The inexpensive center of the cycling universe


by Byron on Jan 18, 2007 at 8:02 AM

With a few Bike Hugger friends in Taiwan for business, I found Shut up and Drink the Kool-Aid’s post about the factory that manufactures Masi particularly interesting.

Last year, at Interbike I met the owner of a Taiwan-based company that makes the majority of bottle cages and the one that makes millions of kickstands and also saw lots of bikes that look like each other. Ironically, much like the automotive industry (is that new car pictured a Lexus, Chrysler or Mercedes?), design homogenization is bound to occur as an industry consolidates.

While low prices means more access to mass markets and sales (that’s Walmarts standard PR pitch), it also means less diversity and I also think that bodes well for the boutique, independent manufacturers that build unique bikes rather than spec a generic carbon frame. I’ll never forget when a former Raleigh employee told me that the box and packaging they ship a bike in costs more than the frame.

When we built up Bettie, we chose a well spec’d and built Surly frame and choice of components. I race on a Trek that’s made in USA and assembled with parts from Taiwan. I also train and tour on a handbuilt Davidson welded right here in Seattle.

I’m benefiting from a local independent builder, a USA manufacturer, and a combination of both. So the question today is, what’s better for the industry, an inexpensive we’ll spec’d frame or a unique handbuilt frame? Or is all well?

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And speaking of Taiwan, see this gallery of Beijing Bikes and this photo

The once proud (some owners rightfully still are) Bridgestone bikes are now going the same route as Masi and others: I’m pretty sure this is not the new incarnate of the RB-1.

And it could be said that bikes like the 9 2 5 are pretty much a product manager looking at an old bridgestone catalog.

Of course all is well, choice is what it’s all about, although I’ve never really bought the Italian made/Campagnolo hypebeast.

If handmade or American/Italian made is what it takes to get someone on a bike it’s a win for the environment.

You do know that Surlys are made in Taiwan, right? Got some clever marketing to set themselves apart from all other Far-East made bikes and they’re all hip and cool. They’re just a brand of the huge Quality Bicycle Products company. Many Treks are also made in Taiwan (though not the high-end pro stuff - just the Surly-level stuff and down).
Nuthin’ wrong with Taiwan produced, but don’t hide it if that’s where your factory is. Can’t seem to find the word “Taiwan” anywhere on the Surly site…

Absolutely—it’s the spec now, finding the good factory, and getting the bikes shipped and where I’d think (longtail, if you follow that book) that boutique and custom builders can thrive. The same thing can be said of online shopping and the indy arts and crafts movement—with the consolidation in retail, nearly every store is going to have the same “red sweater.”

On the other side, I think all of us have friends that are surprised by what our bikes are worth—and always the weight of them. Counter point to that is I have no idea what a pair of custom, hand made racing skis cost.