Building Bikes in Asia - An Inside Look

Jun 27, 2017 at 16:12
by Vernon Felton  
We went to Taiwan and started a bike company

Could you start a bike company?

Maybe you’ve asked yourself that question. Because….well, why not? It’s a global economy out there after all. Look at the mountain bikes at your local bike shop. Chances are the names on the down tubes do not match the names of the companies that actually made all those frames. Bike companies that physically build their own bikes are few and far between these days. If they can get someone else to build bikes for them, why can’t you?

Which brings us back to the original question: What does it take to start a bike brand? Is it as simple as showing up in Asia with a suitcase of cash and a sketch of your dream bike on the back of a napkin?

That’s what I wanted to know. So we went to Taiwan to find out first hand.

This video isn’t a pitch for (or against) building bikes in Asia. There are valid reasons to support domestic bike builders and if you are a savvy machinist/welder intent on building your own bikes, hats off to you and best of luck.

The bulk of new bike brands, however, are not started by people who are handy with a torch or lathe. Most new brands are the result of an enterprising soul flying to Asia and leveraging the massive bike-building infrastructure in those countries. It made sense for us to follow their path.


A Simple Plan
But would anyone actually talk to us? That was the big question. I’ve spent a couple years trying to line up this video and story. Years. Until now, no bike manufacturer or factory had been willing to open its doors to me. Not a big surprise, really.

We’re all grown-ups. We all know that a sticker that reads “Designed in California” generally means “Made Somewhere that Sure Ain’t California”. What’s more, most of us have been riding the shit out of stellar Taiwanese and Chinese frames for decades now. We should be long past the point where “Made in Taiwan” is tossed around as an insult. Nevertheless, some riders sneer when the conversation turns to where most bikes are actually built. I’ll leave it to you to plumb the depths of why that’s true.

Perhaps because of the lingering stigma, a lot of companies would really rather not talk about where their bikes are actually welded or formed. It’s sort of like talking to your parents about their sex life. Clearly, your parents must have, well, you know… You’re sitting here reading this, so it only follows that Mom and Dad didn’t spend every evening collecting stamps, but who wants to broach the subject of getting all slappy and bothered with ma and pa? People get awkward around the truth. For whatever reason, Chris Cocalis is not one of those people.

We went to Taiwan and started a bike company

I’d called up several companies and asked if they would show us around and get us in the front door of a factory where their frames are made. Lots of awkward silence ensued. When I bounced the idea of Cocalis, the owner of Pivot Cycles, he simply said, “Sure”. Maybe he didn’t understand what I was asking of him. So I asked again. Now he sounded sort of confused—didn’t he just say “Sure” five seconds ago?

Well, okay then.

Here was the game plan: Fly into Taipei, catch a taxi to Taichung, get the grand tour at the factory that builds Pivot’s aluminum bikes. Maybe hit a couple more factories. Then catch the train back to Taipei, just in time to work the annual Taipei trade show. In our spare time, we’d try to interview some of the hundreds of Taiwanese and Chinese manufacturers who would be showing off their wares at that trade show. We doubted anyone would talk to us, but it was worth a shot.

So there we were, on a Friday night, trudging through Vancouver International Airport, bleary-eyed and sorely disappointed to find that the airport “brew pub” would not serve beer at 11:45 in the evening. Really? How do they expect you to properly anesthetize yourself? Don’t they know that you will, without fail, spend the next 14 hours cuddling against your will with a tubercular, geriatric who will commence coughing up bio-hazards on your shoulder the moment the jet leave the tarmac?

A beer. Just a little something to dull the terror. Is that really too much to ask for. Apparently, yes.

Yay, journalism. Speaking of which….

We went to Taiwan and started a bike company

WHERE BIKES
ARE BORN

The vast majority of bikes built today roll out of either China or Taiwan. And the word “vast” hardly does reality justice here. Consider the situation in the United States. The National Bicycle Dealers Association reports that, in 2014, more than 99 percent or 17.8 million bicycles were imported into the country, primarily from China and Taiwan. Bicycle production in the United States during the same year? Just 200,000 bikes or, you guessed it, one measly percent. Europe is no different. In fact the continent imports more than twice as many bikes from China and Taiwan than America.

There was a time, of course, when Asia wasn’t a bike-building powerhouse. When Frank Bowden took over Raleigh Bicycles in 1889, for instance, he purchased a frame-building workshop in Nottingham, England, manned by half a dozen workers. For nearly a century, Raleigh continued to crank models out of their Nottingham factory. America had its Raleigh doppelganger in the form of Schwinn. Generations of Americans grew up riding Excelsiors, Varsitys and Sting-Rays that were welded right there in Chicago.

It was a build-local-buy-local kind of world—the world over. Every nation was home to dozens of bike brands that designed, built and sold bikes on their own home turf. That was the norm until the 1970s.

We went to Taiwan and started a bike company

Beginning in the early ‘70s, growing numbers of North American and European brands sought out Japanese manufacturers to weld their frames for them. You could argue, in fact, that the whole reason mountain biking took off in the early `80s was because so many fledgling brands were able to turn to Japan to quickly mass produce the new style of bikes.

Tom Ritchey, Joe Breeze, Charlie Cunningham, Richard Cunningham and other pioneering framebuilders could only fabricate so many frames in their garages. On their own, they would never have been able to supply the sudden, international explosion in demand for fat-tire bikes. And so Specialized, Ross, Gary Fisher, Mongoose, Schwinn and countless other brands sent their designs to Japan where they were turned into finished bicycles by the likes of Bridgestone and Toyo.

Japanese framebuilders, however, were soon displaced by Taiwanese factories. Around 1987, the bottom dropped out of the US dollar. Suddenly, slapping a “Made In Japan” sticker on the seat-tube had become a cost-prohibitive proposition. Manufacturing quickly moved to Taiwan, where the labor was far less expensive and the exchange rate more favorable. Wages, however, eventually rose in Taiwan. By the early 2000s the bulk of bicycle manufacturing was pulling up stakes and moving again, this time to China, where worker compensation was (and still is) lower still.

Wrecked in Taiwan
Photo by Ken Marshall

Today, the bulk of bikes are still built in China. In 2013, China exported 56.22 million bikes. Taiwan, by comparison, exported 3.8 million bikes the same year. Those lopsided numbers are a bit misleading, however if you are considering where to start looking for a factory partner.

Taiwan is still the primary producer of the highest-end aluminum frames. Taiwan can’t compete with the sheer quantity of bikes that China produces, but the small island still has an edge on quality—at least when it comes to alloy frames. The average value (in US dollars) of bikes exported from Taiwan is about eight times that of the average for Chinese-built bikes. All those $199 bikes you see big, chain stores, such as Wal-Mart? Made in China.

China, interestingly, is also home to much of the carbon frame manufacturing that goes on these days. Part of what makes carbon frames and components so expensive is the high labor costs. There’s currently very little automation at play in composite manufacturing. You’re paying people to very carefully lay up those carbon plies. This is why you’ll find the majority of composite frame manufacturers taking advantage of China’s lower wages.

If I’ve painted this up as a China versus Taiwan battle for profits, it’s worth noting that the truth is murkier than that. Many of the factories in China are operated by Taiwanese owners. The Chinese government gave Taiwanese manufacturers generous incentives to open those factories on the mainland.

It gets complicated.

Which is why we took the simple route and boarded the flight to Taiwan. Cue the cuddling and phlegm.


Wrecked in Taiwan
Photo courtesy of Manginwu

The Bicycle
Kingdom

Fifteen hours later we were packed in a stunted mini-van of sorts, barreling down the freeway. We are completely at the mercy of fate and the rheumy-eyed, shaky-handed expertise of our driver who is hell bent on channeling his inner Stig. The van weaves in and out of traffic at unholy speeds. Never does his foot touch the brake pedal. That’d be some kind of admission of defeat. The turn signal? Who knows why such a thing exists? Certainly not our driver.

