Where and how are road bikes made & does it matter?
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  1. #1

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    Where and how are road bikes made & does it matter?

    I have been riding mountain bikes for years and now I've decided to get into riding road. I want to start out on a high level bike because I know if I get an inexpensive bike I'll never be happy with it and then I'll just want ato upgrade.



    Here in Phoenix we are lucky there are lots of bike shops and they are all very competitive. We have the local Trek dealer Landis, and Super Go, and Bikesdirect, and Performance, and Cycle Spectrum, and Bob's, and Bike Emporium, and dozens of others. So our area is a hotbed of competition. Thus there're lots of full Ultegra bikes around for $1100-$1500 even with new 10-speed stuff.



    So I've been shopping for the last week or so; haven't decided what to buy but I want to buy something soon. However what I find interesting is all the different stories I get about where road bikes come from and how they are made. There doesn't seem to be a lot of agreement on the sales floors at different shops about this issue.



    I started getting interested in this when the salesman at Super Go told me that Fuji is made by a company named Ideal, but they also make lots of Treks at that same company and that they make some Colnogos, and that they make Bianchi, and that they make bikes for Terry and lots of other companies. I thought this was kind of strange.



    Then another shop told me that I should think about bikes like computers, they're all made about the same even some of the frames are exactly the same and all of the parts are interchangeable and the same. I knew any way about the parts. . But I hadn't heard that story on some of the frames.



    Another shop told me that it was true that some Treks were made in Taiwan, but that they were made in Trek's owned factories supervised by Trek engineers. And then a Cannondale dealer told be that all Cannondale's were made in the United States, but another dealer told me that Cannondale's new highest level in full carbon fiber was going to be made in Taiwan by the same company that makes Specialized.



    Another dealer was showing me a Felt and pulled out a a Motobecane from repair that was obviously the same frame and almost the exact same parts. And he told me that some KHS are the exact same bikes as some bikes sold by Performance with different label.



    I'm sure none of this makes a lot of difference on the right bike but I find it very interesting and I kept asking questions at dealers until one of the dealers actually suggested that I go to roadbikereview and read posts about this.



    I guess my question is does anyone know the exact fact's? Are some bikes exactly the same bike with different decals? Are some frames used on exactly the same bicycle with different brands? Is there any big difference between five or six or seven different frames made in Taiwan out of the same aluminum tubing or similar aluminum tube? Does Trek actually own their own factory in Taiwan? Can anyone tell the difference when they're riding two or three different bicycles that are made in Taiwan that come from the same factories or similar factories but have different decals on? Or is the bicycle industry a lot like the stereo and electronics industry question?



    I would be interested in any facts anyone happen to know or a resource that I could go to which show information about this. This probably will have nothing to do with my purchase, but I find it fascinating.

  2. #2
    WA outdoor enthusiast
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    Lots of choices

    Since you have so many choices, ride a few bikes, narrow your choice to what you like, then start asking questions about specific models. There are different frame materials, different construction techniques and different countries of manufacture. Assuming you get fitted well and like the ride and handling characteristics then material, construction and country of origin are lesser considerations. Every major manufacturer builds bikes that will last, if you are concerned about durability get a frame with a long warranty. On road bikes your components will likely be either Shimano or Campy.

    Enjoy the process and relax, it can be overwhelming.

  3. #3
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    Judging form my experience in other industries this scenario is more than likely. What hopefully makes the difference is the QC ones the frames arrive in the US (or where they are assembled).

    BTW, why was this moved? Just because it's his/her first post? Or was it covered before?

  4. #4
    scruffy nerf herder
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    This is a pandoras box....

    dont worry about that stuff. Find a bike that fits... not only to your body side and riding style, but one that fits your finances as well. Most of all, find a bike you like to look at and are proud to show up on a ride with. Otherwise, you will second guess yourself to death. I've found... personally that buying up a little helps eliminate the nickel and dime effect you get when you buy a midrange bike then feel you have to consistenly upgrade... you know?

