoyed were you when your competitor came out with an FSR flex stay?

Marketing Todd: Personally, I was not annoyed. Professionally, it was very annoying—no, I'm just kidding. (laughs)

You know, I think to Brad's point when you ask questions like “are you beholden to FSR” or anything like that, of course you've seen on Epic World Cup, or even the shorter travel Stumpjumper flexstay… Like Brad said, we're always always poking around and trying new things and if we get new information, if we find a new way to tackle a problem. If there's a new manufacturing process that frees us to do something else, then we move away from it and we'll adopt that.

So yeah, it is great for competitors to dive into other things and tap into FSR. And, I think in general, the days of really bad bikes are over. I think we all know that everybody makes some pretty good bikes out there, right?

And so I think it comes down to what Sam was getting at earlier. We have a philosophy of the way that we want our bikes to ride, that we think ride best and across a really vast amount of terrain.

Brian: From a technical standpoint I'm sure you guys were able to like dial Epic in exactly the way you wanted, but from like a marketing standpoint, when Cannondale did that flexstay, I could just imagine somebody at Specialized being like “that is a good idea… shit. Can we trade you for something?”

It's been interesting to see Specialized and other brands totally move away from their existing, decades-long suspension platforms. It’s nice to see more freedom, and the acronym wars were not good for the consumer honestly. You can make a dual short link bike that's amazing or you can make one that's shit. And for people to get dogmatic about, “I only like FSR” or “I only like VPP” or “only like DW”... I mean, come on, there are so many more variables.

Brad: If you go back to the vision of the original product manager on the product, maybe the execution didn't end up exactly where they wanted it, but you can understand what their goal of the bike was or the goal of the category. It's like, I'll take a VPP for some certain areas. You're like, dang, this thing rides good. But it is very good with intent in those certain areas. And yeah, I mean, how can you not appreciate a lot of them?

When you think of downhill bikes, you go back to an Iron Horse Sunday or you go Intense M1. There are just so many different cool bikes that have, I don't know what kind of acronyms they were using back then, but yeah, Todd's point, there are a lot of great bikes out there and we try and ride all of them and take out the positives.

Brian: I think that's one thing that you guys probably have the ability to do that maybe not a lot of brands do: just how many competitor bikes you're riding.

Brad: Yeah, we have a team house about 10-15 minutes from our office here and it's got a large three stall garage and the entire garage does not have one Specialized bike in it. It's all competitor bikes, it's a wall of competitor bikes. From large companies to small companies. I think everybody is always looking around at what everybody else is doing.

I remember the first Transition that I bought and I was like, I want to go ride this thing. People are pumped on this thing. Why are people pumped on this thing? And yeah, you got to go and ride them all and just see what everybody's doing. See what it's all about.


Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
One of the lugged DH prototypes we were allowed to shoot.

Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
The carbon tubes used for the DH prototype are unsurprisingly overbuilt.
Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
Grown up lego.

Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
Back ends.
Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
Treasures in every drawer.


Brian: So speaking of prototypes and testing, you're actually building the team DH bikes here now. Right?

Brad: Yes. So the way that the bikes are constructed is very unique. It was something that I believe was started by an old teammate, Ford Murphy, on how we were prototyping a Stumpjumper, tied in with Dan Lister and looking at unique ways to prototype. Because in the past it was, okay, we're going to go ahead and wait a couple of months. And it was like, how do we do this faster? How do we do this more often?

And we've been doing them like this in Morgan Hill for quite a while. Our machine shop down there also has a composites lab and there were teammates that were hand rolling the carbon tubes. Their five axis machines making all the lugs.

As we're going forward in the future, we will be assembling all of the downhill bikes in Auburn. Morgan Hill will still continue to use the great machine shop down there for all the lugs. But we will be bonding all frames up here and doing, you know, most of the process here as we have a team camp every year in December here. This will be our fourth one coming up with the race team.





Later that day we were joined by Dario and Chance Ferro, the Ride Dynamics R&D Manager.


Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
Chance points out suspension things that hurt my brain.


Brian: Chance, introduce yourself. Tell us what you do, what does a day in the life of Chance look like?

Chance: I work on the Ride Dynamics team and came in about almost 10 years ago. Brad hired me actually, I was just a random kid at the moto track at the time. I didn't really have much experience.

Brian: Brad was telling me about his stringent hiring tactics earlier. (laughs)

Brad: So we were talking about the hiring thought process before, and we were talking about interviews. And one of the questions that I always put in my mind is if I was to drop this individual into Europe with no passport and no wallet and said work starts in two weeks... would they show up?

Dario: Brian actually did that to me when he hired me. (laughs to hide the tears)

Chance: So yeah, I came in kind of just a green kid that didn't really know much about bikes. Coming from moto I was really getting into bikes at the time, so I was fascinated by all these Specialized guys that were the motocross track and started riding a bunch with Brad, who was just getting into moto at the time. I was a good bit faster than him.

Brian: Are you still?

Chance: Unfortunately not. That's where the story kind of goes south. 'Cause I was a good bit faster than him. He made me way faster though, because when you get passed by a guy at a moto track, usually you're like, "okay, well that guy's faster than me," but he wasn't faster than me. And then he started getting faster than me. And I couldn't process that. I was like, no, I'm faster than him. So I just kept trying to go faster. We both kind of like progressed well at the same time, in tandem, because I wasn't willing to let it go.

Anyway, Brad hired me to be a mountain bike suspension technician and test rider. I think his philosophy was if he can ride a dirt bike, he can probably figure out a mountain bike.

Brian: I honestly think that that's an interesting way to get some feedback that probably isn't clouded by existing mountain biking norms and expectations.