It’s grimly quiet in the van. Miraculously, we arrive in Taichung intact and with a newfound appreciation for the power of prayer.

Taichung, for its part, is an impressive, yet paradoxical city. A stew of shiny sedans and battered mopeds. Luxury hotels cheek and jowl with grimy corner stores. Nearly three million people strong, Taichung is the third largest city on the island. And much of what happens here, every second of every day, is centered around sporting goods. That is, the manufacturing of the sporting goods you’ve grown up using all your life.

If you wore a pair of Nikes, or kicked a soccer ball or rode a full-suspension bike sometime during the past 10 years, the odds are excellent that any or all of those things were born here in Taichung.

Bikes are still very big business here. Frames, forks, shifters, chains, seatposts, cyclocomputers… nearly 80 percent of Taiwan’s 734 bicycle-manufacturers and 86 parts-makers are clustered in or near Taichung; this includes Giant Bicycles, the world’s largest builder of bicycles. This was as good a place as any to start our story.


We went to Taiwan and started a bike company

Your Design,
Somebody Else’s Factory

There are a couple different ways to go about this bike-building business. Let’s say you already have the blueprints for your bike. You’re handy with CAD software such as SolidWorks and you somehow have all the nitty-gritty details sorted out already. If that’s the case, you can take your design to an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) who will build your frame to your specifications. This is essentially what many North American and European bike brands do.

Genio is one of many OEM factories in Taiwan that specializes in turning your blueprints into bikes. Their factory is located about a half-hour drive from downtown Taichung. The exterior is humble—you might not guess that the warehouse-style building across the street from a rice paddy is where 15 to 20 very big-name bike brands have their high-end aluminum bikes made.

Pivot Cycles is just one such brand, though we recognize plenty of their competitors’ unfinished frames, hanging on racks, waiting for another round of welding or awaiting heat treatment. Inside, it’s an orderly hive of activities. Genio has 170 workers split between this facility and their carbon manufacturing plant in Taichung. Here, it’s a non-stop symphony of crackling TIG welders and cutting tools. A few completed frames are being tortured on fatigue and impact testing machines.

We went to Taiwan and started a bike company
Steve Lin of Genio explains the finer details of their factory.

How long does it take to actually build an aluminum full-suspension frame—start to finish? I’m talking to Steve Lin, Genio’s sales section manager.

“It takes us around 45 days, from cutting the tubes to finishing the raw suspension frame,” says Lin.

The surprise must show on my face because he continues.

“Yeah, that’s a long time. We have lots of steps to make sure we have a precise suspension frame with a really high-end quality.”

The attention to detail is what attracted Cocalis to Genio (though he also uses other OEM manufacturers as well). Cocalis was a bike manufacturer himself. As the founder of Titus Cycles, Cocalis spent years building his own bikes in Arizona before eventually moving production to Asia. He still builds much of the tooling and gauges that Genio uses in the production process for his Pivot models. In short, he knows what to look for in a builder.

We went to Taiwan and started a bike company

“Genio and all the factories that we use have to have the same philosophy as us," says Cocalis. "We’ve been a bike manufacturer in the past and it’s important that the factories we work with have that same drive and willingness to implement the kind of quality into that product they are building for us. I was looking for someone who would take our build process and our suggestions on how we want our product built and build it in a similar manner.”

Chris Cocalis is, in other words, a bit of a pain in the ass. The kind of guy who spots any deviation from what he’s specified in the complicated weld and alignment process and demands that it be done, in essence, his way. Genio is the kind of builder who’ll work with demanding clients—I get verification on that fact from plenty of other bike industry grunts from competing brands who nod their heads and agree that, yeah, Genio sweats the details.

Of course, that willingness to sweat said details takes time and more time means more money. Money out of your pocket.

Does the actual frame-building quality vary much from one factory to the next?

We went to Taiwan and started a bike company
Sweating the details...

“In bicycle manufacturing in general, there’s just a huge variance in the quality,” insist Cocalis. “You have factories putting out millions of frames a year. Millions of $28 aluminum frames. And they are very good at banging those things out. Those frames might be on bikes that cost $600, $800 or even $1,500. But a factory like this, it’s a completely different philosophy. The entire factory is designed around smaller production, building high-end quality product where every detail matters. The goal here isn’t huge numbers. It’s quality.”

Do you have to be a big player with a lot of money to actually get quality bikes built? Could someone like me—with a limited amount of cash and a small order even get in the door here? That’s what I want to know.

“To be taken seriously, you have to be big enough to bring volume to a factory,” says Cocalis. “If you are a 300-frames-per-year kind of client, you’re probably not going to wind up at a place like Genio. You probably have to be bringing them orders for a couple thousand frames.”

Well, that puts us out of contention for getting our foot in the door at an OEM manufacturer of this caliber. This is as good a point as any to investigate another option—buying a pre-designed, "open mold" frame from one of the Original Design Manufacturers (ODMs) here in Taiwan. Luckily, a couple thousand of them will be in Taipei soon to attend the annual Taipei Cycle Show.

It was time to get on the bullet train and head to Taipei.


We went to Taiwan and started a bike company

Buying a Frame
Right Off the Rack

For the past 30 years, the annual Taipei Cycle Show has been a meeting place of the Taiwan-based factories who make bikes and the global brands who are looking to have their napkin sketches of the perfect bike made real in the far east.

Did I mention that the Taipei show is huge? As in nearly 1,500 exhibitors spread through 3,330 booths huge. Ready-made bikes in a bewildering range of colors and styles hang from every square inch of real estate. There are bikes that look just like the designer models you’d see at a bike shop anywhere. Which only makes sense. These booths are filled by the same factories that make those designer-label bikes. You want a VPP-style bike? A “Horst Link” four-bar? Single pivot? They’re all here for the taking, so to speak… as well as a staggering number of bizarre designs you’ve never seen, much less dreamed of.

We went to Taiwan and started a bike company

But where do you start? How do you find the right factory? If only there was a book filled with all the factories in Taiwan and China? Oh, wait…there is such a book. It’s called the Taiwan Bicycle Source. I manage to get my hands on a copy. It’s absolutely gargantuan. I leaf through its pages for a few minutes before sensory overload properly kicks in.

What the hell... What if we just ask these people if we can buy some frames?

I expect to be stonewalled. Instead, the vendors are absolutely happy to talk to a guy with a giant video camera about their frames. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised—they are here to sell their services. After a few hours, I walk away with a few impressions.

We went to Taiwan and started a bike company

There’s an obvious range in frame quality on display. Some frames are drop-dead gorgeous. Impeccable welds, beautiful forged linkages, well-thought out designs… There are also a few decidedly, janky-looking specimens. Most factories, however, have their show horses on display here.

Price per frame varies by a couple hundred bucks as well. It’s pretty clear that some brands are willing to do business, others seem reticent. Those that view me with skepticism, tend to quote higher prices--perhaps as a kind of anti-Kook preventative measure. I am, to be fair, wearing a backpack, a face that belongs on an Easter Island statue and a pair of dirty Five Ten Freeriders. I am not exactly dressed to impress.

I, on the other hand, am impressed by the notion that I could actually pull this thing off.

There’s clearly no shortage of frames to be had. And the prices? I’ve listed out the basics in the image below. You can quibble with the precise cost of an aluminum or carbon frame—there’s always variance from factory to factory. Same holds true for import duties and shipping. As a fledgeling company ordering a small batch of frames, you will invariably pay more per frame, more for components and more for shipping (since you'll likely be piggybacking space in someone else's shipping container). It's also worth noting that these prices don’t reflect marketing, distribution or warehousing costs (to name but a few factors that would impact your bottom line).