    So, really, just find something that works from you... and honestly if you dust someone.... think about that overused saying "its not about the bike".
    so sayeth the funk....

    Chris

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  5. #5
    hi, I'm Larry
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    Wink The better ones are welded together by robots

    in factories in China, Tiawan and Japan.

    The most expensive ones are hand welded together by Italians in factory in Italy.

    My guess is that the robots are more consistent.

  6. #6
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    Answers run the entire spectrum of possibilities.

    • Are some bikes the exact same bike specification and only the stickers are different. YES (this would be mostly house brands offered by Nashbar, Pref., etc)
      Are some bikes assembled by sub contractors to specific specifications and tolerances of a purchaser, meaning they are likely not exactly alike anyone else bike. YES (this would mostly your Specialized, Trek overseas built bikes)
      Are some bikes assembled in brand owned assembly factories/areas YES (this would be some of your Cannondales, some of your Treks, your customs like Waterford, Roark, etc


    I don't know of a source that will tell you definitively which is which.

    Scot
    Scot Gore, Minneapolis

  7. #7
    Fast No More.
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    A Tangled Web

    BRAIN publishes information from time to time about overseas suppliers and their domestic clients, e.g. Factory A in Taiwan makes frames and assembles bicycles for Companies X, Y, and Z in the USA. Furthermore, Company X might source bicycles from not only Factory A, but Factories B and C as well. On top of all that, factories and bicycle companies come and go, ownership changes hands, and deals are made between suppliers and companies just like in any industry. While some relationships work well for all parties and continue for years and years, other relationships might not be as rosy and may change between model years, or even during the same model year. Frames that come out of the same factory, withthe same tubing, but destined for different brands might have different geometries, or might feel different on the showroom floor due to different component choices.

    I know that it might not be the anwer you were looking for, but the bottom line is finding not only a brand you prefer (for whatever reason, but fit/value/etc that other posters have mentioned are certainly worthy criteria), but a retailer who you are confident in and can give you the aftermarket service you deserve - from fitting advice to mechanical services to tips on where to ride. Besides, no matter where your frame was welded/painted/assembled/tuned up, the retailer is who you should go to if problems arise with your bike that you can't handle on your own.

    Hope this helps.
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  8. #8
    Devoid of all flim-flam
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    Scot Gore has his finger on the button here. In any case, don't worry so much about the specific country of manufacture as about the brand name...unless, of course, you are a truly sensitive soul with scads of money to burn. I've found that wherever a particular model may have been produced, every brand seems to have a particular feel - i.e., a distinctive DNA or family resemblance. Bianchis don't feel like Treks. Looks don't feel like Colnagos or Cannondales.
    Mapie is a conventional looking former Hollywood bon viveur, now leading a quiet life in a house made of wood by an isolated beach. He has cultivated a taste for culture, and is a celebrated raconteur amongst his local associates, who are artists, actors, and other leftfield/eccentric types. I imagine he has a telescope, and an unusual sculpture outside his front door. He is also a beach comber. The Rydster.

  9. #9
    RoadBikeReview Member
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    Don't worry too much.

    In an effort to simplify things, there are a handful of companies in Taiwan that manufacture many bicycles in plants in Taiwan and China. The quality from the Taiwanese factories is typicaly as good as anything out there, and the Chinese factories are catching up with that quickly. As Bimini said, they use computer controlled welding machines. Yes, some well-known companies from all corners of the planet have low and mid-range frames built by these companies. In fact some of the best carbon fiber frames are layed up in Taiwanese plants.

    As for these bikes being all the same, not necessarily. There are differences in geomtery, tubing, and for carbon - layup techniques and designs. Some differences may be very subtle, some may be very obvious.

    The advice everyone above gives is good. For someone starting out in the roadie world, look for a bike that: fits you well, has the ride characteristics you want, and suits your budget. Ride as many bikes as you can in your price range. A complete bike will almost always be the best deal. When trying to decide between 2 bikes at the absolute top of your budget, go for the better frame. Road bikes will last for many years with decent care and you'll end up putting at least one upgrade into a really good frame. So, if 1 bike has a 105 drivetrain on a really nice frame and another bike has Ultegra on a mediochre frame at the same price, go for the 105 bike. You'll be happier, not just in the long run. And last, but truly not least, get a good fit.

