‘We’re crazy about human bikes’: Mike Sinyard on e-bikes, the new Tarmac SL8 and more

10th August 2023

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 336: ‘We’re crazy about human bikes’: Mike Sinyard on e-bikes, the new Tarmac SL8 and more

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Mike Sinyard and Ben Edwards

TOPICS: Interview with Specialized founder and chairman Mike Sinyard at the UCI World Cycling Championships, Glasgow.

Video snippet of this interview on YouTube


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 336 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered Thursday 10th August 2023.

David Bernstein 0:28
The spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles. The good people at Tern are committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day and dependable enough to carry the people you love. In other words, they make the kind of bikes that they want to ride. Tern has e bikes for every type of rider. Whether you’re commuting, taking your kids to school or even carrying another adult, visit www. ternbicycles.com. That’s t e r n bicycles.com to learn more.

Carlton Reid 1:04
I recorded today’s show in Glasgow at the UCI world cycling championships. I’m Carlton Reid, and as well as a 50 kilometre hilly bike ride on the all new S-Works Tarmac SL8 road bike, I got a chance to talk with Specialized founder and today’s chairman, Mike Sinyard and the company’s global marketing lead Ben Edwards. You have a very very nice bike. Yeah, here. Yeah, you’re not here just to launch the bike. There’s a kind of a nice event happen. Event. Many, many events just happening outside here. So you’ve been to quite a few of the world championship events?

Mike Sinyard 1:48
Yeah. Through the through the years there this year coming on 50 years for specialized. Wow, it’s a long time. Yeah. No, but this is quite beautiful to have the super worlds, you know, and everything. Yeah, the events here at one time is is quite special. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 2:06
Yeah. That’s cool. We’ve been to Glasgow before. No, no, no. Scotland has been to Scotland before. For various championships down the years and stuff.

Mike Sinyard 2:16
No, I haven’t really known for different championships. No.

Carlton Reid 2:20
So the bike that you’ve you’ve you’ve launching? Yes. Here. The people writing it in these events? Or why why launch it just because tonnes of bike media, tonnes of bike people out? Why are you? Why here? Well.

Mike Sinyard 2:37
So we’ve been working on this bike, we say this is everything we know for 50 years. And although it doesn’t look that exotic it is, it really is. The sum of everything that we’ve done with this bike is very, very special.

Carlton Reid 2:55
So that that that I know you were going to call the snot rocket at some at one point. It’s good not to be that it’s not rocket. But that is quite a bulbous nose. You’ve got there, Mike,

Mike Sinyard 3:07
we call that. The nose. Speed. Speed sniffer?

Mike Sinyard 3:13
Yeah, yeah, we

Mike Sinyard 3:14
thought that was good,

Carlton Reid 3:15
better. That’s not rocket I definitely agree. So is that is that because I also read that almost 50% of the arrow savings are coming from the handlebars. So it’s what’s what’s happening here is the handle, right?

Mike Sinyard 3:28
Ben knows more of the detail than I do.

Ben Edwards 3:30
Right? When it comes down to is after, you know, like Mike said, you know, decades of development. And you know, now we’ve been in a wind tunnel for a decade, the aero understanding of the team is, is incredible. And they’ve really identified that look, we need to attack the leading edge of this bike in a brand new way. That’s at the leading edge in a way we haven’t seen before. And attacking the leading edge like that, whether it’s the bars, the head to the fork blades, gave them incredible opportunity in the rear of the bike, to work on lightweight ride quality, to bring all of those features together in a way that has never been done before. So really, when you look at the aero of the bike, it’s really about attacking the aero where it truly matters. And then everywhere else, we’ll work on that ride quality, that lightweight. And that’s how that combination comes together.

Carlton Reid 4:15
That’s Specialized global marketing lead Ben Edwards there. And you can see him Mike and me in a video of part of this interview that I’ve embedded on the show notes page on the-spokesmen.com. But now back to Glasgow, and then you’ve had your gender neutral stance for two years, more than two years. But beyond gender. Yeah, much more than two years, more than two years. Yeah. So this is a bike that this is not going to be shrink it and pink is a different version. This is gonna be the same for women.

