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PostPosted: Mon Nov 22, 2010 4:43 pm 
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Thats a good point.


Part of the answer is the molds. (a)

Part is what goes in the molds... (B)

for (a)
A LOT of bike manufacturers dont own the molds. They own the rights to all production from the molds for a set period of time.

So after X years, you can see bikes that look a lot like something you have seen before, and in some cases when a manufacturer makes a bad run of product or doesnt QC things and or the bike company runs out of money (all common), different things happen to the product that comes later (or the run of bad materials).

For (B)
What goes on inside the mold is more important than the mold it's self. Fiber type and orientation and resin are mega critical. Bikes that have issues generally have those issues resolved using the same mold. (and bike mold costs are lower now with many times more experience and higher volume).


The molds are important, but the quality of the part can be either fantastic or horrible from that same mold. There's a very large cost difference between top materials and man hours required (and I left out the part that the different methods of compressing the material within the mold) in doing different types of frames.


The wholesale cost for a bicycle brand can double for the same frame from the same factory depending on spec of material, finish and manufacturing process.

That doesnt account for 100% of what we're seeing here, but it's a little more food for thought.

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Last edited by CharlesM on Mon Nov 22, 2010 6:11 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Posted: Mon Nov 22, 2010 4:43 pm 


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 22, 2010 4:55 pm 
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Oh certainly...

One can take the corvette body mold and toss paper mache into it and though it may look like a Vette... well you see where I'm headed...

I've scoured over your photos Charles, every time someone lets you into a factory or sends you shots, mostly because I'm a bike geek but also to show my father and his pals how bikes are made...

It's kind of funny- these guys fly 150k sailplanes made of fiberglass, kevlar and carbon and to hear them say it, the only place that is capable of producing carbon fiber with quality is... Poland. Forget France, or China, Mexico or Indianapolis... if it isn't from Poland it's junk... So there's that... ;)

So what do people think about Ritte Racing or FFWD, Cole or American Classic, Revolution or well, those Colnago branded carbon hoops on 2011's new Colnagos... None of these companies produce that carbon and yet we don't hear much harsh criticism of them... I can't say for certain where they source their carbon but it's not made in-house. I have read a lot about who makes FFWD's rims and many posters on WW seem to believe it's one factory in China... factory X. So if Quick Step trusts FFWD and FFWD trusts factory X... well, I'm inclined to trust factory X...

I dunno, I suppose these posts keep us busy while the off season comes. I'm hoping our team's carbon rim project works, I think it will and I'm excited to get them built up- and yes, I'll post back with impressions and criticisms where I find them...


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 22, 2010 6:11 pm 
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That's the real rub...

Factory X being able to produce to a large brands spec's, suggests that the other parts they make are of similar quality... BUT if you've ever discussed how many demands have to be placed on that factory and how hard it is to get them to produce at that spec, you might not assume the other parts that factpry produces are any place near the things they make for name brands.

Colnago have have full time personell at the factory because they have to... Some other companies do the same and or go and QC VERY regularly. A few pages ago someone said something along the lines of having to watch some of these producersvery closely and that seems to hold true, at least in every example that I have first hand experience with the company involved. Colnago and the other reputable brands wouldnt spend that considerable amount of money if they didnt absolutely have to.

(not that anyone has to accept my position that I would not use unbadged product, but I formulate it based on product in hand and experiene in with manufacturing and the brands that use em... fully admitting that there's room for the counter arguement)


GREAT product can be made. But I dont think it's a given and because the opportunity for both great and substandard exists it makes for a pretty good debate.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 22, 2010 6:43 pm 
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All good points, and really I have no doubt at to the quality of everything Colnago puts its name on... I ride and race one after all...

In any event, While I suspect there are shoddy product coming out of factories in China I think that without empirical evidence of substandard labor, materials, or production processes, it's impossible for anyone to say anything other than "more information is needed."

But never fear, in a week or two someone will start a new thread titled "OMG ChEaP China CaRbON!" and we'll all be occupied for a few more days with the same old dance...

