Specialized Bicycles’ CEO Sinyard Apologizes, Shows Class.

By Tom Demerly.

Specialized Bicycles' Founder and CEO Mike Sinyard personally traveled to Cochrane, Canada to delivery an apology to Cafe Roubaix founder Dan Richter.

Specialized Bicycles’ Founder and CEO Mike Sinyard personally traveled to Cochrane, Canada to delivery an apology to Cafe Roubaix founder Dan Richter.

In a widely shared story on social media from December 8, 2013, bicycle mega-brand Specialized Bicycles threatened legal action for alleged trademark infringement against small local retailer Cafe Roubaix Bicycles in Cochrane, Alberta, Canada. The threat originated from concerns by Specialized Bicycles over their legally protected trademark for the word “Roubaix” when referring to specific product categories.

Social media critics, including this writer, were quick to point out what appeared at the time to be a heavy-handed approach by Specialized.

On Thursday, December 12, 2013 Specialized founder Mike Sinyard was quick to reply with a sincere apology to Cafe Roubaix Bicycles’ owner Dan Richter. In the apology, Sinyard said, “I just want to say a big apology for this whole thing that got way out of line…”

“I just want to say a big apology for this whole thing that got way out of line…” Mike Sinyard, Specialized Bicycles.

Sinyard traveled to Cochrane, Canada to deliver the apology in person at Cafe Roubaix Bicycles. In a text book example of social and business crisis management Sinyard went on to say, “I completely take full responsibility.”

Specialized Bicycles can be credited with financial support of independent bicycle dealers across the U.S. who have suffered during the recession. In several cases Specialized has provided financing, management, merchandising and inventory assistance that saved local retailers from closing. In addition Specialized Bicycles has demonstrated extensive support of social and environmental causes through their “Sustainable Innovation” initiatives that include environmental, import and workplace guidelines for corporate integrity.

Sinyard’s textbook example of crisis management establishes a new standard of corporate responsiveness and accountability in the cycling industry and cements Specialized Bicycles’ status as a leading brand in cycling.

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4 comments
  1. Anthony Angevine said:

    I’m very glad to read that Mr. Richter was granted this apology from Mr. Sinyard. Mr. Sinyard has done a fantastic job protecting the reputation of his company from the reaction of the public during this social media blitz. A nice happy ending.
    I would like to point out, however, that this is not Specialized Bicycles first incident of bullying a small business with absurd legal tactics over what they perceive as copyright infringement. In 2007 a man named Eric Parsons started a company in Anchorage, Alaska manufacturing bicycle frame and handlebar bags for the niche market of bikepackers and multiday mountain bike racers. His company makes really great packs. Initially he called his company Epic Designs LLC. He was forced to change the name of his company to Relevate Designs, LLC a few years later. Why? Because the great, beneficent bicycle giant Specialized threatened legal action as it claimed to own the word Epic as applied to mountain biking.
    I guess the lessons here are that: social media is an extremely powerful tool; large corporations can get out of hand; and any of us who has ever thought we had an epic ride- well no, we must have just experienced a Specialized ride.
    I hope that Specialized Bicycles might learn something from this experience and be a little less childish in the way they go about protecting themselves from copyright infringement in the future.

    • Anthony, I agree with your points. In this case it is worth focusing on the positives of Specialized truly stepping up to the plate and the rather informal checks and balances of social media working here. It’s a rough and tumble business, but Specialized did do the right thing here. The higher agenda is how they behave going forward, and I will suggest this will alter their legal doctrine in the future. Specialized is a good company, a socially responsible brand that has supported dealers. I see that direction continuing for them.
      Tom Demerly.

  2. The cynic in me thinks that Specialized set this whole issue up to gain the empathy and support in already tough market. . Human nature dictates we forgive a person or entity after they have made a mistake and then made a sincere public apology (theory being, that we all make mistakes and deserve a second shot).

    My cynicism aside, it was the right thing for him/Specialized to do. We’ll see how things go from here on out.

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