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Old 08-14-23, 02:16 PM
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Portlandjim
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Bikes: 1946 Holdsworth Cyclone, 1969 Cinelli SC, 1972 Raleigh Pro, 1973 Merz road bike, 1974 Alex Singer Sportif, 1974 Merz track bike, 1975 Teledyne Titan, 1976 Ritchey road bike, 1977 DiNucci built Merz track bike, 1977 (?) Exxon Graftek, many more!

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Early Specialized story

[QUOTE=rustystrings61;22983923]

My comments about these questions:

1) "There are extensive discussions out there online of various iterations of Specialized bikes and their history. When Mike Sinyard initially set out to sell framesets and bikes, he enlisted Tim Neenan of Lighthouse Cycles after having had a custom touring frame built for him."

I met Mike Sinyard when he first started selling parts out of his bicycle trailer in 1974, I was one of his first customers. I became good friends with Mike, and did testing for him, tires for instance. I would go to the Bay area from time to time, and always stopped by to visit Mike. One time, Mike mentioned that he had a bike I should look, and invited me down. It was one of the first batch of Tom Ritchey built "Mountainbikes", I'm not positive on the date, but around 1980. I spent the day riding it, liked it and went back to Portland and built my version of this type of bike. During this period, I was pushing Mike to hire me, he clearly needs someone to be in charge of technical details at Specialized. We talked about this for a while, and then it turned out that he hired Tim Neenan! The excuse was that Tim already lived in the San Jose area, so Mike didn't need to pay for my moving costs! Anyway, I went on building Merz bikes in Portland. Tim did design the first versions of the Sequoia and Allez frames. I don't know the exact details of how much Tim was visiting Japan, but the Stumpjumper bike was certainly closely based on the bike Tom Ritchey built. If it were me, I would have pushed to make a frame more based on my Merz MTB design. The 2nd version Stumpjumper was my design, in fact Mike had me make 3 prototype frames while I was still in Portland that became the 2nd version Stumpjumper. It turned out that Tim Neenan wanted to move to San Louis Obisbo, Mike didn't want anything but total commitment from Tim. So, he called me up and asked when I could take over the job. I said I could start tomorrow. That week I left from PDX and flew to Japan. The start of a 10 year long whirlwind life in the bicycle industry at the highest level.

2) The story I read is that the Expedition was based on that custom frame.

Tim has claimed that he designed the Expedition bicycle. That bike may have been something that he started working on while he was at Specialized, but if so, I designed what became the first production version of the Expedition. It was based on my Merz touring bike frames. When I saw that Tim was claiming this bike was his design, I asked Mike if that was so. He confirmed that I designed it.

3) Neenan also designed the original Sequoia and Allez frames.The earliest of the latter model were built by Yoshi Konno of 3Rensho and are very much sought-after; allegedly a small number of Sequoias were also built by Mr. Konno.

Yoshi didn't supply the first Allez frame, it was Toei. The first Sequoia frame was built at 3Rensho, it has fast back seat stays.

4) Production realities led to contracts with Miyata and other high-quality Japanese makers.

3Rensho built the later top model Allez frames up until about 1987. The Allez SE bikes, which was a lower price point full bicycle, was built by Miyata. The Expedition bike was built by Miyata also. The 2nd version Sequoia frames and bikes were built by Miki.

5) Neenan is also credited with designing the original Stumpjumper. There are some who contend he borrowed heavily from the design of Tom Ritchey, but it IS fair to say he went to Japan and worked out how to mass-produce a mountain bike. This was probably the bike that catapulted the company forward and was their highest profile item.

The 1st Stumpjumper was a bike hit in the market. It's controversial whether Tim, or Mike "designed" very much of the 1st Stumpjumper bike. I would say that the first 2 runs of this bike were not mass produced at all. They were sold as a kit, every part needed to be assembled by the dealer including the wheels IIRC. The other detail, there were not that many of them made. They did sell like hot cakes, so it proved that there was a large market for MTB's. But, Specialized was not some tiny company at that point. Mike was the largest Campagnolo distributor in the world, and the largest bicycle tire company. When I first traveled to Japan and Europe, all the bike companies treated us like gods!

6) Neenan's designs would later be refined and modified by Jim Merz (who is around on this forum as @Portlandjim) and later by Mark DiNucci.

I did not refine Tim's designs. I started with new frame designs based on my ideas. I also came up with all the components that Specialize had made. We never used product that was just stamped with our logo.

7) Frame production shifted to Taiwan at some point in the '80s, and in interviews it has been observed that Specialized personnel personally oversaw some of the processes to sweat the details.

I pushed to move production for some of the lower price point MTB bikes to Taiwan around 1985. At that time, the Yen/Dollar exchage rate was becoming a problem for sourcing bicycles from Japan. I worked with Giant at first. I belive that the Hardrock was our lowest price point model, and they had never made any bike at that high of a price point! I spent a lot of time getting them up to a higher lever. At the time, Schwinn was using them for a low end road bike. But, Schwinn was not helping Giant learn how to make better bikes. This is when I hired Mark DiNucci to work for Specialize, we both worked with Giant to up their game. In fact, their first carbon fiber bike was made for Specialized. Mark and I had a lot to do with that bike, and it was a big success.


8) The 1987-1989 Sirrus uses the same Giant-built-in-Taiwan frameset as the Allez of those years, but with somewhat softer paint and Shimano 105 rather than 600 components. My '88 Sirrus was a revelation - it is absolutely one of the very best riding bikes I have ever had under me, and only the presence in my stable of a Neenan-built Lighthouse with near identical geometry but clearance for larger tires has be considering selling it.

I was not in charge of lower price point bike models during the later time period you mention. If Giant made an Allez, it for sure would not have used the same frame as the Sirrus. In any case, Mark DiNucci took over the frame design duty when I left Specialized aroung 1990 or so.

​Specialized contracted with various world class suppliers throughout the years, but has almost always designed the product. And did the best internal testing in the industry. This is a model similar to Nike. Some items were made in the USA, water bottles for example. It doesn't make sense to ship cargo containers filled with water bottles across the ocean. The Epic carbon MTB frames were made in Morgan Hill. Also M2 MTB frames were made in the USA. But, time seems to have confirmed that the best value to the rider comes from sourcing products from the best manufacturers.

Specialized Bicycle sells some of the best bicycles in the world. The company philosophy, which I had a large hand in developing, is still in place. I am very proud of my work there.

These comments are my personal opinon, I try to be accurate but due to old age my brain has faded somewhat!

Jim Merz

Last edited by Portlandjim; 08-14-23 at 03:07 PM. Reason: add disclaimer
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