Mike Sinyard Founding Specialized

Mike Sinyard
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Juliet [0:02:40]: Mike Sinyard, welcome to The Ready State Podcast.

Mike Sinyard: [0:02:46] Thank you. It’s great to be here.

Kelly: [0:02:48] It is great. Let me start by saying it is great to see you back in Specialized headquarters. I’m seeing masked workers and bike experts and builders and designers walk past you. How does it feel to be back in the shop?

Mike Sinyard: [0:03:01] Oh, to be back and to be with people after this crazy year, you just realize when you meet people in person that everything is easy to solve, right? Just being present makes you appreciate it more than ever.

Kelly: [0:03:16] I don’t think people realize how incredible the Specialized campus is and how many different subprojects are going on, how many talented people are working on different aspects of the business or developing new concepts or new tech. So I’ve had the pleasure of being in Specialized many times when it’s full party at Specialized, where you can just see the brilliance and the bikes. And I’ve also been in Specialized when I was the only one in the building basically. We’re shooting in the retool headquarters. And it really is so strange to know that in the craziest bike bubble in the history of bike bubbles, no one was at Specialized. 

Mike Sinyard: [0:03:57] Yeah. It is for us too. And it’s just the energy of the people here working, kind of like Santa’s workshop, just seeing things we make, because we make physical things, right? We’re not like at tech company. We are a tech company but not a tech company that just makes things that are on the computer. We make physical things. And yeah, being back together and test riding things and talking about things is powerful.

Juliet: [0:04:19] So Mike, I’d love to talk a little more about this crazy year a bit later. But I’d like to rewind all the way to the ’70s if I could and have you just tell our audience a little bit of the Specialized origin story. How did you start the company? What’s the backstory?

Mike Sinyard: [0:04:35] Oh wow, yes. So in the ’70s I was going to school at San Jose State. And I love bikes and I used to go to the flea market and get old bikes. And the things I liked to do mostly is take them all apart and paint them and put them back together and sell them. I’d put like one ad in the newspaper, like hey, kind of a generic description of a bike for sale. But then I’d have a whole bunch of them. So but it was fun. And I learned a lot from that. And I would say doing those things, it’s very satisfying to do that, it was for me, to work with your hands.

So that’s kind of how the company started. And then in school I was an aviation major. I was terrible at that so I changed to business. And then I thought, well, I don’t want to go into business and work at IBM and wear a tie or something like that. So I thought, well, I don’t care how little money I make because when you go to school you learn to live on nothing, right?

Kelly: [0:05:34] Juliet and I know that. 

Mike Sinyard: [0:05:35] Yeah. It’s a wonderful thing, right? So really from there, that’s how I became interested in bikes. And then out of school I just took with some friends who were like… The strategic plan was let’s go ride our bikes around Europe. So we started in Oktoberfest and that’s how we did, just rode around Europe for three months. And then I met some of the manufacturers in Europe. And the money to start the company was… You always hear about venture capital, I called it adventure capital. I sold the Volkswagen bus and that’s how it started.

Kelly: [0:06:08] So just so everyone can hear this, when you go to Specialized, you can see Mike’s setup. And when he says he sold his bus, he sold his only car, and had a bike and a trailer, and you rode around the Bay area selling parts. Am I getting that right?

Mike Sinyard: [0:06:25] Yes. Yeah. It was kind of what I had to do. But it felt the right thing to do anyway. And yeah, so I sold the Volkswagen and that’s how I started the company. It was just little by little, and it was fun.

Juliet: [0:06:39] So somehow even though you’re biking around the Bay area with a trailer selling parts, you were able to grow the company massively. I want to say your revenue was up to something like $18 million in the first four years.

Mike Sinyard: [0:06:49] Yeah.  

Juliet: [0:06:50] What was your secret? Were you right place, right time?

Kelly: [0:06:52] We’re talking about 1975 and ’76.

Juliet: [0:06:54] Are you a genius? Was it right place, right time? What was the secret sauce that made the company grow so quickly so early on?

Mike Sinyard: [0:07:03] I would say, well, it was really slow going in the beginning. Very slow. But I would say it was just out of necessity, a really simple focus on the riders. I was a rider and I knew people that were riders, and just focused on that. And just like working out. Just focusing on that and not doing anything else. And then each thing had to work and if it didn’t work, you adjust really quickly. So and then as the company started to develop, it was all about the people that joined the company that helped us grow.

