Back in 2006 Kerry Roberts the owner of The Bicycle Company, the parent company of Allanti Bicycle Company, the Bike Pedlar, and The Jolly Cyclist in Nashville, Tennessee wrote a great blog post on where bicycles where actually made. The blog and post have now gone from the web along with the Allanti Bicycle Company but I have been able to get a copy of that original post which I have reproduced here.
While is a post from 2006 and time has moved on, more recent blog postings suggest that really not much has changed. Bicycle manufacturing is still very much in Asia despite what is maybe stated on your bicycle and there are still a few major players making bicycles for others.
Kerry Roberts blog post follows with some linking/editing/updating by myself.
Some bike companies have a few secrets. And one of those secrets is where your bike is made or who actually made it. The bike companies like it that way because many of them rely upon the same factories to build their bikes!
The big picture is pretty clear: most of the bikes sold in the U.S. are made in China or Taiwan by a handful of manufacturers of which Giant is the largest.
Generally speaking, low to mid level bikes are made in China and mid to high level bikes are made in Taiwan.
Bikes are produced in other countries, but Asian factories probably produce 95% of the units sold in the United States.
Incidentally, the “big three” (Giant, Trek, and Specialized) account for almost 80% of all bikes sold in U.S. bike shops.
Another part of the big picture is that the sticker on your bike that says “Made in Country X” doesn’t necessarily mean what you think! It can actually mean one of three things:
One, it can mean that the frame was made in Country X and assembled into a complete bicycle in Country X. For example, Brand Y actually builds the frame in Country X and puts it on their assembly line to assemble it into a complete bicycle with Shimano components from Japan, wheels, handlebars, stem, and seat post from Taiwan, tires from Germany, and a seat and handlebar tape from China. The sticker on the bike says “Made in Country X” when only the frame and the final assembly were done in Country X (using components from other countries). That’s accepted and no one complains.
Two, it can mean that the frame was made in Taiwan (or wherever) and imported into Brand Y’s home country of X. The frame goes through the same assembly process and receives the same “Made in Country X” sticker. The only difference is that the frame was made in Taiwan, not Country X. This practice is a little more controversial, but it occurs frequently with European brands. In my opinion, it would clear up a bit of confusion is the stickers said “Assembled in Country X.”
Three, in the case of a frame only, it can mean the frame was made in Taiwan (or wherever) and imported into Brand Y’s home country of X for finishing and painting. This is very common with high end brands especially European brand carbon frames. The frame gets a sticker that says “Made in Country X.” I don’t agree with this. Consumers are entitled to a transparent process with accurate information that is not misleading.
With these things in mind, here is an alphabetical brand by brand run down of the bikes sold in Nashville, with a few bits of trivia.
Bianchi: As I was writing this, it occurred to me that Bianchi and Schwinn have remarkably similar histories. Both were turn of thecentury family owned companies, manufactured their own bicycles, were popular brands in their respective countries, fell upon hard times, were eventually sold, moved substantially all of their production to Asia, and have seen a resurgence in the past few years under new owners!
In 1996, Bianchi was sold to a Swedish conglomerate (now known as Cycleurope [which is part of Grimaldi Industri AB] whereas Schwinn went through several owners before winding up with Pacific in 2001 [and in 2004 Dorel Industries Inc purchased Pacific Cycle].
Under Cycleurope, which owns
11 ten bicycle brands [Bianchi, Crescent, DBS, Everton, Gitane, Kildemoes, Micmo, Monark,Puch,Spectra] much of the bicycle production shifted from Italy to Asia, except for some final bicycle assembly (i.e., Asian frames assembled into complete bicycles) and limited highend production.
Let me take a minute and address Reparto Corse bicycles, because their “Made in Italy” sticker is a source of confusion.
The historic Treviglio factory a monstrosity of a thing which used to house much of Bianchi’s manufacturing before it shifted to Asia has a section dedicated to Reparto Corse. It used to be that Reparto Corse (RC) meant the race department where highend bikes were made. Now it is used as a sort of branding logo to name the upperend bikes that get the RC design and marketing treatment.
Many of the RC bikes have a “Made in Italy” sticker, which usually means assembled in Italy using a frame made in Asia. For example, the carbon RC frames are made by Advanced International Multitech (a Taiwanese carbon manufacturer of bike parts, baseball bats, golf shafts, arrows, fishing poles, etc.) and the aluminium frames are made by Taiwan Hodaka.
