The inexpensive center of the cycling universe

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?