Kelly: [0:07:38] It’s pretty extraordinary that as the founder you’re still deep, deep in the actual mechanics of the company. That’s pretty incredible. Oftentimes these companies get very sophisticated and then the founder doesn’t have the skillset or the technical ability. What has kept you all of these years, besides your innate curiosity and the fact that you still obsessively ride bikes, which we’ve ridden together before, but what keeps you so interested in where we’re going and what we’re doing? Because every year Specialized comes out with innovation after innovation. You’ve been innovating from day one, from bike helmets to bottles. I mean things that people don’t even appreciate. Here we are all these years later, I mean 48 years later, and you’re still kind of driving the show. That’s really remarkable.

Mike Sinyard: [0:08:23] Part of the show. The skill to do all those things, no I don’t. And that’s what’s great about having other people that have those skills. But I would say for us it’s really that curiosity and just wanting to explore and test new things. I’d say that’s what keeps us going. And working with top athletes, it’s a really great filter when you’re working with the top athletes like you do, because there’s no bluffing your way through it. It’s got to really work. And so that has been a tremendous filter for us for all of the years and really is the founding principle of the company, focusing on the rider’s need, right? And it could be that top triathlete or a road rider, a mountain rider, or just somebody riding around the city. But what does that rider need? So using that filter is powerful.

Juliet: [0:09:17] So I’m sure in these many years of running Specialized, you’ve learned a lot and changed a lot. If you could tell your young self as an entrepreneur what to do or not do differently, what would that be?

Mike Sinyard: [0:09:31] Yeah. I would say the really important thing to do is focus. Just like as an athlete, focusing on the rider and the person you’re serving, kind of obsessing about that and kind of getting rid of all the other noise I would say is really important. So that’s a really key one, is that obsession, right? And just like being so determined and driven by that. I’d say that’s really the main thing, is doing that. Because it’s hard. It’s hard. 

And then I would say the other thing is who you work with is so important. People that you work with are really giving you energy and critiquing you, guiding you in the right way. I would say that’s everything. Yeah. And the other one I would say is this: Never give up. You know what’s interesting, and you hear people in the Olympics and other athletes talking about… I love hearing their story. And they go, you know, I was working on this but I was so driven to do it. Because they didn’t think they were going to win. They didn’t think they were going to win. But they were just so driven. And I would say that is the thing, just don’t give up, right? And you think, oh, the people that win, they’re just so confident and no self-doubt. No, quite the opposite, right?

Kelly: [0:10:54] The Olympics has shown us that, right, the amount of anxiety and doubt people have.

Mike Sinyard: [0:10:58] Just paranoid and obsessed and determined, but never giving up. Because most of the time when you’re about ready to give up is about the time you can break through. 

Juliet: [0:11:09] Yeah. So Mike, it seems like COVID has created this sort of gigantic rebirth in interest in cycling. Just on a personal level, we’ve got these trails behind our house, easy access mountain bike trails, and pre-COVID we would literally never see young kids, like elementary, middle, high school kids out there, or it would be rare, I should say. And then COVID hits and all of a sudden, we start seeing a lot of different people on bikes, and kids riding mountain bikes. And then I’d like to add too, it seems like there’s also been a rebirth and interest in watching the Tour de France. And now that mountain biking is viewable by anyone on Red Bull TV, right, there seems just to be this explosion in all forms of biking. Do you think that’s going to stay? Tell us a little bit about your thoughts on that.

Mike Sinyard: [0:11:57] Yeah. It’s great. And for somebody who loves cycling, it’s powerful to see people out there and to see families out there, little kids out there, and you can tell that people are just loving it. And I think a lot of times when all this kind of stress comes upon people, we all tend to turn toward more core values, right? The family, healthy eating, clear relationships, all those kind of things. And for sure, the cycling is right there. It is a pure way for people to express theirself. And particularly a mountain bike, to go out in nature. And it’s just kind of emotionally so healing. I see, we see, that it’s going to continue on because people have rediscovered this in a way that really lights them up. Related to that, cycling does change people’s lives. And I can talk later about what we do with Outride and the experiences we’ve had. But yeah, we can see that people become lifetime cyclists.

Kelly: [0:13:01] One of the things that I want to highlight is there’s been a pivot I think or finally the acceptance of the electric mountain bike or the electric bike. I feel like you’ve jumped on sort of the possibility of an electrified bike very early, and your technology is good and you have the lightest mountain bikes that are electrified. Juliet and I each have a Levo SL. And we even know that someone like our Tour de France guy up in Tahoe, Levi Leipheimer, rides his all the time. And so even we have the best bikers in the world jumping on recovery rides, putting their friends on it. We’ve been putting our daughter on it. Our 12-year-old’s been able to ride with us. You pointed out that bikes change lives. Do you feel like the electric bike has given people the access or sort of permission to enjoy the sport in a different way and sort of opened up the social equity and justice around it?

