Thanks to Mike Green over at BikeBlogNYC.com I was invited to go preview Specialized Bicycles 2012 line of bicycles, apparel & accessories that just happened to be next to ASICS & Onisuka Tiger’s 2012 line previews. For the full mens lines reviews – head over there. We’ll be concentrating on the ladies and unisex offerings and a follow up with the ASICS & Onitsuka Tiger preview to come.
Here’s what I’m excited about: the Ladies Jett mountain bike (I know totally out of character – but it’s awesome!), the mid-level Men’s Sirrus (I have lots of male friends who ask me about what bike is going to be the best for them) and some of the accessories – such as the WireTap full finger riding gloves (for men & women) that let you use a touch screen without taking the glove off. I haven’t tried it – but it sure looks like early Winter/Spring riding just got 35% more comfortable right there. The ladies matching accessories look like they’re headed to a good place. For now it’s really the cute mini pumps and triangle waterproof mini-bags that I think are quite something.
In general all the bikes – particularly the entry level “urban” category that used to be “hybrid” no longer look like embarrassing beach cruiser/huffy mash-ups. It’s something that the Specialized managers made pretty clear in the presentation: that because the American public is taking cycling more seriously they’re making bikes that take riders seriously. So there goes the curved short length top tubes! That’s something of a risk when many of these are designed to be an adults’ first bike. But any way you slice it – I think it’s a good thing. Even the components are less ridiculous: instead of a triple front ring, the new SRAM configuration 34/48 x 11/36 has a formidable range, but is lighter, sexier and far more practical. The handlebars and top tubes are remarkable different from before and they look so good you just want to jump on them, grab them and pedal away. They look less like “products” than ever before and more like adventures waiting to happen.
While this is most successful and noticeable on the men’s line the women’s line – called the Vita (something I previously couldn’t stand to look at) is now what it should have been all along; a great match for women who look at a bike and think fitness rides and recreation. It’s not going to win over hard core enthusiasts, but it will give a lot of new women riders a great first adult bike or upgrade from a beater.
One of the bigger bummers of an otherwise great preview was that the line of super-hot commuter bikes with all the latest trends is only being released in Europe. Understandable since the American market won’t be able to justify the expense of releasing it here – but it’s the best of what’s to come (eventually). Internal shifter hubs, a fancy redesigned back carrier, geometry and tech upgrades and even a carbon belt drive instead of ye olde metal chain.
The Globe line isn’t “Specialized” it’s its’ own thing. So I’ll review it separately.
First: I really like what the company has done to understand the urban/city cyclist. Not just as a big national market, but as a series of tribes known for being difficult to reach out to. They’re working on collaborations, looking to young & trendy designers for their product line and trying to integrate some of the smaller fetish-ized details that make city riders squeal with glee.
And clearly a lot of work has gone into it: for example each model has their own unique handlebars and these are individually designed and manufactured, rear hubs on the ROLL urban/fixed gear/Single Speed have pretty colored details and a cut out indicating where the tube spoke is. Unfortunately it’s always a balance and some of these details are lost in a rather generic “made in China/Taiwan”construction. So many urban riders who love these bright fixed gears also love customizing the colors of all the little parts from frames to headsets and tires. With an off the shelf version – that’s not possible. It’s the trade off of achieving a certain price point and doing business as a major brand – but for most people these bikes are more accessible than the custom made European or American workshops, while still providing most of the style & experience. They’ve even produced a limited edition – hinting that they’re onto the desire for intensive hands-on design by fixed gear enthusiasts.
Also – because it’s a stand alone brand each model has it’s own look and should appeal to different people. The DAILY the “everyday errand runner” is cute & a good contender in that space with an outstanding rear rack design – but it’s not quite as “classic” as other brands’ versions – it’s a bit more “mod.”
Where things really come together appears to be the Roll 8 – an 8 gear version of the Fixed/SS offering. It’s a basic ride – the wheels aren’t carbon fiber or rainbow colored. The parts aren’t very high-end. But it’s incredibly well-thought out and there are some very satisfying details that will make it a great bike. The handle bars and shifters are elegant and unique. The colorways are a dignified grey with brown handlebars and seat but with lime green minimal accents and construction that scream ‘bike love.’ And I think that’s the idea that GLOBE is trying to get across: that most people aren’t looking for a high end custom toy or rocket ship. That they have their own ideas about comfort and how they get around, the parts of a bike that are most enjoyable in an every day way.