4 Questions with founder and chairman of Specialized, Mike Sinyard

Inducted to the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 1988 he has been around the sport for longer than most and has seen the rapid development and evolution of the game. We tracked him down for a couple of questions on the evolution of the sport and particularly the current E-Bike wave.

Mike Sinyard at the global launch of the Specialized Turbo Levo.

BN: Thanks for your time Mike, let’s dive right in — the rise in E-Bike popularity is significant, the pedal assist phenomenon is being used in multiple applications around the world right. My question is a few years back who would have imagined this and why do you think they are becoming so popular?

Mike Sinyard: It is really simple, it’s so fun, right. It is so fun. You are still getting a tremendous workout and the technology is that its ‘you only faster’ and it just feels great — as you witnessed yourself.

BN: Looking back at the evolution of mountain bikes over the last 30 years, we had many ‘game changer’ innovations like the introduction of suspension forks, then full suspension bikes, then carbon fiber frames, then the 29″ wheel size. These innovations were all met with a lot of initial resistance from consumers before being embraced and becoming industry standards. Do you think E-Bikes are in a similar space and why in your opinion are some consumers hesitant to give them a go?

Mike Sinyard: Yea – this is just another innovation that is initially met with resistance. In fact you know I often relay to people here at the company when our mountain bike first came out and there was tremendous resistance from bike shops, tremendous resistance from road riders saying ‘hey this is a big kids BMX.’ Now, we see the same thing with E-Bikes – people go ‘ah this is not a true bike, that’s cheating’, you know. The say ‘hey if you are strong why do you need to ride one of those’. That’s because its really, really fun, especially if the machine is really good, like our Levo. Really if you think about it, on the road the Vado E-Bike replaces the car in many instances, and on the Levo it’s just the power to ride more trails. It’s also being used as a utility for the forest service because it’s so quiet and it doesn’t disturb the animals.”

The very early days at the Specialized HQ.

BN: Mike, when did you personally really take to the E-Bike category? Was there a personal experience you recall that really triggered your affinity for the category? Like, if you had an injury or illness, or if there was a particular section of trail that you battled with, that the E-Bike changed?

Mike Sinyard: The pivotal moment for me on the E-Bike, well – I was not in favour of it in the beginning and the team said ‘Mike, shut up and ride this bike’ and I rode it and I said ‘OMG, this is amazing!’ This is still a beautiful bike and you are using your own power, and if I am slower than you then I am still gonna be slower than you if we are riding E-Bikes. But it’s just so fun. It brings more people into riding. It’s not about somebody being weak and that they can’t ride, it’s about somebody wanting to have more fun. Or it’s an equalizer – like when I go out with my son, who is really a strong rider who was at the pro level, he says: ‘Oh Dad, take the Levo’ and I say ‘Shut up’ – but I do take it and I love it.

BN: The new Levo, it’s a totally new bike, how much time have you managed to spend on it and what is the biggest change you have noticed when riding it, compared to the first generation Levo?

Mike Sinyard: I have done lots of hours on all of our E-Bikes and what I have noticed is the same thing you noticed, the thing handles so well, it tracks, it corners like it’s on rails, it’s lighter and it feels so amazing. I think the generation one Levo was recognized as the best E-Bike in the world by a lot of media and won a lot of awards and I would say this one goes way beyond the first…..

Mike and his crew smashing trails with the Levo.

Image: @harookz

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