Chance: Totally. Yeah. I actually I've adopted it because I came in that way and now I've hired two guys underneath me with that same philosophy of they also had to make it home from Europe. Actually, one of them had to drive a Sprinter van in an ice storm from Texas recently.


Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
Iterations on suspension ideas.


Brian: There's some stuff that you've been working on that we can't talk about yet. We're going to try and trick you into talking about it later, but let's start with some of the stuff you can talk about. You were involved in the Epic World Cup and the SID WCID shock—the in the top tube shock. A lot of that stuff that was in Morgan Hill, but the most recent Epic Eight, I didn't realize this, but the SIDLuxe on that carries some ideas over from the WCID shock. Is it just the bumper?

Chance: The bumper that we had developed with the WCID Shock, the World Cup Shock, we brought into the SIDLuxe as well. And that's the spring philosophy side of kind of using a little bit bigger volume and then handling bottom out in a different way using the bumper. The other thing that's unique about that shock is a damper technology, which is just the middle mode that we've developed with RockShox. It's a three position shock based on their current SidLux, but we have a unique setting in the middle which just creates a slightly different damper curve that was to our liking. And we had a kind of unique philosophy on creating a damper technology or damper curve that was going to be ridden 80% of the ride. So we have your open setting, you have your lock setting. Those are kind of your two extremes. But this middle setting was supposed to be almost like our brain philosophy on something that you can actually hold you up, pedal well, but it blows off on bumps. So it's unique to us. And that's that magic middle.

Brian: You've ridden it a bunch, what do you think about it, Dario?

Dario: I like it. Plain and simple. I mean, it works. I like that it doesn't feel drastically different to the stock middle tune, but it is a little bit firmer and then blows off and works nicely. To me, it's different and good. I prefer it in the shock to the fork, I think.

Chance: Yeah, for sure. It's not a specific technology, it's really just a tuning philosophy that we've worked with RockShox to create our own. It requires some special parts, but it's not a crazy overhaul of the shock. And really all it is, it's a very digressive tune. So you get a lot of low speed support and that's where it helps with the pedaling. But our goal was like when you get out to the high shaft speeds, it's actually almost the same amount of damping as the open mode. So you will feel like a little bit more chatter and things like that because of this added low speed compared to the open mode. But when you really start smashing, like if you ride it really hard down to like a rough descent, you could be tricked that it's open because you're literally creating that amount of damping. It's the same.

Dario: To me, one of the more impressive things in that shock is the bottom out bumper, which I didn't actually realize you guys had developed for that shock. I think that's a cool thing because it's now carried over to any iteration of that shock, which maybe like dilutes a bit your involvement in it. Like I was recently running it on my Tallboy and on a variety of bikes now that aren't strictly cross-country bikes, and it works really well because you're just... Worst-case scenario you're riding on this like a huge bump stop. I think it's a novel approach.

Chance: Yeah, I appreciate that. I think you'll you'll see that from us a lot. A big part of what that whole bike was all about was really big air volume, which is like a very, you know, non-progressive spring. And then using a bottom out bumper as a secondary spring to handle that. And you get some pretty cool things out of doing that. Like, a bottom out bumper is not a novel idea, right? It's been used in automotive, it's all over the place, it's in almost every coil shock, but to put it into an air shock was kind of like the unique thing.

You can easily make an air shock not bottom out with just reducing its air volume, but what you lose in small bump sensitivity and all that was kind of what we were after. And as we started exploring, we were like, wow, when you really open up this volume beyond what's acceptable, just without any secondary bottom out devices, you can get some crazy good small bump sensitivity and the bike almost feels like it's a longer travel bike than it is.

Brian: I've heard that a few times though. (laughs)

This might be for you, Brad. What's the process like when this development is happening? Is it in tandem with the other aspects of bike design or does one happen then the other?

Brad: It's kind of both. So our group is Ride Dynamics and we are this sub-entity of the engineering and product team, but we're connected at the hip as well. We are there from the beginning of concept phases of new bikes, but we're also on the side working on our own projects that have nothing to do with those production projects. Just with a goal of creating something that could attach to a production project down the road. So we kind of played a dual role there.

Brian: So the downhill bike that we've seen lots of, that would be something that your group is doing and that the learnings from are flowing the other direction.

Brad: Exactly.

Brian: So with the most recent Epic, did you guys get a brief of "Hey, here's the shape. Tell us where you want the pivot points." How did that work?

Chance: That was just working directly with the frame engineering and product teams. They wanted to have this ride feel and we were the team to basically execute on it. And then the way that it lines up with the kinematics and stuff is, to Brad's point, it's changing now. Like it used to be that frame engineer owns that and we have to work with them. But now we've brought frame engineering within Ride Dynamics. So now we're able to influence the entire package before a project even starts. So there's no kind of faffing around in the early stages of a project to figure out what we're going to do.

Like, like say from a kinematic standpoint, now we have our own frame engineers within ride dynamics that are working with the suspension team to kind of put that whole puzzle together. So we're creating full bike mules and creating suspension mules and putting it together before a project even starts.


Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
How many brake-arm mounting points do you want? All of them.


Brian: So downstairs I saw a bike that has a million different mount points for a brake arm and then a couple different mount points for a shock. I think Brad you had some PTSD about doing 10,000 laps on that...

Brad: We like to be able to openly experiment. One of the big drivers of this facility is to answer a lot of the questions that we have. So on that specific bike, the goal was to understand braking much more in depth than we have ever done in the past. Cause and effect, bring in other riders, bring in other ride cases, bring in new terrain, and have statistical significance.

