Thursday, January 20, 2011

What Do Bike Shops Want to Sell You, and Why?

In the comments section of a post from a couple of days ago, I made a remark suggesting that bike shops have financial incentive to sell bikes and accessories separately, as opposed to bikes that do not need additional accessories. I have since received emails asking to expand on that, so let me give it a try.

First, let me just clarify that my comment was intended to describe the financial reality of profit margins, and was not meant as a value judgment of bicycle shops. Bike shops need to make money, or they will go out of business - it's as simple as that. The question is, how to do that and still act in the best interest of their customer?

Consider first, that the retail mark-up on bicycles is usually less, percentage-wise, than the retail mark-up on components and accessories. The better made the bicycle, the more this is so, as production costs for that bike are high and there is a ceiling to what most customers are willing to pay.

Essentially, this means two things:

1. It is more profitable for a bike shop to stock mass-produced bicycles that allow for higher profit margins, and

2. It is more profitable for a bike shop to sell components and accessories than it is to sell bicycles

This explains why, despite the "transportation bike craze," it is still the case that relatively few bike shops stock higher-end city bicycles, especially those imported from Europe. Not only is the potential for mark-ups on those discouraging, but these bikes tend to come complete with everything, not giving the bike shop a chance to at least benefit from the sale of accessories. This provides little incentive to go through the trouble of stocking these bicycles - which is understandable from the bike shop's point of view, but unfortunate for the customer who is shopping around for a nice bike.

So, what incentive is there for bike shops to stock high quality, complete city bicycles and to be motivated to sell them to customers in leu of maximising profits by selling bikes and accessories separately? The way I see it, it is about short-term versus long-term profits - In other words, about building enduring relationships with customers. By acting in a customer's best interest - both in terms of the kind of bicycles they choose to stock in the first place, and in terms of the purchasing suggestions they make to those who walk in off the street - the bike shop is sacrificing immediate profits for the benefits of repeat business and word of mouth advertisement that could result from this customer.

I have visited many - probably most - bike shops in greater Boston at this point, and I have had all sorts of experiences. Despite there being a large number of bike shops in our area, there is only a handful that I feel comfortable in. And for the most part, that's because memories of my early bike shopping experiences remain vivid: Which shops had either ignored me, or tried to take advantage of my blatant naivité at the time - versus which shops took me seriously and acted in my best interest, despite not knowing whether they would ever see me again, or whether I would even buy anything from them in the first place. I remember, and I remain fiercely loyal to the few that did the latter.

What have been your experiences with bicycle shops in your area - Are they oriented more toward immediate sales, or toward long-term relationships?

117 comments:

  1. I think this is a great topic. I love bikes and bike stuff and yet dislike most bike shops. Weird, huh? I am lucky to live in Portland, OR and I favor Clever Cycles. Awesome people who worked hard with me to order and customize a Surly Long-Haul Trucker for commuting. The entire process was a blast and they certainly have me as a loyal customer.

    Hopefully, the market will continue to grow for transport cycling and more cities will be able to support shops like Clever Cycles.

    Cheers,
    Michael

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  2. Our shop is in a smaller market and we sell a lot of Trek Allants and a few Trek Sohos (approaching dutch bike prices), but it can be surprisingly hard to sell other customers on the need for fenders. Is it going to make your riding more enjoyable? YES. Is it going to make certain components last longer? YES.

    What I really can't figure out is why Trek has an entire line of city bikes with fenders and chaincases available in Holland (http://www.trekbikes.com/nl/nl/bikes/bike_path/#city_series), but doesn't import them to the US. It feels like they are willfully enforcing the status quo just so they can control the marketing.

    "The Trek Belleville: it's so innovative and well designed" No, it's not.

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  3. jefe - I have the same question about Raleigh. They have the original roadster type bike available in Denmark and Holland, but not in N. America. They could benefit from it, so I really don't get it.

    Agree with you re the Belleville.

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  4. I have, thankfully, had pretty good experiences from the bike shops in the area (Harris, Wheelworks, Cambridge Bike) that I frequent... as rarely as possible! ;) ...seriously, I could spend way too much money.

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  5. "Want to know how to make $! million in the bike industry?"
    "Start with $2 million"

    If I had a $1 every time someone told me that joke...

    The bike industry is a tough business to be in. I'd love to be able to stock nice, complete transportation bikes. But it's hard to consider it when I have people haggling over the price of a new tube (or telling me how much cheaper it is online...). I do listen to customers, and try to sell the things (and provide services) they request. There are very few shops that are making a lot of money. You don't see local shops trading shares on the stock exchange for a reason. More often, shops are making enough to just pay our bills. So why do we do it? Because we love bikes. And we want more people to love bikes. It's no secret that the more people riding, the safer it gets, and then more people want to ride, and the safer it gets, and so on. I definitely agree that I'd rather have long term relationships with my customers- we both benefit from that (I get repeat business, you get someone who knows your bike and riding style/needs). I can only build those relationships if I'm still in business. Quite the balancing act (as it is in any small business, I know). I know I can't speak for other shops, but I do the things I do, and sell the things I sell to be able to keep the doors open, so I can keep encouraging folks to ride.

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  6. I too think this is a great topic. It took quite some time to procure the right relationship with the right bike shop and more specifically the right mechanic for me.
    There are not A LOT of shops in which to choose where i live and i have been to most.
    The shop whose work I have entrusted the most has two stores, one which is right across from where i work and the other about 2 miles form where i live.
    Mechanics for this shop typically work in both locations so you might take your bike in and speak with someone at length as to what you'd like done and when they call you back to pick it up, come to find out that person never worked on your bike someone else that worked the following day did, and because the slip didn't read exactly what you spoke about, things were not done as you asked! annoying!
    After finally forming a relationship with a specific mechanic at the shop, i request that only he work on my bikes.
    In addition to that, he is the only one in which i would entrust the assistance of choosing and purchasing the right bike and fit for me.

    i guess what i'm saying is i think it takes alot of knowing what you really want and don't want from a bike as well having a person you trust to aid you in the decisions to follow. being as informed as you can about your choice first, and trusting in someone is vital.

    i would recommend to anyone to frequent shops, look around and form that relationship before purchasing anything.

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  7. It's hit and miss around here.

    We bought my wife's bike at a large established local bike shop, they had to special order it (a Torker U-District). When we purchased it I also got her probably $100 worth of accessories. We've been back to that shop twice for maintenance on her bike and what I would consider warranty adjustments. The first wheel truing and re-adjusting of the brake system.

    Both times when we brought it in employees incredulously insisted we didn't actually buy it there because they didn't recognize the brand or the model. Once they looked it up in their system they were just smug and quiet. The annoyances didn't stop there. The short of it is, they never did anything to make me want a 'relationship' with them.

    The other local bike shop has been excellent though, we frequent it even if we're just browsing. It helps that they sell gelato. They don't hesitate to order things for me and will have an actual conversation about bikes with me.

    So for me, it's all about service. It doesn't matter what they want to sell me, it's about what I want. It's my money after all.

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  8. I look at bicycles as the basic platform for me to dress out "my way" which I'm sure most cyclist do to suit their individual needs.

    As far as markup/equipment on each bicycle compared to Europe IMO that is a matter of viewpoint. I think we all understand that Europe is used to using bicycles for utility uses where in America bicycles are still toys.

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  9. I live in Sweden. We have a large market for utility bikes. Even though we have a cold climate, people do ride bikes to work alot. Still here very few want old time roadsters. The big brands have them, but often only for women. Men want faster bikes i guess. Personally I prefer buying parts and building my own bike. Bike shops are like any other store, full of low paid staff who often dont know crap about what they sell. I avoid them, and buy online!

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  10. It's simplest to sell a person who doesn't really know what they want a generic bike. Unfortunately a generic bike in the USA is not a transportational bike. How the "default" bike gets set in this market is a weird equation involving demand (some of which is changeable trend) and supply (what the bike makers decide "we" want. Hopefully the renewed interest in transportational cycling will help skew both sides of the equation to a more functional city bike.

    It's much harder for a shop to figure out what a new biker really needs or "educate" them on what they're likely to really love about a bike. It's also hard to keep on hand an inventory that will satisfy a large variety of customers, and unfortunately not many new bike buyers are willing to wait for an order to come in. So a generic comfort bike which is a compromise for a lot of people is the easiest default.

