The Whole Athlete Development Team/Specialized partnership was inaugurated with a tour of Specialized headquarters in Morgan Hill, CA. We were led by global marketing guru and tour leader Nic "Part-time comedian" Sims, treated to an impressive, if not entertaining experience at the epicenter of "S".
Immediately upon entering the building we find a museum of bike, featuring original works including "Deadly" Ned Overend's World Championship machine from 1990 - the first-ever mountain bike cross country world champ - to Christoph Sauser's 19.4 lb. dual-suspension (yes, I said sub-20 lb. dual-suspension) 2009 Epic.
Then it was into the classroom at Specialized University, where Sam "Ask me any question" Benedict took over. You might think sitting in a classroom would be the last thing a high school student would want to do during winter break, but if Sam were a high school teacher, kids would look forward to class. After learning nearly 20 names in only a few minutes, Sam took us through the ins and outs of the bikes we'll be riding this season, showed some of the cool and impressive innovations they've employed, and of course, answered any and all questions with comedic style.
Next stop was the helmet testing and design area, where helmets were put through various states of torture to ensure our brains are well-protected - then made into cool and effectively cooling and surprisingly light shapes.
Of course, what's the point of working with bikes if you don't ride them? On to the self-proclaimed "world championship" noon ride we went, a brief yet brisk road ride with Specialized employees/cyclists under the winter sun. We were then treated to a burrito feast (thanks, Geoff!) and with our legs stretched and bellies full we continued the tour...
We checked out bike design (sorry, no rogue photos of future products...), the creative center of innovations and the testing facility, where products (frames, cranks, wheels, etc.) were hooked up to state-of-the-art computer-aided hydraulic machines and put through extremely rigorous and thorough stress-testing prior to even consideration of production. These guys instill real confidence in using Specialized products.
All in all, we were treated like we belonged - a welcome part of the company - a company that pushes the limits of performance in their products, driven by the highest standards, striving to exceed weight and stiffness limitations, optimizing the interface between rider and bike with a coolness factor defined by creativity, speed and fun. We are Specialized!