    Enjoy the search.
    Bob

  10. #10
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    The key thing to learn

    You can go on forever about who makes what where, but the key thing you should learn from this is that many bike shop employees are just plain full of misinformation. It would be easy to say they are scamming you or just saying things to cut down the brands they don't sell, but "Never attribute to malice what can so easily be explained by incompetance/stupidity."

  11. #11

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    Let's Make A List Here --

    You gonna race this bike? Eh?

    Here's the deal. I have 5 bikes, with every possibility of having a couple more in the near future. A vintage 1964 all Campy, 531 tubing, Brooks saddle road bike, two other road bikes, a Nishiki MTB, and a "cruiser." Two extra sets of wheels for the road bikes -- a 36 spoke set, and a 20/24 blade spoke set of Bontrager.

    Unless you're racing and have a coach, manager who are going to provide a bike for you, spend $1,000 on a name brand. Don't worry about where it's mfg'd. My Treks are made in Taiwan. I have a Springfield Armory handgun made in Brazil, and Henkels cutlery made in China. Don't worry about where it's made.

    Buy a name brand with name brand components.

    If you're hot to race and all fired up on the leading edge technology, you'll eventually focus in on some carbon fibre, unobtainium, Shimano/Campy component rig that will probably require you to schedule a "fitting" and some very specialized choices about how this bike is fitted out.

    Before you do that, just get into your LBS and put some $$$ on a decent bike. Yeah, at the upper end, they're all pretty much the same. Once you get to the point that you can figure out the arcane differences, then you're ready to buy a custom bike.

    In the interim, just trust your LBS and go for the standard bike on the floor with the gear you need in a nice road bike.

  12. #12

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    Lucky situation here in Arizona

    Here our group of LBS includes 3 internet retailers. Super Go, Bikesdirect, and Performance.. So I think we are real luckly - since these guys have very low prices compared to the 'standard' LBS types.

    I have seen two bikes that I like and they are both exactly the same spec and made in the same factory from what I can tell. The Fuji Team Superlight and the Motobecane le Champion SL -- both are 20-speed Ultegra and weigh right at 15 pounds. I firgure if I am going to ride a road bike - I want it as light as I can get it in my budget; and both these bikes feel super quick when you ride them.

    I like the color of the Fuji - but the Motobecane is $300 less on the sale price. So I am trying to get Performance to drop the price on the Fuji - if not, I am not willing to pay $300 over color.

    However, I think my original post gave the wrong impression - that I was worried about country of origin. I am not - instead I am interested about how all these bikes are made. It seems the 'factories' do not even make the frames or anything. They just buy all peices from sub-contractors and assemble them and put in boxes. Later I may do more research by calling the heads of some of these brands and asking them for all the details they know about the process - wish I were still in college - it would be a great project.

  13. #13
    Uri nara manse.
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    Quote Originally Posted by bimini
    in factories in China, Tiawan and Japan.

    The most expensive ones are hand welded together by Italians in factory in Italy.

    My guess is that the robots are more consistent.
    All Asian made bikes are all hand welded. Robots that would be able to weld bike frames would be too expensive for the bike industry. The automotive industry can get away with them because they generate more revenue, but all bikes are hand welded. Look at the robot-made welds on a Toyota and look at the fat nasty welds on a Walmart bike and you can see they aren't made by the same creature. What variates is the quality of the weld, the quality of the metal stock being welded and the final Quality Control. Italian bikes (and those made by countless other high-quality custom fabricators around the world) are made by artisans, using the best materials and paying attention to detail, so the price reflects that. Japanese and Taiwanese frames are top notch quality today, but Japan doesn't build many frames anymore (Japanese labor isn't cheap...). Japan builds components (Shimano). Most bike manufacturers today make their frames in Taiwan because of high quality and low price, that includes carbon fiber frames and other bits too. The cheap low quality stuff (Walmart bikes: Next, Roadmaster, MGX crapola bikes) is made in mainland China, where labor is dirt cheap and quality suffers.
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  14. #14
    classiquesklassieker
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    There you go!