    It seems to me that a badly fit (physically and mentally) bike doesn't create a customer that is excited about biking. If someone falls in love with bikes and biking because of the right bike they bought from a good shop, they're likely to go back to that shop for more bikes, more accessories, more service. People who love bikes, it seems to me are also likely to be willing to spend more on accessories, service and new bikes because they see the value of the purchase.
    I'd be curious if you have any insight on the margin on service as opposed to product.

    It's a cliche, and there are bright spots where this is changing, but so many bike shops are staffed by racing-mad 20 somethings, who aren't good with women customers, who are scornful of anything other than racing bikes, and who have no knowledge or interest in transportational cycling or vintage bikes.

    I think that every time I go to Harris Cyclery I spend $20 and my average "check" is closer to $50. I go WAY out of my way to get service done there, and if I ever buy a new bike, I will almost certainly get it through them unless they absolutely can't get it. They respect me, they give me good advice, I trust them, and they have me as a customer for life. Now they might not be "the shop" for other people, but I can see a definite niche for shops like them in many markets.

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  11. This is an interesting topic, and one I've run across before.

    I second Michael in noting that Clever Cycles in Portland is definitely on the "long-term relationship" end of the spectrum. They will really work hard for the customer - we have fairly unusual bikes (cottered cranks, rod brakes, 4-speed SA hub, etc) - and they are always willing to put in work to find a solution that will fit the bikes, even doing research to find obscure parts and such, and they frequently charge us probably less than they really could for labor, particularly if a project ended up taking kind of unexpected turns.

    We haven't actually purchased bikes from them, but because they are actually able to successfully work on our bikes, and because of the level of service they provide, I will probably never take my bikes elsewhere to get worked on, and if I do look to buy a new bike in town, it will be from them, no question.

    I don't have any data to back it up, but I feel like if more shops operated on that principle, the steady revenue of loyal customers should be enough to sustain them, along with the business of people who were referred there by loyal customers. It seems especially in the bike business, hearing the recommendation "they will listen to you, and help you make your own decision based on what you need and want out of a bike, and then do their best to take care of the bike you get" would make a shop really attractive to a lot of people.

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  12. How nice it must be to have multiple bike shops to go to. My town has one bike shop and WalMart. The LBS carries Trek and Specialized and has on the floor mostly mountain bikes and road bikes. (very few hybrids and no European style city bikes) The shop hosts activities to keep riders active, but they are all road specific things. Like right now there is a contest for who rides the most miles in January. Riding hooked up to a trainer counts. So after the bike purchase, the shop is looking at maintenance (replace the chain every 1750 miles)and sales of clothing and accessories (those Mag trainers) to generate income. I can't fault them for that. If they sold me a city bike, what after sales revenue would be generated? I wouldn't be buying the clothes. I wouldn't need maintenance as often as those guys trying to ride 5000 miles a year. So its regrettable, but understandable.

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  13. I haven't been to all of the bike shops here, but I'm convinced that I've found the best two. Unfortunately, niether one really sells much in the way of transportation bicycles and equipment. One shop has a Batavus and a Pashley on the floor, but they clearly don't understand what they're good for, because they'll try to convince people to buy an aluminum Electra instead, because it's not so heavy. Never mind that the Elecra has no lights or chaincase, or that the weight of the Dutch bike is one of the reasons the ride is so smooth. And they'll all tell you that three-speeds don't have enough range, even though the city is absolutely flat.

    You can't find a Brompton here, either. You can get a Surly, but that's about it. I was very happy that I was able to get a few hours on my holiday trip to visit Harris Cyclery and actually ride a couple of Rivendells and a Brompton. Boston's bike shops aren't perfect, but they're very good compared to the local ones I have to choose from.

    Most of my interaction with bike shops lately has been via telephone or internet.

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  14. Interesting topic. I totally agree with your initial assertion that bike shops are in business to make money. However, I don't think they're trying to sell particular types of bikes or components because of the the profit margins one type offers over another. The "good shops" are simply trying to sell what they think their customers want. The problem is the customers. (Obviously I would never make it in the customer-is-always-right world of retail.)

    North American bike buyers for the most part don't want practical, useful, transportation bikes. Sure there are a few enclaves (Portland, Boston, Seattle, Boulder, Madison, etc) where people have figured out that a properly equiped bike can actually get you places. But generally the vast majority of the bike buying public still thinks of a bicycle as exercise equipment. Maybe it's the fault of bicycle marketers, or a well-entrenched car culture, or our geographical dispersion, or who knows what.

    That said, clearly attitudes are changing. More people are turning to bicycles for commuting and general transportation every day. And as they start using bikes for transportation they quickly learn that a bike isn't a bike without the right accessories. When those customers start asking their local bike shops about more practical bikes, the smart shops will provide.

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  15. My experience of bike shops in Edinburgh has been mostly negative. It was actually a relief when my Pashley service warranty expired so I coud go somewhere else and just pay for adjustments. One shop refused to work on my Dutch bike. I am tentatively hopeful that I have found a good shop now. The staff are still not exactly chatty but at least they don't look at my bikes with horror... result!

    On a separate note I'm doing a career change course at the moment and we were asked to describe our dream existence assuming no constraints exist. Mine involved owning a beautiful bike shop with classic bikes and the kind of place women don't feel intimidated to visit. I loved reading the story of how Adeline Adeline in NYC came into being (interview on Design Sponge). The reality of this existence would not suit my risk-averse personality sadly. : (

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  16. Unfortunately, I think you have hit upon an issue of integrity. Many shops feel the need to sell the "latest, greatest thing ever" without listening to their clients. There are 5 shops in my immediate area, I will not do business with two of them and they are the most successful of the group. One told me years ago that I couldn't upgrade the drivetrain on my old TREK because "everything has changed" and it would just be too expensive. He immediately introduced me to the latest carbon fiber whatever. I got what I wanted from the internet for $225.
    The other told me that to get a decent touring bike I would have to order a custom made titanium frame because "nobody makes touring bikes anymore." A more detailed account of that incident is here:
    http://simplecycle-marc.blogspot.com/2011/01/this-touring-obsession-of-mine.html
    Both of those shops are TREK dealers. My experience and what a couple others in the business have told me is that some manufacturers have such strict requirements on their dealers that there is just too much pressure to move new designs year in and year out. Unfortunately most buyers don't have a clue what they are looking for and they end up with a very expensive garage ornament.

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  17. David makes a good point. There isn't necessarily a conflict between long-term cusomer loyalty and selling "incomplete" bikes. If most of the customers are inerested in racing (or pretending to), they'll want bikes that are fast, rather than durable, as well as clothing and accessories that are of little interest to utility cyclists. They could still be very loyal to a bike shop, if it gives them what they want. I expect most of my repeat business as a non-enthusiast utility cyclist, on the other hand, to be minor maintenance. A new bike would be something that I'd buy probably only if my bike was stolen. Sell me a bike that lasts forever, and I don't need to buy a new one, so does it matter if I'm loyal to the shop where I bought it?

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  18. I could add one more thing about what I belive is a diservice to cycling. As Veloria points out, its probably more profit in selling parts and upgrades than a complete bike. Usually this is in context of sport. The bikes that shops peddle are often of a kind originally intended for somekind of competition. I grew up in the MTB boom. You were totally passé if you didnt ride a MTB infact. Now most have understood that they are not allways the right choice, so from them evolved the Hybrid. Just as the Touring bike evolved from the Racer. However, the Hybrid is still much too sporty to be practical for most. Unless you are in good shape they will be too hard to ride due to hard frame and aggressive posture. Bike shops prefer to have the perspective of "sport", I belive, because its a niche of cycling (or any other activity) where they allways can market one more gadget. It is a disservice to sell Hybrids to most riders I think, they will get pains in hands and perenium. This will make many belive cycles are uncomfortable. There are however good Hybrids too, but they are usually the more Touring inspired bikes, and sold in shops with that speciality.

