Editor’s Note: This article is part of the Mtbr Ultimate Guide to winter mountain biking, fat bikes, gear, apparel, lights and trainers. We are taking a deep dive into all manner of cold weather mountain bike gear, with round-ups and reviews of fat bikes, tires, wheels, apparel, trainers, lights and more. To see all the articles, head over to our Winter Guide Hub Page.
Specialized marketing manager Chris Riekert pulls no punches when summing up the state of the company’s apparel initiative. “For us, being taken seriously in apparel has been an uphill battle,” concedes Riekert. “Even when we have better product, we are often overlooked by the media and consumers because we are not an apparel brand.”
Fair point. On Mtbr and sister site RoadBikeReview, coverage of Specialized is overwhelmingly slanted to bikes, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Those posts are often among the most popular on the sites. And love or hate them, most will concede that Specialized makes some great two wheeled machines.
So what about their apparel? Truth is, we haven’t spent a ton of time in it. But in our limited experience wearing the Big Red S label (some of which you can read about in our round-up of Ultimate Arctic Weather Apparel coming soon), that experience has been wholly positive. And there is certainly no lack of it. This year’s Specialized catalog includes everything from ultra-high-end fat bike-specific kit to wind cheating road racer skin suits to the new RBX line, which is geared toward more casual outings.
To find out more, Mtbr interviewed Peter Curran, head of Specialized’s apparel design team, who among other things was responsible for the development of the company’s popular SWAT-equipped mountain bike clothing.
Mtbr: In a nutshell what is your day to day with Specialized?
Peter Curran: I lead the apparel team, including all clothing and gloves. Before that I was with Pearl Izumi, and before that with Burton Snowboards for a long time.
Mtbr: Why do you think it’s been an uphill battle to get the word out on what you’re producing?
PC: We make everything for the rider, but we’re obviously known for bikes and then we’re also really strong in some equipment categories such as tires. My team’s job is to get the same notoriety for apparel and we’ve had some big wins, the road skin suit, SWAT for mountain bike. But people still have certain impression when they think Specialized, and that is what we are trying to change. We tell a lot of stories coming out of this building and we have a lot of talented people in this building. We also have an entire sewing lab, pattern engineer, and seamstress so we can build prototypes and patterns in house. That’s a big change from the past. Now we can go from design to rideable prototype in 24 hours. It’s not just send your idea overseas and see what you get.
Mtbr: So sell us on Specialized apparel. What makes it enticing to the consumer?
PC: I think one very important thing we have going for us is that at Specialized we are surrounded by bikes and are at the forefront of what riders are doing on bikes. We see the way riding is changing. It’s important to be at a place that isn’t dedicated to one thing. Take SWAT. That would not have happened on its own. But our mountain bike people were seeing what riders were doing to stow gear, which in turn influenced our ideas and designs. Other companies may not get that insight because all they do is apparel.