We went to taiwan and started a bike company vernon felton

But still…on the whole…it all seems attainable. The biggest challenge, of course, is being able to buy enough frames to actually get your foot through the factory door. Most factories won’t bother supplying you with aluminum frames in batches less than a 100. It just isn’t worth the hassle for them. Composite frames cost more per frame, but you can often order smaller batches of them—as few as 30 at a time. Still, it’s a lump of cash that most of us don’t have lying about.

As I go from booth to booth I can see, however, why people make the leap. Why they ditch their workaday lives to start a bike brand. It all seems within reach. Of course, I also know that nothing is as simple as it appears. Which is why my next stop is with Steve Fenton. Fenton has been building bikes and components in Taiwan for close to 30 years now. The man knows the trade. Unfortunately, he’s less enthusiastic about my prospects than I am.

We went to Taiwan and started a bike company
Steve Fenton, pragmatist and dream crusher.

“I recommend you actually go and buy lottery tickets with your cash because you have more of a chance making money on the lottery tickets than you have of starting your own bike company. I’ve been here almost 30 years and I’ve seen all sorts of people come here in the past 30 years and I’ve seen them all come and go. They fail because they think it’s easy.”

“You think you can just hand over your pile of cash and the factory will build you bikes. It’s not that simple. You have to earn their trust. You have to prove yourself. They want to know all sorts of things about you before they are willing to work with you. Who’s involved in your plan? Where is your money coming from? What are your long-term plans? In order for you to know any of that, you have to sit down and forecast and plan everything down to the finest of the details. People think they can come in, throw a load of cash down on the table and walk away with a load of bikes. It doesn’t work like that.”

You’re telling me that I’m not interviewing the factory. They’re interviewing me instead?

“Absolutely. You have to understand, you think you’re bringing them a business opportunity, but maybe you’re really bringing them risk instead,” says Fenton. “Look, bike sales are down, globally. Down by something like 20 percent! If you don’t have it all planned out just so, and you get it wrong, they might be left holding the bag.”

“It’s not as simple as you think,” says Fenton. “There’s an awful lot of monkeys in this business and not a whole lot of organ grinders.”

We went to Taiwan and started a bike company

That wasn’t nearly as positive as I was expecting. Hoping to hear something a bit more reassuring, I headed over to Joel Smith. Smith is now the general manager at X-Fusion Shox, but not so long ago he was the president and owner of Tomac Bicycles. Joel knows the drill better than most. For years Smith dragged his entire family to Taiwan for several months at a time.

Smith personally did the quality control on every one of his Tomac models. That meant he spent week after week, hunkered down on the factory floor in Taichung, making 28 separate quality checks on every one of the thousands of his frames before they’d get packed up and sent state side.

Is the swingarm perfectly aligned? Derailleur hanger straight? Does the anodization on the front triangle perfectly match the anodization of the rear? When riders are paying thousands of dollars for a frame, they expect perfection and getting perfection is a lot harder than it sounds, even when you are working with the best OEM factories.

We went to Taiwan and started a bike company
Joel Smith, former president of Tomac Bicycles, has been there and done that.

“It certainly wasn’t my intention to spend three months of every year in a factory with a set of calipers, but I realized on one of the earliest trips that I took over here that we weren’t going to get the quality we wanted unless we were over here, like, every day…

Was that really necessary?

“It is. The guy who is over here, constantly pushing hard to get it right at the factory level, is the guy who gets all the attention and the better bikes. We were a small company, so I knew the one thing that we had to have nailed down was quality. I mean, wanted to make bikes that lived up to the Tomac name. He’s my friend. He was my hero. But, honestly, we also didn’t have the kind of infrastructure to deal with quality problems once the bike was in a consumer’s hands.”

“If you send a bike to a guy in Bulgaria,” says Smith “and that guy is calling you because his pivots keep going bad or for any kind of problem, you have to fix it. And you have to fix that problem fast. For one, it’s just wrong to leave your customer with a bike that he can’t ride. But it’ll also kill your reputation. So, you can either spend the time up front at the factory or spend a whole lot more time trying to correct problems later. Either way, it’s going to take a lot of your time. You realize when you are making a frame, that there are a lot of things that can go wrong and if you assume they are not going to go wrong, you made a poor assumption.”


We went to Taiwan and started a bike company
Engineer, Ryan Carroll, oversees quality control and manufacturing for Saracen. He's one of the growing number of Europeans and North Americans who live and work full time where the bikes are produced.

Enter
“The Fixer”

One way to minimize your risk of having the feces hit the factory fan is to hire somebody to oversee the bulk of your quality control. In the past decade, a number of engineers from Europe and North America have taken up permanent residence in China and Taiwan, doing precisely that kind of work. Oftentimes, they are people who’ve run bike brands in the past—people with an intimate knowledge of everything that can go wrong in the extremely long and complex chain of actions that produce a frame. Ryan Carroll is one of these engineers. I call Carroll a “fixer”, but he’s equal parts frame designer, brand representative and cultural attaché. Carroll has worked with a number of brands, including Saracen.

A big part of Ryan’s job is making sure every detail in the production process (and on the finished bike) is buttoned up. It’s a big job. A second language helps, but it’s not simply a matter of speaking Mandarin or a local dialect.

“I speak bike,” says Carroll, by which he means that after years spent in factories, he understands how the tooling, building process and company culture can all combine to prevent your bike frame from being the kind of reliable and thoroughly kick-ass product you dreamed it would be when you sketched it on the back of a napkin. Carroll and other fixers are there to prevent that from happening.

We went to Taiwan and started a bike company

“The thing about building bikes in Asia, is that it all comes down to communication and trust. You asked me if some factories can make great bikes for one client and bikes that aren't nearly as good for other clients. Yeah, that happens sometimes and it can happen for a lot of reasons. And it may not because the factory was being shoddy. Maybe the way you drew up or engineered the bike doesn’t fit the factory’s way of making it. That happens all the time. The factory builds the frame one way and you are expecting it to be done another way, the interpretation of your drawing goes sideways and everything just falls apart.”

Like a lot of companies these days, Pivot Cycles has a full-time engineer living in Taiwan and running quality control for them. I ask Cocalis if that’s actually necessary. He’d just finished telling me how good the factory was.

Cocalis thinks about it for all of two seconds.

“Yes we do. I’m a little over the top on that, but my customers are also a little over the top. Everything needs to be perfect. Tolerances have to be tight. Alignment has to be perfect.”

But does it actually matter? Does it really make the bike better? Safer? Perform better on the trail?

“It does perform better because of that,” says Cocalis. “If every tolerance is held, if everything is done right, we get as close to perfection as we can,” says Cocalis. “I mean, at the end of the day, it’s just a mountain bike. It’s going to get the shit ridden out of it. It’s going to get dings, get beat up...but the longevity of the bike and how it rides over time is super important. For instance, when you have linkages that are not spot-on, shocks wear out earlier. I mean, there are things you can’t even see with the naked eye on a cheaper, assembled bike that will absolutely create problems over time. It doesn’t have to be that way, but there’s a lot of work that you have to do to make sure that doesn’t happen with your frames.”


We went to Taiwan and started a bike company

Easier Said
Than Done

A few days later, passions severely deflated, we shuffled back on a flight to Vancouver. As I dug in for the long flight home, I thought about how to end this story. It made sense to loop back to the start.

Can you go to Taiwan and start a bike brand?

Absolutely. The advent of the Internet, the increasingly global nature of our world…it’s all perfectly aligned to allow you to order up all manner of made-in-Asia widgets. Hell, you can order a batch of bike frames off of Alibaba right now and sell them out of your garage.

Actually succeeding? Getting batches of bikes that live up to your consumers' standards? That’s a whole different story.