Mike Sinyard 4:48
And we discovered I think it was like, five years or six years. Oh, sorry. Yeah. And, in fact, when we you know, we have all the retrieval data and we had all this data from the different writers And we’ve and we really found that there was, sometimes there was more difference between two men, in some cases than a man and a woman. And the same thing out, we’re taking that analysis also on the shoes, so it was like, but in areas that really make a difference under saddles and other areas, then we really go deep. But we didn’t want to try to create a difference where there wasn’t a difference.

Carlton Reid 5:27
That kind of makes sense. But yeah, and it has less SKUs as well.

Mike Sinyard 5:30
You kind of like, well, yeah, and it was just more logical a lot of times that when we’re saying, hey, I want to ride the regular, the regular tarmac instead of the So, so it was kind of like one of those aha moments.

Carlton Reid 5:44
So that’s an exotic beast. And is that the one I’m riding tomorrow? Or is it what are we riding tomorrow? So what are we riding that tomorrow? So that’s an exotic English money. That’s 12,000 pounds. So it’s an expensive beast?

Ben Edwards 5:57
That’s one’s Remco’s. So you’re not riding that one.

Carlton Reid 5:59
Not that particular one. No.

Mike Sinyard 6:01
But yet, what is cool is like, you know, the one that we sell is the same one. Yes, yes. That you buy, right. It’s very, very special.

Carlton Reid 6:11
And the bikes, we’re gonna be riding tomorrow and the course we’re on. Fantastic that we are riding such exotic, beautiful 12,000 pound machines. But anybody out there who hasn’t got 12,000 pounds to spend the technology on here is on the other layers of bike as well, the other iterations but not the handlebars. Is that right? Is that handlebars is on the top.

Ben Edwards 6:36
You can get the handlebars on the top two levels of bike. Right? So yeah, we do bring the handlebars down. But when you look at the frame set itself, that same technology, so if you buy an expert level mic, you’re gonna have the exact same type of ride quality type of field stiffness, the arrow Evander the frames that you get out of that $4,000 is worse. It is a different carbon.

Mike Sinyard 6:57
Yeah, the layup the material of the carbon and the layup is a lower level.

Ben Edwards 7:02
I think what’s what’s so impressive about it, though, is this bikes frame was 685 grammes, right, which makes it the lightest frame on the World Tour. You look at the fact that 10R carbon, which is that next level down that lower level bike, that weighs only 100 grammes more, which still makes it potentially the second or third lightest bike.

Carlton Reid 7:22
And Ben much is that?

Ben Edwards 7:24
So we can get you all the presses and sell sheets? Everything. So you have all those details? really accurate based on the latest news?

Carlton Reid 7:33
Okay, it’s frightening the way that you said that it’s dollar dollar pound parody. That’s quite frightening. But normally we’d like almost half, you know, when you say don’t use could be, it used to be anyway, that’s, that’s our economic problems, not yours. So when when I was with you in Morgan Hill in 2015, one of the questions I know I asked was about how much of your company will become an electric bike company? And I probably said in 510 years. And I’d have to go back and actually see with my notes and see what you said there. But has that accelerated faster than you thought? Or you think it’s the same? The kind of the trajectory is what you maybe thought in 2015? Where we’d have a as a global bike industry where we’d have a bikes today?

Mike Sinyard 8:23
Yeah, good point, I would say it’s definitely accelerated. It’s accelerated more than we thought. And I would say, because the acceptance on two fronts on a one day enthusiast Bronto going, that’s really cool. And it’s not pedestrian or this not because I’m a weak writer, it’s even cooler. Right, on that side. And then I think, on the other side, a lot of people that maybe weren’t writers who are hadn’t written for a long time, come in. And so it’s kind of made made it easier for cycling, to really be social. You know, I mean, it’s a pretty tough sport, right? It’s all about, you know, dropping people and things like that. But it’s like, with, with the electric, hey, everybody can have fun, and you can determine how much you want to work. Right. And so I think it was just made, like years ago, when the mountain bike came out, I, I would say the beautiful thing about the mountain bike is everybody was invited in young kids, middle aged kids, or kids, you know, whatever. And it was like, it wasn’t who was the fastest it was who had the most fun. So it really made the activity of cycling much greater. Whereas the road thing historically was a little bit too narrow. So so for that reason, and I think just the fun of it, and people realise As in, hey, I can get around quickly on the bike. And I can still get a lot of workout. I mean, there’s so many people I know they’ve got one of our limos or one of those other bikes, and they go, she’s you know, I’ve lost 1010 kilos, you know, just from riding this bike, and I feel great. So now beautiful

Carlton Reid 10:20
bikes. I’ve had one on test. Thank you.

