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  1. #1
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    The great conspiracy

    Dear all

    I am fairly new to this forum and I would like your collective thoughts on a subject that I think could cause alot of people feeling they had been had by the bike industry.

    I have recently had a very long and in depth discussion with someone who has been in the bike trade selling top end Italian road frames for along time. It was suggested that alot of large, world renowned Italian bike compaines are having their frames made in the Far East and having them imported to Italy to finish and paint them. I know that Colnago are having some their carbon and alloy frames made in Taiwan because it says so on the downtube, which is fine because you then know what you are buying. Though according to this source, alot of the other Italian frame builders are doing this but telling the customer it is made in Italy! I'm not just talking about the lower end frames, but the top end ones too.

    This is particulary of interest to me as I own a few modern Italian frames and paid a 'not so little amount of money' believing they were made in a factory in Italy, by a world renowned master craftsman with years of experience welding frames.

    Is there any truth in this? If so, then their are an awful lot of people out there being lied to and spending their hard earned cash on something thats not what they think it is, which is just plain wrong! Any thoughts or evidence to this being true would be welcome, Best Regards.

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    Senior Member rodrigaj's Avatar
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    I know that when Antonio Mondonico was still making his frames, they were HIS frames.

    He pinned the lugs. You can see the pins sticking out if you remove the BB.

    Perhaps I'm wrong but I cannot imagine a mass production factory anywhere doing this.

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    The majority of "Italian" frames produced today come from outside Italy. Even the ones made in Italy come from somewhere other than the name on the downtube. It's no secret or conspiracy. It's the way it is and has been for a century; OEM is a reality, the "myth" is usually marketing.

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    Hi

    So its possible that my 'made in Italy De Rosa' aluminium frames are not made in Italy? Or if they are they are not made by De Rosa themselves, but made by another source in Italy? Oh my....!

    Thanks for any feedback.

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    Senior Member Nessism's Avatar
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    There are laws detailing what specific circumstances must be met in order to put the "made in..." label on a product. If someone purchases a frame, I think it's pretty clear that the origin of manufacturer needs to be indicated. Where the issue gets confusing is if a company imports raw frames and then does some finish work and paints them. Most likely the company can claim that the frame is made in the final country that did work on them. With a bike I think a company can purchase components from Shimano in Japan, a frame from Taiwan, and assemble in US - thus earning a "made in USA" label.

    Seeing as to how this is a framebuilders forum...in my opinion, when you build a few frames yourself the mystique of the storied builders doesn't hold as much value as it did before. Some people put way to much significance in who, or what company, built their frame. So your Colnago was built in Taiwain, no issue from where I sit - other than you paid way too much.
    Becareful buying/selling bike parts on-line. I learned the hard way. :(

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    Quote Originally Posted by neilwheel
    The majority of "Italian" frames produced today come from outside Italy. Even the ones made in Italy come from somewhere other than the name on the downtube. It's no secret or conspiracy. It's the way it is and has been for a century; OEM is a reality, the "myth" is usually marketing.
    So you just reassert the myth, which is just about all anyone does. Has anyone actually been in an Italian shop/factory and witnessed this happening? And I'm not thinking about the ones where the manufacturers are being upfront (e.g. the low end Colnagos, Bianchi, etc.). Sometimes the wording on Italian promotional materials makes it sound like the myth is possibly true, but then again maybe it is just sloppy translation. At least the likes of Trek use the 'designed in the USA' cop-out.

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    Senior Member skinny's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rodrigaj
    I know that when Antonio Mondonico was still making his frames, they were HIS frames.

    He pinned the lugs. You can see the pins sticking out if you remove the BB.

    Perhaps I'm wrong but I cannot imagine a mass production factory anywhere doing this.
    Pinning lugs is an age old method of framebuilding used at all levels of production, from cheapest to costliest. You can see pinning on old $129.99 gitanes to top of the line frames.
    Last edited by skinny; 03-05-07 at 11:21 AM.

