Café au merde

My learned colleague, the fangy-toofed legal beagle Charles Pelkey, in his role as the Explainer over at Red Kite Prayer, discusses the shameful treatment given Café Roubaix by Specialized Bicycle Components.

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21 Responses to “Café au merde”

  1. Pat and Sandy O'Brien Says:

    Mercy! Mr. Pelkey certainly explains that one! Also, I think he has channeled a little of the ” Mad Dog” in that legal opinion. And, RKP earns some journalistic street cred for publishing that Explainer post.

  2. khal spencer Says:

    As I said on the Red Kite site, the only thing I will ever buy with the name Specialized on it is toilet paper. Unless, of course, they back off this bullshit.

  3. Stan Thomas Says:

    I had read about this and my first reaction was the same – shameful. But then I noticed he was selling Roubaix branded wheels and, presumably, other components too. So I don’t know whether Spesh have half-a-leg to stand on. Although it is, without doubt, a case of big corporation bullies little guy.

    One suggestion I read in readers’ comments was that we should encourage Tarmac (the asphalt people, http://www.tarmac.co.uk/) to sue Spesh …

  4. Larry T. Says:

    I added to my t-shirt purchase by tossing in some dough to the defense fund. What Cafe Roubaix oughta do is counter-sue these pricks and at least cost ’em some of the profits they make on all the plastic crap they sell! In the long-term I hope C-R ends up getting more publicity and profit than they ever dreamed of while the big-S loses a pile of money. That seems to be the ONLY thing “Kim Il Sinyard” cares about these days.

    • Khal Spencer Says:

    • John in GJ Says:

      I’d hold off on donating any cash to a legal defense fund quite yet, this might get resolved in short order. I’m not sure if anyone at Specialized is paying any attention to social media but the Specialized Facebook page has been pretty well hijacked by nasty-grams without any posts getting deleted or a single response from the Big S. Maybe they’re all off watching American Football or something and not yet aware of the shitstorm that awaits them. If they have half a brain (no guarantees) they’ll show up to work tomorrow, read all the hate mail, and start blaming it on their lawyers, claim that Specialized Canada had gone rouge, or come up with some other bullshit story.

      I’m expecting them to issue some b.s press release about how all they wanted was for Cafe Roubaix to just change the name of their wheels. “That’s all, it’s just a silly misunderstanding.”

  5. John in GJ Says:

    Stan, it would seem that Specialized would have a legitimate beef, or at least a less ridiculous one, if all they were asking was for Cafe Roubaix to change the name of their custom wheels. Since Specialized trademark would appear to apply to bikes and bike parts (and not bike shops) this would make some sense. But no, the Big S went for the big prize as they’ve done before and gotten away with before:

    http://bikeportland.org/2006/01/31/specialized-mountain-cycle-disagree-on-stumptown-864
    http://bikeportland.org/2006/03/20/local-layoffs-at-mountain-cycle-specialized-settlement-progresses-1071

    I almost feel sorry for Specialized. They’ve always been able to get away with being evil before, and they would have gotten away with it this time too if it wasn’t for you meddling social media types.

  6. Steve O Says:

    Wonder if the town of Roubaix can sue Specialized?

    Sign me up for the boycott. Just threw out 7 water bottles and a pair of BG gloves.

  7. James Says:

    True story: back in the mid-2000s a certain bike company located in southern Santa Clara county here in Cali – let’s call them Speckle Eyes – notified the bike shop I was employed at that they wanted us to sell more of their products. We were selling tubes, tires, gloves, and water bottles with their red, single letter emblem all over them. They were – in fact – one of the best selling suppliers in the store. But they wanted to ‘expand’ their offerings – to “innovate or die” as the case might have been – within the shop. The local sales rep came in and said that they wanted us to sell “shoes, jerseys, saddles, shorts, tires, tubes, tools, etc.” to help market their brand.

    Not only did they want to sell bikes but they wanted to sell all of the other things a cyclist might need. In a sense, they wanted to monopolize the offerings we sold. And in return for our good deed, they would give us better profit margins. At the time, we were making a killing on the profit of tubes but they wanted us to sell more of their offerings. So, in an act of extreme prudence, the owner/buyer said “sure we will sell a few shoes and see how it goes.” The sales rep went along with this and within a few weeks we were stocking the Speckle Eyes shoes and gloves with Booty Geometric panels.

    Well, let’s just say that we couldn’t give those damn shoes away. They didn’t fit any one foot correctly (yes, that is correct…they were effing uncomfortable!) nor did they look appealing. The gloves with Booty Geometric panels sold well but took a lot of convincing that something in the palm of a glove could make your ass feel better. Amazingly the Booty Geometric saddles were a huge hit and sold remarkably well….until the morons at Speckle Eyes decided to ‘tweak’ the design a bit. Then they sold about as well as the shoes (which is to say: not at all).

    Needless to say, we did not sell their shorts, jerseys, tools or goodness knows whatever else they tried to cram down our throats. The owner actually told the Speckle Eyes corporate lackeys that we would prefer to only sell their tubes and tires as they were the only things our customers wanted. Much hemming and hawing transpired but in the end our little shop held firm and bucked the trend towards total world domination by Speckle Eyes. We sold a boatload of tubes and tires but not many Booty Geometric items.

    Sadly, the shop has been closed for years but it seems that the morons in southern Santa Clara county haven’t learned from this. Oh well…..the Speckle Eyes “Epic Marathon” I have sitting here is not getting used too much. I wonder if I could sell it back to them.