There are a million ways to screw this up. A million ways to underestimate your costs. Building bikes is, ultimately, a hell of a lot more complicated than actually building bikes. Are you up for spending a sizable chunk of every year in Taiwan or China? Are you game for learning a second language? Are you willing to devote your every waking hour to building relationships, developing a brand, orchestrating marketing campaigns, and nailing down the actual delivery and customer service end of owning a bike company? Make no mistake—that’s all part of the process…and I’m undoubtedly leaving out a towering pile of crap that you’d still have to hop scotch.

So, yes, you can do this. But buyer beware.


172 Comments

  • + 68
 So when can we buy the Pinkbike Enduro-mobile?
  • + 10
 I hear the E-Bike model is planned for 2025
  • + 72
 I thought Pinkbike will be releasing a heavy duty 559x110x20 keyboard... with "Scroll to comments" button.
  • + 2
 How many bikes could Pinkbike bike if Pinkbike could bike in the pink?
  • + 8
 @Boardlife69: Two in the Pink?
  • + 4
 @macross87: Only if one is in the stink.
  • + 3
 @WAKIdesigns: the extra stability you get on the plus sized model which is 560x110x20 is definitely worth the extra cash for hardcore keyboard bashers like yourself
  • + 1
 @piersgritten: At the risk of losing all credibility, I must admit... I am using 622x148x12 clipped in the desk...
  • + 48
 Great article and if you're paying attention you'll notice the curtain being pulled back on carbon frames actually being much cheaper to produce than companies try to lead on, further confirmation that carbon frames are simply a marketing gimmick.

We've been told that carbon frames are harder to produce and that justifies the significant price difference - BUT - turns out they only cost $300 more than aluminum frames and you only have to buy 30 of them per order. SO, please explain why a bike with less overhead and only costs $300 more to make, ends up costing $3,000.00 more than it's aluminum counterpart "because it's carbon" when it hits the shelves.

::crickets::
  • + 5
 That is especially true when you consider the prices used are not accurate either.
  • + 10
 Canyon Strive bikes with carbon frame cost about 700-800 euro ($800-$900) more than the same bike with alu frame.
  • + 35
 @satra: $300 of raw cost will translate to about $1000 of cost on the shop floor from an average brand. The general rule is 30% cost, 30% overhead, 30% profit. This might creep slightly higher for a brand that is not direct to consumer. Go look at specialized. the Carbon 650b Comp is $1000 more than the alloy. The reason a lot of these carbon bikes are so much more expensive is most people don't think an Yari RC and Deore brakes is going to cut it so you end up with an extra $1500 in component cost on the Carbon bike. Components have even more markup due to being made by an outside party like Shimano and then sold to OEM who marks it up accordingly just like a frame.
  • + 2
 @satra: also Canyon bikes used to be a grand cheaper on the average a couple of years back...
  • + 18
 Maybe they should just give us bikes for free then. I don't understand why they need to make a profit. lol It would be nice if more people had some real insite into running a company that resells or manufacturers products. Not an expert myself but I understand there's alot more to the equation then cost of manufacturering.
  • + 12
 You are right, they are cheaper overhead. But to order the same number of frames, the companies are still paying more. In addition, for it to be a viable business venture, companies still need to make money. You say it's only $300 more, but you really mean it's 175% the cost of an Aluminum frame at wholesale.

Keeping the same margins on a frame that is that much more expensive, means the bike will be more costly to the consumer as well. No curtains being pulled back really...more costly process means more expensive consumer product.
  • + 0
 @RoboDuck Add the "cost" of crash replacement for carbon frames (which is actually already paid)
You initially pay for two framesets, but you have only one.
  • + 5
 @steflund: exactly, also note that these are off the shelf bikes. So if you have your own design you want made then you are going to have the costs of R&D, prototype's, testing, mold mfg, lawyers, insurance and the whole slew of items we don't see at the bike store. If every company bought these off the shelf productions we would have a ton more comments of "looks like a slash." (Or whatever bike you think it looks like).
  • + 10
 @MikeGruhler: Exactly. Without getting in the weeds too much, it was the same with internet math PSAs floating around a while back showing that "the cost of ingredients to make this drug is $0.12/tablet, so why does it cost $7/tablet?"
Go ahead and put random substances in your drug that haven't been tested and researched, and let me know how that works out for you. There are a lot more costs than merely production.
  • + 4
 Because when you buy a bike, your aren't just paying for the bike...
  • + 10
 @NYShred. A few thoughts from a layman who is self-employed.

1. Because R&D
2. Because not all carbon is created equally and applied equally throughout the frame (lateral, torsional, etc rigidity)
3. Does $300 cost increase include the overhead of having your full time employee over there to represent your brand (like Pivot has as stated in the video above)?
4. Reason number four is on vacation.
5. Because lastly, and most importantly, it's what the market will bear.
That said, I'm looking forward to lower prices in the coming years.
  • + 17
 @NYShred you're simplifying things a bit here

"BUT - turns out they only cost $300 more than aluminum frames"

What makes something expensive to produce is the tooling. It's all about the tooling cost. Tooling (a mold) is a one time payment up front and it is a large large cost. For a frame made out of metal, there really is no tooling to "make." Just the alignment fixtures. For a carbon frame, you need a mold that is CNCed out of metal to the exact negative of the shape you're making. So yes, carbon frame are far far more expensive to produce. But go to a catalog company that has already made thousands of frames from that carbon mold and recouped their tooling cost, then yes, BUYING a carbon frame will cost you $300 more than the aluminum counter part.

And let's be 100% honest here - the companies you're referring to are not catalog companies - they 1 off frames designed in-house by their engineering/design/R&D teams

I work A LOT in plastics. A plastic part will be much cheaper for "piece price" than that same part made out of sheet metal or CNCed. But up front, plastic parts will start with somewhere between lets say $10k and $50k for your average mold (tooling) cost. That means you have to sell a whole hell of a lot of plastic parts to pay back that molding cost. Where as make it out of metal and there is $0 tooling cost so you can sell less. This same idea 100% applies to carbon frames vs metal frames.
  • - 1
 @USMC: well those do not justify the difference in carbon vs aluminium frames. The r&d, marketing, lawyers, prototypes, insurance are all already included in the aluminium version. Your point is totally irrelevant
  • - 3
 @garrettstories: 2. I would not be surprised if most carbon bikes are created quite equally, which doesn't mean they are created as well as they could be. If I remember right an Antidote and Unno frame take around 50h to make (aside of R&D), and if I remember another quote, average carbon frame in Taiwan takes 8-10h to make. However I am pretty sure that it takes max 4h total to make an aluminium frame at Merida/Spec/whatnot factory using robots for welding.
  • + 1
 @NYShred - making things from carbon fiber has two major costs associated with it that are more expensive than aluminum: material cost and molds. The raw carbon material(s) are anywhere from 10-20 times more expensive than aluminum, and each mold you need (front triangle, seat stay, chain stay, rocker link, etc.) will run you tens of thousands of dollars PER SIZE. While a factory doesn't require you to have a high Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ), it doesn't mean that the bike is necessarily cheaper to make. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Carbon fiber products will always be more expensive than aluminum products, no matter the industry.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: I would be very surprised if any manufacturer used robots for welding. They're expensive, time consuming to setup and they would need to be reconfigured for each model/frame size. A human welder is much more adaptable between frame models, sizes, etc.
  • + 1
 @Nobble: Specialized (and others) use robots on any straight line welds. They need humans for when there are bends and curves.
  • + 2
 @ka-brap: any sources on that? I've heard people say it but never seen any evidence of it. there aren't many straight line welds on a bicycle.
  • + 1
 @Nobble: When I worked as a bike retailer, I spent a week at Specialized HQ in Morgan Hill talking with product managers and R&D nerds. The straight lines are on many top tubes that are welded down the middle (think when the top tube is two halves that need to be welded together, rather than a round tube). Older Demo 8s and 9s were made this way, for example.
  • + 6
 seems like a lot of people are trying to justify their overpriced cheap Chinese plastic purchases in the comments.
  • + 2
 @thenotoriousmic: oh Jesus, the steel is real guy is back Big Grin
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns: Its subpar carbon. Cheap russian or chinese prepregs. Definitely not aerospace stuff and handlaid mats instead of precision spun and woven around a core. It takes the same amount of time to make an alu frame: 2-3h. Alu Jigs are cheap, carbon moulds in Vietnam too. Basically crap and nowhere near as good as it should be. Thats why I stay with alu.
  • + 0
 @wakaba: regardless of material and mould costs, you know well enough that someone/something needs to cut that cheap prepreg, put it into the form / on mandrell in the right order and place, stuff in eventual bladders, plug in and turn on the vacuum cleaner, put it into the oven, then spackle and polish the crappy bits Razz
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: But, but, but, steel is real. I would like to see the other side of the spectrum on being a boutique brand where everything is made in house. Everything else seems to be going back to built and bought local. My next bike will be made in Europe or UK, two other friends plan on buying the same. I wonder if those guys are down or up 20%. My guess is up.
  • + 1
 @Boardlife69: apart from some Orange models, which other brands are still made in the UK?
  • + 0
 @wakaba yep it's the absolute lowest quality carbon you could feasibly use. More resin than carbon fibre. At least they're using relatively high quality alloys with metal frames.
  • + 2
 4130 4 lyfe waki
  • + 2
 Orange, starling, hope, BTR stands out though I'm sure there's more I just can't think of.

