The big S began when Mike Sinyard cut his 1974 bike tour of Europe short to spend the rest of his budget on Cinelli components. Shortly after, he started an import business and over the next several years, Mike added domestically-designed and overseas-produced clincher tires and American-made water bottles.
In 1981, the company debuted the Specialized Sequoia touring frame, Allez road racing frame, and Stumpjumper mountain bike frame. Specialized Bicycles was born.
The Stumpjumper was the first mass-produced MTB frame and a surprise smash success. Specialized grew along with the MTB explosion, and it foretold Specialized’s methods; great design, great looks, catchy names, and an emphasis on racing.
Racing is in Specialized’s blood and it is very evident through their history. They sponsored the first professional mountain bike team, Team Stumpjumper, and the first mountain bike world champ, Ned Overend. Specialized expanded into European professional racing in 2000 with the Festina team, winning the 2001 Vuelta. They won their first road worlds in 2002 under Mari Cipollini. Won the Ironman World Championship in 2007 under Chris McCormack. And kept going. Christopher Blevins won the first Short Track XC Worlds on an Epic hardtail. They were at the front of Red Hook Crits, and are at the forefront of gravel racing.
Specialized slays to be at the leading edge in bikes, helmets, gear, and soft goods. There’s an insatiable desire to compete no matter the genre. This also means their stuff is good, very good.
S-Works started in 1992, it is the name for Specialized’s top-of-the-line bikes and gear. It’s what their sponsored racers typically use. The latest-and-greatest usually gets the designation, so long as it's race-worthy. There are S-Works shoes, helmets, tires, and frames. Over time, S-Works innovations get incorporated into everyday products to make them lighter, stronger, stiffer, and more aero. S-Works products also test out concepts such as sizing; the result is the end of producing ‘women’s bikes’ per se, adjusting sizing to fit everyone.
The Specialized Stumpjumper came to define the early mountain bike. The Specialized Rockhopper was a more price-conscious model, bringing MTB riding to an even greater audience. The Epic redefined XC lightness as MTB racing became a hotly-contested sport. Next, the Horst Leitner-designed FSR, Future Shock Rear, advanced four-bar linkage rear suspension designs as downhill was evolving into its own. Specialized's line grew from there, embracing cross-country, trail, enduro, freeride, downhill, and now even electric Specialized mountain bikes.
While the Specialized Allez got the big-screen treatment in American Flyers, the model which won the Vuelta and the Worlds has been repurposed as the aluminum-frame racer. The Tarmac debuted in 2004, it has been the WorldTour carbon racer for over a decade. They’re up to their seventh iteration, SL7; it’s so fast that they retired their aero road bike, the Venge, in favor of it. With the Tarmac being as light as possible for pro racing, they decided to build an even lighter bike for everyday riders; the Aethos. And for those who like endurance geometry, rough roads, or both, the Roubaix is both fast and comfortable.
Specialized has been working toward modern gravel bikes for a long time. They had cyclocross bikes, like the Tri-Cross and Crux, and the Roubaix. The Diverge grew out of the Roubaix, providing clearance for gravel tires while providing front suspension via the Future Shock built into the steerer. Then, seeing the need for a faster gravel bike, they retooled the Crux, so it is light and nimble like a cyclocross bike while having the tire clearance for epic gravel adventures. Both the current Crux and Diverge have room for 47mm tires, which are larger than the legendary Specialized Ground Control tire, which at 1.95” was an early MTB standard. Maybe that’s why the Diverge EVO is around; a flat-bar gravel bike with a Future Shock. It’s a svelte mountain bike.
Since they started becoming popular options, the company quickly went deep on e-bikes. Specialized’s electric bike line, all receive the “Turbo” moniker, currently includes 59 models. Encompassing commuting with the Turbo Como, touring with the Turbo Vado, road riding with the Turbo Creo, cross-country with the Turbo Tero, trail with the Turbo Levo, and enduro models (the Turbo Kenevo), with several motors and control brains, there is a bike and level of boost for just about everyone. Specialized designed the motors, batteries, controllers, and frames; they had a vision for creating everything to best make that vision become reality.