Origin Myth: Asian mass production vs. small, handmade shops

Discuss light weight issues concerning road bikes & parts.
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Fourthbook
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by Fourthbook

One of the things I've learned from several threads on WW, such as the fascinating Falco project (see:http://weightweenies.starbike.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=94417) is the production methods and general character of the huge Asian factories that make most of our high-end (and less $$) frames by hand, regardless of the European, American, or other brand label pasted on it. VeloNews has an article that corroborates this much-discussed subject...

http://velonews.competitor.com/2012/03/bikes-and-tech/the-torqued-wrench-the-myth-of-origin_211105
Wilier Cento1 SR
13.10 lbs (5.95 kgs) w/Enve 3.4-Tune 70/170 & Conti Competitions tubulars
12.53 lbs (5.68 kgs) w/FarSports 24-Extralite & Vittoria CX EVO II tubulars

by Weenie


bones
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by bones

Like esteemed writer, Caley Fretz, who wrote the Velonews article you inked to, I also have a Problem with the North American Handmade Bicycle Show. However, my reasons are similar though not the same as the Velonews article.

If you read the article, the show has been a huge success for the custom frame market. No doubt about that. The real issue is the underlying theme that is ignored by most. Asian carbon frames are handmade. Probably with a lot of care too. The tone of the show is that Asians in these factories are faceless bots that mass market unwieldy, poorly put-together bikes. It's Xenophobia, and if you really think about it quite racist.

Valbrona
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by Valbrona

What? Does Mr Fretz think that we're stupid? Has he, or the OP for that matter, only just worked out that the vast majority of carbon frames are made by a handful of factories in China and Taiwan?

Yawn.

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stephen@fibre-lyte
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by stephen@fibre-lyte

I think Xenophobia is quite a stretch. I don't believe that any particular skilled craftsman from any part of the world is necessarily better the any other, purely due to geographical location. However, I think the point of the NAHBS has been missed. The bikes there have been (hopefully) painstakingly put together by (hopefully) skilled craftsman. When it comes to production lines, they are designed so that more expensive salaried skilled craftsmen are not needed. Every frame won't be checked and double checked for quality because you know the person that bike is going to. The quality will come from written spec sheets that the production line should follow. Of course with any mass production there is a percentage of faults in the process (we've seen what we believe to be quite a few) and hence the warranty claims from customers who have purchased a 'flawed' bike. With custom bike builders, there can't be an expected number of flaws, as each individual customer is known and the bike has to leave the workshop exactly as the customer requires.

If you think about it logically, a custom frame builder is an artist, likely creating individual frames for individual clients. They generally are in the trade because they want to be there. Production line workers are generally there for a pay packet. When the end of shift siren sounds, the production line worker is out of there, the custom frame builder isn't.

Sure, the NAHBS might be matter of fact incorrect as a name. What it represents is the spirit of independent bike building and I applaud that.

gumgardner
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by gumgardner

I applaud what you just wrote. Couldn't have said it better.

VNTech
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by VNTech

Wrote this in the comments section under the story already, but I'll repost here.

I have no real problem with NAHBS (in fact, I love most of what it stands for). My problem is a pedantic one against the use of the word "handmade." I selected this little quibble to make the following point: a bike does not have to be built by a "frame builder" to be made by hand. I think that the people who build the thousands of cookie-cutter bikes we all enjoy every day deserve a bit of recognition; credit that major manufacturers rarely, if ever, give them.

That's the point of the story, not that I think NAHBS should let Specialized in.
Caley
VeloNews Magazine/VeloNews.com tech

xnavalav8r
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by xnavalav8r

I'm with Stephen. I don't have any gripes about mass-produced-in-Asia frames. I own several. But the artistry and craftsmanship that comes from one of the smaller "boutique" brands is something that can't be recreated in a factory anywhere. I like the fact that I have seen the face of the man who built my custom frame. I know his name and can contact him if I have questions or concerns. I can't do that with any of my factory-made bikes. It's irrelevant to me where the bike was manufactured generally, though I do like the idea of buying locally. And I certainly don't care about the ethnicity of the builder. All I want is a bike made by the talented hands of a craftsman who is passionate about bikes. You don't usually find that in a factory assembly line...

jsinclair
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by jsinclair

bones wrote:Yeah, I was referring in general. You see, the term "local" doesn't really refer to buying within a certain area of where a person lives. The term "local" has evolved into a new meaning.