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  19. Seattle has a number of good bike shops who I feel act in their customers'/prospective customers' best interests. That said, there are a few shops that are either questionable or VERY questionable. Among them: Velo on Capitol Hill (sad, because they are a longstanding shop in a great location, but their staff proves incredibly ignorant and completely unaware of their stock), Performance (yes, of the chain!) in the U-distict, and Gregg's Green Lake Cycles (also a chain, albeit a smaller, local one). Recycled Cycles is great for parts, but in my experience (and the experience of others), the service they do is very poor, and anything safety-related (brakes, etc) should be double and triple-checked before you actually ride! I've long thought about doing a write-up of the many bike shops in the area, I feel we are really lucky in Seattle to have so many bike shops with employees/owners who are deeply invested in the bicycle community and the wellbeing of cyclists in general. -N*

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  20. And its sad how Shimano design their derailer transmissions for a minority market. Making them shift faster by milling the teeth lower. And selling chains that are so losely riveted that they rattle when you shake it. Only racers need this kind of performance. The rest of us would like the transmission to last a little longer. I dont mind waiting a sec longer to have the chaing shift! To me these kind of parts are nearly worn out when new...

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  21. It seems like the highest markups come on labor - so treating your customers as long-term investments ought to make more sense. I know, lots of things "ought to make more sense." But, when I was discussing this very topic with the mechanic in my favorite kind, comfy bike shop, he said, "It seems obvious to me - commuters wear out more parts than racers."

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  22. Harris Cyclery and Cambridge Used Bicycles are the only two shops that I "trust" in the Boston. All the others that I've visited have at tijes given me a disrespectful attitude, bad advice, incorrect information, bullshit, bad service, or bad parts, or a combination of these.

    Also, when writing about Wheelworks, please, please distinguish between Belmont and Somerville Wheelworks. Belmont Wheelworks specializes in selling high end racing bikes to white, upper middle class suburbanites in luxury SUVs, while the Somerville location is focused more on transportation cycling, with a corresponding difference in their attitudes towards customers.

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  23. Those are good points about labor. I do not know what the mark-up on labor is, and I suspect it varies considerably form shop to shop. However, consider that many bike shops nowadays simply don't offer any repair services if you have an older bike; they are not able to deal with vintage bikes - or even if they say that they are, they might mangle it or not do a good job.

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  24. "why Trek . . . but doesn't import them to the US."

    I've mentioned the same issue with American cruiser bikes. The Chinese supply well fitted out cruisers of sufficient quality to attract the European buyer, but only sell the same frames fitted out with crap over here. At least the quality of the crap has been improving of late.

    "I have the same question about Raleigh."

    There is no Raleigh anymore, per se. There are licenses to use the trademark. Raleigh of Denmark is a separate company with no right to use the mark anywhere in North America (or Britain for that matter). If they sold bikes here they would have to do so under a new brand name; and what would be the point of that?

    Dirty little secret, despite the apparent Transportation Boom America's bike shops are in terrible financial condition and the total number of independent shops continues to shrink year by year.

    A shop that merely breaks even is considered a success and one that manages to net a point or two is at the top of the game. It's a lifestyle, not a living.

    Racing (wannabe) cyclists not only buy more expensive bikes with the highest markups, but they buy more, and more expensive, parts and accessories. Some of them actually compete with each other to spend the most. They spend more on service as well. Transportation bikes are entirely price point driven with essentially no markup (the markup maybe covers overhead costs; maybe). There is no money in them. And that's the way it is.

    The other dirty little secret is that despite the boom, there are fewer people riding, butts on seats. The people who ride are riding a lotthis season without going bust.

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  25. I've have had very different experiences at different area bike shops (and I've been to most of the better known ones). Mostly negative, but a few positive. I also agree about cultivating a relationship with a shop that you trust.

    I'm glad that Velouria didn't specifically mention which ones she trusts and which with which she's had bad experiences. Velouria and I have corresponded on this subject quite a bit and she knows my opinions of different bike shops. However, I don't know whether I'd make my opinions public here because what I came away with from our correspondence is that people's experiences at different bike shops vary wildly. One customer A had a horrible experience at bike shop A but a great experience at bike shop B. Customer B had a horrible experience and bike shop B but a lovely experience at bike shop A. Customer A things bike shop C is full of holier-than thou posers. Customer B things bike shop C staff is genuine and helpful. So I don't think my specific opinions would be very helpful. I'll just say the following about my experiences with area bike shops:

    1) Most suck.

    2) I've settled on one or two bike shops that I frequent, each satisfying distinct cycling-related needs.

    3) The places that I have found to best suit my needs would surprise many readers.

    4) The places that I think suck would surprise many readers.

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  26. This post does not speak to my experience. Maybe this is because I do not consider European (brand) city bikes inherently better than American (brand) city bikes. Some here have commented on generic production bikes sold in their local shops. Keep in mind that, for the Dutch, the Dutch bike is generic.

    I have had good experiences in both large (Wheelworks) and small (Quad Bikes) bikes shops in the Boston area. Remember, it is not only up to the shop owner, but also the customer to establish and cultivate a relationship.

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  27. I've had really good (and bad) experiences with bike shops in Minneapolis but, through a lot of trial and error, happened across Hiawatha Cyclery and Calhoun Cycles, both of which are good shops which appear to focus on sales of quality bikes and stocking quality accessories. I had a lot of work done on my DL-1 at Hiawatha and Calhoun stocks the Brompton and has been great about devoting a lot of time to answering my questions and concerns. They really stand behind the product and I would feel comfortable buying from them.

    Unfortunately, when you get outside of the city area, the only bike shops appear to be the run-of-the-mill "chain" stores that stock your name-brand bikes. They seem to focus mostly on road bikes (I'm assuming that's where the money is) and other than a few hybrid or mountain bikes, you won't find much else. In my early days of cycling, they always tried to fit me with a fender-less mountain bike which never felt quite comfortable. Thank goodness I saved over $500 and purchased a used 3-speed on Craigslist instead. It was a MUCH better introduction to cycling than I think any of the $500+ Trek or Raleigh comfort bikes would have been.

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  28. I agree with somervillain on 1) at least : )

    My likes and dislikes of local bike shops are based on specific experiences, or rather series of specific experiences. Before "Lovely Bicycle" of course, when bike shops had no ulterior motive to be nice to me. No bike shop is perfect, but a few have stood out for me as "much less imperfect" than the others.

    The reasons I did not mention specific shops in my post are that

    (1) it was meant to be a general commentary and not a plug for local shops I like,

    (2) I do recognise that to some extent these things are a matter of taste, and I did not want to start a debate about the Boston bike shops scene, and

    (3) If I mentioned the ones I like, I would also feel compelled to mention the ones I did not, and frankly I don't want to get sued. There are a few local bike shops that are well-liked by some but that I will never step foot in again - but I would rather keep the details off the internet.

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  29. Anne W - I completely agree with you that Dutch bikes are generic in the NL. I am all for decently made generic bikes. But if you take an average American generic bike, my opinion is that it is of worse quality, and much less suitable for transportation, than the average Dutch bike.

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  30. "I do not know what the mark-up on labor is. . ."

    Rule of thumb is that an employee costs the business three times his pay rate; and that for every three employees you need to add another.

    Labor markups disappear into overhead in a hurry. Tuneups are often a bust unless you can find a part to replace.

    "if you have an older bike; they are not able to deal with vintage bikes"

    Which brings us back to my recommendation that non-aficionados buy used Japanese Schwinn sportsters rather than vintage Raleighs. :)

    Most shop monkeys still know how to work a crank puller but know nothing of asymmetrical hub cones.

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  31. PS for Anne W - If you want to remove the foreign aspect from it, let's replace "EU bikes" with "Rivendell frames". Rivendell is an American manufacturer, but their production costs are high. I happen to know for a fact that bike shops that sell Riv frames make very little profit on them. If the customer wants the bike shop to build up the bike and fit it with components, only then does the bike shop make a decent profit. If the customer just buys the frame and build it up themselves (as many do), it's next to nothing. That explains why so few bike shops in the US bother to stock Rivendell frames.

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  32. "Rivendell is an American manufacturer . . ."Rivendell frames" . . ."

    Mine was made in Japan. Yours was made in Taiwan.

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  33. Well, I am speaking of the manufacturing company's origin, not of where the bikes are actually produced. Most Dutch bikes are made in China now as well.

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  34. I wish, wish, wish bike shops could have employees knowledgeable about all bikes and that didn't force their prejudices on customers. I typically don't go to my LBS as 9/10 of the time I know more about what I need then they do. I do want to support the local brick & mortar, but it's really hard. They're generally nice, but just clueless about another other than whatever Trek-alized (Special-ek?) is offering at the moment. I know they're not paid all that much, but my LBS has pretty low turnover in employees. They're just poorly trained. That's the fault of the owners and managers, not the employees.

