Specialized Allez Epic Carbon - 1989
This 1989 Specialized Allez is the Grandaddy of the bikes ridden today by Deceuninck-QuickStep and the likes of Alaphilippe, Evenepoel and Cavendish.
But what’s so special about an “old” Specialized race bike with its very kitsch 1980s decals? Well sometimes a bike is much more than a bike – and this one embodies a major historical shift.
Since the beginning of cycle sport in the late 19th century, the industry for racing bicycles had come to be dominated by European firms. By the 1970s companies such as Colnago, Bianchi & Gios from Italy, and Eddy Merckx, Concorde & Peugeot from other parts of Europe reigned supreme, together with a plethora of smaller bike builders.
The material of the day was butted steel that was brazed together with lugs, produced by businesses such as the British company Reynolds that employed thousands in its heyday. Most components were made by firms such as Campagnolo, Mavic and Sachs–all European.
But the winds of change were already being felt in the 1970s, with the creation of a little company called Specialized Bicycle Components in California.
Founded by Mike Sinyard, the company started out as a very small operation in which the founder began importing bike components made overseas that were hard to find in the US.
By 1976, however, Sinyard started manufacturing his own bicycle parts, and in 1981 Specialized introduced its first mountain bike, the Stumpjumper. The Stumpjumper was an innovation in design, but perhaps more significantly it was the the first mass production performance bicycle sold in North America to be produced in Asia.
And in 1988 Specialized released the Allez Epic road bike. Not only was the frameset made from carbon fibre – which would become the material of choice for virtually all high-end bicycles over the next decade – production was outsourced to an up and coming but equally visionary Taiwanese firm named Giant.
So this bicycle that is part of our Flandrien Hotel collection embodies a huge shift in the industry–not only the shift in materials from steel to carbon fibre, but also the rise of North American & Asian companies that would come to dominate the industry.
These “new world” firms not only innovated in terms of materials, product design & manufacturing processes, but also in sourcing, distribution & marketing
And of course, the rise of Specialized also provides a lesson for long-established companies that are slow to respond to seismic shifts in industry dynamics.
While many of the European firms that dominated the postwar cycling industry still exist today, their global market share is only a fraction of what it once was.