    Quote Originally Posted by Kerry Irons
    You can go on forever about who makes what where, but the key thing you should learn from this is that many bike shop employees are just plain full of misinformation. It would be easy to say they are scamming you or just saying things to cut down the brands they don't sell, but "Never attribute to malice what can so easily be explained by incompetance/stupidity."
    There you go! Kerry's cut into the heart of the issue. Don't put 100% belief in anybody who's trying to sell you something.

    One thing that I'd like to point out is that don't focus only on the buying experience, but also on the ownership experience. I like my French hand-made frame, your mileage might vary.

  15. #15

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    Found out a bit more

    I did some calling around {including to Fuji America} and found out the frame on the Fuji and Motobecane I was looking at are both made by a Custom Frame Shop called APRO. And that this frame shop also builds frames for Trek, Specialized, Bianchi and others.

    Still wish I had more time to research this sourcing info; just for fun. I did already buy the bike. But it is interesting how these bikes are built vs how they are marketed.

  16. #16
    hairy-legged roadie
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    the inevitable question

    Quote Originally Posted by mp3ison
    I did some calling around {including to Fuji America} and found out the frame on the Fuji and Motobecane I was looking at are both made by a Custom Frame Shop called APRO. And that this frame shop also builds frames for Trek, Specialized, Bianchi and others.

    Still wish I had more time to research this sourcing info; just for fun. I did already buy the bike. But it is interesting how these bikes are built vs how they are marketed.
    Which bike did you get??
    Carbon-based link in the tree of life. Got some more carbon-related wit?

  17. #17

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    which bike

    Quote Originally Posted by SJBiker
    Which bike did you get??
    I got a Motobecane le Champion SL - and the actual weight on my scale is 15.3 lbs - which is lighter than any other bike I saw - except the Fuji Team SL - which must weigh the same - since its the same bike

    So far I like it a lot

  18. #18
    RoadBikeReview Member
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    hmm...

    You can spend countless hours trying to figure out manufacturers of bicycles...

    I too am also facinated with the whole 'sourced' industry aspect of the bike industry, and yes it IS akin to the electronic industry...

    As others have mentioned since it is your first, just enjoy your ride...

    Like others I also love spotting similar frames from different manufacturers... Kind of like a twisted form of treasure hunting...

    I am sure things will even get more interesting as the rage for CF bikes continues to escalate...

    for example...



  19. #19

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    wow - interesting

    Quote Originally Posted by shabbasuraj
    hmm...

    You can spend countless hours trying to figure out manufacturers of bicycles...

    I too am also facinated with the whole 'sourced' industry aspect of the bike industry, and yes it IS akin to the electronic industry...

    As others have mentioned since it is your first, just enjoy your ride...

    Like others I also love spotting similar frames from different manufacturers... Kind of like a twisted form of treasure hunting...

    I am sure things will even get more interesting as the rage for CF bikes continues to escalate...

    for example...



    that is interesting
    what is the second bike
    i can not read it on picture - is it well known like Fuji?

    and what does CF mean? -- at any rate I am sure you are right about bicycles moving more towards electonics -- and that should benefit buyers

  20. #20
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    The second bike is a...

    Louis Garneau. They are mostly known for their apparel, and recently began badging bikes as their own.

    CF stands for carbon fiber.

    Hope you enjoy your new toy!
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  21. #21
    RoadBikeReview Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by pdainsworth
    Louis Garneau. They are mostly known for their apparel, and recently began badging bikes as their own.

    CF stands for carbon fiber.

    Hope you enjoy your new toy!

    Yeah upper one is a Motobecane Immortal Force
    http://motobecane.com/MBUSAimf.html

    and the lower one is a Louis Garneau 6.1
    http://louisgarneau.com/eng/catalog_...subsection=001

    and yeah both are carbon fibre...

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