Specialized have the internet alive with speculation that maybe, just maybe they'll start producing 650B wheeled bikes. It‘s a story which for many will draw wheel sized yawns, but dig a little deeper and there are a range of possible connotations.
For a start, if the new Fast Track S-Works, Ground Control, Purgatory Grid and Butcher Control rolling stock are indeed coming to market (as declared by Bicycle Retailer) Specialized will have their own rubber to OEM on their bikes.
Before we get into the quagmire of theories of if, when and how they could launch such bikes, it’s worth remembering that Specialized sell a LOT of tyres and might just want to cater for the new segment. Just a thought...
Their heavy investment in 29ers over the last few years very much played to the US market’s happy obsession with them. Other ‘big’ brands such as Giant and Scott pushing their chips so heavily into 650B won't have gone unnoticed at Morgan Hill however.
Specialized have pushed their Enduro 29 out there as a watershed bike – long travel married to light weight and big wheels. It’s been extremely well received too, but availability outside of the US has been limited.
Coloradan brand, Yeti, announced the effective death of their 26in wheeled bikes earlier in the year citing virtually non-existent pre-orders compared to the medium wheel format. Is the smaller difference in feel compared to shifting from 26in to 29in swaying the bike buying public? And if it is, can Specialized afford to miss the boat?
Can Specialized afford to miss the boat?
Of course, look passed the, ‘Specialized are climbing down off their (29in wheeled) horse!’, hysteria and there’s a more cynical, slightly more likely explanation for all this – marketing (cue dramatic thunder clap and lightning bolt).
The big red may have played a master stroke in letting everyone else do the leg work in frantically promoting the new wheel size, getting it out there, widely accepted and atop the communal ‘my next bike’ wishlists.
As previously mentioned, they invested heavily in wagon-wheelers so why not let the enviable sales figures tick over and save the marketing budget?!
Everyone seems to be naively mistaking Specialized for four or five ernest, slightly crusty, mountain bikers attempting to dictate what the rest of us will want to ride rather than the huge $500 million multi-national they actually are.
650B is too big a trend to miss and companies as large and as influencial as Specialized don't tend to miss many trends.