    • John in GJ Says:

      I, too, encountered Speckle Eyes stupidity while working in shop, this time in Southern California and in the early 90s. The S people looked in their crystal ball and decided that big box was the future of the biz, so they raced to get ahead of that curve. Into the sporting goods stores they did went; in fact, the shop I worked at was next to a Navy base and, sure enough, the S bikes started appearing in the base’s PX. That idea was a bust in no time: the big box sales didn’t do squat and their IBDs dropped the big red S like it was a steamy pile of S***, included the shop I was at. I don’t know if it’s true or not but they say the outside reps were issued S branded knee pads as part of their effort to get their dealers back.

      So yea, the S people aren’t known for their marketing savvy. Except for that early 90s Mikhail Gorbachev ad with the big S on his forehead, now that was funny!

      • Pat and Sandy O'Brien Says:

        Morning John. I remember when they put their bikes in Performance stores and caused our local dealer some grief. They quit doing that after a few years. Kinda like when Remington started selling model 870 and 1100 shotguns with hardwood instead of walnut stocks at big box stores back in the early 70s I think. There normal dealers, including the one I worked at, quit ordering Remingtons and told the local rep why. I guess shops these days must go all out for one or two of the big three, or not sell any of them at all. I would opt for the latter. I have been dismayed at what is happening to Niner and Salsa since they got bought out. That is why I switched to SOMA frames recently.

  8. Larry T. Says:

    Any industry types out there know the REAL story of how the big-S came to be partially (half?) owned by the bike factory that makes their stuff (Merida)? That doesn’t seem to me like a situation you get into based on your business skill/knowledge. The company oozes a “chip on the shoulder” image for some reason – a very sensitive, easily insulted BULLY.

    • Pat and Sandy O'Brien Says:

      Larry, I am not an industry insider, but I bet that the Spec buy was just hedging. He put $30 mil in the bank in case the market goes bad, but retained 51% ownership. Acting like a corporation not a cycling lover.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Here’s an enlightening story. Seems the idea was to raise money for PR (how’s that working out lately, d’ye think?) and freeze out competitors Giant and Ideal, which were building for the Big Red S-holes.

      My personal and deeply uninformed opinion is that this whole thing could be resolved by a simple agreement: “OK, pal, you don’t get to sell Roubaix wheels anymore, but you can keep the name ‘Café Roubaix.'” Sound reasonable? I mean, as reasonable as one can get given Canadian trademark law?

      • khal spencer Says:

        How about “Paris-Roubaix” wheels?

      • John in GJ Says:

        There is an unverified comment over on Red Kite Prayer under Pelkey’s column stating that the shop owner offered to change the name of his wheels but that the Big S’s bloodsucking lawyers wouldn’t accept that compromise.

      • John in GJ Says:

        Hey PO’G, thanks for that link. Might be that this deal with Merida will be the downfall for the Big S. The smoking gun: “Merida will gain near immediate exclusivity for Specialized’s orders to Taiwan, as Specialized will no longer use competitors Giant and Ideal.”. Ask Schwinn how well it worked out when they gave one Taiwan builder (Giant) nearly all of their production (hint: where’s Schwinn today?). (Good book on this topic: “No Hands” by Judith Crown.)

        Merida may own just a minority stake (49%), but when they’re building nearly all of Specialized’s bikes, well, then they got the Big S by the balls, don’t they?

        Best part of that article, though: ” Specialized announced several far reaching goals for the new cooperation. The first is the continued support of the independent bicycle dealer, a goal in accord with Specialized’s focus on products for cycling enthusiasts.” Just so long as those IBDs sell Specialized, of course.

      • Larry T. Says:

        Interesting stuff, especially in light of their “partner” Merida spending big cash to sponsor the Lampre team starting in 2013, replacing Wilier. Meanwhile S-branded bikes are under Omega Pharma, Saxo, Astana, etc. Either way Merida wins if someone buys any of these plastic-fantastics…but it seems the S folks lose if someone opts for Merida as they own 0% of them?
        The part about “…Specialized was strapped for funds, however, Merida officials offered no comment” probably explains it all.
        BIKESNOBNYC has a good take on all this today.

      • Pat and Sandy O'Brien Says:

        Patrick, thanks for that link. It explains a lot. I assumed Mike S. just pocketed the money. I gave up on “S” years ago, and haven’t any reason to change my mind. Also giving up on “T” right now. Just one left in the stable, other than the like new 1997 750 hybrid that Sandy got for $200 a few month ago.

  9. John in GJ Says:

    Saw this comment by someone using the name August Cole over at RKP under Pelkey’s column. Thought it so cool I had to share it here:

    “Roubaix. A universally recognized expression of what we all want cycling’s soul to be. It is something that cannot be bought or boxed up. It must be earned. On a bike. It is fitting that the Roubaix bike line keeps leading Specialized again and again, onto treacherous ground with the sport’s die hard fans. It’s as if a voice keeps whispering into some executive’s ear, follow my wheel, heed not the slimy stones and faltering peloton, faster, faster, the forest is so near, into the darkness with me… And they never came out the other side of the Arenberg. Perhaps the name is cursed. Or maybe it is a gift as it is not yet April and we are kept rapt with such glory and folly.”

    Damn, wish I’d written this.

    The Big S would appear to have slipped and landed face first in the Arenberg.

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