S-Works – usually uttered in a hushed tone of adoration – is the ultimate stamp of Specialized approval.
The title given to kit that is considered the highest level of each product available, anything S-Works is made for racing and more often than not created with feedback from pro athletes and designed to meet their needs. Then made available for anyone who wants it, and can justify the spend.
Pro athletes possess an ability to push harder – physically and mentally – than most mere mortals, they know bikes and equipment better than anyone who sits at a desk most hours of the day ever could, and they understand how tiny margins can make or break a race day. Of course, most of us don’t possess the same power as they. However, kit that is developed to meet their needs will ultimately be more than sufficient for us.
A great example of this is the development of the S-Works Power saddle – a creation that relied upon the careful testing of Boels Dolmans pro cyclist, Evelyn Stevens. Stevens was considered the perfect candidate for testing because she’s got a reputation for being incredibly sensitive to saddles – she’s even been likened to the protagonist of the ‘princess and the pea’.
Stevens wasn’t after anything unreasonable, but she did want something hard to find, reportedly saying: “I just wanted a saddle where I could be in an aggressive position and still be comfortable."
“The best thing about Evie is that she would give the test saddles time.... and she knows pretty quickly what she wants and is able to articulate it clearly."
The Women’s UCI Hour Record Holder was given a wide range of saddles, in various different shapes and styles, and asked for her feedback. Modifications were made along the way and eventually the now renowned Power saddle was born. Head of Saddle Development at the time, Nick Gosseen said: “The best thing about Evie is that she would give the test saddles time. She’d take prototypes and test them for a week or a month then give us feedback, and she knows pretty quickly what she wants and is able to articulate it clearly."
“We created probably two or three saddles that allowed us to test certain things with her. One was nose length; another was foam density and curvature in the back of the saddle. It helped us narrow the tree down and decide which direction we wanted to go with the Power saddle. She had some things she specifically liked, so we found a version that worked with her during testing, and she ended up riding it full-time."
Discussing the process of using athlete feedback to create S-Works product, Stevens said: “I think because we race it, and ride it, and we pay such close attention to our bodies, we’re able to give good feedback. And in the end, that means someone who just wants to ride their bike a couple of days a week can get benefit from that."
The S-Works stamp is seen on bikes, shoes, saddles as above – almost every product type has an S-Works version. Admittedly, these are always the top of the range and most expensive iterations. However, of course over time Specialized are able to allow the technology to trickle down to more affordable versions – something we’re always grateful to see, and you’ll notice the Power saddle is now available for £80 in the ‘Expert’ iteration as well as for £200 with the added S-Works touches such as lighter rails and the highest quality materials.