Specialized Bicycles Invades Motocross
By Tim Crytser

Cardiovascular training for motocross has long been dominated by pounding out the miles the good old fashioned way; running. That may all be changing soon considering guys like Ricky Carmichael and Chad Reed are turning in their running shoes for bicycle shoes. Considering the type of condition these two top athletes are in, one only needs to look at what they do to train to discover their secret weapon. That secret weapon may just take the form of a motorcycles’ distant cousin, the road bike. A company that is leading the way in supplying road and mountain bikes to the MX industry is Specialized bicycles. You see, Specialized supplies the bikes that RC and CR train on and plan on supplying more bikes to more riders in the future. Specialized has a huge roster of pro teams and riders that they sponsor. For 2005, they are working with a pro road team called Gerolsteiner. Their lead rider is an American guy, Levi Leipheimer who is likely to do extremely well at the Tour De France in 2005. They also sponsor Liam Killen (Pro Cross Country Mountain Bike), Peter Reid (Ironman Triathlon Champion), Chad Kagy & Allan Cooke (BMX), and Darren Berrecloth and Kyle Strait (Freeride). As you can see, Specialized roots run very deep when it comes to racing talent and prowess.

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RC outside the Specialized headquarters

A Little History
The company was founded by Mike Sinyard, who remains the company’s President and visionary even today. Mike started Specialized back in the early 1970’s by importing high-end Italian road bike components, which were really hard to get back then. It’s crazy the way he launched the business; he sold his VW bus (to buy a plane ticket), flew to Italy with his bicycle and traveled around, by bike, meeting with component manufacturers who didn’t speak a word of English. But, he managed to convince them to ship him a bunch of products to his home in California. Then, he flew back, rode around the bay area to bike shops and sold the stuff out of a bike trailer that he made himself. After a few years, he decided to design and manufacture his own line of tires called the Turbo. The rest is history. Fast forward 30 years and Specialized has grown into a global enterprise with subsidiaries and distributors all over the world. These days, Specialized manufactures a ton of stuff, but the focus is on high-end road bikes, full suspension mountain bikes, optics, helmets, shoes and apparel.

Specialized Corporate headquarters in Morgan Hill, California is home to all design, engineering, prototyping and R&D. Their offices are one huge playground for anyone that is into bikes; they have a daily road ride at lunch, a BMX park & ramps, a Freeride course, and even a fire pole that takes you into the race shop! It’s a great place and everyone that works there is a cyclist, which is actually unique to the bike industry. And Specialized just celebrated its 30 th anniversary in 2004, so they have been around for quit a while.

Ricky and Chad Ride Specialized
The racing bug at Specialized runs deep; very deep. In addition to being cycling fanatics, many of the employees and top brass are completely into motocross. Many of them race and ride themselves and according to Kevin Franks, Director of Sports Marketing and Media Relations, "Specialized has always thought about getting involved in motocross at some level." Kevin goes on to say, "Since there are so many parallels between the two sports (high tech products, competition, two wheels!), it was clear that we had a huge opportunity to connect the two sports, something that no one in the bike industry has ever done before. Plus, since so many top moto guys recognize that fitness is a key factor in winning races, we decided to commit to a long-term moto-sports program and help support the athlete’s fitness goals through cycling." When asked how Specialized was able to hook up with RC and CR, Kevin pointed to their friends over at Fox Racing, which is just down the road from Specialized. Fox approached Specialized about a year ago and asked if they would be interested in supporting RC with bikes and equipment. The answer to that question was easy! RC went to visit last February when he was in town for the SX in San Francisco. The guys in the shop fit him to his bikes and he’s been riding them hard ever since. The guys at Specialized also work closely with RC’s trainer, Aldon Baker, making sure he has everything he needs to keep the bikes running in tip-top shape. Aldon also trains Nicky Hayden, so Specialized has recently started supporting Nicky.

The bike giant’s relationship with Chad came about in a similar manor. Chad’s trainer, Jeff Spencer, who also trains Lance Armstrong, got in touch with Kevin and quickly put a deal together. Kevin also speaks with Jeff on a regular basis making sure that Chad has all the gear he needs including bikes, helmets, shoes and clothing. According to Kevin, he can always tell how much both those guys have been riding based on how often they call for tires and tubes!

