Specialized launches S Build semi-custom bike program

Initiative geared at helping dealers attract and retain customers

Custom News Road Bike
Specialized S Build

The S Build S Works Specialized Tarmac in the Mean colorway.

Now you can have your Specialized your way — sort of.

Responding to what it describes as an on-going request from dealers, Specialized has launched S Build, a semi-custom bike program that allows customers to create the bike of their dreams, as long as it fits within a number of parameters.

For now, S Build is limited to four high-end models: S Works Tarmac and S Works Tarmac Disc on the road side, and S Works Epic and S Works Epic World Cup for mountain. Look for the Amira women’s road bike to be added soon, with other bike models to follow.

“Our dealers for a number of years have been asking us to support S Works level product in a more unique way,” explained Specialized PR man Chris Riekert of a program that is only available at bike shops, not through an on-line configuration system. “In some cases you have a customer who comes in to buy a bike and they want to change out bars and stems and at end of day they get same bike that someone else buys, same color, etc. This program provides a way to assure that person, if they want it, can get a bike more suited to them, and the chance to choose something that’s a little different in terms of the look that you see on the shop floor.”

Specialized S Build

The S Build Lean colorway changes appearance as your perspective changes.

The S Build program soft-launched three months ago with about a dozen top Specialized dealers, then went live on February 1. It’s currently a U.S.-only program that’s limited to S Works level dealers, the highest designation on a 1-4 scale that’s based on things such as inventory stocked and services offered.

“We haven’t sold any [S Build] bikes yet, but we are excited about the program,” said Lester Binegar, general manager of S Works-level University Bikes in Boulder, Colorado. “It gives us the opportunity to provide a nice custom touch… We’d love to see more options added down the road, but it’s a nice first step.”

Binegar’s final point is reference to the limited number of bike models available, and the fact that full drivetrains are not part of the S Build program, which will likely lead to slightly higher total cost for the consumer.

Instead of getting a complete bike from Specialized, a bike buyer chooses from a variety Specialized-branded products (stems, bars, seatposts, saddles, cranks, wheels, etc.) that come directly from Specialized, and then works with the dealer on the rest of the build, who in turn orders those remaining components from one of its other suppliers, and then builds up the bike. Buyers can also opt out of any of the Specialized spec if they choose, so for example instead of the usual Roval wheels you could get a Tarmac with Mavics or an Epic with ENVEs.

Specialized S Build

The S Works Tarmac and S Works Tarmac Disc are both available through the S Build program.

“It would be great if at some point we could order these custom builds as complete bikes direct through Specialized, which would mean we get access to Specialized pricing versus buying the other parts at regular wholesale, which can be more expensive,” said Binegar, adding that he hadn’t run all the numbers yet to see exactly what price difference there might be between a standard build and an S Build.

Binegar brings unique perspective to the conversation, having worked for Trek as a sales rep before taking his current post.

“I was at Trek during the launch of Project One and it took some time to get that program off the ground,” he recalled or Trek’s custom bike program, which has an on-line configuration system and allows you to make full drivetrain changes within that system. “It’s not easy figuring out what and how much to stock. So this feels like a good first step for Specialized. That said, I don’t think it will be a huge deal for us this first year. Maybe we sell 5-10 [S Build] bikes. What will really make a difference is if down the road we could start making changes to say an expert level Roubaix, which is probably our number one selling bike, and getting it delivered to us as a complete bike.”

Specialized says the advantage of this scaled back approach is the quicker turnaround time. “We are good at controlling our own supply chain,” said Riekert. “But it’s no good if we have to wait on Shimano product to arrive before we send out a custom bike. This way the consumer gets product quicker and they still get to create a custom bike.”

Specialized S Build

The Satin/Gloss Carbon available for the S Works Epic 29er.

Turnaround time is claimed to be 2-3 days, plus build time at the shop. There is no up-charge for the frames themselves, and special colorways rotate in and out. Currently there are eight S Build colorways for Tarmac, four for Tarmac Disc, six for Epic World Cup, and three for Epic.

“Colorway offerings will change rapidly, so we’ll sell through a batch of frames, and then bring in some new colorways,” explained Riekert. “It’s sort of a limited edition program, except we are not saying only 500 of any certain frame will ever exist. It just gives us the ability to be agile with designs based on what the market is doing.”

Specialized opted against a full on-line program in part because they didn’t want customers simply showing up at shops with a printout, asking for them to order the bike they’d designed on-line.

“We realize that a retail location has to be more than just a place that sells product,” he continued. “The goal is to help dealers create repeat customers, which happens through doing things like a Body Geometry Fit or scheduling regular suspension service on a mountain bike. We’re not trying to be a custom color program. Our objective is to help increase that interaction between customer and dealer and get people into the store.”

More information at www.specialized.com

About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympic Games, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner, who joined the RoadBikeReview.com / Mtbr.com staff in 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying time with his wife Lisa and daughter Cora.

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