No, of course the race I'm talking about is Paris-Roubaix, a race which predates Specialized by about three-quarters of a century, and whose rich and beautiful heritage belongs to all of us as cyclists.
Just kidding again!
Yeah, right. Don't be stupid. Despite what you may think, Paris-Roubaix now belongs to Specialized--or at least the "Roubaix" part--because they happen to sell a line of ugly bulbous bicycles under that model name. That's why they're cockblocking some poor schmuck up in America's beanie who thought he could name his bike shop after a town in France and a race that's well over a hundred years old:
A Canadian veteran of the Afghanistan war who operates a tiny bicycle shop in Cochrane is being forced to change his store’s name after being threatened with a lawsuit by one of the giants of the U.S. bike industry.
Dan Richter, owner of Cafe Roubaix Bicycle Studio, located above the famous Mackay’s Ice Cream in Cochrane, says he received a letter from the lawyers of big bicycle maker Specialized several months ago, demanding he change the store’s name because the company owns the trademark on the word Roubaix, which they use to market a brand of road bike.
And adorably, Specialized Canada is taking the "stop hitting yourself" approach:
Larry Koury, managing director of Specialized Canada Inc., said the company is simply defending its legally owned trademark.
“A simple trademark search would have prevented this,” Koury wrote in an email, along with a reference to the federal government’s trademark database showing Specialized’s registration of the word Roubaix. “We are required to defend or lose our trademark registration.”
Presumably this is why they also cockblocked a small Portland bike company for using the word "stump:"
As well as a small Portland wheelbuilder for using the name "Epic:"
Because everybody knows Specialized invented using the word "epic" in connection with cycling.
And let's not forget that whole Volagi kerfuffle:
Unlike the small Portland concerns, Volagi actually decided to expend the resources to fight Specialized--and ultimately they triumphed, proving once and for all that Specialized is not the only company allowed to make ugly, gimmicky bicycles in a red and black "colorway."
This is why Volagi are the Rosa Parks of Freds.
So why do Specialized think they can own any cycling-related reference to Roubaix, a word that's been synonymous with rugged cycling since before Mike Sinyard even invented the mountain bike? The answer is because they think their customers are idiots--or at least Fuji, from whom they bought the "Roubaix" trademark, thought their customers were idiots, and Specialized is carrying the flame. Jack Thurston of The Bike Show recently tweeted a link to the original "Roubaix" trademark application, in which Fuji's parent company argued:
…it is unlikely that one article making reference to Roubaix as a town along the stop of a famous bicycle race, is sufficient evidence to show that the average American bicycle-purchasing public is aware of the existence of Roubaix, France or with the fact that a race is held there.
In the present case of "ROUBAIX", we are dealing with ordinary non-sophisticated bicycle purchasers. We are not dealing with unusually well traveled people, nor with computer operators checking out the meaning of strange words on Nexis.
Got that? If you own a Roubaix, you're unsophisticated. (Or, if you prefer, you're a "rube, eh?") You're also not well-traveled, and you're incapable of operating the space-aged technology that allows you to look up the meanings of "strange words" on computers.
Now, keeping that in mind, let's look at the Roubaix line of bikes (if you can do so without throwing up). The cheapest Roubaix is $1,800:
I realize Specialized would like you to believe $1,800 is what the average schmuck who doesn't know Roubaix from his scranus spends on a bicycle, but one visit to Target should remind you that "the average American bicycle-purchasing public" is not trying to decide between the GMC Denali and the Roubaix SL4.
From there, the Roubaix line goes all the way up to the S-Works Roubaix SL4 DI2, which costs ten thousand and five hundred mother-fucking dollars:
With the Roubaix name and the Roval wheels and everything else, this represents the pinnacle of branding that Specialized has purchased from other companies and now protects with an
So this is a neat trick. On one hand they justify owning the Roubaix trademark because they claim no schmuck shopping for a Specialized could possibly know shit about the connection between cycling and Roubaix, and on the other they're using Paris-Roubaix to market and endorse a line of high-performance race bikes:
When called to arms, the classic-winning Roubaix reacts as though simply an extension of mind and body. Pros like Tom Boonen—who rode his Roubaix SL4 to a record equaling 4th Paris-Roubaix victory in 2012—count on its smooth ride and responsive handling to get the job done. With size-specific engineering and a frame that delivers the best balance of vertical compliance, low weight, and torsional stiffness, riders of all sizes can experience the same ride quality and performance as Boonen.
In other words, Specialized has it any way they want and fuck you.
So, unsurprisingly, the cycling world is pissed off at Specialized, yet surprisingly there are people who still think they deserve the benefit of the doubt:
in a (sure to be unpopular) defense of consideration: the outrage & hasty boycotts are fun, but judge @iamspecialized on what happens now...Firstly, this isn't the Internet being hasty. The cycling world is judging Specialized based on this and on all the shit they've pulled before. Secondly, if anything, cyclists are inclined to forgive. They root for their companies, not against them. Even the most evil cycling company (ahem, Specialized, cough cough) is barely an ingrown hair on the perineum of the pharmaceutical or oil industry. We want our bike companies to be successful. We don't blame them when the riders they sponsor take drugs. (Well, for the most part we don't, anyway.) We have friends who work for these companies and who make their living selling this stuff. It takes us a lot to be genuinely pissed off at our bike companies. So if people are at the point where they actually want to boycott Specialized there's nothing hasty about it. It's something that's been building for years.
— Bill Strickland (@TrueBS) December 9, 2013
Furthermore, it's only fair to break Specialized's ceramic balls for this. Really, they're not a bike company so much as they're a design and PR firm, and they depend on marketing to convince us that their bulbous crabon creations are somehow different and better than all the others. So when that marketing fails why shouldn't we be allowed to call them on it? This is what we're paying for after all. If your Specialized breaks they give you a new one. (And they do break, take it from me.) So when their PR fails in a similar fashion it only makes sense they should be similarly accommodating.
In the meantime, people are raising money to help the Cafe R-----x guy:
Though I think it would be more effective to bring a class action lawsuit against Specialized comprised entirely of Stonehenge tour guides:
"Henge Expert" my ass.