An interesting article has appeared in Cycling IQ; it touches on the subject that is an open secret in the bike industry and among many cycling enthusiasts.
That is all the major brands of carbon fiber road bikes, the ones we see being ridden by the world’s best professional riders in races like the Tour de France, are all made in the same two or three factories mostly in China.
The author of the article asks why are cyclists so fascinated about who put the frame together anyway. I think the answer to that is because cyclists are enthusiasts; we are passionate about our pastime.
Most people’s smart phones are made in China too, and no one really cares. But for whatever reason the major bicycle brand name manufacturers feel obliged to keep the origins of manufacture a secret.
The writer of the article contacted all the major brand names like Specialized, Pinerello, Scott, Felt, and Kona; not one returned his call. He then contacted their respective OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers.) in China, Taiwan, and Cambodia, and found them more willing to talk, but only up to a point. They had all agreed to a certain level of confidentiality with their customers.
So why won’t these major brand name manufacturers "Come out of the closet?" Why do people by a brand name anyway? Is it about confidence in the product, and customer service; knowing that if it breaks it will be replaced? But if the customer knows all the different brands are made in the same place, why should the customer pay more for one brand over another?
Maybe he wants to pay more for the privilege of owning the more prestigious brand. People buy all kinds of designer stuff. Everyone knows that a Lexus is made by Toyota; why didn’t Toyota just make a luxury model with the Toyota name? Because by giving it a different name sets it apart and gives it a higher perceived prestige and value.
One aspect I notice; when I look at the geometry specs for all the different brands, they are all pretty much the same. Not surprising really if they are all coming out of the same mold. Many of the brand name companies boast of RD programs.
So what are these RD engineers doing for their money when today’s frames are basically the same geometry as those made back in the day when lugs somewhat limited the angles one could produce? They have a pool of professional riders to test these bikes. Why is one brand not trying to develope something that rides and handles better than everything else?
There is another take on this article on The Inner Ring. What do you think, or do you even care? Is the consumer being ripped off, or does mass production lead to a better bang for your buck?