@Milko3D:
  • + 2
 @thenotoriousmic: Cotic, Curtis, DMR, Pashley, Brompton, Robot, Whyte

not sure about Raleigh, Ridgeback or Saracen now
  • + 1
 @Nobble: Well...on my enduro from2004 were plenty!! ????
  • + 1
 @Nobble: Well...on my enduro from2004 were plenty! ????
  • + 1
 @thenotoriousmic: Orange only makes some models inhouse according to their website. Hope doesn't make bikes, BTR - no full suspension, Starling - okay.

@dubod22: that's pushing it a little. Whyte doesn't make them in house, it says it on their site.
Cotic are made in Taiwan, says so on their website.

Can't be bothered checking the rest now, but chances are they are also outsourced.
  • + 1
 @Milko3D: Hope are starting to produce bikes, BTR do make a full suspension frame and orange makes all of its full sus range in house so pretty much 95% of their range.
  • + 1
 @Racer951: oh, cool, any news on the Hope? That might be quite interesting.

Orange are a little vague on their website as to what's made where. And I don't have any other source so you might be right.

Sorry about BTR, only saw hardtails on their page. Didn't look for frames.
  • + 1
 @Milko3D: google 'hope bike' I can't off hand remember the name but it looks awesome with lots of common sense features such as radial brake mounts etc

I think it's almost ready for sale now.
  • + 1
 @Racer951: seeet! www.hopetech.com/hb-211

Some cool stuff going on indeed, if it's successful maybe I could buy a size S in alloy in a couple of years
  • + 1
 well worth watching

youtu.be/mlIYEdRFQu4
  • - 1
 @thenotoriousmic: "4130 4 lyfe waki"

Butted or straight gauge?
  • + 1
 @dubod22: i don't think DMR is made in UK anymore, if it ever was. the one I had a decade ago was made in Taiwan roc
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: Seamed, or seamless?
  • + 45
 Well, that's the longest I have sat on the toilet... f*cking feet are numb but worth it.

Great article @vernonfelton
  • + 14
 I hope it was in work time too
  • + 9
 Thank you, sir. Not sure how you manage the multi-tasking, but that's probably just me. I can't walk and chew gum at the same time either.
  • + 2
 @yeti-monster: I work for myself... Lol
  • + 18
 “Look, bike sales are down, globally. Down by something like 20 percent".

And why is that? Grist for another article
  • + 7
 Yeah, this statement is massively significant to the state of the industry right now.

PBers forget that high performance bikes are a tiny sliver of the global market. And that market shift has direct affect on our options.

Usually when you see a massive downturn of volume in a market the classic response is to seek higher value offerings that allow you to lose fewer dollars than units (ahem, new standards anyone?)

But the driver of volume declines is very curious. Lazy kids? Shift to fuel-driven transport in developing countries? Alternatives? What gives? Very curious to hear an analysts perspective on the global market.
  • + 1
 I reckon bike sales are slower now because fewer people ride them from one generation to the next, particularly with the advent of technology and being able to be online 24/7.
  • + 4
 Think about a typical Walmart bike. Someone wants to start "mountain biking" and goes and buys a bike. He then realizes that (due to the cheapness of the bike) that he doesn't like mountain biking. You can scan Craigslist for any town and see hundreds of these bikes being offloaded. These people are not repeat customers, and the bikes they are selling have been essentially the same bike for the last 10-15 years. Why buy new when you can get the same bike off Craigslist for 1/3 the cost?

So what do the Chinese bike manufacturers do? Crank out bikes cheaper... and cheaper... and cheaper.... Quality goes down, no one wants to buy bad quality, the cycle continues. The "high end" bike market is alive and well, but I would guess that only accounts for like 5% of bikes (bikes $500 or more). That would leave like 95% of bikes (sub-$500) that are being sold to an already saturated market.
  • + 1
 @Thustlewhumber: this may well be a factor. My personal experience is different - I and most every kid I knew then and many now (fewer, arguably) started off on a hand me down piece of crap dept store bike. My 1st store bought bike came in high school. My first quality bike came in my 20s. I assume today's western family that has to give little johnny or Jane everything that's the latest and greatest would actually be buying more new bikes. I'm legit interested - marketing stuff like this make me curious.
  • + 11
 Quite frankly I don't understand the fear of sport not growing more, it's huge already, at least in Europe. There is always a limit to growth of anything, or at least a limit to pace of growth, trying to overcome it is what you call "creating a bubble". I honestly do not think MTB is a sport for everybody, I would say it's a sport for a few. I do appreciate bikeparks popping up everywhere and improvement in general acceptance among regular populace (at least in Europe) but I honestly don't need more. I consider myself as a good example of "buying force" in terms of money and time spent on biking and I just can't really utilize more riding locations (at least in Europe).

For instance, if I lived in my hometown in Poland I would have a hard time visiting all bike parks in proximity of 3h drive within a year. The moment bike parks or trail centers have to compete for the client is the moment first world problems start... I may be stupid, but I also may simply be appreciating what I have. Why do we have to reach the moment where I eat more than I can chew? Well, when it comes to bike tech, we are already there. Big time. I don't need cheaper parts, I just don't. I just... I am just happy with the way it turned out.
  • + 3
 I see high end bicycles in the same light as the ski and snowboard hard-goods industry. No real innovation from year to year besides BOLD NEW GRAPHICS. Every half decade something exciting debuts shaking up the industry, everyone else plays catchup for the next product cycle or two then repeat BOLD NEW GRAPHICS. The industry is ripe for some major shifts in the upcoming years.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: Me too, Waki.I have a bike i love and trails close to my house that i never get tired of. I don't give a rats ass how many others are riding.
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns: Totally hear you re: why the pursuit of growth is so critical (and futile), but that's a much bigger convo than the bike industry. As it stands today the big players in the industry are investor owned and investors want profitable growth. When volume consumption declines that growth is achieved in two ways, 1. push up the value (price) to get more $ for less, then comes 2. cost cutting through mergers (to increase scale), production changes, product line rationalization, reduced R&D, direct sales, etc.