So the number of runs is an insane amount. And out of that, we were able to say within this category, within this travel, we have a band—and within this band is how we would like to design this travel of bike in the future.

And then we went from that singular bike, and we applied that to a shorter travel bike, knowing this is the band that we want to live in. How does this work with this force? How does this work within this travel? And then you're like, okay, so now let's apply this to a 160 millimeter.


Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
Let's just bond an upper shock mount... here.


Brian: This particular testing was all about anti-rise?

Brad: Yeah. And there's other things on that bike that will influence it. But we historically would build so many prototypes and there were so many variables within these prototypes versus the production bikes... "This thing feels pretty... unique. What's the lateral stiffness on this bike? Well, that's drastically different than stock." So then what we tried to do is start using pre-existing models where we know all these things. And then start designing a new part and we literally just bond them on. You can do a lot with that, removing so many variables.

So that specific bike was, I mean, the amount of braking settings that we went through... So I would do the first hundred plus runs. And then from there we would say, okay, we want to take another rider. And then we just do it completely blind, take another rider, run through the same scenario and give zero input. And then you start to see a trend. Once we've got four riders doing combinations of 30 runs on settings, and everybody blindly prefers one particular setting... So building research tools that will then inform where we go with production.

Dario: Did you, was there a ride dynamics element to like the recent Roval wheel updates?

Brad: So they have their own engineering team, their own engineering projects. I know that the wheels do go through the test riders. To the extent that they're working with some of the guys.

Brian: But you're not trying some crazy science fair stuff with wheels necessarily?

Brad: We have in the past. Over the years we we've done a lot of the initial testing on wheels and given a lot of initial direction. And that's the other thing on the team that are strictly responsible for test riding the bikes: they do work with other teams and we try and give them that freedom. These guys are very good at repeating run after run after run, not riding at a hundred percent. Keep it 70 to 80% all the time and just give direct feedback. So all teams are welcome to utilize them. We encourage it.

Brian: Okay moving back to Chance here... Marketing Todd, put your earmuffs on. We reported on a patent a little while ago. It was a really, really imaginatively named patent. It was named "Bicycle Air Spring," and there is a name on there that looks a lot like your name. Tell us about it.

Chance: (laughs) So I don't even, yeah, it's air spring patent. I don't even know the name of that we have published, but it's down to that same vein of what we were talking about with bottom out bumpers. We've been playing with different ways of handling this—I consider it not a bottom out bumper, but like a secondary spring. That's what a bumper is essentially. And we've been playing with big volumes and needing those more and more. And basically we've been abusing the hell out of them, right? Like we're trying to push the limits, we've been trying to like make bigger changes. You know, make things that you can really feel. And as we go bigger and bigger (air volume), this was a technology that came out of all of the development we've been doing. And it's just a different way of handling that end stroke.


photo
A cross-section of this design of air spring in the extended position.
photo
A cross-section of the same air spring in the compressed position.


Brian: I'm not somebody who can look at some of these patent drawings and understand exactly how that would work. How would you describe how this works versus a normal shock?

Chance: So in your typical air spring, you have two chambers. You have a positive and a negative chamber. We've added a third chamber that is on the positive side, and we're able to cut that third chamber. I guess the best way to say it is there's one very big positive chamber that turns into two chambers. There's one chamber that turns into two chambers and this creates a secondary spring ramp, basically a pneumatic ramping.

Brian: So at a certain point in travel volume in the secondary positive chamber cuts off.

Chance: Yep, and then you have a smaller effective air spring. So think about it if you're looking at like a normal air spring you have no volume spacers in your shock and then dynamically at a certain point in the travel all of a sudden all the spacers appear in your shock and you get a secondary spring ramp. So you get tons of progression, but only in a specific part of travel, and so to us it decouples this problem that we've had. With some of the other shocks we've been developing with bumpers, we're fighting how progressive bikes need to be from a kinematic standpoint and from a spring standpoint. They do need to be very progressive in the way that mountain biking is going. We require a lot of force to not have bottom outs or just that amount of support that we need, but it's affecting ride quality in a lot of other areas. And that's the problem we're trying to solve.


Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
The CTW dyno is used for validating the team's ideas.

Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
Dario took an early lead on the arm-strength dyno test, but I think Marketing Todd ended up crushing us all.


Dario: Broadly, are you guys have the opinion that most bikes are too progressive? Or like, is that, do you view this as a trend towards that?

Chance: Well, that's the thing. I think (that level of progression) is warranted, but we're giving up things by going that progressive. I guess that is the best way to put it. Mick always taught me that if there's a compromise, there's an opportunity. And I think you can apply that to a lot of things, right? So if you're making your spring very, very stiff because you need that support, you're going to pay the price somewhere else. And how can we get rid of that compromise? How can we have you get that support without having to pay the price somewhere else? And the way that we've been looking at it, that somewhere else is like 80 to 90 % of your ride because the events that require maximum force are few and far between, but they're super important. Those are the really gnarly events on the trail. But then there thousands of other events that you're dealing with a stiffer spring.

Brian: That explanation makes a lot of sense to me. It being one chamber that turns into a smaller chamber at some point through the stroke. When I look at these drawings now, that makes more sense. That's a very novel way to do it.

Could you envision a world where the rider can tune where that threshold is of where it closes?

Chance: Potentially... Yeah, there's kind of endless opportunities for how you could do it.

Brian: I can see Marketing Todd over there. He's leaning further and further towards us. He's leaning further—

Marketing Todd: Eric, cut it. (laughs)

Brian: Do not cut that, Eric. That was a genuine, homegrown, organic thought in my head, okay? (laughs) There's endless opportunities with everything in life. So specific. Thanks, Chance.


Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
Towards the end of our visit we convinced Marketing Todd to open up one of the containers of old prototypes out back.

Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
They've been using their bonded lug construction on more than their DH bike for a while now.
Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
I am a sucker for how these bonded aluminum/carbon test mules look.

Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
So clean.


Dario: Do you see the technology from this patent as something you'd license? Or how do you pitch this to a Fox or an Ohlins or a RockShox?

Brad: That's a good question. I mean the World Cup is a good example where we have a unique thing and we usually partner with one of our top suppliers.

Dario: I remember getting quite into the weeds on the patent thing, but like, is that a bandaid for a bad kinematic or is it something you design a kinematic around?

Brad: I think it's the second, something you can design a kinematic around. One thing that's unique with this patent and what we're able to do with the spring is something that we felt we couldn't achieve from kinematics. The way that kinematics are done in almost every application we have in mountain bikes, they're on this kind of arcing shape, right? So you can't have drastic changes in your leverage curve—like, it's doing one thing and then all of a sudden it's doing something crazy different. With traditional shocks you can have some mild curve shape differences, but with this, we can do some pretty wild stuff.

Brian: I read lots of mountain bike marketing stuff in the 90s that told me different. Leverage curves shaped like a squiggle that makes it X percent more efficient.

Chance: (laughs) It's all just different levers to pull, and the spring's a little bit different than a leverage curve. The leverage curve is really only acting on what the shock is doing. So you do need a good shock in order to have a good riding bike for sure.

Dario: This patent was notably lacking any linkage forks. I know that you guys purchased the Trust IP following their implosion. Clearly that's not what's being implemented here, but is that something you're pursuing?

Brad: As a Ride Dynamics team, we're looking at existing things. We're looking at things that we own and then we're looking at things we can develop. And again, it's finding something that actually lands and provides the benefit that our product and engineering teams are looking forward to. So it's not really us to drive what's going to happen with all that stuff. It's us to put together that puzzle into something that could get taken on by the product teams. (...) There's always that opportunity for exploration of a new category or a category that we currently have that we see an opportunity to do better.

Dario: Are you going to bring back linkage seat posts?

Brian: This is a really sore spot. You weren't here for this earlier. (laughs)

Dario: Honestly, if it leads to a Wu 2.0, I'd be stoked. I'm pro Wu.

Brad: I have some Wu posts that would blow some minds. Is it something that was a little bit too early for the market to fully grasp and understand? Was the travel too little? There's different ways of looking at it...

Dario: How often do you guys have to pause or stop an idea because you don't think market is ready? Is that something that you run up against frequently? Because in my eyes, a lot of times in bike iterates on ideas. We slowly chase things down.

Brad: Yeah. The market being ready for it or not, that comes to us educating correctly or incorrectly, understanding the problem. And does our product solve the problem? I mean going back to the Wu post, it was a fashion thing along with a comfort thing. Your bike is pointing downhill and you've got your saddle that's completely parallel with the ground half the time...

Dario: I mean for me it's mostly aesthetic. I get so much shit for how nose down my saddles are when descending, but I'm so f*cking comfortable while climbing.

Brad: It's fine to also make a bike that just looks way better than it did before. Like that's in my eyes, and I'm not pointing a finger anywhere, but sometimes the answer is because it looks cool. And I would write it like if I can't stand back and look at it and think, damn, that thing's pretty cool...

Brian: I think a lot of mountain bikers don't really want to admit that we fetishize bikes. We like gear. We form these connections to it and we worship it. We know that's true. But we also we want to pretend like we're these, esoteric, scientific gearheads who only look at things objectively and all our choices are purely for purpose. It's for a reason, not just 'cause it looks sweet.

Brad: And there's a small percentage of people that will justify it as it's just a tool and it's like, yeah, but your tool can look pretty cool too.

And to go back on the Wu, it's a great product. It was early, and we didn't do an exceptional job of educating, and we did have some quality issues with it. Yeah, there's not much more on it other than I love the post. I love what it was all about. Did we want more drop out of it? Yeah. Can I go over to my desk and pull out a 210 millimeter Wu post? Yeah. But we're not in that business.

Dario: Can I leave with that, please? Are you kidding me? Dog, get in that business. (laughs)

We had a different Specialized patent on the site somewhat recently, about a new bike with under the BB diddly shock. I'm not looking at it right now so this is off the dome and I'm quite tired. The Enduro/DH bike thing. Does the perceived complication of that slow you down at all? Or like, as a broader, better phrased question, does Ride Dynamics say this is better and we like this, this is a good design. And then you're like, "okay, but we can't make this palatable."

photo
"Under the BB diddly shock" is a technical term.

Brad: Yeah, I mean, that's a really good question. And that specific platform is utilized in the real world currently, it's the bike that Loic, Finn, and Jordan have been on the last two years. And there are a lot of areas that are extremely positive from that layout. And then there's also some challenges specifically with it, so we are utilizing it best as a tool that will inform long-term projects. There was a problem and this specific chassis solved the problem.

Working with a lot of engineers, this specific layout was heavily guided by Peter Denk two years ago. And the problem that we had was the race team always wanted to try changing leverage rates on their bikes. They're always trying to push for this. Loic wanted more feedback here, wanted less feedback here. But anytime we made a leverage rate change, it changes another variable on the bike.

So our ultimate goal was to build whatever shape leverage rate we want, but without touching anything else on the bike. We want to minimize any of these variables. Like don't change anti-rise, like leave this all alone so we can try this one thing. We want the ability just to change the leverage rate and remove any of the variables. Or maybe we want to make a small geo change in one specific area and we don't want to make other large changes elsewhere.

