Specialized’s day-and-a-half press junket last week gave assembled urban-riding journalists a chance to get some hands on time with the new Globe lineup, a family of bikes with a ground-up overhaul designed to bring Specialized firmly into the urban riding scene.
It’s not a big shock to anyone watch the usually-trendsetting company to hear that they missed a beat or two in the new urban riding song that’s sweeping the nation–even their product managers admit as much when discussing the impetus behind the new Globe launch.
Many companies in Specialized’s shoes would quickly bring to market a series of bikes without much thought to design or functionality. But that’s not what happened with the Globe line (at least most of the line) and that’s a pleasant surprise.
For most, Specialized’s urban experiment boils down to a single bike, the Langster, a rather lackluster pista that barely addressed the gangbuster demand for fixed gear bikes that has been growing stronger by the year. Those looking for low-cost errand bikes might also be familiar with the existing Globe line Carmel and Vienna, sub $500 bikes that serve many cyclists without a need for style and functionality but with a desire to get a reliable bike that’ll pilot the urban jungle.
The Camel and Vienna are refreshed in the new Globe line, but most of us eschewed them for a tour of the new–and by that we mean completely new–trio of the Roll, Live and Haul. (If you’re curious, the Live is pronounced as you would “I live in New York,” as opposed to “he died like he lived….”) We’re going to gloss over the new Carmel and Vienna here as a result, since most of the attention was on the three from-scratch bikes.
To be clear before we continue, Specialized is trying to craft a branding around the Globe, it’s a product lineup that’s designed to have a life outside the traditional circle of Specialized dealers, and in fact there are discussions about introducing the Globe to retailers outside the traditional dealer network. Think of seeing the Globe at hotels like Portland’s Ace hotel as borrowers, or finding the Globe for sale inside a hip vinyl shop in New York and you have the idea. To that end, the company would probably prefer that we not refer to these bikes as Specialized Globe, but that makes it very difficult to talk about the company’s branding decisions and other policies–there isn’t a spin-off company called Globe here, so while the lineup is different the policies all come from the Morgan Hill HQ.
That’s also where you’ll find Amber Lucas, the young, fascinating engineer who designed the whole Globe line. From sketch to manufacturing Amber designed every lug, weld and braze-on. She’s exactly the type of person you’d want to design urban bikes as she lacks a TV at home and talks about measurements and tube specifications without much provocation. She’s passionate about the bikes.
We’ll reserve the full-blown review for a time when the Globe lineup gets to stay with us for more than a few hours of riding, but our initial impressions on the line were very good. The company, (and by which I largely mean Amber) have made some great choices in these bikes, although some tweaks are clearly necessary in future models.
The most attention went to the Roll, the singlespeed/fixed gear line that’s prettier than any stock bike that comes from another big manufacturer. Let me say that again, the Roll line has the attention to detail that’s often only found in custom bikes. The head-tube area is a metal-frame (slip in any graphic you’d like), the parts feature a gorgeous chrome job, and the paint colors are subtle and eye-popping. (My wife told me to “come home with the blue” one when she saw some of the detail photos I’d done.)
Starting with the second-up Roll the bikes have in-house made crowns (making them stand out from even custom builders who get their crowns from the same shops and file them down) and little features like the custom fork binding bolt that’s integrated into the fork. The welds are super-clean and look like they came from a robot in a Porsche factory. This is a drool worth bike.
There are some misses though–the headsets are inexpensive and prone to failure, and the Roll 1 has ball-bearing hubs. I can’t really imagine that it’s difficult to get sealed bearing hubs in the spec. Still, the Roll 1 comes in at $600 which is a good price for such a crafted bike. Specialized also indicated that they’d ship the bikes with brakes in the boxes, but not attached, and leave it up to the shops to remove the brakes. We think this is a critically bad idea as all bikes should start with brakes, especially when trying to appeal to a new category of consumer that might not be familiar with fixed gear bikes.
Two other models in the line are the Live and the Haul, both with interesting–if not perfect–urban touches.
The Haul features an incredible looking rear wood deck, with rails that are the right size to accept any pannier system (contrasted with the oversized rails on something like a Kona UTE or Xtracycle.) Build quality is likewise very good, with the bikes feeling sturdy even on the unpaved trails we sometimes rode during our time on the bikes. Some of the test models featured fenders taht rattled a bit, something a good shop will be able to iron out, but the welded rear-rack seems durable and secure. Integrated front and rear flashers increase the level of safety for urban riders.
I’d love love to see the company introduce a line of accessories for this bike–honestly there’s not a lot you can carry around on the back without tying it down at this point so a clip-on basket of some kind would be a great cross-sale for this bike.
The Live is a front-loading cargo rack bike, in-house test carried more than 100 pounds, but our own tests carried a lot more.
Personally I’d have combined the Live and the Haul, as that would result in a kick-ass cargo bike with a nearly unmatched sense of style. Perhaps future iterations will merge the product line, or provide different setups as an option.
As a bit of a downside, the cargo rack on the front isn’t high enough to use without a cargo netting or bungee cord of some kind. This will make the rack more of a cosmetic addition for many people as it’s not even possible to carry take-out lunch around in it without fear of ditching it on a tight turn or bumpy road. Grocery bags will have to be strapped into the rack somehow. We’d have doubled the height of the cargo rack height off the bat so that well-stocked grocery bags would stand on their own, at the very least.
That brings up the second issue with the Live: once the cargo area is loaded the front end of the bike becomes too heavy to stay upright. A spring on some of the models helps this to a degree, as does the excellent tripod kickstand on the higher models, but the intro Live is going to fall over when loaded.
As an initial foray into an increasingly intense market, the Globe line is an excellent effort. It’s extremely well thought out, the bikes are beautiful, and the company seems to really be starting to get the urban scene. By amortizing the cost of development across a whole product line, Specialized has been able to add touches to these bikes that would have previously only been seen in custom bikes costing much more. Instead, we get a consumer-focused line of bicycles that’s well designed and affordable.
We can’t wait to take a bigger spin on the Globes.