For two perspectives on the state of cycling, we called the owners of two very different companies. Carl Strong, Owner Of Strong Frames in Bozeman MT, a small frame-building operation that specializes in custom, handcrafted bicycles, and Mike Sinyard, who owns Specialized, one of the largest bicycle manufacturers in the world, and the first company to mass-produce mountain bikes, way back in 1981.
HOOKED: How old were you when you learned to ride’
CARL STRONG: I was about five. I entered my first BMX race when I was eight.
MIKE SINYARD: Six.
H: What was your first bike?
CS: A mongrel pieced together out of a bunch of junkers from Goodwill
MS: It was a girl’s bike my dad brought home from Goodwill I thought it was so cool.
H: How long have you been in the bike industry?
CS: Nine years.
MS: 35 years. Hey, I’m 52.
H: Can a bike have a soul?
CS: Absolutely. It’s a direct descendent of the person who loves it.
H: Does yours?
CS: Of my personal bikes some do but not all, I’m always riding demo bikes and only a few that I’ve kept around really have a soul. My cyclocross bike definitely does
MS: They do to me. I hope that ring’s true for other people, too.
H: How many bikes do you own?
H: Which is your favorite?
CS: My cyclocross bike, ’cause I can go fast just about anywhere with it
MS: I really like my S Works (Specialized) road bike. It’s just so responsive and comfortable.
H: What’s the greatest technical advance in cycling in the past five years?
CS: As much as I love bikes, machines and technology, I don’t think there has
been any advancement that has improved the sport. I can have as much fun on a
rigid, coaster-brake bike as I can on the latest and greatest.
MS: To me, the biggest thing is overall comfort. Which definitely means full suspension, but also simple stuff like gloves, saddles and shoes. People forget how important comfort is; nobody rides if they’re not comfortable. And the more comfortable you are, the more efficient you are, and the more fun you have.
H: Best thing, overall, to happen in cycling in the past five years?
CS: Lance Armstrong
MS: Awareness of cycling and the cycling lifestyle. There’s, growing awareness out there, and I think that’s just fantastic.
H: Worst thing, overall, to happen in cycling in the past five years?
CS: Freeriding idiots jeopardizing our privilege to use the trails. Oh, and Mountain Dew commercials,
MS: Access issues. There’s a problem in the mountain-bike community, but also
on the road, in terms of safety. But it’s not a five-year thing; it’s an ongoing challenge that’s always been there. However, positive things have happened to address the access issues. The International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA), for mountain bikers, and Bikes Belong, for roadies, are bringing awareness to the issue and have gained access to places that were not available before.
H: Right now, what excites you most about cycling?
CS: Paola Pezzo.
MS: Every time I see someone riding a bike and having a great time.
H: Talk a bit about some of the recent advances, such as disc brake, rear suspension, tubeless tires and integrated headsets. Which are hype, which hold hope?
CS: Disc brakes rock, they really work well. Tubeless tires have hope but need a bit more development. Integrated headsets are crap. They add no value at all to a bike. I’m pretty skeptical about things until they’ve been shaken down a bit. Manufacturers are working pretty hard at selling, and it’s easier to sell “great” new ideas, rather than old “boring” proven ideas.
MS: I think it’s all great. The more we can improve the experience, make it
safer, reduce hassles, the more people are going to ride. I mean, what are the main reasons people don’t ride a bike? Flat tires and seats that hurt.
H: What do you see coming down the pike that’s particularly cool?
CS: I think the market is finally starting to recognize that aluminum isn’t all that and a bag of chips. lightweight steel and titanium offer superior performance characteristics and people are starting to see that.
MS: The fun side is coming back! For a while, everyone was focused on racing, and forgetting about fun. I love to see the industry using technology not for technology’s sake, but to improve the ride and help you lose yourself in the woods!
H: Now many frames have you built personally?
CS: I’ve lost count, but probably close is a couple thousand.
H: How many bikes has your company sold?
CS: The same as above. I personally build or participate in building every frame
that leaves our shop.
MS: Oh, boy, that’s hard to say. I’d guess at least a couple million. Still, it’s not about quantity. I want to be like a restaurant that’s popular because it has great food, not just because it’s fast and easy. Size doesn’t matter.
H: Chocolate chip cookie, or chocolate chip Clif bar?
CS: Hot N’ Spicy pork rinds.
MS: Clif Bar, I love ‘em.
H: Tofu Pup or Oscar Meyer Weiner?
CS: Redneck Meat’s Prairie Fire Jalapeno N’ Cheese Dogs.
MI: Tofu Pup. Yum.