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Mass Manufacturing

Old 11-22-14, 10:23 PM
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Mass Manufacturing

What is the least expensive North-American-made bicycle frame, or complete bicycle with a North-American frame available today?
I am not asking because I think NA made products are 'better', but because I was just thinking about what bicycle industry is left in this part of the world. I believe there are a handful of custom frame shops operating, and a few well known companies are making a small percentage of their bikes here. I think Trek claims they 'make more bicycles in American than anyone else' and that is probably true, but do they make fifty thousand? two thousand? Just how many bikes are made in North America today?
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Old 11-22-14, 11:33 PM
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Mass produced companies dont make bikes in NA anymore. Trek and Cannondale started outsourcing their frames many years ago. Well.... Trek's top end carbon bike might still be american, but you're looking at $6,000+ and they dont sell a whole lot of 'em.

If you want American made you're basically looking at custom builders like Waterford, Rivendell, Vanilla, Moots etc which will cost you a minimum of $2,000. and thats just the framset - not including the components like shifters, wheels etc.

According to their website, a complete rivendell atlantis is ~$3,600 and up. There are more affordable brands like Gunnar which you could probably come in cheaper. For a bare bones Gunnar Roadie lets say ~$1,200 for the frameset and then maybe drop another $1,000 on components.
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Old 11-23-14, 04:44 AM
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Detroit Bike Co. is making frames and complete bikes in Detroit Detroit Bikes

Kent just built a factory in South Carolina assembling bikes for Walmart. They plan to build frames in house in the near future.
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Old 11-23-14, 05:47 AM
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Approximately 56,000 bikes were produced in the U.S. in 2013 according to this article:

Bankrupt Detroit's booming new industry: bikes - Fortune
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Old 11-25-14, 12:57 PM
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Gunnar is Tig welded in batches.. annual numbers likely what Maxway TW puts out in a Week .

Trek is making the high end Carbon frames in the US.

they too go to TW for the bulk of the line , in lower price points..

Last edited by fietsbob; 11-25-14 at 01:03 PM.
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Old 11-25-14, 02:23 PM
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Procycle in Canada used to manufacture bicycles. Cheap ones (CCM) and slightly better ones (Peugeot). I don't think they are produced here anymore.

Here is a vid of their production facility. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZPS_iwoeJg
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Old 11-26-14, 10:36 PM
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I'd say your closest thing to NA made production bikes would be Detroit Bikes, Gunnar, Bike Friday or Co-motion maybe?
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Old 11-27-14, 09:48 AM
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Originally Posted by zazenzach View Post
Mass produced companies dont make bikes in NA anymore. Trek and Cannondale started outsourcing their frames many years ago. Well.... Trek's top end carbon bike might still be american, but you're looking at $6,000+ and they dont sell a whole lot of 'em.

If you want American made you're basically looking at custom builders like Waterford, Rivendell, Vanilla, Moots etc which will cost you a minimum of $2,000. and thats just the framset - not including the components like shifters, wheels etc.

According to their website, a complete rivendell atlantis is ~$3,600 and up. There are more affordable brands like Gunnar which you could probably come in cheaper. For a bare bones Gunnar Roadie lets say ~$1,200 for the frameset and then maybe drop another $1,000 on components.
My first ever job was in a shop that sold Trek, and there was a definite difference between the American made Aluminum and lugged steel and the welded Taiwanese steel. They were all perfectly acceptable bikes, but I still check ePay for a 22" 970 frame from time to time. Then there was the lower cost Trek 'Jazz' line which were (I think) also Taiwanese but much cheaper and less nice than even the 800 series Taiwanese Treks.
All in all, I don't think there was a real drop in quality when they went primarily to Asian manufacturing in the mid 90s. I have a late '90s trek 1000 frameset in my basement (will be my 12 year old son's bike next year) and it is perfectly fine, too.

And as for the brands you mentioned that currently produce frames in the US, they are all beautiful and drool worthy, but I don't think Rivendell has many NA made frames - a small number of them are built by Waterford, but most are Japanese - not because Japanese construction is much cheaper, but I think because G. Peterson has an ongoing relationship with Japanese suppliers from his days with Bridgestone.
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Old 11-27-14, 09:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Henry III View Post
I'd say your closest thing to NA made production bikes would be Detroit Bikes, Gunnar, Bike Friday or Co-motion maybe?
Detroit bikes seem to be off to a good start, but don't they make their frames in only one size? This limits their appeal for enthusiasts and kind of makes them as useful as very expensive box store bikes.
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Old 11-27-14, 08:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Wilfred Laurier View Post
My first ever job was in a shop that sold Trek, and there was a definite difference between the American made Aluminum and lugged steel and the welded Taiwanese steel. They were all perfectly acceptable bikes, but I still check ePay for a 22" 970 frame from time to time. Then there was the lower cost Trek 'Jazz' line which were (I think) also Taiwanese but much cheaper and less nice than even the 800 series Taiwanese Treks.
All in all, I don't think there was a real drop in quality when they went primarily to Asian manufacturing in the mid 90s. I have a late '90s trek 1000 frameset in my basement (will be my 12 year old son's bike next year) and it is perfectly fine, too.
i agree. especially these days, asia does produce high quality stuff. the problem is, most of them rely on newer techniques like TIG welding and composite technology rather than traditional fillet and lugged brazing (steel). thankfully many NA, japanese and european boutique brands are able to stay afloat by filling this niche.