;)


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2010 8:24 am 
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I was hesitant before chiming in, as I am not a "random consumer", having spent the past 6 months visiting more than a handful of manufacturers, talking to insiders in Greater China and designing a frame.

In addition to many great points already made, I want to add:

1. Raw materials make a big difference in quality and cost. There is a wide variety (brands and types) of carbon fiber used in these Chinese factories. Generic US$400 frames simply cannot possibly afford to have HM carbon from top fiber suppliers. Period. These are not race worthy frames (by todays standards, not by Merckx/COPPI era standards LOL). However, 98% of the consumers of these frames can't tell the difference anyway. So it's good that the manufacturers did not use good carbon anyway. Same goes for resin and glue. The good stuff ain't cheap. Again, probably not in your FM015.

2. Top of the line fibers don't necessarily make a top notch frame, as only a few manufacturers have the advanced carbon cloth layup technology. The combination of different fibers in different directions can produce the sutle yet superior riding qualities. That said, generic process could still produce an acceptable frame for generic riding. As said before, 98% can't tell the difference anyway.

3. To the camp of FM015 buyers that call Pina/Nago price gouging thieves, well, your 015 uses far cheaper materials, and your frame design/geometry is by no means near top end frames. Take my 51cm 015ISP for example, the top tube is a whopping 51.6cm!!! It's so short it's rediculous. Don't forget, for a virtual 51 c-c frame, most major brands would call that a 53, and their toptube length is in the 535--545 range. It's a shame, but not surprising considering the "designer" is not professionally trained engineer nor familiar with racing bikes until recently--he could be busy knocking off some badminton racket prior to this job.

4. Running a company properly actually costs a lot of money, but many of these outfits simply don't bother with any of that.

Some examples:

*Company incorporation and registration (legal and gov procedures)
*trademark registration in multiple jurisdictions (ditto)
*actual design of a frame, geometries, 3D drawings, graphics design(takes time, talent, and efforts)
*contracting with suppliers, contractors, designers, mold makers
*The painting and decaling process can actually be expensive --- don't forget Trek charges what $800 for Proj 1, right?
*QC
*Testing by a proper lab can be costly.
*proper exportation documentation and tax payment (rather than claiming a $10 sample)

Generic factories generally don't have any of the above, except for minor testing. For design, it's easy to knock off. For a few hundred bux, some cleaning lady or boxing guy at Pina's OEM factory would be quite glad to sell you detailed 2D drawings of the Dogma/Prince.

Here is the math: You take your generic $400 frame, call it $300 cost, add good materials, it could easily cost $200-300 more, add the above listed costs, it could easily cost you $200-300 extra per frame. So you are at 800-900 already.

I am not even getting into sponsorships and advertising, or dealer/distributor profit. Imagine how much Fausto's advertising sponsorship/advertising bills are for the year. It ain't cheap. As this stuff adds up, you will find very soon that if you are running a racing bike company properly, you can't really afford to sell a high end racing frame for much less than $2500 a piece.

Large manufacturers like Spec/Giant/Trek can do better coz they have so many lines and mid/low end models and components business.

3. The Chinese can make some of the best things in the world provided a proper channel is set up. At the present stage, it's making generic frames cheaply and selling them for $400. And these factories are getting very good at this. So when you purchase from Ebay, you are skipping a lot of the costs. Some of it don't matter much, such as sponsorship. But good geometry and QC sure matter a lot.

That said, I still own a FM015-ISP. The headset and BB aren't that smooth (despite Campy Record UT cups), but it's cheap so I ain't complianing that much myself.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2010 12:00 pm 
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Quote:
Generic US$400 frames simply cannot possibly afford to have HM carbon from top fiber suppliers.

Is Toray a top carbon supplier? That's the supplier hongfu claim for the FM015. I would guess it may not the the very latest state of the art material, but surely it is plenty good enough? Can you quantify the difference in material cost?

Quote:
The painting and decaling process can actually be expensive

Maybe, but do I give a damn about paint and decals?
That's just advertising for the brand.

Quote:
That said, I still own a FM015-ISP. The headset and BB aren't that smooth

Can you elaborate a bit more on that?
In what way are they not smooth?
Which headset did you fit?