Boutique brands will always popup/continue to fill the void, but they'll usually be more expensive than the player who created said void.

Less selection, lower quality, harder-to-find service... that's the fear that is borne from being a consumer in a shrinking market.
  • + 13
 Great article. You did a very good job of showing the difference between simply buying a frame and running your own business. One is a simple transaction while the other involves supporting a process and product that carries your name and reputation. The level of commitment and dedication that a guy like Chris Cocalis or Jeff Steber (and others like them) bring to work each and every day truly deserves our respect.
  • + 11
 I watched the video and read the comments last week. I am amazed that so many people are unaware or ignorant of simple business practice, procedure, and risks for your investment both in time and money. People are not in business to not make a profit. Go to the grocery store and tell them they charge too much. The free market and capitalism regulate the price due to competition and product availability. One of the biggest issues is L-I-A-B-I-L-I-T-Y , both with product quality, misuse of the product, and of course personal injury due to product failure. I applaud anyone who wants to start a bike business and especially those who want to sell them for less money just for the fun of it.
  • - 9
flag zede (Jul 4, 2017 at 7:49) (Below Threshold)
 So since we are all so ignorant and you are so aware of everything, please explain how yt manages to sell "cheap" bikes, to sponsor so many athletes, and still is making nice profits. But somehow, specialized which is selling way more bikes, for twice the price, with shitty carbon, shitty pressfit, not so much sponsoring, many lawsuits are claiming they don't make money ? Don't answer direct sale vs indirect because we know it's not the reason
  • + 1
 @zede: if you cut out the dealer margin and costs for retail support and costs for dealer events/trade shows the bikes would be as cheap as a direct brand .... it is as simple as that
  • + 0
 @clemson: sure. That makes complete sense. How do you explain that equivalent entry level bikes cost the same in direct sale and in bikeshop? How does Giant manage to do sell bikes just a bit more expensive than yt and canyon, but way under spe/trek whereas they are selling through local bikeshops?
  • + 5
 @zede: Specialized and YT both make their money the same way - at the wholesale level. The difference is Specialized sells through a retailer who marks up the price so the retailer can make money (Specialized does not get any of that mark up, it's only the retailer) and YT sells directly to you the end consumer at the wholesale price. The wholesale costs of the bikes are roughly the same.

To your second question, volume and making up lost profit on other models. Giant is the world's #1 producer of bicycles and makes hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of more bikes than YT does. Their buying power is monstrous compared to YT's. If Giant only makes 30% profit at the low end of the spectrum, they balance it out on the high end where they make more money.
  • - 1
 @ka-brap: My point was more comparing the price of high end mtnbikes from Giant and Specialized. Specialized is selling nearly as many high end mtb as Giant but still their price are way higher.
I don't think Giant is using the money they make selling high volume of entry level bike to compensate the "low margin" they make on high end bikes, it would make no sense. In theory, big company like giant would sell their low end bikes cheaper, but in higher volume which would compensate the decreased margins. But i don't see the reason why they would manage to sell high end bikes so much cheaper than Specialized ?
  • + 1
 @zede: That's what I was trying to say- they are selling their lower end bikes at less margin, and higher end bikes at a higher margin. As for their high end to high end comparison, that's not always the case. An S-Works Demo 8 is $7,500 at retail, and a Giant Glory Advanced 0 is $8,375. Each have some in-house components and some upgrades vs. the other but I wouldn't say the Glory is necessarily a better deal.

Now, this can vary from country to country, are the brands using a subsidiary or a distributor, etc. etc. It could be that in some instances Giant will be a better value than Specialized, but in USD Specialized is generally a good value at retail and not overpriced compared to other retail-oriented manufacturers.
  • + 1
 @ka-brap: I will make an educated assumption that Spec sells like 500 Rock hoppers per one low end Demo and possibly 50 Epic HT Comps per 1 SWorks. Even if mark up on Demo is higher, they still earn most of their money on low end products. In such climate I could easily argue that those ridiculous SWorks are exist solely to boost sales of low end bikes.
  • + 2
 @ka-brap: i agree in a sense that yes they are selling their lower end bikes at less margin, and higher end bikes at a higher margin but the volume of sales of the low end bikes will destroy the high end sales.

10% of $100,000,000 is a lot more end profit that 50% of 1,000,000
  • + 0
 @ka-brap: my bad, I had in memory that the top demo was at the same price as the top trek session.
  • + 3
 @WAKIdesigns @kent : I totally agree that their total turnover will be generated from their high turn rate bikes (the lower end stuff). Part of my point is that these companies care about a few things: top line growth, product gross profit (PGP) %, earnings before interest & taxes (EBIT). I can absolutely guarantee you they are trying to have as high of a PGP% as possible because that will yield them a higher EBIT. If they let the PGP of their lower end bikes fall below 30%, it's essentially not allowing them to make the profit they need to thrive. This is a mark of all companies that make hard goods and why they also need to sell accessories and soft goods. Ultimately, they need high end bikes, accessories, and soft goods to account for the lost PGP of low end bikes.
  • + 7
 Nice article! I would also like to see a corollary piece on frames made of fibre de carbon. My YT has a sticker that says made in Taiwan (which I still insist on calling Formosa). What's the diff between TW and mainland carbon factories and philosophies? Where are Pivot's carbon frames made? I will never buy anything of real value from the big C because I vote with my dollar and have several Tibetan coworkers/friends, F the Chinese gov't. At least TW is a thorn in their side.
  • + 8
 So, if higher build quality is so important for the longevity of the bike, perhaps it's a great time to start long term review series! Razz


Thanks for the entertaining and informative article!
  • + 8
 It'd be helpful if all the testers were Clydesdales too, we tend to end frames lives faster.
  • + 1
 @BikesBoatsNJeeps: That would be awesome. I would love to see the base model or one higher than base model reviewed.
  • + 5
 @BikesBoatsNJeeps: so true! 6'4" and 195 lbs (me) is a heavyweight in the cycling world. Thankfully, with this long front-center movement, the amount of frames I can buy is increasing rapidly!
  • + 3
 @Chadimac22 @BikesBoatsNJeeps I can only imagine your struggle guys, I'm a 70kg feather riding size S frames. Somehow I still manage to trash them or find little things that could be made in a lot more sensible way.

I would love for manufacturers to slow down the release cycle and develop bikes that last longer!
Unfortunately it's not how the economy works...
  • + 1
 @Milko3D: Yeah, my biggest struggle is fit (granted, I realize I'm at the end of the size spectrum, but still...). I've broken a frame or two but each time the failure was in a known fatigue/failure point for that particular frame. Chains on the other hand... I've broken three 11 speed chains and when they fail suddenly, it usually ends really bad... for ME! lol
  • + 1
 @BikesBoatsNJeeps: I agree! I'm 6'4", 260......I have yet to have a frame, or components that my body DID like.......with the exception of the 275C I am on now.
  • + 4
 This is a very insightful article. I learned a lot about the bike industry and know for certain that I will never try to build a bike brand. I will happily (and even more happily now) put down thousands of dollars to buy a bike and leave the headaches of delivering that bike to someone else.
  • + 5
 Is Taiwan safer in terms of copyright infringement? I know there's a huge black market in China and that intellectual property is a grey area there.
  • + 7
 Watched the video few days ago, still read the article! Great content!
  • + 3
 To start your own bike company you have two options: you have an unbeatable idea that will shake up the market, or you have no revolutionary idea at all but you do have enough money, tons of it actually, to convince customers that your idea is revolutionary.
For example you can shorten the offset a couple of millimeters or widen the rear hub a bit more or both at the same time, and then start an aggressive marketing campaign showing the massive advantages of your ideas. Shortening the offset has also drawbacks, but what the f*ck does it matter?
  • + 3
 Great article w good insight and info, but aluminum is the new "26"!!!!! I am on a full carbonivore diet now! Where is the carbon bike manufacturing stuff. I suspect a completely diff process most like started at the end of this article w a metal bike.
  • + 2
 Nope. Not buying a generic taiwan bike. Staying with Foes. Journalists, Ex-Bikers, Marketeers are notorious for building blingy shortlived crap. Staying with a fabricator/engineer with extreme knowledge in frame building and decades of suspension design.
  • + 2
 There are many brands that have come and gone. The story many would love to hear the details on myself included is that of Evil bikes who had that badass "napkin design" then went through the wringer in Taiwan and then came out the other side. We all know you know them well Vernon.
  • + 2
 Yup. I touched on it a bit in the Blueprint video I did about the Following on bikemag.com I reached out to Kevin on this video, but it didn't pan out this time around. I know, it would have been a great illustration of all that can go wrong (and how to turn it around and get it right) when outsourcing your manufacturing to Asian factories.
  • + 1
 A badass "napkin design" with no engineering makes for huge problems in manufacturing, anybody can figure out how to work a CAD program, but do they understand mechanical engineering? There are production engineers (see "The Fixer" above) at the factories, they will tell you what can and can't be done (how things can be welded, what effect certain leverage ratios will do to welds and links, etc...), then you have the choice to listen or not. As a "Brand" you are responsible for testing and approving your own products before you bring them to market. You can't just make a couple of prototypes, use them for marketing, then go straight to production.

