A piece of cycling history - Specialized Allez Epic Carbon

Sometimes a product embodies an historical event or shift, and that is certainly the case for our Specialized Allez Epic bicycle of 1989 that is part of the Flandrien Hotel collection.

Up until the 1980s the global industry for racing bicycles had been dominated by European firms – companies such as Colnago, Bianchi and Pinarello from Italy, and Eddy Merckx, Concorde and Peugeot from other parts of Europe.

The material of the day was butted steel that was hand brazed together with lugs, produced by businesses such as the British company Reynolds that was established in the late 19th Century. 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 small company called Specialized Bicycle Components, an American bicycle manufacturer located in Morgan Hill, 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 bike was an innovation in design, but perhaps more significantly it was the the first mass production performance bicycle sold in North America to be majority produced in Asia.

And in 1989 Specialized released the Allez Epic road bicycle. 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 – it was manufactured by Specialized’s partner Merida Industry Co. in Taiwan.

So this bicycle embodies a huge shift in the cycling industry – not only the shift in materials from steel to carbon fibre, but also the rise of North American and Asian companies that would come to dominate the industry to this day. These companies not only innovated in terms of product design and manufacturing processes, but also in sourcing, distribution and marketing

And of course, the rise and 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.

The Flandrien Hotel  hosts regular exhibitions of our amazing collection of bicycles that has been curated around the themes of Art, Innovation and Racing. We rotate the bicycles on display each month.

And for a sneak peek at the wider collection, follow us on Instagram.