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2010 1:13 pm 
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@ elviento
I'd be really interested to hear a bit more about your experiences visiting the various manufacturers... firsthand knowledge is relatively rare round these parts...

FWIW, I've used Toray's pre-preg fiber before (in glider part manufacturing). I must say that it was a thing of beauty, then again any raw carbon fiber is just damn cool.

In addition, and I don't know much more about Toray but google tells me:

In the aviation sector, TORAYCA is used in the tail of the Boeing 777 and the fuselage of the Boeing 787(1)

Toray Industries, a leading producer of carbon fiber material, will begin supplying both Toyota and Fuji Heavy Industries (parent company of Subaru) with the lightweight product for use on upcoming vehicles.(2)


German automaker Daimler is cooperating with carbon fiber manufacturer Toray Industries (Tokyo, Japan) to build a facility in Germany to make carbon fibers for use in Daimler vehicles.(3)


So, if Toray's a good enough producer for Boeing, Daimler, and Toyota/Subaru and the know-it-alls at my father's airport ;) ... I'm sure they're more than adequate for bicycles

I seem to get the feeling that throughout the entire process of making a carbon frame or wheels in China there isn't necessarily one area where a massive savings is made but rather, it's the sum of a lot of smaller savings; labor being cheap and abundant, materials being cheaper and more readily available, molds being cheap, no investment in designing and engineering (using already proofed molds) lack of marketing overhead or any company overhead, China's manipulated currency keeping costs down for Chinese companies, China's economic growth rate at 8.7% (and that's a LOW!), the lack of government taxing and imposition on Chinese companies like in the US and EU...

And these savings doesn't imply that corners are being cut, yet it doesn't ensure against it either. Ahh Globalization...

(1) http://www.toray.com/products/carbon/car_002.html
(2) http://green.autoblog.com/2010/10/12/to ... dy-panels/
(3) http://www.compositesworld.com/news/dai ... production


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2010 3:47 pm 
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I didn't see this mentioned anywhere in this discussion, but it is pertinent:

China has no copyright laws. They don't recognize patents or copyrights held in other countries.

It is for that reason that there are so many knock-offs, whether it be pirated DVDs, Louis Vitton purses or bicycles coming out of China. If you want to read some interesting stories about this, just start flipping through the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. I read a story a couple weeks ago about networks of private investigators in China hired by manufacturers to find where the knock-offs are being made.

In some cases, the quality of those products is nearly identical to the original. I have a friend who works for Louis Vitton store, and sometimes customers come in trying to find out if they got an original or a fake purse and even he cannot always tell. They have to send it in to have it checked out. In other cases, it's very clear that things are fake.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2010 4:43 pm 
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geebee2 wrote:
Is Toray a top carbon supplier? That's the supplier hongfu claim for the FM015.


Yes, Toray is a top supplier... of many different levels of carbon...


And the ratio of expensive to cheap fiber in the same frame is a variable...



Another example might be in cars... Chevrolet make the Corvette Z06 and they also make the Aveo... (but even that example isn't as potentially bad as Carbon parts grey market because even the base Aveo has thousands of man hours in design and testing because it's produced by and for large brand manufacturer that has to meet standards and be accountable for what it makes.


it's just as irrelevant as saying X frame is produced in the same factory as Y, and for exactly the reasons Elviento and others have brought up.


The same factory could use the same mold for a frame... And the cost of what comes out of that mold can vary by more than 200% depending on what goes into the mold and how much finish detail is applied.


The bike can look exactly the same (and even have exactly the same top layer of carbon) but be completely different.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2010 5:30 pm 
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topflightpro wrote:
I didn't see this mentioned anywhere in this discussion, but it is pertinent:

China has no copyright laws. They don't recognize patents or copyrights held in other countries.

China does have copyright laws but unfortunately doesn't enforce them very well. Non-Chinese companies hardly stand a chance when some Chinese decide to copy their product. But when a non-Chinese company is accused of breaking a copyright held by a Chinese company, the Chinese government is right on top of it...