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    all bikes

    Nearly all larger manufacturers have their frames made in Asia. This phenomenom is prevalent in the jewelry industry, automobiles, clothing, virtually anything manufactued these days is made in third world economies in order to be competitive. The quality of much of this is dependant on what the origin company specifies. The asian makers will make you whatever you specify and are willing to pay for. They are very happy to work for other companies and will do excellent work if you specify, quality. Having said that, I don't like the fact that this is happening but it won't stop until the asian economies get up to the rest of the world and the standard of living evens out. By then, there won't be many skilled workers left in America or Europe. Its hard to say what will happen economically but until then, if you want domestic workers building your bike frame, you will have to pay for a small volume maufacturer such as Waterford or commission an even smaller custom build company to do the work. But you will pay! Is it worth it, you may ask? I say yes but its a matter of money for many of us.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by jemoryl
    So you just reassert the myth, which is just about all anyone does. Has anyone actually been in an Italian shop/factory and witnessed this happening?
    Yes, I worked with an Italian builder for 6 years who produced frames for large numbers of other "mythical" manufacturers. I also visited the local paintshops and witnessed the boxes of raw frames, fresh from Taiwan getting painted with "mythical" brand names.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by neilwheel
    Yes, I worked with an Italian builder for 6 years who produced frames for large numbers of other "mythical" manufacturers. I also visited the local paintshops and witnessed the boxes of raw frames, fresh from Taiwan getting painted with "mythical" brand names.

    Ahh! This is what I've been looking for. I believe there is some truth in the 'made in Taiwan' Italian bike frames. As the saying goes 'there's no smoke without fire' and unfortunately I think that we are being lied to. I know that the bikes are still great to ride, handle perfectly and still are made very well, but its just not right. To be told that they are made in Italy by the makers and shop distributers, the buyer really isn't going to question it unless, as I did, they stumble across someone who had worked in the trade for years and has had actual experience of this going on, as 'neilwheel' sounds like he has. Dare I ask which mythical makers were getting their frames made in Taiwan, I'd really like to know?

    I agree with Charles Vail, I reckon if you want a domestic bike made now, then you have to go small volume (one man almost) maker.

    Also I get a picture in my head of some Italian 'factory' making one or two frames a day, just to keep the pretence up of an aristan craftsman at work, just in case a customer wants a tour of the factory or trading standards pay a visit..

    Also if its 'no great secret' then why is it that when you actually ask an Italian frame builder/maker (by e mail) they tell you their frames are made in Italy. Also ask most dealers here in the UK and they will tell you they are made in Italy, (apart from 'some' carbon frames that are from the Far East)....What a shame the myth really is broken..

    BTW thanks all you guys for your intelligent and considered answers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by neilwheel
    Yes, I worked with an Italian builder for 6 years who produced frames for large numbers of other "mythical" manufacturers. I also visited the local paintshops and witnessed the boxes of raw frames, fresh from Taiwan getting painted with "mythical" brand names.
    Well, yes I've heard that some builders have farmed out production within Italy for some time (Billato being one of the well known sources). But since no one here (or in Italy) knows who you are, why don't you name some names on the Taiwan issue? It does seem inherently dishonest to slap a 'Made in Italy' sticker on a frame just because paint has been applied in Italy. And I have nothing against Taiwanese frames - but if I want a Giant I'll go direct to the source. Their paint is likely to be superior as well!

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    But since no one here (or in Italy) knows who you are, why don't you name some names on the Taiwan issue?
    1. Professional etiquette.
    2. Those who need to know me, know me.
    3. A sticker can be produced in Italy and carry a "Made in Italy" legend.
    4. It's not just frames, look at some components out there.
    5. The world has changed. The far-east is the worlds' workshop. Unless you can walk into a shop and shake hands with the builder, don't be under any illusions as to where or who built your bike, or microwave, or sneekers, or etc, etc, etc.

  13. #13
    cs1
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    Quote Originally Posted by neilwheel
    1. Professional etiquette.
    2. Those who need to know me, know me.
    3. A sticker can be produced in Italy and carry a "Made in Italy" legend.
    4. It's not just frames, look at some components out there.
    5. The world has changed. The far-east is the worlds' workshop. Unless you can walk into a shop and shake hands with the builder, don't be under any illusions as to where or who built your bike, or microwave, or sneekers, or etc, etc, etc.
    I'm not sure wether to respect you for your professionalism or call it a cop out. So, I'll take the heat. Check out this link being post in the General Discussion Forum: http://allanti.com/page.cfm?PageID=328
    It should dispell any conspiracy theories going on. Good luck

    Tim
    1999 Waterford RSE-11, 1995 Waterford 1200, 1989 Specialized Rockhopper Comp
    1989 Raleigh Technium, 1989 Schwinn Traveler, 1986 Specialized Rockhopper
    1984 Specialized Stumpjumper, 1986 Specialized Stumpjumper and just way too many projects to list.

