I’ve just never been a big fan of Specialized. I’ve owned three of them over the years, but all were purchased on snap decisions. I can honestly say that I’ve never lusted after a Specialized. The very idea is comical to me in fact. They are now the largest bicycle company in the world, and are even less lust-worthy than ever before.
We’re going to dig deep into Specialized here, so you may want to get yourself settled with a snack or a drink before you begin.
Specialized is of course known for being among the first to mass produce a mountain bike, the seminal Stumpjumper. I do have to give credit for them maintaining the Stumpjumper all these years – although it’s not same bike at all. Rocky Mountain built the Blizzard for 31 years, and it was still steel at the end, but the current Stumpjumper is a aluminum carbon fully suspended hardtail 29er 650b.
I’ll explain that later.
What I didn’t know though, (and this comes from Wikipedia so have those large grains of salt handy) is that Specialized founder Mike Sinyard just bought a Fisher/Ritchey in 1980 or whenever it was, shipped it off to a factory in Taiwan, and said ‘copy it.’
Full disclosure; this is what the Wikipedia article says;
The first Stumpjumper was produced in Japan and was based on a design for a custom-made bike originally marketed by Tom Ritchey, Gary Fisher and Charles Kelly
I read that as ‘Sinyard had a Ritchey copied’ but I could see how that’s not necessarily what happened.
Bicycling profiled Sinyard and likened him to Steve Jobs, which is probably helping a lot with my interpretation of events. It feels like a good analogy though. Like Apple, Specialized makes you think they’re big time innovating, but it’s more about image. I’m sure though, like Apple, the product is great, but the problem is that they probably refer to their bikes as ‘product.
Back to that first Stumpjumper – in hindsight, this was clearly a smart move business-wise, but not that impressive if your industry heroes are guys like Paul Brodie, Chris Dekerf, Derek Bailey, Frank Wadelton, Tom Ritchey, and Joe Murray. You know, the guys that actually welded the frames together and made the bikes work.
Enough of that though, Let’s talk about the bikes shall we?
For 2013 Specialized has 14 mountain bike lines. Not models, lines. I’m not going to count all the models because I have to work in the morning, but let’s look at the Stumpjumper FSR lines first;
There are 11 Stumpjumper FSR models, including the S-Works Stumpjumper FSR Carbon 29, the Stumpjumper FSR Expert Carbon EVO, and the evocatively named Stumpjumper FSR Expert Carbon 29.
Why isn’t there a Stumpjumper FSR Expert Carbon EVO 29 you ask?
“WTF is that??” would be my reply.
I can’t even say that the Stumpjumper FSR is for a particular type of riding, because depending on the model, the suspension travel varies from 5 to 8 inches. So, they’re trail bikes I guess, or maybe “enduro” bikes – but probably not because I think that is yet again a separate line…
Also, there is a Stumpjumper line with seven more bikes, separate from the Stumpjumper FSR line. These are hardtails, and all of them are 29ers. So at least that is pretty easy to understand. Why the Stumpjumper FSR and Epic lines can’t be combined somehow, is not.
This the S-Works Epic Carbon 29 Sram. Part of the Epic line by the way, not the S-Works line. There doesn’t appear to be an S-Works line, it’s just one of the many modifiers, like EVO, and Expert. It’s a 4 inch travel bike and therefore I’m pretty sure made for racing.
So, if you’ve been paying attention, or care about this at all, you’ve noticed they have two lines featuring 4 inch travel bikes. Why? I think that they feel the need to have that Stumpjumper name on a fully suspended bike – I don’t see any other reason.
Things could be so much simpler. Stumpjumpers are hardtails. FSRs are fully suspended. S-Works are your extra expensive bikes (like AMG is to Mercedes-Benz). And that’s it.
Except it’s not.
There’s “Epic” and “EVO” and “Expert” and “Comp” and “Elite” and I swear I am not making this up. I keep going back to their website to find another modifier, then back to this post, and it just looks ridiculous. But it’s all true.
In fact, it’s even worse. I actually wrote most of this post in 2013, before the widespread adoption of 650b wheels. This year Specialized finally decided 27.5 was a viable option, so you need to mix in 27.5 versions of nearly every bike discussed so far.
I can only imagine the nightmare that must be trying to keep track of these bikes on the sales floor. I don’t even want to finish this blog post anymore. My desire to make fun of Specialized has been crushed by the sheer weight of their insane bike line.
I wonder if retailers have dudes selling peanuts, popcorn, and programs like at ball games? ”You can’t tell the players without a program!”
Maybe if you found someone that was a total keener, and went to Stumpjumper Camp or whatever they have – and they must have something like this, because knowing their lineup would take more training then being a barista at Starbucks – you’d have a chance at finding the bike you want.
I don’t think I’d even try. I wasn’t interested in Specialized before I wrote this, and after trying to figure out their bikes, I actively dislike them.
Go ahead and get one though, I’d love to hear how the process went for you.