Mike Sinyard: [0:13:54] Absolutely. It absolutely has. And I would say that just like in the ’80s the mountain bike came out and it really expanded the whole activity of cycling, and now the electric bike is even more. Electric bike is even more because as you know, you get a great workout.

Kelly: [0:14:14] Oh yeah.

Mike Sinyard: [0:14:15] And the workout is actually the same but you’re actually going faster, right? 

Kelly: [0:14:20] We’ve realized that.

Juliet: [0:14:20] You can cover more distance.

Mike Sinyard: [0:14:22] Right. You can almost go as fast up the hill as you do down the hill. And so yeah, the workout is the same. And yeah, we see that off road. And we see it in the city, the electric bike replacing the car as kind of the most popular EV of the future is not the car but the bike.

Kelly: [0:14:39] I had heard a story that in Durango, Ned Overend, legend, rider with you guys forever, I heard a story that he’s in Durango, that a lot of the kids don’t take their cars even though they can. They ride electric mountain bikes because they’re faster and easier to park, easier to navigate, they don’t cost anything. It’s really shifted the culture. And it’s based on the fact that there are actually great trails, roads, bike paths, in Durango that make it accessible. Do you think we’re starting to see or will the electric bike sort of transform cityscapes, transform landscapes? Because I grew up in Germany and Juliet and I go there all the time. Bike paths are ubiquitous.

Mike Sinyard: [0:15:21] Yeah. Yes. Absolutely. And we see it. And you’re talking about Europe. Europe is already there tremendously, right, with the people using the bikes to get around and there’s bike paths and everything. And we’re seeing that now in the USA. So it’s just going to… The rate of that is accelerating at a huge rate. And it’s so powerful, because otherwise you look at where you live, I live in Santa Cruz, it’s like gridlock, right, with the cars. But you’re on the bike and you can go around and you feel so much better when you get there. And yeah, it’s powerful. 

Juliet: [0:15:56] So I have to tell you a quick story, Mike. When I was in college at Berkely in 1991, I got my first ever Rockhopper, which I never actually rode on trail, I just rode it around town. But it was like my prize possession. And for some reason in the early ’90s, maybe you’ll remember, there was a market for bike seats. So you would have to take your bike seat off and into class. And then in my sophomore year, someone stole my bike seat. So I rode my Rockhopper for a whole year of school with just no bike seat because I was broke and I couldn’t afford to buy a new bike seat. So I thought you’d appreciate that story.

Kelly: [0:16:31] Could’ve stolen someone else’s.

Mike Sinyard: [0:16:32] I love that.

Juliet: [0:16:32] I mean isn’t that funny that there was… I feel like it’s not a think anymore to steal bike seats, but it was in the early 90s. It was like the black market for specialized bike seats.

Mike Sinyard: [0:16:43] I remember that. You just take the quick release and you take the seat post, and yeah. 

Juliet: [0:16:48] Yeah, you have to carry it into class.

Mike Sinyard: [0:16:48] I love that story. Yeah. If you had that Rockhopper still, it would still be working today. That’s one of the things that we pride ourselves, is we make something that will stand up over time.

Juliet: [0:16:59] I wish I still had it, actually.

Kelly: [0:17:02] I was just at my uncle’s house in Washington and his original Rockhopper is there and it’s how he moves around his little neighborhood. And he’s just like, I mean it looks great. It really is, the geometry on that is actually pretty progressive. It’s pretty amazing.

Mike Sinyard: [0:17:18] Yeah. Well, you know it’s interesting as a side note, the bicycle is one of the few things in the world that you could continue to get repaired and things like that. Most other kind of like appliance things, when it doesn’t work anymore, you need to get it fixed, it’s cheaper to buy a new one, right? Whereas a bicycle is so sustainable in that way.

Kelly: [0:17:39] Juliet and I started a walking school bus in our neighborhood because we saw that a lot of kids lived within a mile of the school, a mile and a half of the school, and parents were sort of remiss to send their kids out. But we said, hey, there will be an adult here waiting at this corner and we can walk all these kids to school at once.

Mike Sinyard: [0:17:55] Wow.

Kelly: [0:17:56] You know, so much of our behavior as adults is a pattern or something that we learn as children. We are now seeing, as Juliet pointed out, lots of kids on their bikes. We call them like, it was like the seventh-grade bike gang around our neighborhood in the last year. These kids were just, obviously they were sheltering together and they were just like a really crazy bike gang. Shirts off, these seventh-grade boys just ruled the town.

Juliet: [0:18:17] Yeah. Building little ramps in the back.