  14. #14
    Senior Member bellweatherman's Avatar
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    Take a bike, any bike...
    Put on a "Made in Italy" sticker and people think, "great ride, old-world mystique, technical perfection." Peel off the sticker and put on a "Made in China" sticker and the same people will say, "horrible, cheap construction, poor welds" etc. etc.
    Livestrong. The personal fundmaker of Lance Armstrong. The company who are in business to not donate to cancer research, but only to inform people that cancer is bad.

    Armstrong. The man without integrity, no care for the sport, and no problem with testing positive for EPO and making donations to cover it up.

    01101010101010001010

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    Senior Member rodrigaj's Avatar
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    Shouldn't the US distributors be able to tell you, honestly, where these bikes are made?

    Or are they part of the great conspiracy also?

    And what about the small LBS that has been in business since the 70's, and have developed long standing relationships with manufacturers, builders and distributors.

    Are they also part of this great conspiracy?

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    Quote Originally Posted by rodrigaj
    Shouldn't the US distributors be able to tell you, honestly, where these bikes are made?

    Or are they part of the great conspiracy also?

    And what about the small LBS that has been in business since the 70's, and have developed long standing relationships with manufacturers, builders and distributors.

    Are they also part of this great conspiracy?
    Hi

    I would say some LBS are just as in the dark about where Italian frames are made as we are. I have a very good retationship with the LBS manager and he knows of one or two frames that are made in the Far East, De Rosa Avant for one, but if he knows about the others, his not letting on...

    I found out about the farming out of Italian frames from someone who has been in the trade for years and who used to sell the marque, but has since stopped selling them about 3 years ago as he felt it wasn't right what was going on. He found some evidence of Far Eastern production too....

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    Quote Originally Posted by cs1
    I'm not sure wether to respect you for your professionalism or call it a cop out.
    Tim
    It's not a cop out; it's the way things are in the OEM frame business in which I've been involved, in one capacity or another, since 1976. It's called "client confidentiality" and it's what keeps the wheels of the bike industry - and plenty of other similar industries - turning. The question of "who makes what?" has been asked in bike shops, club rooms, bars, magazines, websites, forums etc. for years and will continue to. Inaccuracy and third-hand "knowledge," like the stuff in the link you posted, will ensure that the question will still be asked in a decade from now, only there's a new slant being added; "who owns who?" being thrown into the mix over the last couple of years. That one is going to run and run!

  18. #18
    Senior Member slagjumper's Avatar
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    I say embrace the East. Some of these factories are virtually owned by the large importers who have a lot of control.

    I'd like to see the majors come right out and say, "Our bikes are made in Asia. Our managers are always onsite there to track the manufacturing process. We work closely with our manufacturers to deliver the highest quality and closest manufacturing tolerances." But no that is not how they do it. The online retailers for example, set up a 1000 bike run for 125K and sell them to us for twice that. That is a lot of selling for 125K in profit. But they dont really say what they are doing. I bet you could piggy-back off of those clients while the jigs are in place and get even a better deal or a smaller run. Anybody speak Chinese?

    Doesn’t this all help the few hundred mom and pop domestic frame builders? So much of what you are paying for is the name. But you also usually get what you pay for, no matter where it is made.

    Note to the major players-- I'd be pissed if I found out that my bike where made by prison labor.

    http://www.manufacturers.com.tw/bicy...-in-China.html
    Last edited by slagjumper; 03-06-07 at 01:58 PM.

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    ear all

    Thinking about this my new De Rosa alloy frame, doesn't quite have the 'perfect finish' of my other 3 year old one. Also, the bottom bracket wasn't 'prepared' which is unusal on a De Rosa frame and it just doesn't have that made in Italy feel to it as before. Is this me just being paranoid or am I the owner of a new generation of Taiwan made Italian frames? I guess I may never know, unless as slagjumper says and the makers just come out and hold their hands up and tell us where they are made.

    I believe it's going to come out sooner or later, because people just don't like being lied to and don't like paying for an Italian designed Taiwanese made bike when they've been lead to believe its 100 per cent Italian....