When asked what type of bike Specialized supplies the two kings of MX and SX, Kevin answered a resounding, "Any bike they want!" Actually, they both train primarily on road bikes. Ricky has been riding the S-Works E5 bike and Chad prefers the Roubaix Pro. RC does mix some mountain biking in with his training, so Specialized has set him up on the S-Works Epic. It’s a sweet full-suspension bike that has a unique, patented rear suspension system. Next week, Santa will be delivering both of them some special new stuff for next year; the 2005 S-Works Tarmac, an all carbon fiber composite bike. Christmas at Ricky and Chad’s must be mind blowing!

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Ricky's new ride

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Chad's new ride








Training Benefits
There are many cross over benefits for the MX athlete. The obviously supreme cardiovascular fitness but cycling also offers a host of other positive features. If you think about what the guys in the Tour de France can do for 23 days in July (riding up to 150 miles per day!) and the fitness they have, one could argue that anyone not cross-training for motocross on a bicycle is at a serious disadvantage. If you apply that fitness to a moto at a National, it makes a huge difference. Another huge benefit that comes from cycling is being able to maintain a higher average heart rate which means you can go harder, longer. Sure, a guy could run to gain similar fitness, but it’s much harder on your knees and joints and not nearly as much fun! Plus, cycling utilizes many of the same muscle groups as motocross, while incorporating balance, and finesse into the workout. It’s also a great way to keep your weight in check as you can burn a massive amount of calories in a 2-3 hour training ride.

If you have never used a bike to train for MX, the off-season is a perfect time to start. In the off-season, the general rule is to do a lot of long, low to moderate-intensity rides. After abusing your body all season, you need to give it a break, but at the same time build a "base" for the upcoming year. Generally, you’ll want to ride about 10-12 hours per week if you have the time. At a minimum, make sure and get out for at least one long ride on the weekends and spend a few hours during the week on a piece of cardio equipment at the gym. A road or mountain bike is the perfect cross trainer for those days that you aren’t either in the gym or on your MX bike. Be sure to check out the post-season workout in the Racer X archives section and try incorporating cycling for the cardio portion.

Plans for Expansion
Although Specialized is already working with the two top athletes in the sport, they are working hard to expand their program in the upcoming years. The program has been a great successful so far. Ricky has been running a Specialized sticker on his helmet this season, and that’s been paying huge dividends for Specialized in communicating their involvement in the sport. Kevin Franks was recently on a ride in Jackson Hole, WY and he stated that a guy started talking to him on the trail, noticed his bike and said, "hey, isn’t Specialized the company that sponsors Ricky Carmichael?" That’s just one small way that he knows the program is a success and that Specialized needs to keep growing their involvement in MX. He has also received calls from many people in the motorcycle industry (racers and industry guys) that are interested in their bikes. They have just recently begun working with Nicky Hayden, Josh Grant, and they even sent a bike down to the Man himself, Roger DeCoster.

Get Your Hands on the Gold
So now that you are all hyped and ready to start cross training on a bike, where do you go to get one? The best way to find a Specialized dealer is to log onto their website (www.specialized.com) and utilize their dealer locator. They have 1500 dealerships in the US, so it’s not hard to find their bikes or equipment. The experts at Specialized always recommend buying a bike from a reputable dealer, staying away from cheap department store bikes. Specialized dealers will take the time to make sure you are fit properly to the bike, which is extremely important. Also, if it’s a big enough dealer, they will have access to coaching and local clubs that can help develop your training programs. So what are you waiting for? Just because you may live in an area where you can’t ride your motorcycle in the winter, doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy the benefits of a bike ride. Don’t try giving me the excuse that the snow is piling up outside; if the roads are clear then you should be out cycling. And if you really want to have some fun and get a grueling workout, try riding your mountain bike in the snow! 
That's it for now. Until next time, good luck with your training and, as always, VT can be reached anytime at crytset@comcast.net . In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section , your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness. 

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