Kelly: [0:18:20] It was so great. Get in trouble with the rangers with their shovels, building little ramps, as Juliet said. You have a commitment through Outride to sort of change and empower this and transform these young kids. Can you talk about Outride because it’s one of the things that I think is remarkable about Specialized, is that… And I’d like to talk about some of these other things, is that you see a problem and you guys actually go out and solve it. Like let me give you an example before you start. At Outride you created ANGI, which is a head accelerometer that you put on your helmet that if you have a crash, you have x amount of time to get to your phone, turn off the alert. Otherwise, it calls. Because we’ve seen a number of concussions in middle aged men riding their bikes. It’s just one more things that I think you guys did. And it integrates all of the other tech. For me, it’s one of the reasons that I was really excited about working with you, is you guys see a problem in cycling and around cycling, and then you go out and solve it. So would you talk about Outride as a sort of expression of that sort of curiosity, solution driven thinking?

Mike Sinyard: [0:19:19] Yeah. Well, thank you. I’m super passionate about that. I could talk forever about it. But you know, really Outride started because I realized I have ADHD. In high school I didn’t know that, but I was a high school dropout, and I couldn’t focus very well. And people just said, well, you’re just stupid, right? And that was probably true. but then later I saw that riding really was a calming thing for me and for other people. And so then we contacted some neuroscientists to do some research. And some of the research, while we could tell anecdotally it was working, but then we hired the neuroscience do this work, and you could see, kind of like a brain scan before and after riding, and you can tell that the riding lights up your brain. So it really calms you. So that was a big thing. 

And then about seven years ago, we worked with Stanford on this. And of course, Stanford with all their resources really proved… We made a helmet with all the sensors in there so you could tell. So long story short, this whole thing, I was so passionate about it. I thought this is so obvious, right? So all exercise is good for the brain but there’s something more about cycling because of the pedaling and the balance, the centering, that really lights up the brain. And so this research has been continuing. 

And we have this program that goes through the schools. And there’s about 50,000 kids that go through the program every year. So at the beginning it became Riding For Focus, outriding ADHD. But then we realized, hey, for people, whether it’s obesity, diabetes, anxiety, addiction, so all these things were really powerful. And we’re really excited about it and just see how it continues. I mean I’ve had kids that have had addiction before, and I go, look, okay, get them out riding, and every day, as people know, exertion is the opposite of anxiety and depression, right? So just seeing that. And it’s not only through the schools, but just bringing that awareness to people. Sometimes we go, well, you know in this country, the number one prescribed drug in this country is Ritalin. And Ritalin, who’s it given to? The youth. Well, how do we turn all of their energy into something they can funnel? Sports do that, but riding even more so.

Juliet: [0:21:55] So tell us a little more about… You said you had 50,000 kids in school. What are they actually doing, learning? Tell us a little bit more about sort of the nuts and bolts of that program. 

Mike Sinyard: [0:22:04] Yeah. So the nuts and bolts of it is really it goes through the physical education program at the school. And there’s a certain protocol that we go through there. And the kids learn how to ride safely and that. But we’ve been monitoring their progress. It’s not like just giving the school the bikes and, oh, go do it. But it’s like a certain protocol that they go through and also have wrist bands to measure their heartrate and things like that. But we’ve shown the before and after testing or ability to focus after riding, how strong that is. So it’s a very kind of disciplined thing. I mean it’s fun for the kids. But there’s a certain protocol that we have to follow with it so we can get more and more information. So we have the actual kids riding out there and the kids saying how they feel, the parents and teachers saying how they feel. But we also have that through Stanford and that, the lighting up their brain.

Juliet: [0:23:00] It’s so powerful. I know you also in the last year committed a big chunk of your own money to sort of expand the program to serve or to meet underserved, underrepresented communities. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

Mike Sinyard: [0:23:15] Yeah. Because the bike is not always available in different economic levels. So we’ve expanded to other schools to include a lot more diversity. And there’s just amazing, the testimonials and the stories you hear from the kids. And really, if you look at cycling, particularly at the elite level like on the Tour de France, it’s a pretty white sport. But now it’s growing up as it needs to be. And also, we want Outride to do the same thing. So we’ve expanded to quite a few schools.

Juliet: [0:23:48] I can really relate to the focus thing. I am a latecomer to mountain biking. I just started about three years ago. But one of the things I think it is doing for me, and again, it’s anecdotal, is that it’s really great for my brain because there’s just so much input. You have to have constant focus and thinking and making quick decisions on a mountain bike in a way that when I first started actually, I would finish rides, and I actually from a fitness standpoint, I would feel fine, but I could tell that my nervous system was exhausted because it was just so much input and balance and deep learning to be able to just make it down some easy mountain bike trail. So I really relate a lot to that. I think it’s really powerful. 