So for that purpose, (this design has) been an amazing tool. We can adjust anything. The guys have fully adjustable linkages, or we just have complete linkages machined ready to go. And it just informs areas that we want to utilize this specific setup. Are we going to offer that to the consumer? It would be very, very difficult to give that much adjustability.


Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
Loic things.
Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
More Loic things.

Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
Everything is tracked.


Brian: Just so that I understand, you're using this design to figure out the variables—we like this leverage rate, this amount of anti-squat, this amount of anti-rise, and this geo... And then you use a different, simpler suspension layout to try and get to those numbers.

Brad: ...Potentially yes. (laughs) And it's more than just liking it though as well. You have to prove it, with intent.


Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
Tuning stiffness with different back ends.
Visiting Specialized s Auburn Innovation Center.
More treasures in drawers.


Brian: Do you ever run up against a tension between fast and fun? Like, we've built to statistical significance that this one bike setup is the fastest thing, but our riders keep saying this other bike setup was where they had the most fun. How do you solve for that tension?

Brad: I would say specifically that we haven't seen athletes in the past that say this is really fast and this is not more fun. I think that fast is fun for them. Can they be confident with the speed that they have? With our athletes right now, if they're confident, they're going fast.

Brian: I'm surprised that you don't have a separate group or a separate feedback loop. Something that is not so performance based, or that is assessing a different type of performance, that isn't really fast riders going as fast as possible.

Brad: So with the race category, it's simpler because it's time and confidence. So Epic is pretty easy and Downhill bike is easy, but like in the Stumpjumper stuff... We don't have really a metric on how happy you are. Yes. Good opportunity there.

Regular Todd: I think this is an interesting topic, quantifying fun in a way like that's not about time or performance. And it seems like a "silly" metric. But I think if you take a step back, we all know what is fun on a trail and what's not fun. Like we've all ridden days where the dirt's been hero dirt, where everything just linked up and it felt like you could do no wrong. Traction's rad, clean whatever rock garden, stick whatever jump. And we've had days where traction sucks, bike doesn't hold a line, you bottom out whatever that is. And so those moments are not fun. And like we can look at the, what's happening, the dynamics going on in any of those given ride scenarios.

And I think what Chance's team does, this might not be time-based, but you can look at those individual scenarios and figure out how do you minimize, mitigate or remove the elements that make those parts not fun. Blowing through travel, bottoming out, or low traction because your spring rate is too high and you're giving up something. And like, what can you do that unlocks or gives access to the bike handling, tracking well. So those add up to more moments of a really fun ride. It's not always purely about speed.

Brian: Yeah you're right. We've been coming from a racer's perspective, but Brad you were also the catalyst behind the Status.

Brad: Status was a very fun project, it started off as a category called Rogue and the goal was, let's just build a fun bike that my friends will buy. That was strictly down on fun where it's like, I don't really give a shit about how fast you go. So yeah, as we're on the topic of whatever the one specific bike is, we're looking at the athletes, but then you can flip it the other way. And that's where my personal riding goes there now. Like, my old ass ain't trying to haul ass anymore. I'm just going out, trying to have some fun. And that's where that Status category is now. And you can manipulate the (race) bikes to have something similar as well. I mean, fast is still fun, obviously, but yeah, it's also fun not being broke off on occasion. The Status category is something that is still alive and well, and that's an area that we really want to focus on. It is cool to have high performance, but it also is cool to come into a corner and try and rip your tire off just for fun.

Brian: Hah that is fair. I think that is a perfect note to end on. Fast is important, but fun is key. Thank you all so much for showing us around and spilling at least some of your secrets.

Brad: Thank you guys for coming out. You are the first media that has been in the building and it has been good to be able to walk you through to see what everybody does, show you a little bit more of what it takes to make some pretty cool bikes. We're here to create the best mountain bikes—listen to the riders, solve the problems, and whether or not if you're here to race bikes or have fun, we're going to figure out how to do both of them.