    FWIW, I would encourage everyone to learn as much as they can about working on their own bike(s). There is nothing terribly difficult, and the investment in specialized (small "s") tools will pay off quickly. Lots of satisfaction inherent in wrenching on your own bike/car/appliance. You'll better understand the systems and have a lot lower chance of being stranded somewhere. Plus saving money is pretty cool as well!

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  35. "I am speaking of the manufacturing company's origin"

    Matsushita originated in Japan; as a bike company, as it happens. Their first in house product was a headlight, the stereos came later.

    "Most Dutch bikes are made in China now as well."

    Exactly, it is relevant that most bike companies are simply trading companies that buy from the same small number of actual manufacturers. Rivendell is at least a design house as well, but then so is Electra these days.

    See my comments on cruisers.

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  36. Is it really true that there is less dealer profit and margin for more expensive bikes than for cheaper bikes in the same lineup? I was pretty familiar with the Raleigh line up when I was buying my first ten speed in the 1970s, and recently found a very interesting picture of a confidential dealer price list for the whole Raleigh line up

    Confidential Raleigh Dealer Price List from 1973:

    Sport: $57 dealer, $82 retail ($25 profit, 44% margin)
    Superbe: $73 dealer, $104 retail ($31 profit, 42%)
    Record: $74 dealer, $105 retail ($31 profit, 42%)
    Grand Prix: $87 dealer, $125 retail ($38 profit, 44%)
    Super Course: $116 dealer, $167 retail ($51 profit, 44%)
    Gran Sport: $156 dealer, $225 retail ($69 profit, 44%)
    Competition: $172 dealer, $245 retail ($73 profit, 42%)
    International: $242 dealer, $350 retail ($108 profit, 45%)
    Professional: $314 dealer, $460 retail ($146 profit, 46%)

    (See image of complete pricelist in thread:
    http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php/565387-Hey-what-was-the-Retail-back-then)

    I'd be very interested to see similar data from the complete Trek line up today. However best total dollars of profit, and slightly higher margins, actually came from most expensive bikes in Raleigh line up. I see a lot of focus on very high end stuff in many of the local bike stores, and always assumed this also helped them maximize dollars of profit per square foot of floor space, as well as distinguish them from the hordes of entirely price driven competition at the low end/Walmart/department store level.

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  37. DavidK - No, I did not say bikes in the same line up. I am talking about bikes that use different production methods and are therefore of different quality. For instance, a bike like Pashley or Bella Ciao (made by hand in Europe) vs a bike like Trek (made on a factory assembly line in China).

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  38. A few comments:
    1. on whether or not the bike comes with the full commuter set-up: the mechanic still needs to take the time to put the bike together for a customer and dynamo lights, fenders, etc. may add to the assembly and tweeking time as well.
    2. on Ace Wheelworks, Somerville. I have been a customer for years. I just bought my fourth bike from them, a Trek Earl. A low end bike that they ordered for me. First size was too big; they put together a smaller one for me. The chainguard on the second had a rattle which Bruce noticed before I did. He swapped it off the other bike to make sure I had a quieter ride. And the price was $40 less than the MSP.
    I also got a flat on my transportation bike, a GF Alfresco that I bought from them in the 90's. I need a new tire and they didn't have any with reflective sidewalls. I talked it over with Bruce. I really like Marathons but wanted something cheaper. My second suggestion he had tried and remembered didn't fit well on mountain bike 26" wheels so he investigated and found a good price on some Michelins. I had Ace do the installation. Note, the Alfresco has a 7-speed Shimano hub and it takes longer to re-install after changing a flat but they still made sure it was correctly adjusted before giving me back my bike.
    I am in the store several times a month and it amazes me at the variety of customers they get and variety of bikes they sell. Recently a young woman came in and was having trouble with the handlebar light on her bike. Rather than try to sell her a new light, the mechanic showed her how to get the bulb replaced.
    BTW, my other favorite shops are Hub Bicycles (got a dynamo hub wheel built this fall), Harris (3 bikes), and Broadway (1 bike). I also like the Bikestop and Oldroads but haven't bought a bike from either though I did some test rides.
    3. On shops I don't like: I feel the same way. There a few shops I won't buy from because I have had bad experiences but my friends have had great experiences. I don't even bother posting bad yelp reviews on them. I'd rather focus my energy on the stores I like.

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  39. kfg -- Perhaps I am mistaken, but most of the new Rivendell frames are being made in the US now. Also, they've stopped selling them through local bike shops. And this may be splitting hairs, but I think that even the foreign-built frames are painted in California, and when they sell a finished bike, it is assembled there. So, the question of "where it's made" is not at all a simple one (heh -- I just ordered a SimpleOne, for that matter.)

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  40. Riv frames are now made either in the USA (Waterford) or in Taiwan; Japan pricing is too expensive/unstable.

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  41. A quality handmade item, made in EU or USA, costs many more times to make per hour than the same item made with CNC machinery (robots) in Taiwan or China. Selling stuff made in China is the most profitable thing you can do these days! I had a look at what metal lathes sold for there facory direct and it was trifling compared to catalog price here in EU! Also a quality item is less profitable since its not replaced as often. I saw a film online called "story of stuff", its deals with this alot.

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  42. David - The early 70's had the highest profit margins in bicycle history. Higher even than when only rich people could afford a bike. The demand was so high that Ross ran its factory 24/7 for years and people would pay above list for a UO-8.

    In the Asian age things are different. There is actually glut of new bicycles right now. Look at the mail order houses selling one and two year old bikes at, or below cost. Those are bikes that didn't find a buyer and they take sales away from the new models stacking up in the warehouses.

    In the 70's, in practice, new was all there was. Today many of those old bikes are still around, better than the new ones, and available for fifty bucks on CL.

    The bike industry is in terrible shape right now and finding itself reduced to begging for trade. This is good for the customer, but not good for margins.

    I'd also point out that a water bottle or jersey needs no assembly and carries no liability.

    Merlin - Your SimpleOne was made in Taiwan. I had to pay $150 extra to have my Matsushita powder coated here. Wet paint would have been hundreds more. They botched the decals.

    "when they sell a finished bike, it is assembled there."

    As I have assembled many an Asian factory bike myself. It's not just a matter of pulling it out of the box and putting the pedals on. Good thing too, because I knew how to deal with what I got from Riv. Someone else might have been in a bit of a pickle (and perhaps injured) with Riv in SF and them in NY if they didn't know how to put it straight themselves.

    Velouria - Low volume hand made items have always been a low profit thing. In feudal societies craftsman were generally ranked lower than peasants. Nearly as low as musicians. The labor per unit is, of course, the highest.

    I'd point out, however, that many of the best frame builders learned their trade hand making bikes . . . on an assembly line.

    Axel - It's been awhile since most American or European builders have used nothing but hand tools.

    As you note, tools can be had cheaply. Paying list is for suckers or those who have other people's money to throw around.

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  43. One more thing about accessories -- some of the bike shops (perhaps all, as far as I know) around here give a significant discount (20%) on accessories for a month or so after a customer buys a bike. This suggests to me that the bicycles are not a loss leader. But maybe it's just that there's a really huge markup on the accessories.

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  44. I agree with somervillain on 1) at least : )


    Based on the rest of your post, I'd say you agreed with most if not all of my points. :)

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  45. {kfg - I deleted the earlier version of your duplicate and kept the latter, because it had extra stuff in it}

    Interesting to know about the degree of '70s demand and the effect on prices. Though I've heard a somewhat contradicting story (maybe) from a bike shop owner. He was commenting on all the kids today turning "the crappy 70s bikes" into fixies and/or paying top dollar for them on C-List for the cache of having a vintage bike. "Back in the day we couldn't get rid of them" he said - speaking, if I recall correctly, specifically about Ross.

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  46. kfg -- You missed my point. Yes, that one comes from Taiwan, but most of the other models are being brazed in Wisconsin. Also, mine has probably not yet been brazed. And I don't know where the tubes and lugs are made. And you're only talking about the frame, which is is not useful if you want to go anywhere. The hadlebar will come from Japan, the saddle from England, the tires from Germany. The wheels will be built in Massachusetts. Do I need to go on?

    It is certainly incorrect to say that the *bicycle* was "made in Taiwan".