There are some frames still welded at Treviglio. My understanding is that the aluminium frames with carbon rears are either welded there or, at least, bonded there. I also understand that the frames with foam injection have the injection process completed there, even if the frames come from Asia.
Aluminium Cannondales are made in the U.S. Cannondale, which was owned by founder Joe Montgomery and his son Scott. Cannondale is now owned by its key investment fund after experiencing financial problems. Cannondale’s market share appears to have diminished but stabilized. Because it is owned by an investment fund, it is constantly rumoured for sale. The carbon bikes are sourced from Asia. [Cannondale is now part of Dorel Industries Inc who also own the GT Bicycles, Schwinn, Mongose, and Sugoi brands]. On January 28, 2014 Bike Europe posted that Dorel Industries Inc had announced that Cannondale operations currently performed at Bedford, including manufacturing, assembly, testing, quality control and customer and technical services are expected to be redeployed by the end of calendar 2014 [read moved off-shore].
Colnago: In 1944, when Ernesto Colnago served as a 12year old apprentice in the shop of Dante Fumagalli, did he have any idea he would become the most famous of all Italian frame builders?
Frames are still handmade in Italy, except for three entry-level aluminium models made in Taiwan (probably by Giant) and the carbon CLX, which is also made in Taiwan.
De Rosa: De Rosa is an Italian company that is one of the Italian “big three” that includes Colnago and Pinarello. Ugo De Rosa, along with his sons, have been building bikes for over 50 years. As far as I know, all bikes are made in Italy.
Ducati: Bianchi [Cycleurope] has announced a licensing agreement with Ducati to produce a line of bikes with the Ducati name. It is my understanding that the frames will be sourced from Asia with the final assembly at Treviglio.
Felt: Felt is a fairly new bicycle company, started by motocross guru Jim Felt. All production comes from Asia.
Fisher: Gary Fisher is the “godfather” of mountain bikes. After struggling with his own bicycle company, he sold his brand to Trek Bicycle Company. Still involved in designing and marketing his brand, Gary is a popular figure at bicycle industry events. He’s sort of a cult figure with an unmatched sense of fashion! Fisher bikes are made in Asia, except for the fullsuspension rigs (which are made in Wisconsin).
Fuji: Fuji is
now owned by Ideal, who manufacturers most of their bikes [It now seems that Fuji is part of the Advanced Sports Group, a privately help corporation based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Advanced Sports brands include Fuji, SE Bikes, Kestral, Breezer, Oval Concepts, Terry]. Ideal is one of the key Taiwanese manufacturers along with Giant and Merida. Ideal also manufactures for other brands. Topkey of China [Taiwan] manufacturers Fuji’s carbon frames.
Giant: You may have ridden a bicycle made by Giant without knowing it! Giant is the world’s largest bicycle manufacturer with factories in Taiwan, China, and Europe. Giant, a Taiwanese company started in 1972, manufacturers their own bikes including the carbon bikes, which is unique in the industry (i.e., most other brands use other manufacturers such as Advanced International Multitech or Martec).
In addition to making their own bikes, Giant also makes, or has made, bikes for many other prominent brands, including Trek, Specialized [now part of Merida], Schwinn, and Bianchi. Giant’s claim to fame is that they have the most advanced and efficient manufacturing facilities in the bicycle industry.
A bit of trivia is that Giant owns 30% of Taiwan Hodaka, a key Taiwanese supplier for many brands such as Bianchi.
Giant also sponsors the
TMobile professional cycling team [Giant now sponsors the Blanco Procycling team which was formed out of Radobank].
Kestrel: Kestrel, an early pioneer in carbon frames, introduced the first production nonlugged carbon frame in 1986. Originally, frames were manufactured in California. In recent years, production shifted to Asia. The frames appear to be made by Martec.
Kuota: Kuota frames are made in Taiwan by Martec, the same manufacturer that makes Kestrel frames. Kuota is a creation of Sintema [Sports], an Italian manufacturer of components. Basically, they designed the frames, had the frames manufactured in Taiwan, and marketed the brand heavily in the U.S., Western Europe, and Australia. Kuota has been a successful brand launch in a very short period.
LeMond: Greg LeMond is the first American to win the Tour de France, winning in 1986, 1989, and 1990. LeMond also won three World Championships and the Tour DuPont. His career was cut short by lead poisoning from a hunting accident. LeMond’s early bikes were made by Roberto Billato in Italy and distributed by a now defunct company named Ten Speed Drive Imports. The Billato made frames are somewhat collectible.