Regions in Article
Auburn

Author Info:
brianpark avatar

Member since Dec 29, 2010
222 articles

155 Comments
  • 86 2
 That bonded trail bike frame is gorgeous... I presume it'll be next gen stumpy. something will be lost when it goes all carbon instead of this awesome lugged design.
  • 27 0
 It's actually beautiful, the bonded stumpy is art.
  • 8 0
 Lugged frames are every pretty indeed.
  • 15 3
 Shameless heckle for truly proportional geo. Specialized has the resources to do the customer right in all sizes, not just M & L. The S & XL customers should have their seat in the right place and the same front/rear weight distribution that the engineers designed into the M & L sizes.
  • 5 4
 Silly that they cut the seat stay bridge. They could have designed to be removable.
  • 3 1
 Pretty indeed, but also very time consuming and expensive to manufacture with quite large upfront cost in machinery and technological know-how. Additionally, the process is VERY hard to scale in any meaningful way. It would drastically increase prices.
  • 4 11
flag pedro46 (Jun 20, 2024 at 13:50) (Below Threshold)
 @90sMTBEnjoyer: pivot…….
  • 1 4
 @Fix-the-Spade: Looks like an Atherton
  • 2 0
 @scottlink: Well yes, they're lugged frames and I think they're very pretty too.
  • 4 0
 @scottlink: you do k ow specialized were one of the original titanium lug - bonded carbon with the epic i had one back in 1996
  • 2 0
 @Compositepro: yep, well aware of it... I was making a pun on "it looks like a session"
  • 77 0
 this is the best article I've seen in a long time PB. Good job.
  • 9 0
 I was gonna comment the same. Been busy lately but I haven’t been too interested on clicking on many articles these days but this is such a good one.
  • 4 7
 Don't know about it being the best,but it's got to be the biggest for sure.
  • 5 0
 Yes, a nice meaty read and a pretty nice endorsement of the Forbidden Druid - possibly my next all around bike.
  • 2 0
 @nozes: 10,243 words! Just finished reading them too.
  • 6 0
 I don’t know what happened to PB but the fonts have gotten excessively big on my phone and this article in particular has the fonts cranked up to granny size in Arial font that was old even for Netscape 1.0
  • 4 2
 product development done exceptionally well, other companies can learn from this article.
  • 1 0
 Agreed! I likely will never buy a Spesh, but this is the stuff I'm here for!
  • 31 0
 Hearing a lot of good things about the Specialized group in Auburn. I live in Nevada City and we are seeing their positive influence on our private trail center (Sanchez Ranch/TDS Enduro) and looking forward to their help BONC and our public trail systems, too!
  • 8 0
 Specialized does good things for events and trails, that can't be denied.
  • 1 0
 Yeah, I am excited about this too.
  • 32 0
 100 Bucks for the Container!
  • 15 0
 YUUUUUUUPPPPPP! Man that would be one hell of a Storage Wars episode
  • 17 0
 so new stumpy any day now?
  • 3 0
 Someone on YouTube said 7/02 but who knows. There was an email for S-Works owners saying something new on 6.27
  • 10 3
 My prediction: 150mm front 140mm rear. Horst Link. Massive downtube storage. 64.5 HTA. 76 STA. Piggyback shock and Fox 36/Lyrik. 31lbs
  • 2 0
 I would expect updates to the Stumpy and the Enduro platform this year (maybe June/July and September, respectively?) - both are still so good, and yet a little long in the tooth, with minimal stock of current frames available to buy....
  • 4 0
 @KJP1230: Enduro will show up in 2025.
  • 6 0
 Would be crazy if a new stumpy came out before a new Enduro
  • 4 0
 @arrowheadrush: I think we get two travel numbers compliments of an in house Cascade-style link. 140/ 150 and 150/160
  • 6 0
 @arrowheadrush: I've seen the new Stumpy, including specs and geometry table. And while I can't go into details for obvious reasons, I can say this much: Your predictions are not far off.
  • 1 0
 @Hamburgi: I'm bummed to hear that, but its certainly probable. Ultimately, I think the stumpjumper model has significantly more mass appeal, so it shouldn't be a surprise to refresh that model as a priority.

Still, I cannot wait to see what they do with the new enduro!
  • 4 0
 @Larsey: Sworks owners get added to their own private email list? That's hilarious
  • 1 0
 @bridgermurray: That is what on read on the EMTB forum boards. They were speculating that it was the new Levo and someone posted the SWorks email (lol)
  • 1 4
 @arrowheadrush: Hopefully they binned the clevis mount too.
  • 2 0
 @Muscovir: Blink twice if they're keeping the asymmetrical arm on the frame
  • 2 0
 @mkul7r4: You'll only have to wait 4 more days to find out Wink
  • 1 0
 @Muscovir: my local Specialized-only dealer (big store) has removed from the floor ALL prior generation Kenevo SL, Stumpjumpers, and Enduros...

The only full suspension bikes they have on the floor are the Epics.

They definitely had inventory of Stumpy's and Kenevo SL's just a few days before their conspicuous disappearance about a week ago...
  • 12 1
 I have a SwitchGrade on my trail bike and I consider it mandatory equipment. Saddle tilt is an unsolved mystery and the Wu post had promise. Pneumatic XC droppers show that there's room for innovation on posts. When we see trail bikes in ten years the configurable seatpost will be the place where everything we have now feels dated. I'm here for it.
  • 15 0
 I really hope Switchgrade is in talks with a seatpost brand to integrate more directly.
  • 4 0
 @brianpark: Agree completely. The separate (outrageously high) pricepoint makes it a "what if" issue for most cyclists. Having ridden Switchgrade for years, I think the manual switch will also present a safety problem at scale. But it's SO useful. The industry needs to standardize on integrated posts, less post diameters, and a seat tilt solution. Maybe all at once. Waving at you specialized team....
  • 1 0
 I'm on the fence, I've tried Switchgrade and wasn't a huge fan. It would need to be a 2-position with much less tilt to make it remotely useable for me.
  • 1 0
 @notthatfast: 2 position with a bit of adjustment.
  • 3 0
 @notthatfast: I can see that. In the PNW where we're all winching 16-21% fire roads continuously for an hour, it's a perfect fit. If you have sane climbing grades then you'd need something with a lot less tilt. Seems like something switchgrade could offer.

Switchgrade + InnerBarEnds = climbing heaven
  • 7 0
 @notthatfast: they were showing a 2-position version at Sea Otter. My wishlist would be: 2-positions, different versions for a large change and a small change, integration with a dropper to simplify/lighten/lower stack height.
  • 1 0
 @brianpark: Totally, I took a look at the 2-pos recently (didn't ride it), though I think Noel said the angle change was the same. I found the angle change to be a bit on the extreme side on the 3-pos - it would be cool if there were some way to adjust that, like a derailleur limit screw.
  • 11 0
 @brianpark - this struck me as funny: "...because nobody goes out onto the internet and goes “My dropper post is perfectly adequate.” "

I may not scour comments on every dropper related item, but the pattern seems to be that whenever there's mention of any dropper that's either expensive or a Reverb, you'll get a ton of people chiming in that they have a OneUp, or Trellis, or TranzX, or fill in any reasonably priced, reasonably reliable dropper here...>, and how it does a better job at value for money than whatever is being reviewed. Which is then usually followed by lively discussion about the finer points and +/- on those particular droppers. Same seems to happen for, say, hitch racks, brakes, drivetrains, etc.
  • 15 0
 That spesh dude is actually how I imagined a spesh dude.
  • 9 15
flag exastronaut FL (Jun 20, 2024 at 12:01) (Below Threshold)
 If you imagined a white dude in a black shirt, you imagined everyone in the article!