Mike Sinyard 10:22
So it’s, it’s great. I think from that standpoint, I would say it’s gonna continue to go.

Carlton Reid 10:28
So you’re known for these bikes here. Of course, the alternative to E bikes. So how, what’s the proportion between specialized e bikes and specialized road? Or just any other bike? That isn’t electric?

Mike Sinyard 10:40
Yeah. You mean as far as the business? Yeah, I would say it’s, it’s getting to be about a little less than half the electric. Okay. Yeah. In the business.

Carlton Reid 10:53
So other companies are definitely almost 60% 70% Yeah, they are going bad. Do you? Do you see, specialized Yeah,

Mike Sinyard 11:00
I see is going there. And, and but I would say this part. We call it the, the muscular bikes. This one guy in Latin America, he calls it the human likes to laugh. Sometimes we joke in the US that these are the Amish bikes. But I would say they were always known for this. Right. And the mountain bikes as well. So we, we keep going with that. So

Carlton Reid 11:29
to 50 is pretty good. I must go back to my notes from I should have done this before I can just as find out what you said back then.

Mike Sinyard 11:36
I don’t put much No, you probably

Carlton Reid 11:38
thought it might last

Mike Sinyard 11:39
No. adoption has been really good. And and I would say the people that came in with the electric, I would say we brought new people into the activity, for sure.

Carlton Reid 11:53
Because I’m a historian. So I’m a historian of cycling in the 1890s, early 1900s When all of those bike companies actually morphed into either motorbike companies, or an awful lot of them, like dodge or Chrysler, they all became car companies. So the bike became a car. And it’s very, you can you can imagine the Segway of a bike becoming a motorbike quite easily. But oh, yeah.

Mike Sinyard 12:19
Well, Honda is a car. Example. Yeah, Euro Honda, right? Yeah.

Carlton Reid 12:25
So my question would have been then, would have been probably the same would have been? Can you ever imagine a time where specialised is almost like Harley Davidson? In that it only motorised bicycles? Do you think there’s always going to be a space for the human bicycle in specialised? Because there are all those bike companies that were bike companies 100% within 2030 years, you know, we’re, we’re motorbike companies, right? Could the same happen to specialised?

Mike Sinyard 12:58
No, one no. Because we’re too crazy about this part of it. And, and, in fact, you know, it’s funny when you’re a peddler like you are. And then you get on, like, a vivo or a creo. You appreciate it even more. Right? Because, you know, you know, it’s kind of like, that’s why we say it’s you only faster, right? So the appreciation is you and then the extra. So I would say for us. No, no, we’re always going to be with with the human bikes.

Carlton Reid 13:37
Yeah, but it is gonna get smaller.

Mike Sinyard 13:41
Yeah, yeah, I think so I think certain of the segment like the road bike and the mountain bike, and there’s this, as you know, there’s a certain purity to that this really enjoyable, right?

Carlton Reid 13:55
I’m gonna cut in there for a quick commercial break. And I’m gonna take you across to my colleague, David.

David Bernstein 14:01
Hello, everyone. This is David from the Fredcast and of course, the spokesmen. And I’m here once again to tell you that this podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles. The good people at Tern build bikes that make it easier for you to replace car trips with bike trips. Part of that is being committed to designing useful bikes that are also fun to ride. But an even greater priority for Tern is to make sure that your ride is safe and worryfree and that’s why Tern works with industry leading third party testing labs like E FB, E, and builds it bikes around Bosch ebike systems which are UL certified for both electric and fire safety. So before you even zip off on your Tern, fully loaded, and perhaps with a loved one behind, you can be sure that the bike has been tested to handle the extra stresses on the frame and the rigours of the road. For more information, visit www.ternbicycles.com to learn more. And now, back to the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 15:10
Thanks, David. And we are back in Glasgow, with Mike Sinyard and a little bit of Ben Edwards. And we had a the industry had a good COVID in that we sold a whole tonne of bikes, kind of it was pretty well expected that it probably wouldn’t last and we would have this major falling off a cliff, which we did. Where are we now? Are we are we climbing back up that cliff? And we have we suffered so much from that glut of inventory? Van? It’s it’s even a take a few years from now. Where do you see the industry as a whole? Not just specialized? Yeah. Where do you see the industry right now?

