Women’s product development at Specialized HQ

Erin in action, testing products
Erin in action, testing products

As you may have read in my previous post I attended the Specialized dealer launch on the Gold Coast last month and enjoyed seeing and hearing about the emphasis being put on women’s products by Specialized. It got me thinking about how the products are actually developed. I’ve often heard other people from Specialized talking about the women’s product development team so I decided to delve deeper and find out how it all works.

Erin Sprague who heads up the women’s product development team in California was kind enough to chat with me last week via Skype. Erin heads up a team of six including three product managers who oversee the categories of mountain, road and fitness/family plus a product marketing specialist and one other. This team then works with other specialists like engineers, designers and those who focus on product development.

All Specialized’s women’s products are developed by the team of women who have a variety of backgrounds like triathlon, road, mountain, so that they can really understand the requirements of each of these segments.

I asked Erin to talk me through the development of a new bike. We focused on the new Era which is a high-end women’s specific race mountain bike. Here’s how it happened.

The team at Specialized started their work out on the trails, they talked to women who were part of mountain bike clubs and identified a product gap for a carbon performance bike for flowing single-track riding, which would be fun and fast to ride. They also undertook macro research looking at race results and previous sales data. One thing they noticed is that Specialized dealers were selling a lot of small size Epic mountain bikes which suggested that women were buying Epics because there were no women’s specific bikes that met their desires.

So they started the process to build the Era. The women’s development team worked with the engineers and industrial designers and got everyone really excited about the project. The Era is quite deliberately a high end bike because Specialized takes a top down approach with product development. In the future it’s likely that there will be a trickle down effect and other models will incorporate features of the Era.

The first task with a new model is to look at how the geometry will fit a female rider. Specialized used data captured from the Body Geometry fits from all around the world and focused on stack and reach as its key determents.

Once the basics were determined it was up to team to focus on the look of the bike.

From start to finish the process took a couple of years. Along the way there were a number of challenges. It was launched in July this year along with some other new models because that’s when the complete new range is unveiled.

The Era is not the only new model for the Specialized women’s range in 2015. The Ruby Pro Disc model is also considered a new model because it requires a new frame and fork to accommodate the disc brakes which have appeared on a women’s specific road bike for the first time this year.

The future looks bright for women’s cycling products with women like Erin involved. Specialized is putting a big emphasis on women’s products not just bikes. There’s also apparel, saddles, shoes, gloves and helmets with lots of great women’s offerings.

Stay tuned for similar posts about how Giant and Trek develop their women’s specific products. I just have to make contact and hope they agree to chat.