Originally Posted by Wilfred Laurier View Post
I don't think Rivendell has many NA made frames - a small number of them are built by Waterford, but most are Japanese
Most of Rivendell's bikes are handmade in Wisonsin, USA. Their custom frames, the rodeo, the atlantis, the hunqapillar are all american.

the bikes they subcontract and have marketing arrangements with are asian. the san marcos was designed by Rivendell for Soma Fab, and is made in taiwan. they seem to have introduced a couple other models that are asian made, but i cant tell if theyre part of the normal line or not.

Last edited by zazenzach; 11-27-14 at 09:01 PM.
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Old 11-29-14, 06:32 PM
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Originally Posted by zazenzach View Post
the problem is, most of them rely on newer techniques like TIG welding and composite technology .
How is that a problem? TIG welding is basically superior to either fillet, or lugs, though personal preferences for those methods are perfectly reasonable. Composite is a whole other thing, though can't really be easily compared if the makers let their freak fly. Pretty hard to do one-off custom in composite, but for mass market it seems reasonably efficient.
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Old 11-29-14, 07:01 PM
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Originally Posted by MassiveD View Post
How is that a problem? TIG welding is basically superior to either fillet, or lugs, though personal preferences for those methods are perfectly reasonable. Composite is a whole other thing, though can't really be easily compared if the makers let their freak fly. Pretty hard to do one-off custom in composite, but for mass market it seems reasonably efficient.
How do you define "superior"? I think you'd get a lot of debate about what is or isn't better. Along the lines of "how do you want your frame to likely fail". I also think Crumpton and Calfee, among others, would say otherwise WRT custom composite. Andy.
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Old 12-01-14, 05:43 AM
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Every method claims it is better, I am just here to say so for TIG. The myths against are that tig is weaker, no skill, cheap. The truth is TIG is the only option of the three that you can use for a certified aircraft weld; harder to do, much steeper learning curve; more expensive gear for a small shop, at an industrial level either can be done, but that isn't really relevant to parse to the nth degree.

Other things are: lighter than brazing , more geometry options than lugs. A good deal of tubing is currently designed specifically for it. There is an art to it, though not universally understood. Tends to be used with better, joints, better fixturing.

A huge one is that it is adaptable to more materials, with the other two metals you are left pretending that Al, and Ti, are... sorta not there. I mean, they are making F-150s out of Aluminum to meet the gas standards. Time to move on.

I'd say that is a pretty convincing list. Even if you happen to prefer the way lugs look, you can tig that together. Some of the fancy bikes that use custom lugs are tigged together. Not sure what role the lugmasters play in making some kind of contribution to TIG. Most TIG guys I know also can do brazing, and lugs. Most name lugmeisters I hear about can't weld. So if you get a bike with TIG on it, there is at least a chance they made a reasoned decision which process to use where. BF being an example of a company that uses all thre processes on the same bike. Or maybe not, I was thinking they sleeved something.

As far as composites are concerned the Chinese can swing it if the market ever develops.

As I said above, there are legitimate opinions on all sides. But only if they actually get out. In general I think the craftspeople know all this stuff, and the sillier stereotypes exist mainly in the popular imagination. That was not always the case in the past. But a guy who actually has industry experience these days probably saw more than lugs at one time.
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Old 12-01-14, 08:44 AM
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I think brazing is superior to TIG because if I could TIG weld people would want me to make Ti frames.

I think most framebuilders are rather bored by the question. Don at Anvil used to have an essay on his site about how you could actually make money at framebuilding if you used TIG, and there is something to that.

Last edited by unterhausen; 12-01-14 at 08:47 AM.
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Old 12-02-14, 01:15 PM
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I agree, and more or less said the same thing, that framebuilders are bored by these questions. But they persist in the general population. In my other passion, multihull sailboats, for decades the idea that they were particularly dangerous due to capsize persisted. It was so silly, but it persisted until a generation of people got old enough to no longer carry that torch, on either side.

The ennui though does not mean that the issue has been resolved, it just isn't profitable to discuss it publicly. There is a sense that framebuilders should stand together. That can be stuff like developing a protected status through certification, or exercises like NHBS. And of course one does not know what is being said in-house when developing clients.
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Old 12-02-14, 02:25 PM
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No love for Worksman...?