It's like a game of guess who. You know it's a white man in a black shirt. What's next- Glasses / No Glasses? Hat/ No Hat? Short or Long Hair? You can almost tell them all apart, but then Dario and Todd both have glasses, no hat, and short hair!
  • 6 0
 @exastronaut: huh. I was just making a wry joke about the caption on one of the photos lol. Didn't reailze there's a science to it.
  • 4 1
 @noodlewitnosteeze: I got it. I was just making a joke about them looking the same while referencing a children's game for nostalgia's sake, but apparently some people don't like that I pointed their similarities out.
  • 13 0
 Can someone forward me that bike wash S&OP??
  • 1 0
 NEED! tried to google for it but found nothing. I would be happy with a video from somebody that services demo fleets. All i can find is GMBN crap and pro road mechanics where the cleaning needs are quite different.
  • 12 2
 Did they say why they were determined to continue using shock destroying yokes?
  • 4 1
 That and insisting on using short shocks for the travel resulting in high leverage rates.
  • 4 1
 @WalrusRider: My 2015 Enduro, 2017 Enduro, 2019 Stumpjumper all sideloaded and destroyed multiple shocks.
  • 9 0
 Thanks, that was a super interesting read! Probably the most interesting article you guys have done since the Taiwan manufacturing series. Good job!
  • 7 0
 Pretty sure I have a brand new Wu post in my parts bin. I guess I saved it as a better than nothing in case of emergency but also not worth selling or throwing away part?
  • 11 2
 They are still years behind in geometry compared to the grim donut.
  • 9 0
 True.
  • 6 0
 Dear Specialized, please make something like the Aenomaly Constructs SwitchGrade Saddle Angle Adjuster but that doesn't creak and have poor customer service.
  • 6 0
 So my takeaway is that the DEMO/ENDURO is nowhere near the production stage even though it was rumored to be released this year...
  • 1 0
 not even on the horizon from what ive heard from spesh dealers.
  • 3 2
 The prices for bikes are down atm. They wait until they can charge 15k again.
  • 4 0
 Great article and I'm looking forward to listening to the podcast. As much as I want to dislike Specialized, I have to say they make great products. I worked in the industry before COVID and about 10 years ago I flew to Morgan Hills to attend SBCU at their HQ. This was a week of touring their facility, learning about their products and how they are made, and riding bikes. It was a great week and I came away from there thinking Specialized was the best bike company in the world. But then I saw some of their shady practices and how they did business. I saw how our shop had a new sales rep every 6 months. I saw how they forced product on our shop and how they would withhold product until they got their money for the products they forced us to carry. Their reputation in the business world is a bit of a bully. But all that aside, their bikes are really great and they are one of the best innovators. Their research and development team is fantastic. Their other products are excellent as well, like clothing and accessories. After a while it became a love hate relationship. I loved their bikes, but hated the company and their reputation. The final straw for me was about 5 years ago when I had a family member that was injured on a brand new Specialized MTB because of a failure of a part on the bike. This was an obvious case of negligence on their part, and it was litigated in court, and Specialized settled without admitting fault. After that, I swore I would never ride another specialized bike again. I didn't have any hate for them, I just decided that there are plenty of other companies that make bikes that were as good, if not better. Then I decided I wanted an E-MTB and started researching products. This is when I came to the conclusion that Specialized made one of the best E-bikes on the market with the Turbo Levo. This goes back to the research and development team that makes these bikes. For me, the best option was the Turbo Levo and I went out and bought not one, but two, because my wife rides too. It's been a while since I worked in a shop and the bad taste I had for Specialized has been replaced with the joy of riding the Turbo Levo. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder and I am once again, in love with Specialized.
  • 6 0
 I have on good authority that the new stumpjumper is coming within the next week or so.
  • 5 0
 IDKWBIBT…

Seems like this article is a sign the ol hype machine is cranking up.

Announcement imminentSmile
  • 1 1
 @getup2getdown: Some media publications have their review sample already, so can't be long now.
  • 8 0
 Excellent article, bravo
  • 5 0
 Impressive operation and people. Gotta hand it to specialized, they love bikes and making quality stuff. Also cool to see the Sam B guy wears the same glasses as Dario!
  • 5 0
 i smell a new bike coming
  • 5 0
 Regular Brad and Marketing Todd walks into a bar...
  • 3 0
 The duality of Todd.
  • 1 0
 I'd just like to shout out some love to the Specialized Command posts. They are the only way I've been able get a correct bike fit on my bikes because it has the rear setback that seatposts have traditionally had to enable correct fit over the pedals.
My command posts have been problem free, because
A - I don't let posts slam up and
B - I don't put silly high PSI in so they hit that top point even harder if point A isn't done.
Maybe a top out damper would have reduced user damage as well as VERY CLEAR INSTRUCTIONS on not letting post slam up.

My cynical view is that early droppers used inline posts [which became the norm], so they wouldn't fail even more often. Too many folk also seem to have zero clue that saddle position should be optimised for your particular pedalling setup and should not be used to adjust distance to the handlebars if you have the wrong size bike.