  20. #20
    Senior Member Nessism's Avatar
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    The auto business was pretty much the same way; people could not tell which cars were being made in US and which weren't. Eventually a law was passed and all cars had to come with a Content Label which indicated where the final assembly was performed, the % of US content, and what other country contributed a significant % of parts. Cleared up the confusion.
    Last edited by Nessism; 03-08-07 at 08:17 AM.
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    Italian smalion

    Look there is nothing especially wonderfull concerning Italian made bicycles, especially those made in the last 15 years or so. There are plenty of American builders and quite a few Japanese made frames that were better than some of the old school Italian made frames. If you are talking the more recent (in the last 15 years) there isn't anything made thats very exciting to me. Lugged steel frames have been replaced by generic aluminum tig welded monstrocities with no soul! Or worse yet, epoxy glue and fabric!!!! The truly beautifull bikes made prior to the ninties were the zenith of artfull bicycle building. Thankfully, there are still a few American and European builders left making smartly designed and attractive frames out of lugs and steel. In fact these are better made than they were in days gone by since the tubing and lug quality is so much better. Lets face it, if you purchase any major factory bike these days its probably made in Taiwan or China by some guy making 50 cents and hour and living in a factory dormatory. How can anyone compete with that unless they charge alot more and offer something the others don't. And what could they possibly offer you may ask.........quality!

  22. #22
    Senior Member rodrigaj's Avatar
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    Would the Italian Frame makers been better off establishing the "Italian Made" badge of honor in much the same way that the Swiss "Swiss Made" watch makers did with fine watches?

    The Swiss competed head on with the Asian market by making Quality their main defense.

    I suppose it's a moot point, but I agree with Starider. If a bike frame says made in Italy, that is where the frame should have been manufactured. If I didn't care where it was made, then I wouldn't mind what the decal says. But if I did buy a bike, because of the Italian heritage, I would be thoughly turned off by the deception.

    This has been an very interesting thread.

  23. #23
    cs1
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    Quote Originally Posted by neilwheel
    It's not a cop out; it's the way things are in the OEM frame business in which I've been involved, in one capacity or another, since 1976. It's called "client confidentiality" and it's what keeps the wheels of the bike industry - and plenty of other similar industries - turning. The question of "who makes what?" has been asked in bike shops, club rooms, bars, magazines, websites, forums etc. for years and will continue to. Inaccuracy and third-hand "knowledge," like the stuff in the link you posted, will ensure that the question will still be asked in a decade from now, only there's a new slant being added; "who owns who?" being thrown into the mix over the last couple of years. That one is going to run and run!
    neilwheel: if you read the beginning of the story, it clearly states the sources. It is up to the reader to determine their credibility. I for one, trust long standing trade publications. They don't stay in business for a long time by disseminating false or misleading information.

    You stated some interesting facts. There were no sources to back up your statements though. You can't go and make claims without citing a source. The claim then becomes pure speculation. If you truly valued "client confidentiality", you would have kept silent. You made a statement and now you're being called on it.

    The link posted told who actually made their own bikes and who didn't. I don't see the author being sued by any of the companies listed.


    Tim
    1999 Waterford RSE-11, 1995 Waterford 1200, 1989 Specialized Rockhopper Comp
    1989 Raleigh Technium, 1989 Schwinn Traveler, 1986 Specialized Rockhopper
    1984 Specialized Stumpjumper, 1986 Specialized Stumpjumper and just way too many projects to list.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by cs1
    neilwheel: if you read the beginning of the story, it clearly states the sources. It is up to the reader to determine their credibility. I for one, trust long standing trade publications. They don't stay in business for a long time by disseminating false or misleading information.

    You stated some interesting facts. There were no sources to back up your statements though. You can't go and make claims without citing a source. The claim then becomes pure speculation. If you truly valued "client confidentiality", you would have kept silent. You made a statement and now you're being called on it.

    The link posted told who actually made their own bikes and who didn't. I don't see the author being sued by any of the companies listed.


    Tim
    Well said!

    Tom

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    Not sure the 90s are the zenith of lugged bike making either. It all went downstream around the time when MTBs started coming out. There was a huge increase in the industry and better frames and parts became routine, but frames made with fancy plumbing technology lost their appeal.

    The bike industry has been a very modern industry model for a long time. Bikes are made up of many sub-assemblies that are not made by the company whose name appears on the tubes. Even before offshoring, and even talking about the frames only, the tubes, paint filer, etc... do not originate with the manufacturer. All they are really responsible for is design and quality control.

    That said I do think there is some misdirection involved with some euro companies. I know one in the recumbent field that really goes out of it's way to say they make the frames and they determine the quality by using euro labour. yet it can turn out that the frames are made in Taiwan. I agree that since a lot of the capacity to do work at a decent level is in the East, it might as well be developed as part of the marketing. There are success stories like Surly or Kogswell that turn the fact of their offshoring to an advantage.

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