US made vs made elsewhere (with a twist)
Hi, this is a question for those passionate bikes who ride their bikes outside of the US, deal with bikes (selling them), and/or make bikes and bike parts.
What do you think of US quality frames? Are there any diehard custom Ti (ex. Steve Potts, Eriksen, Moots, Vertigo, Firefly), custom Al (ex. Ventana), custom steel, etc. fans out there across the big pond? If you see how cheap Chinese frames are made, how many shortcuts are taken to mass product frames, and how inconsistent the material quality is, maybe first hand, do you find that you highly value US made, even from the bigger names like Intense, Turner, Titus, Lynskey, etc.?
I'm sure US posters want to share their opinions. Anyone from the US find that they like frames not made in mainland Asia (and Taiwan)? I'm seeing European brands on VitalMTB like Lapierre, Cube, Orbea, Liteville, Nikolai, and even smaller brands like MDE that look great. Even Canyon is getting a lot of attention. How about some Canadian love from the likes of Devinci?
When I see pics of SoCal races, like Fontana, I see a lot of riders on Intense. When I saw I vid of Japanese DH, I saw a lot of American name brands, including Intense. I was surprised. I was looking up Potts and saw that another Pott owners was surprised to see someone with a Potts T-Shirt when they were traveling abroad and took a pic. That interested me in learning about what others thought about bikes with a quality standard set higher than what you would expect from a mass produced bike.
Any Japanese bikes? I hear Japanese steel is considered high quality. I hear US steel, aluminum, and titanium is considered high quality too, compared to Asian (Russian, Chinese, etc.). I still relate Japanese quality to being high quality and Chinese quality to be relatively low quality. To me, US made seems to be relatively expensive, made to last, but compared to Chinese, doesn't seem to be worth the higher upfront charge.
I'd love to read up on history from manufacturer that went small to "big", and one man builders that have big names now. Any Sheldon Browns of frame building out there care to spare some details to help curious folk appreciate the quality that goes into a finely crafted bike a bit more? I wonder what happened to some older brands, like Ritchey, Breezer, Voodoo, etc. which had some big names behind them. Even Huffy has a big name tied to it and I don't see them around anymore. I see there are Swiss teams on Ritchey, like Thomas Frisky. Seems like Ritchey makes good parts, but they just don't seem popular here.
* I know I talked about Ritchey parts, but I'm mainly interested in frames, and don't want it to also include Chris King, Thomson, and all the other small shop machining gurus like Twenty6 and Straitline, etc. Looks like those smaller shops make more money machining for other industries, as their bike part sales aren't quite enough.
I like to jump to conclusions, oversimplify, gossip, and participate in popularity polls.
It's all in the quality control of the company regardless of where the frame is built.
I can build great product in China, Russia, Japan, or the USA. I can also build trash in said countries.
I see a lot of nice bike stuff come out of china. It just depends what you are wanting. I'm sure an Ellsworth or Intense frames are great but your paying for someone to make 100 frames on a jig in a month in the US vs. a guy making 100 frames a day on a jig in China.
Machine welds are usually better than a person welding each.. it's a repeatable quality issue.
Just be realistic of what you are paying for.. I can tell you the cost of an average bike.. A 29er HT w/ entry level components costs a huge company like Trek $250 to make.. But it sells for $7-800 retail..
Quality control seems to cover a wide variety of stuff, from the quality of the source material to individual steps up to the completed product. Is the tubing consistent, drawn in a manner that you can expect certain characteristics out of each section? Tube dimensions, straightness, even thickness, etc.? Heat treating? Alignment? Finish quality? Damage from welding? Poor heat treatment or lack of it? Will QC be comprehensive enough to catch something like a welder not welding the entire seat tube to the BB, before welding the massive alloy downtube all around it?
Maybe I should start with brushing up on material science first, understanding the difference between 6061-T6, 6061, 6060, 7075-T6 and what it can be made into and how weldable it is (friction welding?), 2014 and corrosion, what the various brand name alloys actually are (Duraluminum, etc.). Then I could probably understand tempering, heat treating, fatigue life, tensile strength, etc.
