Niner, Vassago, Salsa, Surly, etc...names new and old that hit the radar each year with products touting to be new, innovative, and the best money for your fun dollar. With a plethora of bike brands consistently flourishing and adding to the mix, you gotta wonder where all these frames are coming from. Unfortunately, not from our shores.
Truth be told, bicycle manufacturing in the US has changed significantly in the past 50 years. The big manufacturers have been unable to keep up in the cost wars with the Asian market's efficient, accurate, inexpensive workforce. The mid sized production shops where many of todays established builders cut their teeth suffered under the changing market place, rising benefit/salary costs, and have since scaled down, leaving single builder operations. Serrotta, Vicious and IF are fine examples of mid sized shops that have sustained, even thrived, despite the changing times.
So, with fewer builders out there with the skills to run a production scale business, who is driving these new bike lines? Creative designers who are following market trends, anticipating changes, and working in production numbers that allow for fluidity in business models, that's who.
The folks who are bringing these ideas to fruition on a daily basis are contract manufacturers overseas. Giant is one of the largest contract manufacturers worldwide, building for literally a hundred other name brands. Add in a host of other smaller companies, and you've got the parents of many of the most recognized brands out there and many more you've never heard of. You've had an opportunity to check out what goes on daily in a one guy shop through my eyes, here's a look inside a contract builders floor...
I like to run through promotional vids like this, not that I'm really interested in the product, but I'm constantly looking in the background at the fixturing, processes, and shop floors. What I constantly come back to is the realization just how similar the large and small scale workplaces are. Fabrication of a bicycle really distills down to a methodical process, with required checks and balances, and a focus on creating a functional product. In that vein, big and small are much alike.
Where the differences lie are in the attention to small detail for the individual customer, the fact that one set of hands attend to the whole process, artistic flair, and that you've got a personal relationship with the guy making your dream a reality. Try calling the chick with the glasses in the video on a Sunday afternoon to ask for advice on components or set up...somehow I don't think she'll be picking up the phone for ya.
So where am I going with all this...I don't know. Just thought I'd put it out there. I guess when I see folks post on forums touting the superiority of their bikes, I wonder how much they really know about their origins, the people who built it, and why they choose it to be the one for them. I want folks who ride a Groovy to want to be on it because they took the time to know me, trust me to take care of them, and like the vibe coming out of the shop. Maybe a little self indulgent, but I guess there is some silent validation in there somewhere.
Leave me a comment, tell me why you chose the bike you are on... an inquiring mind wants to know.