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2010 5:31 pm 
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"Could" "can" "depending"

While certainly entertaining in an internet forum, statements employing these words are anything but empirical.

Until there's some qualitative evidence that the factories about which we're writing are indeed using lesser materials, lesser quality of labor, lesser QC, and lesser attention to detail the hypothesis that the products coming out of Chinese factories is in any way suspect is unproven and not conclusive. Further, relying on anecdotal evidence is poor practice in trying to establish a legitimate argument.

So while we will of course continue to debate and argue and keep ourselves entertained :) perhaps the WW community might like to put our collective heads together and see if we can't actually gather some information about the factories and products so that some definitive statements can be established... Less conjecture, more fact... with supporting evidence.

And finally, I recall a few years ago there was a German magazine that conducted a pretty exhaustive review including testing of many wheelsets and published it... perhaps something like that can come to fruition again...

I would think that the information for which we're looking would be:

1.) What kind of materials are used and who makes them?
a.) resins
b.) carbon fiber
2.) What kind of training do the employees undergo?
a.) classes, certificates, experience...?
3.) What kind of QC does the factory employ
a.) what kind of "sight" control?
b.) what kind of tests?
c.) what equipment is used to test?
d.) to what standards are product tested?
e.) what schedule of tests is employed?
f.) what documentation?
4.) What kind of engineering is done?
a.) are products designed in-house?
b.) are engineers on staff?
5.) For whom are their products produced?

Anyone if free to add to that list. Once we have a final list I will contact the factory with whom I've been dealing and attempt to clarify some of the questions.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2010 6:03 pm 
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How about this? Why don't we ask the individual China carbon manufacturer's about their QC process and manufacturing and compile a list of companies which are willing to document these steps? I remember on the carbon rim group buy thread, there was a manufacturer who actually provided pictures from a tour of their facility.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2010 7:00 pm 
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I lived in China for a month last year.
I didn't check any bicycle factories, but I did see a lot of "knock-off" merchandise, such as "ipods" and things with "NBA" logos. Much of it was quite humorous, like an NBA logo spelled "BNA"

When you go to buy a CD or a DVD, you just pick out the cover and they burn you a copy off a computer right there in the store. It is all out in the open and they apparently don't even consider it "unethical".

Having said that. I have a PedalForce QS3, which is probably a Chinese frame, and it is flawless and has survived a horrible crash already with no damage.

All the bicycle I saw in China were commuter-junkers. I didn't see a single "race bike" the whole time (Guanzhou, ZhanJiang, HaiNan Dao)
Lots of electric scooters terrorizing the pedestrians!


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2010 7:10 pm 
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geebee2 wrote:
Quote:
Generic US$400 frames simply cannot possibly afford to have HM carbon from top fiber suppliers.

Is Toray a top carbon supplier? That's the supplier hongfu claim for the FM015. I would guess it may not the the very latest state of the art material, but surely it is plenty good enough? Can you quantify the difference in material cost?

They lied to you.
Here is a fact about carbon fiber product manufacturers. The Chinese government charges very high tax on Japanese imported carbon fiber. Factories dont have to pay the tax ONLY IF the finished products are exported, instead of sold locally.
A $400 frame shipped from China can't possibly be made with any Japanese sourced high-end carbon fiber such as Toray or Mitsubishi. The material is most likely from FPG (Formosa Plastic Group, Taiwan), Korean or some unknown local suppliers..

geebee2 wrote:
Quote:
The painting and decaling process can actually be expensive

Maybe, but do I give a damn about paint and decals?
That's just advertising for the brand.

chill. no one blames you for having a low standard.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2010 7:22 pm 
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"Facts" without sourcing are speculation at best...

Please provide some supporting documentation regarding your assertion about taxation of imports and exports as it related to carbon fiber...

According to your logic if a Chinese factory imports Toray fiber from Japan and then sells the product to the US they would NOT have to pay the import taxes. As such, all of the product bought from these factories outside China would be exempt from these taxes and ergo would be cheaper.


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Posted: Wed Nov 24, 2010 7:22 pm 


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