Premium US cycling brand Specialized is bringing a slice of big-time international cycling to Australian events with its transforming Isuzu FXL 1500 sales kiosk.
Founded by Mike Sinyard in the mid-70s, Specialized was originally an importer of high-end Italian made componentry, but soon became a designer and manufacturer of quality, complete bikes and equipment.
Developing everything from elite road and mountain race bikes, to equipment and kids’ bikes, the Specialized brand appeals to a broad market.
Australia’s Retail Services Manager, Courtney Sayer explains, “Our target market is everyone, our goal is to innovate and inspire to improve all rider’s lives and to get as many people on a bike as possible.
“We’re well regarded amongst the professionals, and the ‘MAMILs’ or the middle aged men in Lycra, but we’re also committed to developing bikes and equipment for the everyday rider, riding for fitness, commuting or fun.
“It’s really everything from the athletes riding in the Tour De France, to the little kid in the park.”
After three years in operation as a subsidiary, the Australian Specialized team very quickly identified the need for a strong marketing presence at the growing number of cycling based events taking place all over the country.
Enter the versatile Isuzu FXL 1500, and the concept of a mobile sales and engagement kiosk.
Ms Sayer said the idea for a rolling ‘point of contact’ originated from a similar Specialized concept in the United States.
“The idea came about three years ago. In the US they have a container set-up, where they use a full shipping container fit-out, which is dropped in at events,” she said.
“We found out pretty quickly that one of the major hurdles to this approach is the cost of freight. That is where we came up with the idea of having a flat-bed rigid truck with the build on the back
“The purpose was three fold really…
“…To have a more direct link to the rider, to make Specialized products accessible and to have a big visual presence at each event too.
“A great example of where this came in really handy is when we had a recall of a component on one of the models in our range,” Ms Sayer said.
“The recall just happened to take place right before Ironman Melbourne, so we actually used the truck as part of the activation process to have new parts fitted to affected bikes…people could then come to the truck and get advice and reassurance from Specialized staff throughout the event.
“It really helped to turn a negative into a positive in terms of us coming to the rider and being on the ground to help.”
The Specialized Isuzu hails from the extremely flexible F Series line-up, consisting of more than 18 models with GVM (gross vehicle mass) ranging from 10,400kg to 24,000kg.
At the top end of the F Series range, the Specialized FXL 1500 boasts a GVM of 24,000kg with a tare weight of 7,060kg, and is fittingly powered by a common rail diesel SiTEC III 350, producing an industrious 257kW with 1,422Nm of torque.
The Specialized build isn’t overly onerous in terms of payload, so, as a medium haul, the engine is more than capable, whatever the gradient. The engine is also highly efficient, light and compact and also complies with the latest Euro V emissions standards.
The nine-speed ZF manual gearbox also incorporates a crawler gear for steeper off-road terrain or where particularly tight gradient manoeuvring is required at event venues.
The truck criss-crosses the nation all year round, so thankfully, a generous 400-litre tank keeps fuel stops to minimum, whilst the ride is a relaxed one with Hendrickson HAS461 airbag suspension ensuring event product is well looked after in the back.
At the pointy end, Specialized contract a driver for all of their road trips, and he’s well looked after in the cabin with the FXL featuring the popular, fully adjustable ISRI driver air-suspension seat.
On the back, the distinctive Specialized body incorporates a unique hydraulic stage feature that descends from the side of the build, creating a substantial platform for customers to gather and mingle. Built-in awnings keep punters out of the rain and shaded in summer.
“When developing the concept, the most important thing for us was that it had to be flexible for different types of events,” Courtney said.
“We wanted it to be contained, so that it was a ‘fold down and go’ format. This meant that we weren’t sending other products to meet it, so more of a self-contained package.”
Taking the generous dimensions of the Isuzu FXL 1500 chassis, Specialized went away to design and plan the interior along with the overall ‘look and feel’ of the finished product.
“It was all designed in the same way we would approach the aesthetics of a retail store,” Courtney explained.
“I think we managed to retain the look and feel that is evident in our retail environment and develop a space that is warm and inviting “it’s a comfortable hang-out zone as well.
In terms of the Australian cycling community’s reaction to the Isuzu Specialized truck, it’s so far so good according to events guru, Emma Mackie.
“The feedback has been amazing. Organisers have commented on how the presence of the truck enhances the overall event.
“We get lots of interaction on social media especially, with people looking out for the truck on its way to events,” Ms Mackie said
It may not have the international exposure of the Tour De France but the next major stop for Specialized and its Isuzu FXL 1500 is South Australia and the emerging Tour Down Under road race early next year.
But if its community and customer engagement Specialized were looking for, they’ve well and truly nailed it with their striking, client-facing Isuzu FXL 1500 sales and marketing truck.