Road and mountain bike professional racers are among the fittest athletes in the world, but did you know many top-ranked motorcycle and automotive racers use intensive cross-training with bicycles to improve and maintain their fitness? Specialized sees a huge potential in tapping into the motorsports market, and has sponsored several big-name athletes, beginning with Ricky Carmichael in 2004. Now multiple national champion dirt and road racers James "Bubba" Stewart and the Hayden brothers are training upwards of six days a week on their Specialized mountain and road bikes, building stamina for their throttle-twisting day jobs.
A common thread among the athletes was spending six days a week in the saddle to improve their fitness. BikeRadar chatted with Nic Sims, Specialized's global public relations director, to find out how the relationships began and what it means for Specialized.
What prompted Specialized to sponsor motorcycle racers like Nicky Hayden and James Stewart?
Nic Sims: We were approached by their trainer Aldon Baker and he comes from a cycling back ground, and knew the benefits gained by cycling. For us it's a good cross-over; these guys are used to racing the best motorsports equipment and we can offer them the best cycling equipment to train on. Also, a lot of the people that go and watch the various sports ride or have thought about bikes, so it's a good way to get the brand in front of another audience, and of course lots of us here at Specialized are into motorcycles.
Specialized chief designer Robert Egger cherishes his saddle time, Italian style
Who was the first motorsport athlete to be sponsored by Specialized and when?
I believe the first guys were the Hayden brothers and Ricky Carmichael back in 2004.
What does Specialized get out of the deal?
Free tickets to races, of course! No, really; these guys give us some good feed back on bikes. These guys are used to riding on the edge and they can tell every little change in suspension, so they give us comments about how the bike feels, how it pushes through turns, etc. An example would be retired racer Doug Chandler, who rode the older design Epic. He was commenting on how twitchy the front felt going through turns, and he wondered how we develop the product.
Nicky Hayden in the saddle doing his day job
I told him we work with our athletes to get them the bike they want plus we all ride the bikes here, and from the combined feedback we hopefully end up with a bike that is a race winner for the team, but also a great bike for the consumer. Well, last summer he rode the new Epic for 30 minutes and noticed straight away that the head angle had changed a degree! These are the little things that most people would be hard pressed to tell the difference on.
Motorsport athletes sponsored by Specialized: Nicky Hayden - Moto GP (Ducati), Tommy Hayden – AMA Superbike (Suzuki), Roger Lee Hayden – AMA Superbike/Supersport (Kawasaki), Chris Vermuelen – Moto GP (Suzuki), Ricky Carmichael, James “Bubba” Stewart – AMA Supercross (Yamaha), John Hopkins – Moto GP, Davi Milsaps, Jamie Hacking – AMA Superbike, Jamie Mc Murray – NASCAR, Ben Spies – World Superbike.