After trying to have an independent bike company, LeMond licensed his brand to Trek Bicycle Company. Trek now designs and markets his bikes, which are made in Asia except for the spine bikes featuring OCLV carbon (which are made in Wisconsin). [I believe Trek has now killed off the LeMond brand name.]
A bit of LeMond trivia is that he helped develop the first aerobat with Scott and used it in his amazing comefrombehind victory in the 1989 Tour de France.
Litespeed: Starting in the 1980′s, Litespeed was a pioneer in titanium frame building. As their reputation grew, a steady stream of cycling legends came to Litespeed for their titanium expertise. For many years, Litespeed built frames for famous brands such as DeRosa, [Eddy] MerckxBa, Basso,
LeMond, [Univega, Alpinestars, Marin, Rocky Mountain, Bianchi] Tommasini, and others.
Litespeed was, for a period of time, the largest manufacturer of highend bicycles in the world. All bikes, including the Merlin brand that they own, are made in Tennessee except for the carbon Pavia (which has been discontinued). The Quintana Roo brand is also owned by Litespeed but is made in Asia. [Litespeed's parent is the American Bicycle Group.]
Look: Look is a French company with frames made in France and Asia. Look is also a leading pedal brand.
Marin: [Marin is] a California company with production from Asia, except for a handful of highend models. Marin is a very small company similar in size to Kona. Key Asian suppliers are APro, Fairly, and Sunrise.
Masi: Faliero Masi was, in my opinion, the “grandfather” of all Italian frame builders, serving as inspiration to famous frame builders like Ernesto Colnago. Faliero sold his company to Americans in the early 70′s. Since then, the brand has had several owners including Schwinn! At present, the Masi brand is owned by Haro (the California BMX company) and the bikes are made in Asia.
One of my favourite frames was a made in Italy [, a] Nuovo Strada that I bought from Cumberland Transit in the 80′s. Unfortunately, it was stolen in the 90′s!
Alberto Masi, Faliero’s son, still handmakes the traditional Masi frames in the shadow of the Vigorelli Velodrome in Milan.
Unfortunately, these frames due the licensing of the Masi name to Haro are not sold in the U.S.
Merlin see Litespeed.
Olmo: Olmo is a prominent brand in Italy. Traditionally, Olmo has been made in Italy. I don’t have any information on whether any models are made in Asia.
Orbea: Orbea is one of the two large Spanish bicycle manufacturers. It is sort of like Spain’s version of Trek or Schwinn. Bikes are produced in Spain and Asia. Highend carbon frames are made in Asia and “finished” (i.e., painted) in Spain.
From Bicycle Retailer and Industry News:
Orbea builds aluminium frames inhouse. Carbon fibre frame production, which accounts for half of its road bikes, up from 20 percent just three years ago, is outsourced to such Chinese specialists as Martec. But unlike many bike makers who are content to tweak stock factory frames, Orbea does all of its carbon fibre frame design, engineering and prototyping inhouse. It builds its own moulds for new frames and assembles several dozen prototypes before handing off manufacturing instructions to China.
“We need to keep and develop our own knowledge of composites and carbon fibre, and then to find someone who can work with us to build what we want them to build,” Joseba Arizaga (Orbea’s marketing manager) said. “We make the moulds, the first frames, everything here in Orbea. Then, when we are ready to do mass production, we send the instructions to Asia.” [Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, September 1, 2006, Basque Bike Makers (by Doug McClellan)]
Raleigh: A few years ago, the U.S. management team, headed by former Murray exec Bill Austin, bought Raleigh from its U.K. owners.
Schwinn: Schwinn was for many years the largest American brand. All bicycles were made domestically until the late 80′s.
In 1985, Schwinn management called mountain bikes a “fad” oops. After two bankruptcies, Schwinn is now owned by
Pacific [now Dorel], who also owns GT, Mongoose, and the Pacific (and some other brands). Pacific is headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin. Under Pacific’s ownership, the Schwinn brand is returning to prominence. Pacific sells more bicycles than any other brand in North America. However, that includes Pacific brands sold at WalMart, Target, etc.
The bikes sold in the U.S. are made in Asia, many by Giant.
Scott USA: Scott got its start in Sun Valley, Idaho, when Ed Scott developed the first aluminium ski pole in 1958. In the 80′s, Scott developed a bike line. Eventually, Scott pulled out of the U.S. market and focused on Europe, where Scott is headquartered.