Mike Sinyard: [0:24:31] I see that. Yeah. It really is. In fact, when you’re going down those trails, in some ways, you can’t be thinking about anything else. You have to think… In fact, when you do, when you’re dazing off, you’re going to fall down.

Kelly: [0:24:43] That’s right.

Mike Sinyard: [0:24:43] So that is such a calming way for you. And how do we find ways… In some ways, riding a bike, particularly a mountain bike, is a different level of consciousness, right, where you feel so good and so renewed.

Kelly: [0:24:58] One of the missions that Juliet and I have is to remind the general strength, conditioning, and fitness community actually to go out and spend their credits. Training in the gym, which is great, but go out and actually get a sport done. We see a lot of the phenomenon where people are integrating and doing a ton of vision drills and balance drills into their training in the gym. And certainly, if that’s the only place you can go have a physical practice, that’s great. But we point out all the time that there’s so many things that you don’t have to do in the gym if you did something like rode a bike. Your vision is close, your vision is far, you have to anticipate. We put in the development of children having a sliding or riding sport as part of their development because you have to process, plan ahead, and it actually makes for better athletes, more integrated people. 

You know this, but one of the things that we love about mountain biking particularly is that we have a lot of strength and conditioning athletes, people who do CrossFit for example, but they can transfer over to the bike relatively quickly. Like for example, I don’t think that people know that Rich Froning and his Mayhem team are Specialized ambassadors. And what they’ve realized is that they have fallen in love with mountain biking. They can take this really big engine and quickly apply it to a new sport and they’re outdoors, and they’re not lifting weights, and they’re starting to do 24-hour races, and they’re incorporating the bike more and more. So really kudos for continuing to create an outlet for athletes to go get outside and just remind people how simple it is to go get on a bike and spend some of that fitness.

Mike Sinyard: [0:26:27] Yeah. Absolutely. And in a new way. And really the thing of… I mean the gym is great, but lighting up your brain out there riding the bike. And Juliet, as you mentioned, especially on trails and the wilderness, there’s nothing better than nature. There’s nothing more healing than nature. And I think especially for kids it’s so important. One of the research that has confirmed for kids lighting up the brain, but also for aging adults, riding their bike and the circulatory has really helped people to keep fresh mentally to avoid dementia and Alzheimer’s. That’s for sure.

Kelly: [0:27:06] That makes really good sense. 

Mike Sinyard: [0:27:07] It does.

Juliet: [0:27:08] So shifting a little bit, Mike, back to sort of a general COVID subject. But these two words I don’t think I ever said before COVID, and now I seem to say them all the time, including at the dinner table. And those two words are supply chain. So we don’t even really run a business. Our business isn’t really impacted by the supply chain. But I think somehow-

Kelly: [0:27:28] It is a little bit.

Juliet: [0:27:29] A little bit. But we’ve all been talking about the supply chain and we know given the giant run on bikes… So anyway, I would just love to hear you talk to us a little bit about how Specialized has been impacted by supply chain problems and if you’re adapting the way your manufacturing bikes going forward as a result of that or just tell us a little bit about that because we all talk about supply chain.

Mike Sinyard: [0:27:50] Yeah. We do. And I think this year has affected every company that makes physical things. And for sure for us at Specialized it has affected us a lot. And in fact, the fact that there’s more demand on our bicycles… Our bikes are handmade, it’s not like you just crank up the machine to say double the production. We can increase by 10 or 15 percent, but it’s not like we can double it. So then that puts even more stress on everything. Yeah. Everything you can see with everything has created a big stress, whether it’s cars or other things because of the movement of goods, and especially internationally. And bicycles, especially our bikes, we’ve really gotten constrained with them because we can’t increase the production. And increased it as much as we can but we’re not going to go down market or sacrifice quality. So it’s a slow process.

Kelly: [0:28:45] I will say personally there’s been a few times where I’m like I need a new Stumpjumper. But there are no new Stumpjumpers to be had. I heard a stat that all of the bike manufacturers that carry Specialized, it would take Specialized a year or two of just making the bikes to replace the bikes on the floor of all those buildings, which I think is just to come back to having stock in there is really incredible. 

Mike Sinyard: [0:29:11] Yeah. It is. In fact, a sore subject at Specialized is employees want bikes and-

Kelly: [0:29:15] One of the reasons you work there.

Mike Sinyard: [0:29:16] Yeah. And we can’t get them.

Kelly: [0:29:20] People first. The people first.

Juliet: [0:29:23] And because I know obviously it’s small retailers that are mostly selling your bikes. And do they have bikes? How has it impacted them? Are they all panicking? What’s going on in the bike retail market?