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  47. Interesting post. Overall, I think my long-term relationships with bike shops are based around the quality of ongoing service that I get on the bikes I already own.

    My husband and I regularly patronize two LBSs in our area. Because of the mileage and stress we put on this bike (we use it as our brevet and touring bike) we want to work with a shop that handles these types of bikes well and understands the kind of riding we do on them so we take it to LBS1.

    This is also the shop where we purchased our tandem so I guess they did a good job cultivating a long-term relationshp with us. There are a lot of local randonneurs who now take their bikes to LBS1. One of the reasons that happened was because they are one of the few places in town that stock more typical "randonneuring" bikes, but they also have an excellent mechanic there who has a facility with diagnosing our bikes' randonneuring-induced aches and pains.

    We will take our single bikes to the shop mentioned above, or another shop in the area. The latter, LBS2, does not sell as many bikes that are complete accessorized bikes (accessories, fenders, etc.) but they know how to work on bikes, fix our singles when they are ailing, build good wheels for our single bikes, etc.

    For me, the long-term relationships I have cultivated depend more on the quality of the mechanics and staff who work there as compared to the types of bikes sold (although they both work in tandem to some degree).

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  48. Oops. I meant to write, that "Because of the mileage and stress we put on our tandem... we take it to LBS1" Thanks, and sorry for the rough text in the post!

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  49. Back in the day we couldn't get rid of them

    There may be real truth to this, although I can't speak specifically about back in the 70s, or even the 80s, when I was too young to be a used bike speculator :).

    What is true is that the vintage road bike craze didn't exist 10 years ago. I wonder whether any of this has to do with the internet and avenues for e-commerce for used goods? Before Craigslist or eBay, most people with old road bikes, whether low-end Rosses or mid to upper end bikes simply had no outlet for selling them, except for newspaper ads, garage sales, flea markets or possibly consignment by a bike shop. Today you can post any bike to CL or the 'bay and have an instant, international audience of potential consumers who may be looking for a bike like yours.

    The same thing happened to mtn bikes. 10 years ago, you couldn't give away a rigid lugged mtn bike. Now suddenly the bikes that no one wanted to be seen riding are in hotter demand than vintage road bikes. 1st generation Specialized Stumpjumpers are considered the "holy grail" bikes by some vintage collectors.

    My older sister has an amazing collection of vintage fiesta ware. She used to pick up pieces randomly at flea markets, and most of her collection has been in her hands for 20 years. Now? Good luck finding any at flea markets; they're all on eBay and they collect a fortune. I really wonder whether it's the same phenomenon as we're seeing with bikes?

    Additionally, I wonder whether sites like flickr haven't played a role in all of this, by giving people the opportunity to see examples of all these objects from our past and nurture an appreciation for them?

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  50. kgf
    Its not using hand tools I was refering too. Most people dont realize to what extent automation is used in far eastern bike facories. Basically you throw in an asortment of metal thru the door, flick a switch, and keep the door closed till it stops rattling in there! Everything is done with machines, even threading the spokes in the wheels. What I meant was that bikes built, like Pashly´s for example, where every bike is built by One human from start to finish is so extremly much more expensive to build compared to the same product had it been made "by robots". The biggest reason for me to favor the Pashly to any far eastern bike, is that I would count on the people in Stratford upon Avon to send me parts should I need them. I got run over by a car couple of years ago. My Bianchi Volpe, made in Taiwan got folded (helmet saved my life). I have tried to get a replacement downtube, but its impossible to get the correct one since it´s a Reynold´s tube only made for Taiwan in Taiwan. Had it been a regular 531 as made and sold here in the western world, it would not been a problem. But bike shops live on selling by volume...

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  51. There are *so many* bike shops in Portland, I keep thinking the market is saturated, and then another one opens. And they all seem to be doing okay...I've never heard of one closing!

    Most of the shops I've been to have given me excellent customer service. But it depends on a lot on the shop. I love having a relationship with my local bike shop--when they know you, it just makes everything happpier for everyone, I think.

    The shop nearest my house now (Oregon Bike Shop on SE Stark, in the Montavilla neighborhood of Portland), Shawn and I get along with them very well. He currently has some of his art on display there. They're letting me come in and work on my bike there. Jim is always fixing/adjusting small things without charging us. Just great folks.

    I used to frequent a shop near my old apartment, and one day I got a flat. This was before I was good at fixing them myself...so I took off the wheel and walked it to the shop. They looked at it and said, "Your tire's shot, you need a new one." Well, I'd already purchased a flat-resistant tire for one wheel, but I didn't have the money for the other tire, and I needed the bike to be rideable so I could get to work...the guy at the shop said, "When do you get paid?"
    "Friday."
    "Can you pay us for it then?"
    "Yes."
    "Okay. Pay us for it then." And he put the Panaracer Pasela on my other wheel, just like that. And I went back on Friday and paid for it. (BTW, for my fellow Portlanders: The shop was A Better Cycle on SE 23rd and Division. Great folks.)

    Talk about inspiring customer loyalty!

    But I've also been to shops where my questions were answered with puzzled stares, or I felt ignored. I tend not to go back to those places.

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  52. A lot of people I talk to on a regular basis ask me about the neighborhood LBS (incidentally, one of the biggest Trek dealers in the nation). They always act surprised when I confess that I avoid them for anything bigger than emergency inner tube purchases. The reason? The owner is a roadie, and cultivates a condescending pro-shop atmosphere. Instead I travel an extra five miles up the road to the store that was openly excited to work on my Huffy three-speed. They are neither pro-shop or retro-cool, but they understand that most people just ride bikes, and cater to the casual crowd.
    For more serious equipment, I travel across the city to the ever-popular Joe's. They carry a lot of high-end touring and fixed-gear parts and accessories, and in their own way are as much of a pro-shop as the first dealer, but Joe is nice. I was in and out about four times last summer, probably never spent more than $50 at one time, but he still remembered me and what I was asking aboUT. When my roommate recently asked about buying a touring bike, Joe wrote up a parts list just to show him how he could save money buy buying a complete new bike.

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  53. I don't know - sometimes I think it's fun to pick out my own accessories - the same way I would for an outfit. Granted, it's not always the most economical way to do things, and I'd like it if more bikes came with fenders etc. but I do like the customization factor

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  54. Velouria - "I deleted the earlier version"

    'At's ma girl. :)

    I understated the situation for UO-8's somewhat. People would get on a waiting list for the privilege of paying more than list for one. A few even went to France for them (imagine going to France to come home with a frickin' UO-8).This was the age of the Euro invasion and everybody wanted a French bike (except for the nuttin' but Campy roadies, of course).

    Just a few years before this my English 3 speed with rams horn bars was considered rather exotic around these parts and the Zeus Pro was like from another planet or something. It puzzled me a bit that people would go so gaga over a crap French bike, but they did.

    But people wanted "lightweight" bikes and not everybody would stand in line for French and Ross could pump pseudo-English out right here; although Bendix had to open a hub factory in Mexico to kit out the single speeds. No chrome on the shells of those. Didn't have time to do it. They sold, by the millions. Of course I wouldn't own one, they were even crappier than the crappy French bikes in some respects and they lacked ivy; and yet today I can recommend them (and even own one), because I think they're as good or better than much of what is available new in the $500 range (well, except for the forks, which are crap. Gotta give Tange its due on that one).

    Anyhoo, the point being that demand was sky high and at the time there were no used bikes at all of the type people wanted. They stood in line or took what they could get. Now millions of those bikes are still here to compete for transport bike dollars (I've got a UO-8 in the "what the hell do I do with it pile now, but . . .what the hell do I do with it?)

    A single shop in a single location can't be taken as indicative. In point of fact a shop can't be taken as indicative of the industry at all, as what's good for shops may be bad for the industry; and vice versa. Trek has just recently, in the hopes of improving their own market position, screwed hundreds of their own dealers so badly some of them may not survive it.

    Sit in the lifeboat long enough and you start to eat your own. That is where the mass market business is right now whatever it might look like from street level.

    The handmade market is where it has always been, catering to a few aficionados who appreciate their product. Tough racket. People with years of paid deposits are dropping out of that boom already, because it turns out, even with frames selling for thousands, you can't make a frickin' living.