Thankfully Fair Bicycle's 'Drop Best' adaptor has recently appeared, which means I won't have to hunt down an increasingly rarer secondhand Command post for any new MTBs.
www.fairbicycle.com/mountain
  • 7 5
 BK broke his though! And as we all know if it breaks under a pro at full send, it definitely doesn't stand a chance with aggressive weekend warriors like us!!
  • 4 1
 Give me the new enduro, but in the polished/lugged carbon like the DH frame shown.
  • 5 0
 so much bike porn...
  • 3 0
 Well heck, guess I need to keep an eye out for new proto bikes when I am riding. Small world moments.
  • 2 0
 Just in case you were wondering, that Wilton vise is about $1000. Bought one for our shop at work on sale for $750 last year.
  • 3 0
 Btw both those guys are fast…
  • 7 5
 would be nice to know why they keep going with that clevis/yoke design given it's far from great
  • 6 2
 Probably because there are performance advantages to those systems, and the issues can be reduced or eliminated with engineering.
  • 7 6
 @KJP1230: performance advantages?
Like loading shocks and snapping shafts?
  • 4 2
 @KJP1230: What are the performance advantages?
  • 6 2
 @boozed: I'm not a suspension engineer, but I have to imagine that the particular design allows the engineers to achieve desired frame construction and kinematic outcomes... because they are engineers who are paid to spend thousands of hours pouring over ever minute detail of the products that get released to market. Smile
  • 4 3
 @KJP1230: there are engineers paid to come up with plastic headset cups and cable tourism...
  • 2 0
 @KJP1230: the yoke definitely enables them to implement the kinematics they want and thats likely a major reason for why but there is also a marketing aspect. The Stumpjumper is an iconic bike with iconic silhouette and I would bet there is pressure to keep it looking the way it is because thats the way its always looked.
  • 1 0
 @KJP1230: It was a genuine question but I expect the answer is probably a bit more nuanced than "trust me bro"
  • 2 0
 @boozed: I also think that a lot of it has to do with people wanting long dropper posts in relatively short seat tubes. You lay-up a bike with certain kinematics and put the shock every which way you can and measure the results and look at the trade-offs.
  • 4 0
 Dang what a cool place!
  • 2 1
 I wonder why they rushed to release the new stumpjumper already with the motor installed in it and are now waiting to release it without the motor?
  • 2 0
 Probably because they had a lot less dead stock of the motorized version to get rid of first …
  • 1 0
 @EdSawyer: so you're saying specialized is making more $ on their levo sl than the stumpjumper evo?
  • 3 0
 Best article on PB in years. Thank you
  • 2 0
 Production bikes should look like prototype bikes - change my mind.
  • 3 1
 When I was about 14 years old I got pretty into cars and car magazines. There was always a section in each magazine dedicated to showing off concept cars from various automakers which looked so rad - and then the mass released versions would be completely scrubbed of cool factor and diluted to be as vanilla as possible.

This always confused me. No one has ever shy'd away from buying a car because it was "too cool looking". The point is: make the awesome looking car, bike, etc. damnit! If your prototype or concept is cooler than your finished product, you're doing it wrong Smile
  • 5 0
 @KJP1230: "No one has ever shy'd away from buying a car because it was "too cool looking"

:: raises hand ::
  • 1 0
 @KJP1230: "No one has ever shy'd away from buying a car because it was "too cool looking""

All the Subaru drivers who disagree, please raise your hand.
  • 1 0
 @pmhobson: In all seriousness, are you saying that you found a vehicle that matched all of your criteria, yet you decided to go with another brand specifically because you thought that model was "too cool" looking for you to pull off?

If so, what was it?
  • 2 0
 @FatTonyNJ: I don't think Subaru drivers pick Subarus because they feel they cannot pull off other, cooler looking vehicles from competitors....
  • 1 0
 @KJP1230: I'm saying that not-flashy/cool is specifically one of my criteria.
  • 1 0
 @pmhobson: I'm seriously interested in this. Let's say you are looking for a mid-sized, 4-door sedan. You've identified 3 brands which all offer models that are within your budget and offer comparable features/performance/reliability. You're telling me that you would specifically and deliberately shy away from the models in your selection which look aesthetically cooler than the others?
  • 2 0
 @KJP1230: i'm saying if it's got shiny, unscratched paint and no scratches or dents, it's probably not the car for me.

but i don't find cars to be particularly aesthetic as general rule (especially recent models). whatever draws the least attention while being reliable is best, IMO.
  • 1 0
 @pmhobson: ya, otherwise I'd have 2 of those new Vetts!
  • 1 0
 @KJP1230: No, they just choose not to buy the cooler car. I'm 7x guilty here, so..... take it for what it is. Smile
  • 2 0
 Excellent podcast! Looking forward to seeing the new Stumpy soon Wink
  • 2 2
 I couldn’t listen to it because the guys rep-syllable pronunciation of”and” was too much like nails on a chalkboard. Thank you for posting the article.
  • 1 0
 That Specialized shock sounds alot like the EXT Aria shock and the same stuff exits on Dorado and Ohlins DH forks
  • 1 0
 I want that trashed Bike!
  • 3 2
 Sympathy for the devil, woo woo
  • 1 0
 we need a new enduro and stumpy gen
  • 1 0
 Marketing Todd sounds like a good name for an Instagram account..
  • 1 0
 Is he making pankcakes or mixing resin?
  • 1 0
 Water bottle boss on that prototype???
  • 1 0
 New Enduro 2028...
  • 4 4
 Looks like a Atherton tup
  • 1 0
 New status coming
  • 1 0
 Bring back the c3 FSR!
  • 11 14
 This is a big fat circle jerk.
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