After an absence of several years, Scott has returned to the U.S. market under the direction of Scott Montgomery of Cannondale fame. Although the company is headquartered in Switzerland, production comes from Asia, with key suppliers being Hodaka and Giant.
Seven: Seven is America’s number one custom bicycle brand. Seven Cycles was founded by Rob Vandermark in early 1997.
Rob, previously head of R&D at Merlin Metalworks, decided to branch out on his own and develop a company to build highend titanium and steel frames. He also wanted to offer the rider custom geometry, without extra charges and long lead times. So Rob assembled a team of experienced craftspeople who all shared a common goal: To build the highest quality, most innovative frames, and therefore provide the cyclist with the best riding experience possible.
All bikes are handmade in Watertown, Massachusetts.
Specialized: Started in 1974 by Mike Sinyard, Specialized has enjoyed a longstanding reputation for being a leading bicycle design and marketing company.
Several years ago, Merida (a Taiwanese manufacturer) bought a substantial interest in Specialized. Although Specialized is still headquartered in California under the leadership of founder Mike Sinyard, all bikes are made in Asia. Key Asian suppliers are Merida, Ideal, and Giant.
Time: Time produces what is arguably the most advanced carbon frame in the world and all frames are handmade in France, even the entry-level frames.
Trek: It’s hard to believe that America’s largest bicycle brand had humble beginnings in a barn! Yet in 1976, Dick Burke with an investment of $25,000 started making bicycle frames in a little red barn near Madison, Wisconsin. By 1980, Trek built their first ,manufacturing plant in Wisconsin and the rest, as they say, is history!
After many years of making its own bicycles in the U.S., Trek moved entry and mid level bicycle manufacturing to Asia.
In 1992, Trek introduced its proprietary OCLV carbon process (Optimum Compaction Low Void) which is still used in its handmade carbon frames. All OCLV carbon frames road and mountain are still made in Waterloo, Wisconsin. The allcarbon 5000 (which does not feature OCLV) is made in Asia.
Worldwide, Trek is the second largest bicycle company after Giant (of the brands sold only in bicycle stores). They are one of the most soughtafter brands by U.S. dealers because of their strong commitment to brick and mortar bicycle stores (i.e., the brand cannot be sold mail order or over the Internet) and because of their dealer friendly policies.
Tommasini: Tommasini is a small Italian frame builder in Grosseto, Italy, of similar size to Seven, Waterford, and Serotta. Much of Tommasini’s production is exported out of Italy, with their largest markets being the U.S., Germany, and Japan. In September 2006, Irio Tommasini’s nieces took over U.S. distribution and are relaunching the brand in the U.S.
Waterford: Waterford is America’s number one steel custom bicycle brand. All bikes are handmade in Waterford, Wisconsin.
In the late 1970′s, a young rider, designer and builder named Marc Muller was hired by the Schwinn Bicycle Company. He brought the experience and innovation from his own frame building enterprise and took charge of building the Paramounts, the dominant brand of American build racing bicycles.
In the early 1980′s, Marc moved the Paramount factory to Waterford, Wisconsin and continued building élite bicycles and also created a cycling design laboratory.
Marc and his staff introduced a number of key innovations including oversized tubing (one of the most significant advances in frame design), 26″ wheels, castin cable guides and a patented full suspension system. These advances allowed them to design and build bikes for National and World champions such as Ned Overand, Marc Allen, Mike Engleman, Tom Prehn and many others.
In 1993, Marc Muller and Richard Schwinn, greatgrandson of Ignaz Schwinn, bought the Paramount factory and renamed it Waterford Precision Cycles.
Marc is now one of the most respected bike designers in the entire bicycle industry. And Waterford, with a one hundred year heritage in bicycle manufacturing, continues to make a winning, world-class frames one at a time.
Waterford is 90 minutes north of Chicago. If you visit Chicago, feel free to call for a factory tour.
What have I missed? Let me know and I’ll be happy to reply. Again, you may wish to consult Bicycle Retailer and Industry News’ 2007 Factory and Suppliers Guide, published in their October 1, 2006, issue. The guide lists which factories the U.S. brands use for their manufacturing.
More recently (February 19, 2012) posted an article, titled “Who made your bike?” which discusses the state of play in 2012 but does not go into the details such as what Kerry Roberts did in 2006, but still worth a read.
Cycling IQ series titled “Vertical Limit” is also worth a read for insights into the industry.
If you can fill in some gaps or update Kerry’s work please leave a comment below. I would love to keep this breakdown of the industry as current as possible.