Depends on what is meant by mass manufacturing -- like Cannondale and Trek used to do? None left in the USA. Small batch manufacturing? More choices. Like Henry III said: Bike Friday, Detroit Bikes. I don't consider Gunnar mass manufacturing, since they contract their frames with Waterford... who I would put near the top of the list, since they also do batch mfg for Milwaukee Bicycle Co. I'd add Zen Bicycle Fabrication. (who's homepage shows a frame being GTAWed together...)
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Old 12-07-14, 09:24 AM
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Originally Posted by mconlonx View Post
I don't consider Gunnar mass manufacturing, since they contract their frames with Waterford
Gunnar is Waterford but they companies like Rivendell and Rene Herse (Boulder Cycles), Milwaukee Bikes all have their frames made by Waterford.

As the air-hardening steels became more readily available, the company saw the opportunity to build adult TIG-welded bikes with the new air-hardening steels. In 1998, Waterford developed the Gunnar line of bikes (named after the late Gunnar the dog, denizen of the factory). The Gunnars were a huge hit, and that year, the company decided to purchase the building next door. Production in the new factory started in 1999.
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Old 12-07-14, 10:05 AM
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Originally Posted by rellis View Post
Detroit Bike Co. is making frames and complete bikes in Detroit Detroit Bikes

Kent just built a factory in South Carolina assembling bikes for Walmart. They plan to build frames in house in the near future.
Wonder how long they will last doing that? Thinking of wall mart and Huffmam Mfg.
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Old 12-08-14, 07:51 PM
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I bought a Gunnar and really love the ride.
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Old 12-08-14, 08:00 PM
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Oh yea, when I ordered my Gunnar, it took a month to get. The dark blue pearl paint was a $75 charge. Total cost $1200 for frame and fork.
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Old 12-08-14, 08:09 PM
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Ti Litespeeds are USA made I believe. CF ones- who knows.
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Old 12-09-14, 01:15 AM
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Originally Posted by 2manybikes View Post
Ti Litespeeds are USA made I believe. CF ones- who knows.
I saw some videos (maybe just one - can't remember) of carbon frame 'manufacturing' in Italy by one of the more well known brands. Every process they completed in the video was after the main carbon fibre 'shell' of the frame was complete. They seemed to have an unlimited supply of cf 'blanks' to which they added all the fittings and finishings to make a complete frame.
It seems likely to me that some of the big dollar NA makers are taking advantage of Asian expertise with cf, and relying on the remainder of frame production and finishing to set themselves apart.
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Old 12-09-14, 09:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Wilfred Laurier View Post
I saw some videos (maybe just one - can't remember) of carbon frame 'manufacturing' in Italy by one of the more well known brands. Every process they completed in the video was after the main carbon fibre 'shell' of the frame was complete. They seemed to have an unlimited supply of cf 'blanks' to which they added all the fittings and finishings to make a complete frame.
It seems likely to me that some of the big dollar NA makers are taking advantage of Asian expertise with cf, and relying on the remainder of frame production and finishing to set themselves apart.
Every country has a definition of what's considered "manufactured in ...". What percentage of work done, when during the production cycle and what type of work done are all involved. So a frame could have US tubing sent to Asia, brazed up in a complete frame, returned to the US and finish painted here then assembled here and be called "made in the USA". At one time Trek had frame/tube sub assemblies worked on in Asia but completed in WI and were proud of the USA label. All my frames get a "Made in the USA" sticker. Sometime I'll get a a new version saying "Made in a Basement in the USA". Andy.
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Old 12-09-14, 10:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
Every country has a definition of what's considered "manufactured in ...". What percentage of work done, when during the production cycle and what type of work done are all involved. So a frame could have US tubing sent to Asia, brazed up in a complete frame, returned to the US and finish painted here then assembled here and be called "made in the USA". At one time Trek had frame/tube sub assemblies worked on in Asia but completed in WI and were proud of the USA label. All my frames get a "Made in the USA" sticker. Sometime I'll get a a new version saying "Made in a Basement in the USA". Andy.
I am curious - what era and what bikes are you aware that Trek did this with? I recall in the early nineties their upper end steel bikes had lugged/brazed construction, others had aluminum or carbon tubes bonded to (I think) forged aluminum lugs, and their full carbon -early OCLV - were carbon tubes bonded to carbon lugs. I thought, but was not sure, at that point that all these bikes (everything above 800 'Antelope' bikes and the Jazz line) had completely made in USA frames.

Then in the mid nineties (maybe 93 or 94) the steel bikes and aluminum bikes began to be TIG welded, but I think were still listed as "Made in USA". Was that the change over point to Asian welding and USA finishing/assembly?
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Old 12-09-14, 12:26 PM
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I thought I read about Trek doing that in the early '80s. John would know
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