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  55. LBJ - I like to pick out my own everything from the frame up for a road/touring bicycle. But for an upright transportation bike, I prefer to buy an integrated system that involves zero hassle and zero maintenance from the start. But regardless of our individual preferences, I think that at least the *availability* of the latter is important, especially for someone who is just starting out.

    somervillain - It is the same story with vintage fountain pens.

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  56. kfg - Your last paragraph is a whole thing in itself. I have found myself in several conversations about this topic lately, and to me it seems to have a lot to do with management - management of how much time you allow yourself to spend on a project, how strict your guidelines are about deposits, time lines and the number of times a customer can change their minds, how much choice you give, and so on, and so on. It's sad to see some of the best framebuilders make the least money.

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  57. Last summer I got home from Belgium, on my trip to the train station the stem came out on my Brompton. The screw had shaken lose somehow in transit. Big mystery actually! Considering how I had just ridden it on empty Stockholm streets that early morning gives me chills! I decided to wait until stores opened, so I could visit the Brompton dealer, who I also belive is the agent here in Sweden. After wasting a few hours I went to the store, and they told me I could leave the bike with them and pick it up later. When I went back it was not done, and it was explained he meant later in the week. When I told them that was impossible, I have a long trip from the station to my house, I was left with no service at all. Distressed as I was I went back again and really made my best to get help, and upon my suggestion he removed the screw I needed and used it on my bike. Bike shops have never impressed me at all here!

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  58. Unfortunately my L.B.S. mostly stocks only road bikes, bmx, mountain bikes and when I go there to buy parts they never have the part I want.(something as a UN-54 bottom bracket) You should have seen the look on their faces when I asked for 37-590 or 26 x 1 3/8 tires, as they showed me their selection of colorful 700c tires.

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  59. Merlin - "It is certainly incorrect to say that the *bicycle* was "made in Taiwan"."

    Go read what I responded to and how I quoted it again.

    "You missed my point."

    No I didn't. I've got a frame I like to claim is English. Oh, sure, it was welded in Taiwan, but the tubing is English, and that's the "real" bike, isn't it? I'll put some English made parts on it as well, just to be sure it's "for real."

    Although I will have assembled it with my own hands right here in the US. So maybe I should claim it's American (fiddle makers are actually known to do that). It's certainly my own spec. It's likely to have my own branding on it by the time it's finished (if I bother to do the graphic work).

    You think I missed your point because you missed my point, which is that your point isn't relevant. The discussion isn't about nationalism, it's about manufacturing and business. Making stuff and selling stuff. Why stuff costs what it does and how much profit there is in it.

    Look at the bike I just came back from riding to the shop on. It was made within a bike ride (albeit a rather long one) from where I'm sitting right now. I mean really made here. The steel was smelted here (albeit the ore came from across the lake, as ours built the industrial revolution). The builder didn't buy the tubing, it milled its own (that being its primary trade). Hubs, rims, spokes, saddles, everything either made in house, or by a subsidiary down the road a piece; on demand.

    We could do this as recently as the 60's.

    It is a very different thing to "make" a bicycle by ordering it, months in advance, from Asia. Very different indeed. If the rules change, the game changes.

    If I want to go into the bicycle "manufacturing" business now, what would I have to do?

    Send a few emails to Asia, follow up with an Internet chat or three and then . . .wait for the can to arrive. Attach the bits and that's it. I'm a "manufacturer" who never so much as saw a single piece of unworked material. I need an Internet connection and a credit card.

    Rivendell doesn't make stuff (yeah, they'll build you a custom, but that's another story. Grant has ranted on it a bit). They sell stuff.

    As it happens I like Matsushita frames. They're in the elite class of builder, second to none and blow away most of the old, revered European craft bikes.

    "the tires from Germany."

    Look for the union label. It just might say Indonesia.

    "The wheels will be built in Massachusetts."

    Assembled, not made. See above.

    "maybe it's just that there's a really huge markup on the accessories."

    You should see what "Planet Bike" headlights go for in the market stalls of Hong Kong. That's not to say that the dealer is making a ton, as there are a lot of hands to be "fed" along the way, but there's enough of a gap to feed a few hands. If they were a Wal-Mart brand they'd be about, ooooooh, ten bucks? I've got machined aluminum there for three. Regular price, not on sale.

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  60. Axel - "Most people dont realize to what extent automation is used in far eastern bike facories."

    Show me the welders and brazers.

    "Everything is done with machines, even threading the spokes in the wheels."

    That is so 60's Dutch technology. Wheel building was the very first thing to be fully automated.

    "so extremly much more expensive to build compared to the same product had it been made "by robots"."

    Every cheap ass old Robin Hood was more hand made than a Pashley. Pashley uses Taiwanese robots.

    "I would count on the people in Stratford upon Avon to send me parts should I need them."

    Who buy them from Taiwan. You can just buy them yourself.

    "Reynold´s tube only made for Taiwan in Taiwan."

    As above, look for the union label. :) It's often surprising where stuff actually comes from just looking at the branding.

    There is nothing "regular" about 531 or "improper" about the Volpe's tubing. 531 isn't suitable for welded construction. What's that got to do with, say, Mike's bikes? Do you feel there is something "odd" about his tubing? About the machine tools of mass production that he employs to make his one person crafted frames?

    Why do Pashley's bikes cost less than a frame from Mike?

    You are missing some pieces of the puzzle.

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  61. Velouria - If they wanted to be good businessmen they'd be raking in bonuses for bankrupting nations with their failed derivatives trading schemes, not hand building bicycles. :)

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  62. I'd like to think that in a metropolis like Washington DC-Baltimore-Annapolis there would be more shops selling classic European bikes, that are actually made in Europe. But, you'd be hard pressed to find a Pashley, Velorbis, Batavus, or Retrovelo (I'll need to go to NYC to even see a Retrovelo...huh?!). That may be changing ever so slowly, as the bike culture seems to be steadily improving. But, certainly not fast enough.

    Also, it seems that people share my aversion to European style bikes made in China? Maybe it's because of my conservative patriotism, my image of quality, or because China is taking over production of everything at all levels and America is out of work. But, if it says "Made in China", I pass. Although, I've heard Rivendell has some high quality bikes (Taiwan, as I understand?). Also, good luck finding an American made bike in a shop anywhere around here...sadly.

    My contribution is going to be to write to the local newspaper and ask them (in the spring) to do a story on European style bikes. If they do, maybe that will increase demand, and biking in general. When people only know what they see in the local shops that's what they will buy. Little do they know, there's a whole 'nother world of bikes out there that approaches an art form, and suits all age levels. Maybe helping them with their research will kick-start a European bike movement within a bike movement. Who knows...

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  63. Merlin - P.S. (I've got work in the other window and Jeeves & Wooster in the other other window, so I got a bit distracted. I'll have to quadruple check my work):

    "most of the other models are being brazed in Wisconsin."

    Yeah, you can still buy a Schwinn, it just won't say "Schwinn" on it. See "Not Taylor" Love my Goat wine.

    As Velouria noted this is a financial decision due to the chaos going on these days. Grant makes no bones about being Japan centric for having things made; because they do it best.

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  64. This is the most interesting topic I've had the pleasure of reading on Lovely Bicycle. It's also a topic I've thought about weekly for the past year. All the different perspectives expressed here have made me rethink the problem from different angles and with better understanding. They also clearly point out I am not alone with my experiences in local shops.

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  65. kfg-- As it happens I like Matsushita frames. They're in the elite class of builder, second to none and blow away most of the old, revered European craft bikes.

    Are you referring to Panasonic? I've only ever heard them referred to as Panasonic/National, not Matsushita, even though it's all part of the same corporate conglomerate. Heh, I just picked up a Panasonic-built Schwinn Voyageur... one of the last Japanese built Panasonics. Although definitely well-made, I wouldn't consider the craftsmanship any better than my Shogun, or my lugged steel Trek.

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  66. People always overestimate how much wages affect prices of manufactured goods. How much time do you think Asian workers spend on each bike at Giant's factory? An hour?

    If a Chinese worker gets paid $.20 an hour compared with $15 for an American, and an hour of labor is used to produce every bike, then the difference in wages only affects costs by $14.80 per bike.

    I bet that each $1000 bicycle would cost only $10 more if the production was in the United States. The statement "Gosh, ______ would be very expensive if produced in the United States!" is almost always false, I believe.