Mike Sinyard 15:47
Well, I would say, yeah, it was like, You know what I loved about, I guess you’d say the good thing about the COVID, right. In some ways, it brought people back to the regular to their values of the family, in the home. And whenever there’s a lot of stress in the world, a lot of time people returned to the bicycle. And even sometime when there’s like, in different parts of the worlds, there’s a lot of layoffs like a Silicon Valley, everybody laid off. Well guess what? Bikes, people riding their bikes like crazy. And I think we saw that during COVID. And so I think there’s a lot more cyclists out there. Now, I would say, okay, it went up a little bit, it went up a lot, and nobody can keep up. But I would say, Did it come, it hasn’t come back to the lower level that it did before, is still higher.

Carlton Reid 16:46
Right? Because you founded your company. When the bike boom was based that the 70s Bike boom was pretty much finished. It was it was in the death throes when you wrote when you found your company. So you’ve been through an enormous amount

Mike Sinyard 17:00
of everything seemed like an improvement.

Carlton Reid 17:03
We think there’s enough people kind of came along like Cannondale was at the same time track obviously was rough at the same time. So those companies came about an angular eight Schwinn’s breakfast eventually. But they came about because of the boom, and then stuck around, do you think the similar is going to happen in that the industry will kind of catch up and stay at a higher level than pre COVID?

Mike Sinyard 17:29
Yes, I think it is, I think it is already to a higher level, it definitely is for us at that higher level. And I think it’ll maintain there. And but probably not for all, as you read, there’s been a lot of people leaving, you know, because of this because of the crunch. But I think long term, or even this year, and next year,

Carlton Reid 17:56
is better given there are too many brands, do you think there are too many brands?

Mike Sinyard 18:01
Well, that’s for the consumer to design? Yeah, it seems like seemed like a lot. But you know, there’s all kinds of flavour for different people and and I think cycling, you think about all the forces coming together, right? environmental things. And for sure, the the thing of people wanting to express themselves and, and feel free riding the bike. And then people, I think we’re ended up with so many lifetimes, cyclists now. Really believe that, and the ebike is adding to that the momentum continues that way. And

Carlton Reid 18:48
as you mentioned, environmental there. So that was one of my questions now would have been, where do you see the bicycle in a climate change? In a world of climate change? Do you see that as a growth area? Or do you still see it’s going to be health? Where’s where’s the future growth going to come from? Do you think there’ll be any boost from the growing awareness of climate change? And maybe how we should be getting around in by different means?

Mike Sinyard 19:14
Well, I think we already see it. And I think there will be even more in the future. And for people living in the city, whether they’re doing it for climate benefit, as just practical, you can get around, whereas in the car, you’re stuck, you know, maybe take you hour and on the bike and take you 15 minutes and you feel better. And I believe that more you know, we have the outride that we’ve been working on and and started 11 years ago with Harvard Medical and now working with Stanford and all these students we have 50,000 kids go through. So I would say we have proved that. The kid And, and the research has proven as a fact, not a hypothesis, but a fact that how cycling lights up your brain, we even have that device, right? The device, the helmet device, and you can see like a person, you know, before and after enduring. And it’s a fact, right. And it’s just opening it up. And so you know, as we say pedals, pedals, not pills, sometimes these characters need to get out and ride and in light up their brains. And so we prove that that works. That is a fact. And I’m proud of that. And it’s not about specialising in the bike industry is a much bigger thing. But that was the thing I wanted to happen is just to prove it, to where at some point, even your next door neighbour will know that that is a fact.

Carlton Reid 21:02
And where does gravel fit in for you?

Mike Sinyard 21:05
Yeah, gravel? Well, I think it’s it’s a wonderful thing. Being able to hear you think about gravel and it’s like, I think the road bikes even all the road bikes are gravitating. One thing I wanted to mention about the outright. It here’s another thing is in the world, you know, the thing for Ageing adults with dementia, that one of the things we believe, and we believe that we can improve that even more impact for Ageing adults, in staving keeping off their dementia, from lighting up the brain, where we’re sure that in some of the early research shows that right? Because it is a circulatory issue. But you know, and then you talk about gravel? Well, I think the idea of the of the bigger tire, like the writing your son is doing or whatever. It just makes sense, right? Going into gravel, you know, you hear a car behind you, you pull over keep riding on the dirt. I think it’s just it’s the way to go. Right?