Mike Sinyard: [0:29:35] Yeah. It’s tough. And people are, all day long it’s like, well, when do I get our bikes. We’re making about the same quantity we did last year. Not much more at all. And so we just allocate those out and virtually it seems like every bike that we’re sending out is pre-sold.

Kelly: [0:29:52] Three words: bike hoarding. 

Juliet: [0:29:54] Bike hoarding.

Kelly: [0:29:54] I believe. Mike, let me ask you, without giving away the top secrets of Specialized, it is cool to be around the shop and see what you guys have cooking, what are you excited about? What are you all working on? What do you think the frontier is? Because let me give you an example. I don’t think Specialized is just a bike company anymore. With what you’ve done with electrifying vehicles, you really have potential to transform society and help people move goods and move themselves around. That’s not just a bike company anymore. So what is it that kind of has you fired up and what are you working on?

Mike Sinyard: [0:30:27] Well, I would say we’re always fired up about making the bicycle better and learning how to make the bike ride better, how to make it more comfortable. That’s really key. Even like with the Tour de France, were the riders more comfortable on there. They have less fatigue. They’re able to go faster and longer. So that’s on one side. That’s been going on forever. But I would say on the electric side is really, as you mentioned, is so exciting, right? And it’s like we say with our Turbo, it’s like you, only faster. So it’s integrated in there, you riding the bike, and you just feel sometimes like you’re riding and you go, wow, I feel really strong today. And you are. But it’s that integration of the human power and the electric power together. So I would say that’s an area we’re working on just to make that better and better all the time.

Juliet: [0:31:20] So Mike, Kelly and I feel like we’ve had an extravaganza of watching biking on television, between the mountain bike World Cup and the Tour de France and now the Olympics. I assume you’ve been watching a lot of that.

Kelly: [0:31:31] Did you go to the Tour de France this year?

Mike Sinyard: [0:31:34] I didn’t because of the travel. But I watched it all.

Juliet: [0:31:36] Yeah. So what are you seeing? What are you takeaways? What excited you about any or all of those events?

Mike Sinyard: [0:31:43] I would say on the riding it’s the human and bicycle integration. And I always love watching the riders that are really good and it looks like them and the bike are one. Or in some ways when you watch kids that are really good, they’re like an animal on the bike, right? And they just flow. They just flow with it. And I love seeing that with the riders. Just so amazing. And the determination. I think the determination is just… you can see it on the athletes, all the athletes. I love that.

Kelly: [0:32:20] I feel like right now there are stories cyclists going back decades. I mean really incredible. Eddy Merckx. But I feel like right now we have the greatest depth of talent we’ve ever had across biking. I’m talking about women’s road biking, women’s cross country is insane, cross country mountain biking. If you look at the talent in the men’s road, like van der Poel jumping back and forth and switching divisions, it’s really… Do you think that we’re seeing the fruits of a generation of kids who’ve grown up and seen what’s possible? Because I feel like we’ve never had… It’s an embarrassment of riches. Sagan could be a World Champion, who is a Specialized rider, could be a world champion in probably five different sports, and he’s chosen cycling.

Mike Sinyard: [0:33:03] Well, yeah. And there’s always the new riders coming, right? There’s always the new athlete that is hungrier than the other ones that is going to come through and show it. And then you also have like the athletes like Cavendish. For two years people go, oh, he’s done, he’s not very good. And then all of a sudden, he called us and he’s like, hey, I want to be back on the team. I rode the bike and my power and everything is really good. And so he comes back and does it. So that’s also a wonderful story, right? It’s a great story when people say, oh, that athlete is done and then they come back and just throw down and do it. I love that, right?

Kelly: [0:33:40] We were just jumping up and down cheering when Cavendish just… I mean it was really, A, for the old people out there, I think Cavendish is what, like 35, 34 maybe?

Juliet: [0:33:50] He’s like the oldest guy in the whole tour.

Kelly: [0:33:52] So we were just blown away. But to your point, it really takes a long time to get good. And it’s fun to see how much faster people are and how much more competent they are and how the bikes have evolved. My first Stumpjumper blew my mind. And I think I even emailed you and was like, oh, my wrist feels better, I can go faster downhill. We went on a big ride with Rodney in the desert with a bunch of friends, and we had developed this phrase, Thank you, bike. The bike just would save our butts over and over again. Just like thank you, bike. That was for the bike. I think it’s pretty remarkable. Every year I’m like what can they do, how can these bikes get better. And the geometry gets better, the components get better. I’m on an S-Works Epic, a mountain bike. And I am shocked at how it actually made me faster to go uphill. I mean people are like it’s not about the bike. I’m like, eh, it sort of is.

Juliet: [0:34:42] Kind of is about the bike now. It kind of is actually.