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  67. I (of course) am +1 with everything aprillikesbikes says above. And I heart Clever Cycles as well.

    I'll also add a few other Portland shops onto my list of faves:

    North Portland Bikeworks, the shop that I've had the longest relation with. (It doesn't hurt that I'm theoretically on their Board of Directors and have done scads of art for them!)

    Bicycle Repair Collective are the "old school" transportation cycling shop of Portland, in business since '76. The guys in there can be a li'l gruff, as they are old bike shop guys, but they are always helpful.

    And there's the venerable worker-owned Citybikes!

    Portland's reached the point where we have lots of good specialized bike shops and general purpose shops. Downtown and inner SE are where the specialty shops congregate (like Clever). I'm blessed to be not that far from those places, plus have a good all-around neighborhood shop like Oregon Bike Shop.

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  68. I am not afraid to go into any LBS and ask for what I want, and I usually get treated pretty well. But this is because I have developed a serious vintage bicycle obsession and possess a diy attitude, and I have built a vocabulary and knowledge that commands some degree of respect despite my gender. So, I go to one LBS near my work and home because I can find little bits for my projects, and sometimes they give them to me for free. They don't do much for my english 3 speed (they will overtighten the cone on the rear hub, for instance), but I think they do okay work on my other bikes. They will install honjo fenders, 'nuff said. Oddly, the mechanics and LBS I trust the most gets some really crappy reviews online, mainly due to the fact that they are viewed as anti-roadie and too pro-transportation bike, strangely enough. It is quite far from where I live, though, so I rarely go there. I will for sure order my IGH supplies from them though, when I finally get around to building a new wheel for my DL-1-- turn my english 3 speed into a 5 speed! Though Seattle has a lot of bike shops, many of them tend to cater to one crowd more than anther, so it takes some time to get to know which ones will best serve your needs.

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  69. kfg - Since you insist, let's carry out your reductio ad absurdum to its logical conculsion. No bicycle is made, since there is no creation of matter involved in the manufacture of a bicycle. Like everything else that is "made" it is really a process involving many steps where materials are manipulated to change them collectively into the desired object. In the manufacture of a modern bicycle, those materials have disparate origins, and undergo many transformations along the way.

    Contrasting a bicycle that is comprised of parts milled or forged in far-flung places to one comprised of parts that all had a geographically similar origin is just a matter of drawing different political and corporate boundaries, for the most part. So, in the old days, the wheel builder used spokes that he received from a factory down the road, or another department of his own company. This really isn't logically any different than a wheelbuilder ordering the spokes from a factory in another continent. He didn't produce the spokes himself in either case.

    So you care about these geographical/political/corporate boundaries (as I understand it), and I don't. So you didn't miss my point; you just chose to ignore it. I'll repeat it again, in case anyone else isn't sure what I meant, and I'll try to be less obtuse about it:

    A bicycle consists of more than just a frame. You can't ride a frame without wheels, et cetera. In the case of the aforementioned SimpleOne, the frame will be the single most expensive part, but I do not expect it to make up the majority of the cost or the mass of the bicycle. I don't know where you are writing from, but your all-local bicycle probably has rubber tires, and I doubt those were produced from local rubber trees. Maybe tires don't count because they're not bolted on?

    Oh, and if I were a professional wheel builder, I think I'd find your remark about about that ("assembled, not made") a bit insulting. I've never built one myself, so I don't know if this contempt is warranted or not. Maybe the machines do just as good a job in a fraction of the time, and hand-built wheels are just a scam. Even if I wasn't convinced that there would be real advantages to having my bicycle's wheels built by an expert, I'm not aware of any pre-built wheels that I could buy using the hubs that I want. Maybe in Germany, but they would probably be attached to a frame other than the one I want to use.

    Anyway, if you have something to share about the dealer markup on accessories other than snide remarks about unspecified cheap machined aluminum in Hong Kong, I'm genuinely interested in hearing it. I'm not in the bicycle business, and I have no inside knowledge there. The 20% accessory discount I mentioned suggests a few possibilities that seem pertinent to the discussion that Velouria began with the post above. If you know so much, perhaps you could enlighten, rather than belittle?

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  70. I know you love Harris, but I went there long ago when I was just getting into biking with a road bike that was a tad too big. Instead of suggesting that I replace the bars (which were huge) and helping me bring in the brake reach, they just added interrupter levers which never fixed the real problem.

    I hated road bars until I took the bike to a shop in San Francisco, where they were patient enough to measure me and find a women's friendly bar. Granted I spend a lot of money there and it's the only bike shop I frequent, but what keeps me going back to them is the service. They never, ever try and sell me something I don't need. Most other bike shops I visit are just really lacking in the service department!

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  71. Kfg, I remember those days of people waiting on lines for ten-speed bikes. I had to wait three months for my first ten-speed, a Schwinn Continental. And I got that one a month earlier than the dealer promised only because the person who originally reserved it changed his/her mind.

    Not long afterward, a schoolmate whose father was an Army Reservist told me that a line that snaked out the door of, and around, the local military base's PX formed at around two o'clock in the morning. What were they waiting for? The shipment of Peugeot UE-8s. (The UE-8 was the A0-8 with a rack, fenders and generator lights.)

    But going to France for a UO-8? Sacre bleu!

    As for shops themselves: I never was keen on very many of them. Now I like even fewer. Some of that has to do with the fact that so many shop employees know much less than I do. The fact that I'm a woman makes some of them really defensive when I ask for or about something. Recently, one employee insisted that 110 BCD chainrings (of which he had none in his shop) were obsolete and that 94/58 is the current standard!

    These days, it's even harder to find shops I like than it was in my youth. Now that I'm Justine, I understood how some shops are really "boy's clubs" in a way that I never could when I was Nick.

    I must say, though, I am fortunate enough to know of, and use, a couple of local shops that treat me and my bikes with respect. Not all cyclists--especially female cyclists--are so lucky.

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  72. kfg said...

    Axel - "Most people dont realize to what extent automation is used in far eastern bike facories."

    ""Show me the welders and brazers.""

    The vast majority of bikes are welded by robots in China/Taiwan

    "Everything is done with machines, even threading the spokes in the wheels."

    ""That is so 60's Dutch technology. Wheel building was the very first thing to be fully automated.""

    I think the correct term I meant to use is lacing, but you seem to understood me anyway. Yes wheelbuilding was done with machines in Europe and USA long b4 the far east imports. But only for low grade bikes.

    "so extremly much more expensive to build compared to the same product had it been made "by robots"."

    ""Every cheap ass old Robin Hood was more hand made than a Pashley. Pashley uses Taiwanese robots.""

    That is not the impression I have. The video I just veiwed showed real humans doing all assembly and welding, and wheel building. I think it was on Vimeo...

    "I would count on the people in Stratford upon Avon to send me parts should I need them."

    Who buy them from Taiwan. You can just buy them yourself.

    No, Bianchi USA didnt (then) sell parts to individuals, neither did the manufacturer in Taiwan. Still getting the right tube for by bike, shaped and cut is prolly still not possible. Its ovalized, had to do w/o tools for it.

    "Reynold´s tube only made for Taiwan in Taiwan."

    "As above, look for the union label. :) It's often surprising where stuff actually comes from just looking at the branding.""

    Idem

    ""There is nothing "regular" about 531 or "improper" about the Volpe's tubing. 531 isn't suitable for welded construction. What's that got to do with, say, Mike's bikes? Do you feel there is something "odd" about his tubing? About the machine tools of mass production that he employs to make his one person crafted frames?""

    The difference is slight, and with care both tubes, 531 and 520, can be TIGéd or brazed.

    ""Why do Pashley's bikes cost less than a frame from Mike?

    You are missing some pieces of the puzzle.
    ""

    Who is Mike?

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  73. KFG-- Do you think that even the higher-end Panasonic (sorry, "Matsushita") bikes were hand-made? They were a HUGE production machine in Japan, just like Fuji. Only the top of the line racing bikes from those brands were hand-made, and even those saw partial automation. I've seen pictures of the Panasonic bike factory and it's not a small, hand-assembled type of operation.

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  74. I admit I have not read most of the comments in this particular thread -- just want to say that one interesting way the "investment" bike shops, like my favorite, Adeline Adeline, here in NYC, can make money is by stocking accessories that weren't made for bicycles but complement them. But if you're the owner of a shop and find that Bensimon sneakers work well for cycling, why not have them in stock? Ultra light bags in non tech fabrics, bike specific children's books, all those things make sense to me. There is a serious mechanic there with more experience with hubs than most NYC shops and all the saddles, locks, baskets etc you'd ever want, too, of course, but I find the other things to be a nice touch.