Carlton Reid 22:18
I’m assuming that you’re still doing your lunchtime rides, you’re still going out? Are you going on a gravel bike? Are you going on a road bike? Do you mix it up?

Mike Sinyard 22:27
Well, where we live is more on the on the road bike. But most of the riding I do now is off road, on the mountain bike or like on or diverge or something like that a lot?

Carlton Reid 22:40
And then have you? Are you part of the design process? Do you do you put input in or you like,

Mike Sinyard 22:46
I like I like to taste it? On some things? I’m not to the level to communicate about this, but I definitely I can feel the difference of things. Yeah, so yeah.

Carlton Reid 23:07
What do you ride? Do you kind of get a brand new bike all the time, I’m gonna do something new.

Mike Sinyard 23:14
I always like riding with different people. So so. So I’ll ride the epic go off in the, in the woods, right in epic, or some time we have a bigger group from this one house that I have. So we’ll all go out on Levos so everybody’s equal. I love riding Diverge.

Carlton Reid 23:34
It’s happening. I got a favourite bike from the 1990s or something that fits you and it’s just you know, what bike? Would you always go out on the latest iteration the latest model that you’ve got? Or would you

Carlton Reid 23:49
go to ride the new one.

Mike Sinyard 23:52
And then, and then I realise you then I can feel the difference of the new one. And then I still liked the old one. So I ended up keeping it. But the difference is a lot. And then you look at the old bicycle. That’s good. And then you ride it and go

Carlton Reid 24:09
oh, obviously, bike industry people or any product people in any sphere, say the latest bike, the latest tin of beans or whatever. That’s the that’s the greatest. But you’re saying here because well, I’m now going to bring us all way back to this bike. So you’re saying that is the one bike and that fits on all the technologies which you’ve been you’ve been premiering over the last 50 years, that it’s all in that one bike. And that’s now what you would say is the ideal bike which then makes begs the question, well, what you’re doing next year and the year after.

Mike Sinyard 24:47
Sometime, that’s when the team does something I go. Now what are we going to do next time to make it that much better? And what I like About this bike is like, also, this could be the race bike. This is the race bike for the top top riders. But also, we just want a great bike. This is the bike. And it’s also because the compliance of the bike, I always like a bike with a lot of compliance, because I like going for the long rides. And I like the feel of the bike, you know, to be like, I like bigger tires and that feeling. I don’t like it like too sharp like that. I like the feel. And like, that’s why I like riding the crux a lot. And writing in that in the dirt. I almost feel like it has a certain suspension with the with the frame. Yeah,

Carlton Reid 25:48
just based on my question that on like, almost on the iPhone, like the the new iPhone is coming out next month. But you know, for a fact that the engineers, you know, in two years time have got this even better. iPhone, so they come on the stage. This is remember had,

Mike Sinyard 26:04
Is 15th? That’s going out?

Carlton Reid 26:06
Yeah, and they’ve got to say, well, actually, in their heads, they must know if we’ve got even better, you know, iPhone coming out next year. And how do you sell that? Yeah. What is like, the progression can you make in the bike?

Mike Sinyard 26:19
Well, you know, what, is always the question, right? And as soon as you get it, you get that down, you’re thinking? Well, you know, there’s always material advancements, and other things and other ways of testing. And it’s like, you kind of make it a bike like that is like Formula One, if you ever read about that, you know, like we work with McLaren before, and just like, every little thing, everything, every little, tiniest thing, and all those little things added up makes a big difference, right? You know, sometimes, like the team will do something new on the tire with the compound, or the or the other things and you go, Oh my gosh, is you can what I love is when you can be right it and you can feel it. And you go God, how’d you do that? Well, it wasn’t one thing. It was maybe a couple of 100 things that adds up together as a tanky. Right. I always liked that like Formula One. I’m not really a fan, but I liked the process of like a car crashes and they bring all those parts back and they look at this and every you know, like McLaren when Dennison was there doing that it was like that’s a it’s a way of thinking. Right? That that we apply into something like this.

Carlton Reid 27:44
Thanks to Mike Sinyard there and a little bit of Ben Edwards too. And thanks to you for listening to Episode 336 of the spokesmen podcast brought to you in association with Tern bicycles. Show notes, and more can be found at the-spokesman.com. The next episode will be a traffic counting special out later this month. But meanwhile, get out there and ride …

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