Pride & Progress: High tech on two wheels

Industry leader Specialized grows in Morgan Hill

At Specialized Bicycle Components Morgan Hill headquarters, it’s space age on two wheels. The industry-leading leader in advanced biking technology, whether on the road, on trails, or between home and work, Specialized looks ahead.

Morgan Hill has a lot to do with the company’s success says Head of Global Marketing and Innovation Mark Cote. Downtown Morgan Hill’s continued upgrades, with new bars and restaurants, help Specialized attract new hires.

“It helps business, and it helps lifestyle,” Cote said of Morgan Hill’s appeal to young workers. “We look at the top of who’s coming out of universities. Where are they going to live? In the last two to five years it really has become a place where our newer and younger employees can say, ‘yeah, I can totally see crashing in Morgan Hill, it’s a pretty cool spot.’”

To Cote, where your work is, is where your life is.

“The relationship we have with the community has been incredible,” Cote said. “From the restaurant build-outs to the Grenada refresh, to one of our favorite hangouts, Running Shop and Hops and Bike Therapy, that community in the downtown has connected so much with the core of Specialized, not only for us but for the thousands of guests we invite here every year from around the world. The community of Morgan Hill feels more connected with cycling than ever before.”

One sign of Morgan Hill’s embrace of cycling was the AMGEN Tour of California 2018. It helped to show off the speed, technology and spirit that cycling can generate.

“If you take that with what our brand is trying to do with cycling globally, and what Morgan Hill did for alignment, I don’t think the community has ever been so vibrant with cycling,” Cote said.

In the past year, he said Specialized produced almost a million bicycles, along with biking gear like water bottles, cycling attire, tires, and more in manufacturing and research and development centers far away as Asia, Germany, Switzerland, and nearby as Colorado and California. Specialized has 350 employees in its three buildings in Morgan Hill, and 1,500 globally.

The company remains confident in the face of the emerging bike-sharing companies, like Bird and Uber Bikes.

Specialized does not fear the bike-sharing industry, it embraces it, and motorized bikes aren’t just the future, they’re here today.

“I think it’s had the opposite effect,” Cote said. “If you look at it its smallest form, it’s competition. We have a ton of riders who have never considered cycling as their main form of transportation, now it’s being promoted by Uber. Instead of talking about a car, they’re talking about bikes. That’s awesome.”

Cote remains confident that the connection that riders have forged with Specialized keeps them wedded to the brand. All Specialized bikes can be customized to fit the rider’s specific measurements and preferences. Still, the bike share industry continues to grow, its continued effect on the bike industry as a whole is unknown.

“Has it affected the industry, yes, has it negatively affected us, no, it’s only grown the pie,” Cote said.

The next big push for Specialized is electric bikes. Specialized jumped into the E-bike industry with its pedal-assisted bikes that include mountain, cruiser, and commuter bikes.  Simply put, Specialized is a cool place to work. The sprawling campus at 15130 Concord Circle is full of cycle-loving Silicon Valley professionals, who are free to be as hip as hipsters can be. Employees dress casually. Dogs follow their owners off-leash. There’s a gym, a full cafeteria/restaurant, and music plays in hallways.

“It’s definitely a mind and body culture,” Cote said. “There are people here who have been burnt out from the Silicon Valley culture and find this to be an amazing oasis because we’re still a driven culture. We’re a performance-based company, and we have people who are driven to spread cycling around the world. But yet, we still ride bikes at lunch.”

Specialized continues to innovate. Its engineers are working on a Turbo Charger station, new bike designs, and innovative marketing tactics to help bike dealers sell more Specialized bikes.

The company offers discounted leases for employees for motorized bikes and several hallways double as walkways and bike garages for employees who bike into work. Specialized also offers commuter buses for employees living in Santa Cruz or the Bay Area.

The company has come a long way since CEO, and founder Mike Sinyard started the company in 1974 in San Jose. Sinyard and his friends used to bike in Morgan Hill, and fortunately for the city, a connection was formed. How far and how fast Specialized races into the future is unknown, but Morgan Hill should remain along for the ride.

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