If you choose to put the cart before the horse.......
  • + 2
 Its interesting to note the disparity between the cost of an aluminum frame vs carbon, when factored into a complete build.

This equates to a VERY small percentage of the overall price (as the components, marketing, shipping, etc. etc. are all fixed prices irrelevant of frame material).

YET the $$$$ between the two versions of bikes on the showroom floor at MRSP are DRASTICALLY different.

IF the costs of carbon frame vs aluminum are only a few hundred dollars different to manufacture, then why a few thousand on the floor when everything else is fixed ?
  • + 2
 What if Pinkbike actually sold Pink Bikes? You have manufactured an interesting article. Pinkbike QC will check for any typos. However once production is set up for large companies such as spesh and giant, production cost dramatically decreases. Bike companies are currently gouging the consumer with a decent new dh bike costing the same as some motorbikes.
  • + 7
 If Pinkbike sold bikes,would it be biased on the reviews?
  • + 1
 @nozes: just point it down hill
  • + 3
 @nozes: Are they ever? J/K
  • + 3
 Is that 45 days of production for a single frame or a whole batch of frames as they make their way through each station? Seems like a really long time for just one single frame to be built.
  • - 4
flag Racer951 (Jul 4, 2017 at 1:50) (Below Threshold)
 That will be for its various stages until completion I imagine, the actual time put into the frame will be measured in hours not days. To put this in perspective, a new frame building plant in Portugal can pump out an aluminium frame in 5 mins total, excluding heat treat and paint.
  • + 0
 I think he meant setting up the production from drawing to frame. After that it will go in 5min/frame.
  • + 2
 @Racer951: what factory? didn't know that "we" had here a frame factory with the exception of Órbita
  • + 6
 @Racer951:
Please explain how? Do they use a time machine?

Hydroforming the tubes for one frame takes less than 5 minutes?
Cutting the tubes to length takes less than 5 minutes?
Placing the tubes in a jig and welding tubes takes less than 5 minutes?
Aligning the frame before heat treatment takes less than 5 minutes?
QA takes less than 5 minutes?

Maybe it is possible to apply the decals in less than 5 minutes!

Did you meant that they release a frame every 5 minutes, not that it takes 5 minutes TOTAL per frame?
  • + 3
 @krisrayner:

Probably 45 days from the time they start working on the order to the time the first frame is complete.
  • + 1
 @tiagomano: Triangle Bicycle factory - looks super hi-tech with a robotic production line dealing with tube prep and manipulation as well as welding - www.bike-eu.com/home/nieuws/2016/1/portuguese-triangles-makes-alloy-frames-in-five-minutes-10125444

This is one of the huge pitfalls of the large amount of brands within the bike industry - If there were only 3 large brands, like in motocross we could all be riding top end bikes for 1/3rd of the cost due to economies of scale - A £2000 alloy DH frame could cost £300, literally.

A factory like this can make an alloy frame in 5 mins, it will probably be perfectly welded and aligned but it is useless for making small runs of 100 frames or so, you would need to make thousands of the same to make setup worthwile.
  • + 0
 @cyberavner: www.bike-eu.com/home/nieuws/2016/1/portuguese-triangles-makes-alloy-frames-in-five-minutes-10125444

Why dont you read up before going out of your way to disprove what somebody else is saying?
  • + 4
 @Racer951:

www.bike-eu.com/home/nieuws/2016/7/portuguese-alloy-frame-maker-triangles-starts-slowly-in-october-10126858

Supposedly production will start on May 2018. So far all we have is their claims. I'll believe it when I see it. They don't even have a complete web site. triangles.pt
Also the articles show only hardtail frames, which are easier and faster to make than FS frames.

I am somewhat familiar with mass production techniques. I don't know how they calculated their claimed 5 minutes figure, but I would be very surprised if they will be able to show a 5 minutes unedited (except paint and heat treatment) video showing raw materials turned into a complete frame.

Quite the opposite from wanting to disprove their claims, I would love to see proof that they are true.
  • - 10
flag Racer951 (Jul 4, 2017 at 5:24) (Below Threshold)
 @cyberavner: People like you completely do my head in, even when provided with information you still dispute the fact and claim it to be incorrect - you say you are not out to disprove things but write a whole host of jibberish about how they wont be able to do what they claim and how they need to show you proof? - For what? you are not potential customer and never will be, do you know anything about bicycle frame manufacture? - You wont believe them unless they show you a video? utterly hilarious.

Only in the bike industry are the consumer in the belief that they are more knowlegable than the manufacturer, I had a similar response to the last thread when I posted an absolute concrete fact and everybody spend the next 10 replies trying to discredit it, I have no idea why - Go and stick your head back up in the clouds.
  • + 6
 @Racer951: Dont be such a d!ck..cyberavner only stated his doubts(which I agree with) and showed that this miraculous company does not even started to build anything...so back yourself up and read again what you have written!
  • - 4
flag Racer951 (Jul 4, 2017 at 7:09) (Below Threshold)
 @themountain: this place is full of argumentative pricks with no experience and heads stuffed up arses intent on disproving anything that doesn't fit into their personal ideas of what is possible / right.

Why should I back up what a company nothing to do with me is saying? I am just taking things from the article, I'm not pushing my opinion on anyone like you a*sholes.
  • + 6
 @Racer951: haha youre so offended
  • + 1
 @tiagomano: the Triangles factory in Agueda.

Agueda bike park opens this summer too, worth a trip!
  • + 1
 @mark-mcclure: you are saying the dirt jumps, pump track and that kind of things?
've been there once to see, i normaly go and ride to Ladário, near sever de vouga, and one day i went to see it
  • + 2
 Well, I read the Wikipedia pages on "Anti-squat" and "Kinematics," so, like all my trailhead buddies, I know enough about bicycles to start my own company.

