Devinci's story was almost stopped in its tracks before it had even got going. In 1990, Felix Gauthier took the plunge and invested into a little known bike manufacturer called Da Vinci who were fabricating aluminium bike frames in his home city of Chicoutimi. It only took a few months for Felix to realise the road ahead was going to be a rough ride. Hundreds frames hung over his head for warranty thanks to a fault in their manufacturing methods. To remedy it would require a costly investment in an oven to perfect the heat treatment on their frames, which they simply could not afford.
The only route forward was to build their own oven which was still by no means cost effective for a company still to find its feet but with the right infrastructure and processes nailed, they could at the very least finally start chipping away at the warranty pile. “In 1993 I was replacing more frames than I was selling” Felix admits.
Fast forward to the present and Devinci is still working out of Chicoutimi with Felix at the helm, still proudly stamping ‘"Made in Canada" into each aluminium frame welded in the Factory. Of course things are now plain sailing compared to the first footsteps that Devinci took in the market, but that doesn't mean Felix and his team are taking a back seat approach as he reminds me: “we can never sleep, the market is always changing.”
Walking through the factory is like walking through Devinci's history. There are memories of the late Stevie Smith dotted throughout, he is sorely missed by everyone both inside and outside of Devinci. Trophies from World Cup wins and EWS success are proudly on show with old relics like the 'BigBang' now retired to shelves above office desks. Somewhere round the back you'll even come across the old oven that has since been decommissioned after playing a pivotal roll in the early years. There's a loyalty and proudness that runs deep inside the walls here.
Left image: Long Live Chainsaw. Stevie is sorely missed by all inside and outside of Devinci. Right image: The office walls in their Chicoutimi base are filled with past memorabilia with the likes of the 'BigBang' on show.
Some of the first step in the birth of a new model. The Devinci R&D team were (quite rightly) pretty keen to keep a lot of what they work on under wraps.
|It started with a bike crash, a big accident in 1988. I had to get stitches in the face, and I broke my leg. I was recovering and I was telling my friend I wanted to buy a new aluminium frame. He told me that there was someone making aluminium bikes in town and that I should look him up. So I met the local guy and bought one from him. Two years later I lost my parents and got a small inheritance. The frame builder came to me, he was looking for a partner. I got involved not really knowing what I was getting into. He had zero employees and zero customers, and I realised that he had several frames waiting on warranty repairs. I asked myself, ‘What should I do?’—Felix Gauthier|
Devinci's hometown of Chicoutimi also happens to be one of Canada's biggest aluminium producers meaning there's plenty of readily available raw material and aluminium expertise at their disposal.
Each frame that leaves the factory is proudly stamped 'Made in Canada'.
|Several of our employees have been here since almost day one. People at Devinci are extremely passionate. They ride during their lunch breaks, they travel for bike trips, and they build bike trails out here in our backyard. The company has a family vibe. We’re all working under the same roof and most of the staff live here in town. We often ride together, which helps solidify the bonds.—Felix Gauthier|
Too hot to touch!
|Trial and error and the search for answers to problems is really how it all started. And as we evolved we learned how to limit the error part. How? With great minds and great employees, and by partnering with universities and a local aluminium smelter to improve the process. All these elements enable us to thoroughly prototype and test products, but with very limited error because we know what we’re doing. It was fine to be ‘trial and error’ in the 90s, but now it’s so competitive you really need to have your shit figured out.—Felix Gauthier|
Once the frames have finished their heat treatment process they are straightened and aligned on this table. Pictured is Bryan Dery AKA The Red Hammer.
The frames are painted yellow so any possible cracks are easier to identify.
|Well, we can never sleep because it's always changing. But we’re well positioned because we have a great, forward-thinking team. This includes our passionate in- house staff, but it also extends to our athletes and ambassadors around the world. These guys are out there racing and riding everyday. They’re really tuned to the latest trends, and the feedback they provide keeps us in-step, or even a step ahead of what’s happening.—Felix Gauthier|
I've heard that the bike-share bikes are taking up their factory time and they have moved the alloy troy production overseas. I hope it is just this year's Troy and doesn't spread over to the other models
As we are growing our Devinci lineup, the factory and the employees' capacity are completely maximized at the moment. Since we still want to offer the same quality bikes and be able to deliver these bikes on time, we have strategically outsourced the production of our Alloy Troy to Asia. These bikes are still designed here, tested here and assembled here, alongside their Made in Canada siblings.
However, this doesn't mean we are switching everything overseas! The number of employees is still growing rapidly, we recently invested in a second factory to produce the bike-share bikes separately and we keep investing in our main factory in Chicoutimi, QC to be able to keep up with the increasing demand.
We are still doing bikes in-house whenever we can, The Sabbath that launched last Fall (and landed on the top step of the podium of the Dual Slalom under Keegan Wright in Rotorua) is a prime example of that. So don't worry, we are keeping our strong Canadian roots and aluminum knowhow. This enables us to prototype, test and produces bikes in our own factory, using our own industry-leading standards. Our confidence in our product remains the same, we offer a lifetime warranty on all our bikes, knowing they will stand the test of time. We are not about to move anywhere else, we like it too much here!
I always thought that you're metal frames were super well built. I'm secretly hoping that the other big North American companies send some design build your ways so that they can have and made in Canada / North America stamp as well. I would love to see more bikes built in North America! We buy and ride so many of them yet build so few...
See you at Thinkbike Whistler, June 7-9.
Long live Chainsaw.
Still made THE hardcore freeride hardtail of all time too.
I chose it in Alu for a lot of reason:
more comfort, more style, made in Canada, cheaper, I did not want more plastic bike
it is heavier, less efficient than a carbon but more pleasant to ride
And I am very satisfied with my choice
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Devinci still does their carbon frames in Taiwan though...
The guys are We Are One are doing it in Canada be side they weren't happy with quality control over there. Downtime Podcast did a great one on one with Dustin Adams. You should have a listen to it of you haven't already.
Also - I have a set of my own We Are One rims. The guy who hand laid them literally grew up down the street from me. I haven't met him personally but we share a lot of mutual friends. You can't say that about Asian made rims. Most of the time the people making them don't even ride a mountain bike, let alone the rims they are making, and you certainly will never know who they are.
Also most companies have bikes made in multiple factories in different countries ands it often varies form year to year.
Instead a company of saying something like "some of our frames are made in Vietnam and some in Taiwan and any model X after serial #_________ was moved to a factory in ______" a company will usaullly just say made in Asia.
Oh - and add on the duties on new bikes to "protect" Devinci from international competition - it's not like their bikes are ~15% cheaper than something imported.