Inside Specialized’s quest to build the friendliest, most capable e-bike ever made

For Specialized, the Globe brand name has largely been hit-or-miss. 

The bike maker first launched Globe as a subbrand in the early 1990s with a focus on short-distance commuters and city bikes. It was able to grab headlines and television coverage on shows like The Oprah Winfrey Show but never really took off with dealers or the buying public. It was relaunched in 2010 with a more targeted effort aimed at discerning urban cyclists — but was discontinued soon after. 

Now, Specialized is hoping that the third time’s a charm after announcing last year that it was resurrecting the Globe name for a new lineup of heavy-duty, moderately priced electric cargo bikes. For years, the Morgan Hill, California-based company has watched as e-bikes from a new crop of direct-to-consumer brands like Rad Power Bikes, Aventon, and Lectric were flooding the market and winning over consumers with their versatility, accessories, and affordable prices. And now, Specialized is wading into the fray. 

The announcement last year about Globe came with a beguiling photo of a low-step fat-tire bike hiding behind a thicket of cacti poking out from four hard-shell panniers strapped on either side of the front and rear wheel. A cord stretched across the floor to a wall outlet, indicating that the bike was electric. And a pair of water bottles with a smiley, tongue-wagging, emoji-style logo gave the whole thing a sense of cheeky irreverence. 

Today, Specialized is announcing that the first Globe-branded model, the Haul ST, is available for sale. And since we’re getting everything from pricing information and a spec sheet to some exclusive images, it’s safe to say that Globe is ready to step out from behind its curtain of prickly cacti and meet the world. 

“We wanted to make this a simple bike, but very capable,” Erik Nohlin, who served as design lead for the original Globe lineup and now reprises the role for the newly electrified brand, told me. “We wanted to make it fun and friendly.”

X-ray specs

But before we get to the design process, let’s go over some of the specs. First, the most important new piece of information: the price. When it goes on sale later this year, the Haul ST will retail for $2,700. That puts it on the same playing field as some of the category leaders in the utility e-bike space, including the newly refreshed RadRunner 3 Plus from Seattle’s Rad Power Bikes. 

Specialized says that bikes are in the warehouse and ready to ship directly to riders once orders are placed — though inventory will be somewhat low at the beginning. Riders can have bikes shipped direct to their house, or they can ship to a local retailer to help with the build. A handful of licensed Specialized retailers have ordered bikes to sell directly from the showroom floor for walk-in customers, too.

With an aluminum frame and a custom 700W hub “big motor,” the Haul ST is designed for heavier loads than most. How heavy? The bike’s payload capacity is 419lbs, which is pretty impressive. And not only can you carry a lot of stuff but also you can carry it for long distances. The 772Wh battery (also exclusive to Specialized) has a maximum range of 60 miles, though that will depend largely on riding style. Riding in the top level of pedal assist, of which there are five, will drain the battery faster than riding in a lower setting. 

The Haul ST is sold as a Class 3 throttle-less e-bike, with a top speed of 28mph. If you miss having a little bit of help, though, you can buy a plug-in throttle for $50 from Globe. When used, it will power the bike to 20mph from the throttle only, and the 28mph maximum pedal-assisted speed limit still applies. Riders can install the throttle themselves or a Specialized retailer can do it for them, which can be activated by using Specialized’s Globe smartphone app.

Speaking of the app, the Haul ST has a secret superpower lurking beneath the surface that also gives it a leg up: over-the-air software updates. For years, Specialized has been making its e-bikes much smarter with a host of new features on the software side. That includes software updates, meaning customers can enjoy new features as Specialized develops them over time. 

The company’s Globe app is designed to digitize the experience, providing a place where customers can receive OTA software updates rather than having to bring their bike into the shop for minor updates. Specialized’s Turbo line of high-end e-bikes has had this capability for a while now, but it’s great to see it brought to the more affordable Globe lineup as well. 

The Haul ST is more than just a sophisticated computer on wheels, though. It’s also designed to haul a lot of stuff! Not just a fancy name, people. Specialized has equipped this bike with all the bells and whistles needed for big heavy loads. The bike is literally covered in racks and cargo features, including a rear rack, a front basket, and rails along the front and back wheel for up to four panniers. 

Specialized has equipped this bike with all the bells and whistles needed for big heavy loads

Specialized, of course, would prefer you to use its own open-top hard-shell panniers called “Coolcaves.” With four 19-liter Coolcaves latched onto the rails of the Haul ST, the mind boggles at the cargo-carrying possibilities. The rear rack can also be transformed into a passenger seat, with foot pegs and a pair of extra handlebars.