The next guy I ride with who says, "Man, this bike has a lot of anti-squat" is going to get the I-know-a-lot-about-bikes crap kicked out of him.
  • + 1
 And for a pursuit like mtb apparently so connected to the outdoors and environment. Then what's the true cost of production. None of it seems to be very friendly to the environment, with far less controls in china, carbon seems the worst and made using the cheapest labour.
  • + 1
 It does remind you that those 'cheap' 'knock off' carbon frames you see on ebay from Asia are probably in their own right quite good frames that have been made by people who know what they're doing. But then you get held back on the what if's of QC and an quite likely a very unjustified prejudice and that your going to prematurely judge it. This article has made me more likely to buy one of those frame as there are a few people on tinterwebz that say they have one and its been faultless but then you hear of the horror stories. That being said there are still horror stories from the big brands.
  • + 2
 Three years ago I bought one of those carbon frames (ICAN)+bar + rigid fork for commuting-xc 29. I commute 34miles a week, 60/40 trial/road+ leisure cycling with kids. No issues WHATSOEVER! it cost me around £500 to built with shimano and some cheap superstar wheels (they are not good i wish i had bought cheap mavic)
  • + 1
 As always, @vernonfelton, nice work and thank you! It was nice to have some insight from Joel Smith. Johnny T. was a real badass jumping into the industry racing and building his namesake brand. It's too bad that things didn't work out for Joel as he had hoped with Tomac bikes.
  • + 1
 Awesome to see they interviewed Joel Smith. I bought my Tomac Snyper frame from him and the attention to detail is amazing as was the customer service. Emails were answered from Taiwan when he was over doing QC. Sorry that they could't make a go of it.
  • + 3
 See see familiar frames with "Taiwanese name" on it, and think,"
hey that 'such and such' Brand'.
Then I think,
"I'm not going to buy one of them now".
Lol
  • + 2
 what brands?
  • + 1
 @Palmers: I'm not going to say because I don't want to look like knob if I'm wrong.
Lol
  • + 2
 I bet you will Wink Unless you pony up and buy a custom frame. though to be honest I can't even think of a single 'brand' that doesn't have their frames built in Taiwan. personally I think the Technology and Quality offered by Giant is unbeatable at any price point. so its likely that i will buy another one someday. They are not hiding who they are!
  • + 2
 @lifted-d: I know know...I'm just talking $h!t
Lol
  • + 1
 @AntN: lol
  • + 1
 @lifted-d: lots of custom frame builders in the western US, usually the only option if you want a specific geometry. My fatbike was made in Colorado by Matter Cycles and fits 5" tires with 16.5" chainstays. Also Durango bike company, Why cycles, they all make bikes that rip.
  • + 5
 What food is it in the first pic?
  • + 4
 I just need a new tapered head tube replace my 1 1/8" head tube, anyone know were i can get 1?
  • + 1
 Talk to Frank The Welder in VT who does absolute beauty work.

www.frankthewelder.com
  • + 1
 With the current price of Devinci aluminum frames , I was sure surprised to find out that they are hand built in Canada . That being said , I was amazed at the cost of offshore built frame of similar design . It was a no brainier to purchase one as the offshore built frames where $400 to $600 more depending on the brand .
  • + 1
 Giant, Marshal, Topkey, VIP, Kinesis, Alumate, Caribou, Pacific, Aprotech... many many players in Taiwan. UNNO is making carbon frames in Barcelona, but the price tag for just a frame is over 5.000 Euros.
  • + 2
 Flies over with a napkin "design specifications". Makes an order and leaves. Complains about the end product. Concedes that it is easier said than done. Big Grin
  • + 2
 Great article Mr. Felton. Quite possibly the best piece of yours I have had the pleasure of reading.

To the other "Journalists/writers"on Pinkbike - this is how it's done.
  • + 0
 After working for 3 years out of pocket trying to start a frame co. and running on no sleep, watching the video really exposes a really long road ahead. after trying to stick to made in the USA and realizing i only had two viable options for manufacturing in USA and one of the two just shutting its doors after only 5 years pretty much dictated heading to Taiwan. GOOD STUFF VERNON DURT WURX inc. BIKE WURX KNOLLY DEALER on FB
  • + 3
 hahaha... 8:37... the guy sleeping between the boxes is like: "yeah yeah... whatever. I'll take a nap".

Beer
  • + 1
 thanks man!! that was a really interesting article! Smile always cool to see a creative/different/behindthescenes article like this one!
  • + 1
 seen one of those build books back in the late 90,s , there was a shop on the North Shore that was going to offer catalog bikes .
  • + 1
 Really engaging and informative article, Vernon. Love your work. I now have a better understanding of how a brands reputation either soars or sinks.
  • + 2
 I think I've never done it before. I wanna try cakes with beer, i am curious!
  • + 3
 @okavango , and that was just after eating the bag of crackers with all the dead little fish in them. It was a culinary experience.
  • + 3
 What's a soccer ball??
  • - 2
 Get over it football is man sport unlike soccer. No crying babies allowed
  • + 1
 Has anybody else noticed at 8:35 in the vid: Is there a dude sleeping between the bike boxes???
  • + 1
 So what's the chances of a Felton interviewing a Fenton ?
Fenton !! Fenton !! Fenton !! Oh Jesus Christ !! lol
  • + 1
 What i want to know: Where can i get that 2017-2018 TBS book, and where can i buy directly a quality carbon frame in taiwan?
  • + 1
 You can't get one of anything from Taiwan. You can buy in the low tens from some specialist small batch manufacturers.
  • + 1
 Taiwan produces some beautiful steel hardtails. Vernon could come home with a keeper.
  • + 1
 That beer in the first picture tastes better than you think!
  • + 1
 Nice work on this one. Thank you.
  • - 1
 I buy locally build bikes thanks for sending jobs overseas and the extra carbon emissions it takes to ship the bike to the west
  • + 1
 Yeah, this statement is massively significant to the state of the industry right now.

PBers forget that high performance bikes are a tiny sliver of the global market. And that market shift has direct affect on our options.

Usually when you see a massive downturn of volume in a market the classic response is to seek higher value offerings that allow you to lose fewer dollars than units (ahem, new standards anyone?)

But the driver of volume declines is very curious. Lazy kids? Shift to fuel-driven transport in developing countries? Alternatives? What gives? Very curious to hear an analysts perspective on the global market.
  • + 1
 curious to what you ride? It would be good to know who is actually making stuff
  • + 1
 Oops, I replied to the wrong comment - fat fingered on mobile.

Now if only I could delete/edit a comment...
  • + 2
 @lifted-d: As far as non-custom brands: How about an aluminum Devinci? High end Chromag hardtail? Or from the U.S., Guerrilla Gravity looks awesome with fair pricing (I've got my eyes on the raw Trail Pistol with the also made in Colorado MRP fork). There's also Foes.
  • + 0
 There is just as much carbon emitted driving your bike home from the shop as there is in the boat trip half way across the globe.
  • + 1
 Great article, thanks, very informative.
  • + 2
 Great read!!!
  • + 1
 You asked Chris Cocalis about how he was conceived!?
  • + 4
 I ask everyone that question. It's a great ice breaker. Give it a try, you'll see.
  • + 1
 @vernonfelton: Why would you build own frames with Horst link, when you could use?
  • + 2
 @vernonfelton: we all started life as a little swimmer who won the race! Great article, very informative.
  • + 2
 Great feature Big Grin
  • + 1
 So are you guys going to have your own bike brand or something?
  • - 3
 I used to ride cannondale's because they were made in the United States. I never broke one of their frames. Now they are made overseas I have broken several. Sure wish these foreign frame Builders would get their s*** together. Prices have skyrocketed and quality Has Fallen.
  • + 3
 cannondales have always cracked, the nickname is not a misnomer to be sure.
  • + 1
 @lifted-d: For sure, even the US built frames circa 98-2001 were total crap. I've snapped 2 road, and 3 mtb frames from the big C
  • + 1
 Yeah I craked a crackandfail when they were made in the US.
  • + 2
 great article!
  • + 1
 I m a savvy machinist/welder . Hooooray !!!
  • + 1
 This explains the $10K price tags, airplane tickets are so expensive!!
  • + 1
 I need this book... where i can buy it?
  • + 0
 the mother of god bike right here.

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