Buying "local" means buying something NOT made in Asia. It is an anti-Asian sentiment. Think about it. Cycling is a predominantly white sport. It is cool to buy American. It is cool to buy Italian. Cool to buy French. Even cool to buy UK, Australian, and other Commonwealth countries. Buying from China? Not cool. That is why buying "local" doesn't really mean buying local.


bones wrote:Like esteemed writer, Caley Fretz, who wrote the Velonews article you inked to, I also have a Problem with the North American Handmade Bicycle Show. However, my reasons are similar though not the same as the Velonews article.

If you read the article, the show has been a huge success for the custom frame market. No doubt about that. The real issue is the underlying theme that is ignored by most. Asian carbon frames are handmade. Probably with a lot of care too. The tone of the show is that Asians in these factories are faceless bots that mass market unwieldy, poorly put-together bikes. It's Xenophobia, and if you really think about it quite racist.

blantonator
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by blantonator

Anyone who thinks Chinese QC is as good as something built in the USA or Europe is dreaming. The only reason bikes are made in China is to maximize corporate profits, thanks to lopsided trade agreements, near slave labor costs, and zero environmental regulations.

guadzilla
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by guadzilla

2 things come to my mind here:

1/ generally speaking, mass production techniques are more likely to give consistent and repeatable results than hand-made. Whether or not the difference is significant where frames are concerned can be debated, but handmade != better.

2/ Many of the NAHMB guys are essentially glorified welders. Yes, the product is handmade "with care". Sounds great, but when the rubber hits the road, what does that really mean? Welding isn't rocket science. And just b/c the guy does a good weld, how is he qualified to make a performance bicycle?

guadzilla
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by guadzilla

Oh btw blantonator - Chinese QC can be as good as poor as you need it to be. Just b/c a lot of low-end stuff is made there doesn't mean high-end stuff isn't.

rruff
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by rruff

VNTech wrote:My problem is a pedantic one against the use of the word "handmade." I selected this little quibble to make the following point: a bike does not have to be built by a "frame builder" to be made by hand. I think that the people who build the thousands of cookie-cutter bikes we all enjoy every day deserve a bit of recognition; credit that major manufacturers rarely, if ever, give them.


Yes, they may put a lot of care into what they make (if it's a high end mass produced frame)... but compared to a small custom builder who interfaces with the customer at great length, and builds a one of a kind item... well, there is no comparison.

rruff
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by rruff

guadzilla wrote:Oh btw blantonator - Chinese QC can be as good as poor as you need it to be. Just b/c a lot of low-end stuff is made there doesn't mean high-end stuff isn't.


It isn't quite that simple. They could... but they generally don't. The low cost of labor and lack of regulations means that they can dominate the low cost spectrum, so that is what they specialize in. High end product is low volume with less profit potential... so why bother? Conversely, people in wealthier countries have no chance of competing at the low end, and so specialize in custom and quality work... it is the only thing they *can* do if they wish to be in business.

bones
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by bones

The largely caucasian attitude, and I can say that without reservation since cycling is predominantly a sport overwhelmingly dominated by European and historically white athletes and industry executives... as I was saying. I believe that the attitude that we see in the cycling industry is very Anti-Asian.

For one, there is the automatic assumption that Made in China is inferior. There is an automatic assumption that because it is cheap labor, it is inferior labor. Well let me tell you a thing about that. There are tons of illegal immigrants risking life and limb to get to the USA, and the take back-breaking, arduous jobs only to send what little they make home to feed their families in Mexico and beyond. Do they work less hard and do inferior work because they make less money than their American counterparts? Of course not! And that is low-paying employees working in the United States! It is not different than those hard working people in China! So, the attitude that Asians who are poor and work in hot factories, and live in meager accommodations do inferior work is wrong. Actually, it is backwards. Facts show us that people who are paid more are apt to work less hard. Not the other way around.

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stella-azzurra
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by stella-azzurra

bones wrote:I can say that without reservation since cycling is predominantly a sport overwhelmingly dominated by European and historically white athletes and industry executives... as I was saying.


:lol: :lol:

Time to crack those history books again.

Yeah those European farmers, factory workers, made a great living riding bikes. :smartass:
I never took drugs to improve my performance at any time. I will be willing to stick my finger into a polygraph test if anyone with big media pull wants to take issue. If you buy a signed poster now it will not be tarnished later. --Graeme Obree

by Weenie


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