Initially, I was hoping to hear something from an insider. I've seen videos like Intense's factory tour and an ancient one of Cannondale's How It's Made. I've seen some carbon ones, like the Time, Scott, and Swift ones, but those are out of the scope of this topic. Pretty interesting how Enve supplies tubes to the likes of Calfee, who then turn them into custom carbon frames. Carbon's still a complete mystery to me...
What made me post this was how I wondered what the Chinese (and Taiwanese) factory workers got for bikes. Pinkbike had an article about DH mtn biking in China and how they have a lift serviced mountain for mtn biking. They're riding Giants and some US brand names. I wonder if some factory workers are so proud of the work they put into the bike, they buy one. Maybe that's how many parts get on eBay from Chinese sellers--maybe they're factory workers buying things at factory employee discount, who then sell it. Might sound kind of silly, but I wonder if they see the value in higher quality in a foreign made product and how some of us are buying Chinese, since the savings are just too significant and they actually work well enough not to need more. I seen news on Chinese economy and ghost cities, where Chinese buy real estate, as they have money and want to invest it, and no one lives in the property they buy, yet they keep building more and it continues to be bought. Can they spend such money on imported good?
I thought they were welded by hand over there. Trying to imagine a machine welder... like a robotic arm making car frames? Or maybe like rim joint welding? Figure even the dept store bikes were welded by hand. Maybe the entry level jobs are for dept store bikes and the welders graduate to positions making higher end frames?
Last edited by dv8xin; 03-27-2013 at 12:20 PM.
I like to jump to conclusions, oversimplify, gossip, and participate in popularity polls.
Are you referring to the planet Earth, or some other realm with similar country names? You seem to have pretty strong opinions, that lump entire countries into classifications. You are also making some grand assumptions, that aren't necessarily true.
It doesn't really work that way, dude.
I'm all for supporting businesses from my own country, but it doesn't mean I do it by bad mouthing the quality of products from other countries.
I didn't really get the feeling he was bad mouthing any product. Or am I reading your post wrong?
Originally Posted by turbogrover
I left this post alone b/c I was hoping others would chime in.
in regards to frame welding, a properly calibrated machine will always make a better weld. It's all in the reproduction of the same product. over and over and over..
Just keep in mine like 99% of all frames are made in asia... so look at the whole industy.. you got total junk and you got really high end frame.. possibly made in the same factory..
It comes down to the company ordering the frames making sure they are built to specifications.
Here is a funny little story...
I helped a buddy with a project. He was having camshaft blanks made in China. He was shopping around to a few different foundries. He sent specs to the companies and was letting them bid a small batch so we could destroy them for testing purpose. All the plants were pretty close to each other so he could visit and check out the process.
After the bids came back we looked into where each cam was made. We had 5 companies come back. 3 of those companies were making the cams at the same plant. Even tho they were supposed to be in house. They sent the specs over and were just a middleman.. so they are out b/c of the danger to his customers of specs being lost in translation between parties.
Then the other two companies gave bids. One was $165 per unit at the port of our choice. The other company was $66-280/unit. This was quite a strange way to give a bid (in our minds). After some emails they basically said to name our price and they would make it at that level of quality.
After talking to some other people that deal in manufacturing they said this is quite common. He ended up getting many price points of cams to destroy to see what differences there were.. it was stunning how crappy the $66 cam was.
This is what a company can do to increase there profit margin.. It is all in what level of quality you want to sell your customers.
Last year he had a demand for USA made cams. He found a company to make them and he could make the same cam/quality/material/ ect ect.. for $260/china or 550/USA. So for double the price.. he went back to the customers told them the price difference and then did a presale for them to protect against having a ton of money sitting on the shelf.
He sold them all and since then he has not had any more demand.. he was smart enough to cover his @$$.
Basically all he did was pay for US Union labor (Bull$h!t) to build the same thing but in the US for twice as much..
I'm running a china cam and am just fine.
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