Kelly: [0:34:45] And I just want to give a shoutout that if you’re listening to this and you’re like, hey, I used to mountain bike, mountain biking a decade ago, even 15 years ago, the bikes were an order of magnitude less comfortable, less easy to use. They are so-

Mike Sinyard: [0:35:00] And less safe.

Kelly: [0:35:00] And less safe. It really is remarkable about how comfortable it is possible to be on a bike and how much more capable you are. And we have friends, we have a little bike club in our neighborhood, the Terra Linda Bike Club. About 10 to 12 of us ride every Saturday. And what we saw was guys were showing up in their old bikes. And they were like, it’s fine. And I was like, it’s not fine. Because as soon as they jumped on a new bike, they were like, holy crap, these things are fun. 

Mike Sinyard: [0:35:25] Yeah. Isn’t that right? And do you know, it’s just like the athletes that win in the Olympics, right, and you go and a bike is like hundreds of things, hundreds of things or thousands of things that have been improved, that you go, oh, that’s not much, that’s not much. But it’s like all those things that are improved raise the level to a whole other level, right? It’s all those little things that add up. And it’s powerful.

Juliet: [0:35:53] It’s really powerful. So Mike-

Mike Sinyard: [0:35:00] It’s obsessing.

Kelly: [0:35:58] And there’s the ADHD kicking its head again. You harness that. I think that’s your superpower. I think sometimes people forget that maybe the thing that gives you the most grief is also your superpower. 

Mike Sinyard: [0:36:09] Isn’t that true? But that’s one of the things that is a powerful thing that I find with kids, is how do you help kids because sometimes they think, oh, they’re weird or this and that. And it’s like how to take that obsession into something that is really powerful, right? And I think people with Asperger’s or ADHD, how do you turn that into a superpower? And you don’t medicate it, but you lean into it.

 And in some ways, I work with people who have addiction. I have a foundation for that. And it’s interesting that a lot of the people with addiction can be sometimes the most sensitive person in the family that takes all the pain, right? And then the family thinks, well, it’s that person who’s the problem. Well, they just happen to be the one who took it all. It’s not always that way, but more often than not. And so that can also be a superpower for them, their sensitivity. And how do you help people turn that into an energy? And I would say most of the athletes, particularly bike riders who I know, because these are long events, five, six-hour riding, a lot of them have a lot of angst in them, a lot of anger and a lot of determination, right? But then they turn that into something.

Juliet: [0:37:32] And use it as a superpower.

Kelly: [0:37:33] And I will say that every professional cyclist I’ve ever met are kind people. It’s really a strange phenomenon. I have not run into many jerk cyclists. I just haven’t. Men and women. And I suspect it’s because the sport can be at the top level so hard. You know, we’re in a new conversation around pain in this country. And there’s been a lot of sort of pain explained to people. One of the things about biking is it’s really self-imposed suffering, potentially, right? And I always tell people, I’m like, hey, look, I know we’re talking about pain here, but if you dropped into the body or the brain of Haley Batten in a World Cup, she’s a Specialized rider from Santa Cruz, if you dropped into her brain during a World Cup race, you would perish in the amount of pain she’s undergoing. You would just be like I can’t live in this, I’m going to kill myself, this is too hard. And that’s just a Tuesday for her. And so there’s something about that that really does make kinder people. It’s interesting. 

Mike Sinyard: [0:38:28] Well, especially, they seem kind after they’ve been riding. If they haven’t been riding for a week or something, they’re probably pretty miserable to be around. 

Kelly: [0:38:37] This is also true. I know that. It’s very true.

Juliet: [0:38:40] So true. Well, Mike, it’s so fun to talk to you. And tell us what you’re excited about working on in the next couple of years. What are you looking forward to?

Mike Sinyard: [0:38:48] Oh boy. I would say I look forward to… So there are two things that I love the most running the company. First is seeing people grow. Seeing people as an athlete, seeing people grow and do things they didn’t think they could do, right? I love that. So I find that really satisfying. And being able to help those people grow and they didn’t think they could and many people are shy or they don’t think they can but then they do things. And it’s like I love that. And I also love the creation process. I like that a lot. In fact, in some ways, running the company, actually running it, is my least favorite thing to do. 

Kelly: [0:39:34] I understand. Well, I actually don’t understand that because Juliet runs our company, so.

Juliet: [0:39:37] Yeah. I was like what are you talking about.

Kelly: [0:39:39] I just get to make bikes all the time.

Mike Sinyard: [0:39:41] Yeah. Well, the other thing I really enjoy is I have learned so much over the years, and still learning, but all the different cultures and how people in different parts of the world… And even though sometimes as Americans we can be confused if people speak English, that we think we’re really lined up with them. People are from Germany, there’s a big difference between Germans and California people, right? And I love that difference. Germans are very direct and they have a feeling that if you’re not direct, you’re not being respectful. Whereas sometimes in California, if people are direct, it’s like oh, you know? I have a thin skin, right? So but I love all the different cultures. I find it just incredible.