More and more, e-bikes are being built to be one-size-fits-all, which is important for people and families looking to buy bikes that can be used by multiple members of the same household, for example. In that respect, the Haul ST certainly checks off that box, with a dual-telescoping seat post and adjustable handlebars that accommodate riders with a height of 4 feet, five inches to six feet, four inches. 

When Globe says the Haul ST is one-size-fits-all, they’re not kidding. According to Nohlin, Specialized tapped into its fit database of riders, which he claims is one of the biggest in the retool system, to crunch the numbers and come out with a bike that fit the biggest group of people imaginable. “We got to about 95 percent of all the riders that we’ve ever tested fit well on this bike scientifically,” he says.

The low-step frame makes mounting and dismounting easy. And the 20-inch double-wall alloy rims and quiet yet capable Carless Whisper Reflect 20 x 3.5-inch tires make for a comfortable and agile ride. (Yeah, that’s right, Carless Whispers. Someone at Specialized must be a George Michael fan.)

“The ideation really started with old BMX”

The Haul ST doesn’t exactly scream motocross, but that’s exactly where Nohlin and his team started their design process. “The friendly inclusiveness of what BMX was as a movement,” he tells me. “Also the simplicity of that bike. You know, it’s basically one of the simplest forms of the bike silhouette there is.”

Helicopters were also a big inspiration for Globe, specifically the Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane. “It’s a product that’s designed around a load, instead of being an afterthought,” Nohlin says. “It’s really incorporated into the functionality of this mechanism.” 

“It’s really incorporated into the functionality of this mechanism.”

Being able to haul lots of cargo while also projecting a fun, friendly, inclusive image wasn’t as easy as it sounds. The low horizontal line of the Haul ST’s frame was meant to encapsulate these design principles, creating the visual of a low center of gravity that handles well under heavy loads.

The BMX-style fork implies sturdiness and approachability. Globe wanted a frame that was simple but also modular so that customers would be impressed by the functionality when they started building up and adding on. 

“You can put this into sort of a ridiculous mode,” Nohlin adds. “And with the payloads that we have, you can really build on top of this simple bike and make it your own and cater for your own needs.”

The cheeky logo of the smiley face with the stuck-out tongue was designed by Benny Gold, a notable streetwear designer from San Francisco. Globe liked the smiley face as a symbol of counterculture and antiestablishment but wanted to make it its own, so the team made it look like an electrical outlet and named it “Pluggy.”

But the Haul ST needed to be more than a cargo bike for urban and suburban riders. Nohlin needed to be sure it could be the perfect vehicle for communing with nature. So he took out from Quincy in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada on a 40-mile ride with 4,000 feet of vertical gain on “100 percent gravel” — on just one battery. The bike performed exceptionally.

“It’s so fun to ride on dirt,” he says, “It’s like an overlanding vehicle.”

Living “car-light”

When Specialized first announced the resurrection of the Globe brand, the driving ethos was “bringing more fun to local living while reducing the number of car, truck, and SUV trips needed for everyday transportation.”

My initial reaction was that this was Specialized firing a shot across the auto industry’s bow — a direct challenge to a culture dominated by cars, where pedestrians, cyclists, and other road users are all just chum under the wheel of a giant SUV with a high hood line and terrible gas mileage. 

After all, e-bikes are unique among two-wheel vehicles thanks to their very real ability to replace car trips for the vast majority of owners, especially those trips that are under five miles. Cargo and utility e-bikes, in particular, excel at reducing car usage thanks to their rugged design and payload capacity. Specialized, the third-largest bicycle manufacturer in the US based on market share, wants to accelerate e-bike adoption, and Globe will be the company’s vehicle for making this happen.

Saul Leiken, Globe’s category leader, seemed to emphasize that point when we first emailed about Globe back in 2022. “We are living in the last generation able to make a difference in the fight against climate change,” he said then. “Electricity has revolutionized the way we get around, and in order to offer the bicycle as the ultimate climate-friendly solution for everyday trips, Specialized is expanding on our traditional notions of how and why we ride.”

But in a more recent interview, Leiken emphasized that the mission of Globe is not to replace anyone’s car but, rather, to enable them to live a more “car-light” life. Own a car? That’s fine. But maybe think about buying a Globe e-bike instead of getting a second one. 

“We will not talk about replacing cars, really,” Leiken says. “That’s not our main ambition.”

The Haul ST is designed to handle well under heavy loads so that, when somebody is trying to decide which vehicle to take to Trader Joe’s, the Haul ST becomes the natural choice. “That’s also why it’s so overbuilt,” Leiken says. “You can say, that’s a lot of weight, but holy shit, when you have a lot of weight on it, it doesn’t feel like a bike.”


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