Monday, January 25, 2010

Big 'S' part 2: In the Belly of the Beast

"First thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers"
From Shakespeare's King Henry the Sixth, Scene II

Without going into all the politics of it, something I have no real interest in knowing much about, I will say that there are things about big companies that can affect their...ahhh...popularity, shall we say. Think about the Walmart Syndrome; a big company that has been accused of being a bully, unfairly treating manufacturers, putting smaller companies out of business, etc. I have heard similar things leveled at the Big S as well, in one way or another. There are some real haters out there and Trek, Giant, etc all get their fair share of name calling. I will not make apologies for the way Specialized does or does not conduct business. Not my deal.

I wanted to meet the people that have their hands on the products you and I can wear, ride, and enjoy and see what they are all about.

And it was with that in mind that I stepped into the lobby of the Specialized HQ, dripping nicely on the carpeting. A matronly lady, no doubt having seen the Keystone Cops chase drama of my folding money cast to the winds, looked at me with a bit of a tsk-tsk look. I called my contact there, gathered my thoughts and looked around me. First I saw this:

I remember this bike!

In fact the lobby was adjacent to a museum of sorts with old bikes from the past, wild one-off custom bikes, new bikes, signed, cool stuff.

OOhhhh...I can touch Ned's bike????

The new Globe line represented here.

The tour included looks at the overall corp digs. Classrooms, testing facilities, warehouses of bikes for testing, employees bikes, secret bikes, old bikes, new bikes, borrowed bikes, blue bikes. This is a bike culture here, that much is apparent. You know, it could be a widget that gets designed here. A big company can make great widgets. They have the brains and the brawn to get it done. But a widget does not inspire. It does not call for lunchtime rides. Widgets don't get into your lives and create passion.

This is, as far as I can see a passionate place regarding creating a better bicycle. I know that it is also made up of layers and layers of emails, budget meetings, sales projections, engineering VS. marketing VS. accounting like any big company. And the legal dept too, at least until the torch bearing townsfolk catch up to them.

I have seen that same passion in the lives of other bike guys like Jason B. at Salsa Cycles. I have caught a glimpse of it in the halls of Giant Bikes HQ. The bike industry is made up of a lot of bike nuts that pinch themselves every day to see if they are dreaming. They may not be rich and life still happens, etc, but they get to work on, dream about, plan for, and play on bikes all day and they get paid for it. It could be worse.

Nice workout room for those days when ya can't ride outside.

I met the tire guy, the wheels guy, 2 29er guys and 2 marketing guys. Several of us sat in a room and discussed what I think, what they think, why this and that, etc. Interesting perspectives, for sure. In many ways, it feels odd for someone to ask my opinion like I have some great insight or something. Man, I am just an old dude who has loved mountain bikes for 25 years now and recently found that he loves big wheeled ones even more. I guess I have to blame that for getting me here. And, I suppose I have learned a few things along the way. Still and all, I do sometimes worry about, to paraphrase a wise old story, the 'emperors new lycra'.

Lunch happened at a local deli and as we walked over in the rain, I knew the next part of the journey was a bike ride on a 29er FSR Stumpjumper. Grey skies, rain, wind, monsoons, thunder, lightning...gonna be an interesting ride.

Next: Part Three - "We ride in the rain here". Nic Sims, Specialized

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