Kelly: [0:40:30] You have specialized retailers in how many places in the world?

Mike Sinyard: [0:40:33] Oh geez. Probably I think we’re in like 108 countries all together.

Kelly: [0:40:37] I had a chance of speaking to one of your big sort of sales events with the international buyers. I was blown away by the diversity. It was one of the last events that happened before the big COVID shutdown. And just the number of different voices and faces and nationalities in that single room, I was like you know what this is all about? It’s about the bike. It’s crazy. It really is common ground.

Mike Sinyard: [0:41:00] Yeah. And through the global pandemic, we’ve had a lot of global calls, more than we did before, and a lot of sharing. So a lot of growing from that. So I love that part of it. And I’m excited about continuing that further and not just making bikes that people want but making bikes that people never dreamed of.

Kelly: [0:41:20] Love it.

Juliet: [0:41:21] Love it. Thank you so much, Mike, for taking the time to talk to us. If people want to learn more about you or Specialized-

Kelly: [0:41:28] Or Outride. 

Juliet: [0:41:29] Or Outride. Where can they find information about you and all those things?

Mike Sinyard: [0:41:32] Yeah. You can just go to our website, specialized.com.

Juliet: [0:41:36] Awesome. We will put that in the show notes. Thank you so much, Mike.

Mike Sinyard: [0:41:39] Thank you.

Kelly: [0:41:39] Mike, it’s great to see you. I can’t wait to hug it out in person again.

Mike Sinyard: [0:41:42] Yeah. It’s great to see you. I didn’t know you grew up in Germany. 

Kelly: [0:41:45] I grew up on a Sitting Bull, it was my first mountain bike. And I’ll just finish by saying it gave me freedom, it gave me a passport to ride around the neighborhood. We would ride 50 miles on a weekend. We’d ride to the border. We’d ride to the mountains. We would backpack on this. And so you caught me early. I got hooked and I’m forever grateful. And the bike still continues to change our lives.

Mike Sinyard: [0:42:08] That’s great. Thank you.

Kelly: [0:42:11] Thanks, Mike.

Mike Sinyard: [0:42:11] It’s always good to see you. I look forward to seeing you in person.

Kelly: [0:42:13] Likewise my friend.

Mike Sinyard: [0:42:15] Yeah. Thank you. Thank you for all you do.

Juliet: [0:42:17] Thank you, Mike.

Mike Sinyard: [0:42:18] Yeah. And thank you for all the people that you help. I mean I have so many. You know the story of my son is incredible. I tell people that because he was so… I know I told you before, I know I just keep saying it. But he was beside himself that he couldn’t ride. We went to Stanford and looked at the top surgeon. We went to the doctor of a baseball team that Barry Bonds recommended, and another football team, and chiropractor. And they were all suggesting all this stuff. We did that for a week. And Rodney said, hey, contact Kelly. And he went up there and we did that exercise, that stretching that you had that took like five minutes. And we came home. And we have a trainer in the garage. And he started to ride on the trainer. We came right from your place to home on the trainer and he was riding. And he goes, it doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t hurt. I can ride, I can ride. And he was sobbing. He goes, get me a water bottle, get me a water bottle. That story was like… Well, for us to be able to do our sport. And my son is like me, he’s better than me. But riding and exercise is so important because he’s such a high level athlete. But thank you for that.

Kelly: [0:43:39] You’re welcome.

Mike Sinyard: [0:43:40] It’s so powerful. I mean that’s got to be the psychic income of what you do, to be able to make a difference like that.

Kelly: [0:43:47] Well, I’ll tell you, that’s fun. Sometimes Juliet says I’m just an average physical therapist, but I’m really good at giving people permission to own their own process. And the really goo part about our job… You’re about to-

Juliet: [0:44:00] No, no, no, I agree with everything you said.

Kelly: [0:44:02] I was going to say the cool part of our job though is we get to keep doing amazing work with different people. And my work with Specialized, I’m so proud of.

Mike Sinyard: [0:44:09] Yeah. Well, thank you. And we’ve only just begun.

Kelly: [0:44:12] Oh, I know.

Juliet: [0:44:12] We’ve only just begun.

Kelly: [0:44:14] It’s so good. Thanks again, Mike.

Juliet: [0:44:15] Thanks, Mike.

Mike Sinyard: [0:44:15] Thank you.

Juliet: [0:44:16] Bye now.

Mike Sinyard: [0:44:16] Bye.

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