    I think this strategy is good not only because of mark-up but also because it bolsters the idea that your regular stuff can work for you and that integrating a bike into your life need not be a Lifestyle Decision of epic size or scope. And those items also attracts more customers, potentially by appealing not only to the person who is there to buy a bike, but also to that person's friend, or to passers-by, who might later come back for a larger purchase because of the store's warm environment.

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  75. There are a couple of good bike shops in the area outside of Philly where we live. Yet I only go into them when I need a part or a repair that I cannot make myself. I rarely if ever look at the bikes they have for sale because those machines are just too bland and unexciting. They carry the usual big brand suspects. There is one exception that I know of but it is a shop for high end racing bikes. Maybe this is what most suburban cyclists want - white bread bikes like the bland white bread they buy in the supermarkets. Sorry for the stereotype! Don't get me wrong; the staff in these shops are nice people and helpful. The bikes, however, leave much to be desired.

    In Philly, on the other hand, there are several bike shops which have very interesting and attractive bicycles [at a higher price, of course.] Also, if I want a Carradice or Minnehaha bag, I am far more likely to find it at the urban bike shops. Can't help but to notice the difference. The further one travels from center city, the more uninspiring the bikes seem to get!

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  76. Fit the First:

    "No bicycle is made, since there is no creation of matter involved"

    Indeed, something I bring up when discussing water conservation and "sustainable" bamboo bikes, as there the concept is crucial to understanding.

    I was surprised when I found out the number of people who think that when the water go down the hoooole; it was gone.

    "This really isn't logically any different than a wheelbuilder ordering the spokes from a factory in another continent."

    Which is why there are no Phil Wood spoke threading machines. If you need some spokes, just order them from Switzerland or China. Easy.

    "So you care about these geographical/political/corporate boundaries (as I understand it)"

    It isn't my understanding that matters. It's the understanding of the accountants and the men with guns they stand behind that matters.

    I care about geography and anthropology.

    Did you know there is an entire month when you cannot get new goods produced in China, strictly as a matter of local social conventions? That tends to affect supply and demand cycles. China is also far away from the buyers here. Space is time. Time is money. Sometimes goods just disappear in transit over that time-space-political-corporate matrix and companies go bankrupt over it.

    I get asked for buying advice on a number of items. One of them is violins, which are actually priced by region of origin (down to the town level). I like to point out that only the dealer knows where it was made, the violin doesn't.

    There is also one thing that can be changed, at no cost, that can make any violin the best sounding in the world.

    "You can't ride a frame without wheels"

    Indeed, that's why my Sansin hubs have Suntour stenciled on them.

    "I don't know where you are writing from"

    A collapsed Industrial Revolution city in upstate NY. I think about half our city core is taken up by unused industrial capacity. There's another one to the east of me, and west of me, and north of me, and . . .

    "your all-local bicycle probably has rubber tires"

    Synthetic. Cords too. We actually still do that stuff. They make it even closer to me than the steel mills. Of course the raw stock comes from elsewhere. Used to be one of the neighboring states, like the iron ore. We could grow it if we had to, but it might take turning some housing developments back to the farmland they were built on. Henry Ford, in the 20's, built a prototype plastic car with stock made entirely from farm products. Don't tell the sustainability people about that, they might get ideas. Biofuels are causing enough trouble already.

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  77. Fit the Second:

    "if I were a professional wheel builder"

    I am not, but I were, errrrrr, was. Why do people interchange those two words so often?

    It doesn't offend me at all. I also often point out that I don't build my computers, I just assemble them. When I build them I use a soldering iron and discrete components, just as when I build a frame I use a torch and discrete tubes. Yes, I have been know to point out that I didn't make the tubes. There are things I have made from gathering/planting the raw materials and I advise everybody to try it at least once. Hand twisting brings understanding as well as skill and spinning is meditative; as are knitting and weaving. It can lead to the Little Samadhi of the craftsman. Cheaper and more legal than opium or pot.

    "Maybe the machines do just as good a job in a fraction of the time"

    That's what Wheelsmith says. They have a lot of customers who agree with them.

    The machines can do a superior job of mitering tubing. That's why very few people hand file anymore now that the machine tools are cheap and available used.

    Although I have been know to take offense when people say they "built" their bike when what they mean is they threaded the parts onto the frame. I've spent a lot of hours hand filing miters. I never were a professional at that though.

    "if you have something to share about the dealer markup on accessories"

    In mass manufacturing, on a per unit basis, machining aluminum costs more than injection molding plastic. If a machined aluminum item is three dollars and an injection molded item is thirty dollars there has been considerably more markup on the molded item. Someone is making pennies on the former and dollars on the latter.

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  78. Darn, I hate it when I don't have time to read all the comments.

    Anon 12:52 - I agree with you about the interruptor levers. I think those things don't belong on drop bars and don't really solve the problem.

    kfg said...
    "If they wanted to be good businessmen they'd be raking in bonuses for bankrupting nations with their failed derivatives trading schemes, not hand building bicycles. :) "


    I am not saying that they should be businessmen predominantly. I am only saying that the difference between the framebuilder who stays in business and the one who does not (or even between the framebuilder who makes tons of money and the one who barely stays afloat) is not necessarily the quality of their work or even their legend/prestige factor, but their management skills and their approach to marketing.

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  79. Velouria - van Gough vs. Picasso.

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  80. kfg- "A collapsed Industrial Revolution city in upstate NY"

    So basically you live anywhere outside of NY metro, probably not too far north and not too far west in the state. Syracuse? Binghampton? Corning?

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  81. kfg says "Every cheap ass old Robin Hood was more hand made than a Pashley. Pashley uses Taiwanese robots."

    They do?

    There might be Taiwanese persons working for Pashley, and I hope they don't read this. :)

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  82. kfg - Just found the part of your comments that MDI quoted. What makes you say this? Pashley is one of the few European manufacturers that still hand-makes transportation bikes (Achielle, Bella Ciao, and possibly Abici and Velorbis being the others, as far as I know). Like everyone else (including custom framebuilders) Pashley uses components made in the Far East, and who knows where the tubing is from. But the frames are made by hand, by individual people, in England.

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  83. Axel - "The vast majority of bikes are welded by robots in China/Taiwan"

    The robotic capacity they have built in just the past five years is stunning. Sunrace isn't fooling around and wants a significant part of Shimano's pie. I'm starting to believe they just might get it.

    "That is not the impression I have. The video I just veiwed showed real humans doing all assembly and welding"

    Your impression may be skewed by the fact that you have not balanced your equation and perhaps inserted the term "And here a miracle occurs."

    A video I viewed awhile ago showed real humans hand spinning aluminum hub shells. Absolutely fascinating. Grant Peterson points out that the reason you can't buy parts with the same quality of polish as they used to have is because you can't even pay a Filipino work visa immigrant to do that sort of work anymore.

    A while ago I (as a hypothetical) offered to supply utility bikes entirely assembled by myself for as little as $150 dollars. Of course I would be assembling them on Chinese factory frames with Chinese factory laced wheels, but other than that the hand work would be equal to that going into the assembly of a Pashley (does Pashley strip and reassemble their Taiwanese produced hubs? That's a real question. I know I do)

    I've done the same in shops where I was allowed to. The point being, again, that just because a bike is made in Asia does not imply that it wasn't hand assembled here. There are more people in the chain between the factory and you. Conversely, my Riv came with the back wheel wobbling on its bearings.

    "getting the right tube for by bike, shaped and cut is prolly still not possible"

    Not impossible, but quite prolly prohibitive.

    What's the procedure and cost of obtaining and installing a tube from Pashley?

    "both tubes, 531 and 520, can be TIGéd or brazed."

    Steel can be welded; as can copper, gold and Lexan(tm).

    "Who is Mike?"

    "Ant Bike Mike" Flanigan; who has been known to comment in these very pages.

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  84. Just because Pashley uses components like SA (or because Mike uses some components by Shimano) doesn't mean the bikes aren't made in UK and US, respectively. I think you are starting to say strange things like dismissing someone's experience of having seen the welding video. