Specialized Bicycle Components, Inc., colloquially known as and stylized as SPECIALIZED, is an American company that designs, manufactures and markets bicycles, bicycle components and related products under the brand name “Specialized”, as well as the premium and professional oriented “S-works”.
The company was founded in 1974 by Mike Sinyard, a cycling enthusiast who sold his Volkswagen Bus for $1,500 to fund a cycle tour of Europe, where he bought handlebars and stems made by Cinelli to take back to the US. Sinyard started out importing Italian bike components that were difficult to find in the United States, but the company began to produce its own bike parts by 1976, starting with the Specialized Touring Tire. In 1981, the company introduced its first two bikes, the Sequoia, a sport-touring design and the Allez, a road bike. Specialized also introduced the first major production mountain bike in the world, the Stumpjumper, in 1981. Like the Sequoia and Allez, the Stumpjumper was designed by Tim Neenan and based on an early Tom Ritchey design. Specialized continues to produce bikes under the Stumpjumper name, including both hardtail and full-suspension models. An original Stumpjumper is displayed in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. In 1989, Specialized introduced the Epic, the world’s second mass-production carbon fiber mountain bike.
In the early 1990s, Specialized introduced the Globe line of urban bikes. The line was the subject of a major relaunch in 2009, which saw Globe become its own distinct brand. The Globe brand has since been discontinued, and Specialized now markets “lifestyle” bikes under its main brand.
In 1995, Specialized launched the Full Force brand. Full Force was a lower-end mountain bike brand sold through sporting goods stores and discount retailers such as Costco. The move angered some Specialized dealers. In 1996, Specialized withdrew the Full Force line and Mike Sinyard wrote a letter of apology to dealers. By the end of 1996, Specialized had lost 30% of its bike shop sales and, according to Sinyard, “came within a few hundred dollars of declaring bankruptcy”.
In 2001, Merida Bikes of Taiwan bought 49% of Specialized (initially reported as 19%) for a reported US$30 million. Mike Sinyard remained majority owner and CEO of the company. As of 2016, Specialized is one of the biggest bicycle brands operating in the United States, alongside Trek Bicycle Corporation and Giant Bicycles.