Specialized may only have two teams in this year’s Tour de France, but they have over 40 cyclists riding their products. Why? Because the riders ask for it. Sure, a rider cannot ride a Tarmac if he is a member of a team with a competing brand. But in many cases, shoe and saddle contracts can be negotiated individually. And more and more riders come looking for Specialized.
By James Startt | Images by James Startt and Courtesy, Specialized
“One of the things that is most satisfying for me is when a rider that is not on one of our teams comes up and asks me to sponsor them simply because they like the product,” says Gianpaolo Mondini, team liaison with Specialized for the past 11 years. “Honestly, we don’t have real contracts for them. It’s not about money. We simply provide product. All of the riders wearing our shoes came and asked. If they are wearing our shoes it’s because they want to wear our shoes.”
The increasingly ubiquitous presence of Specialized in the peloton is anything but a trend or fad. Instead, it is rooted in the evolution of their Body Geometry line of shoes, saddles and gloves, a line of products that focus on the three key contact points for a cyclist on their bicycle.
Body Geometry actually found its start on the cover of Bicycling Magazine back in 1997, with a feature study on impotency and cycling. It was an eye-catching story to say the least, but one that Specialized instantly took seriously. And they quickly partnered with an internationally renowned ergonomics researcher, Dr. Roger Minkow, to study issues potentially caused by traditional bike saddles, problems like loss of blood flow or the creation of scar tissue, both of which can cause numerous other problems.
But they also began simultaneously searching for solutions that would alleviate such issues for both men and women. The essential form of the traditional bike saddle came into question, as did the materials used. And over the years they have come up with an elaborate line of saddles that address the specific needs and body types of just about any cyclist.
The Body Geometry wedge cut-out was instantly successful as were the first saddles made to accommodate the individual sit bone measurements of cyclists.
One of the most successful saddles in recent years has been the Mimic. Originally designed for women, the saddle features two kinds of memory foam and hammock structure, in an effort to reduce pressure on soft tissue.
But while the Mimic was originally designed for women, it has been widely successful with men as well, and Danish rider Michael Mørkøv, who is a key lead-out rider on the Deceuninck– Quick-Step team, is adamant about the saddle’s benefits. “I honestly think that the Body Geometry saddle I ride now with Mimic has helped to extend my career,” says Mørkøv, who rides a Power saddle with Mimic technology.
Current scientific and technological innovations continue with the ever-evolving Mirror technology, that uses a complex matrix from liquid-polymer to create a saddle with even greater comfort, and better performance. And it has met with immediate approval by Mark Cavendish, known for his meticulous attention to detail when it comes to equipment. The winningest sprinter in Tour de France history rides the Power saddle with Mirror technology.
It’s gotta be the shoes
But while the Body Geometry may have got its start with bike saddles, shoes have provided one of the most visible areas of growth, and more and more pros are choosing Specialized shoes for the Body Geometry innovations that they employ. Specialized’s line of shoes was instantly popular and the number of pros riding them has only grown since.
At this year’s Tour de France, a total of 41 riders are racing in Specialized shoes, nearly a quarter of the peloton.
“It has really been word of mouth,” says Mondini. “Often, when one rider shows up at a training camp, other teammates become interested.”
“There is also our own follow up,” adds Leo Menville, another Specialized team liaison. “The riders know that if anything happens or if they have a special need, we will take care of it in a couple of days.”
Today top model shoes include the Ares, Vent and S-Works 7, not to mention the new Exos. But the foundation of each shoe is once again Body Geometry. Like with their saddles, Specialized understood that shoes, too, were crucial, as they represent another sensitive touch point between the rider and the bike.
And while many riders suffered from issues related to the pressure created by saddles, others suffered issues related to their shoes, such as numbness, “hot foot,” or knee pains. After all, while the human foot is made for walking, it is not necessarily made to be clipped onto a bike for hours on end. So Specialized started focusing on how to better fit the human foot into a cycling shoe.
The first Body Geometry innovation was the Varus Wedge—a 1.5-millimeter outward tilt to the outsole that stabilizes the forefoot while pedaling, helping to align the ankle, knee and hip. In addition, a longitudinal arch support has been incorporated into the carbon outsole.
Riders can then fine tune their fit with the insole choice as Specialized offers three different insoles with different sized arch supports to best fit the shape of each rider’s foot. And if riders need further support, they can even customize their arches with the Specialized custom foot beds from Retül. And today all Specialized shoes—from entry level mountain bike shoes to the most advanced road shoes—boast the same innovative designs.
The combination of these scientific and technological innovations, both on the outside and on the inside of the shoe, has made for a shoe that increases not only a cyclist’s comfort, but outright performance as well. And studies with the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine showed that riders wearing Specialized shoes as opposed to other cycling shoes increased their lactate threshold by 8 Watts, and their average time trial power by 7 Watts.
Needless to say, those are impressive numbers, and it is no surprise that Specialized shoes have attracted so much attention in the professional ranks. Three-time world champion Peter Sagan, “Le Rockstar du Peloton,” has been a fan for years and even has his own signature model of the S-Works 7 road shoe. And riders of all different shapes and sizes continue to champion the shoes. “I have very long legs. I ride an 82-centimeter saddle height. So my S-Works Ares help keep my hip, knee and foot aligned,” says Kasper Asgreen, recent winner of the Tour of Flanders. “That’s really important, especially over a three-week race.”
Discover more about Specialized Body Geometry.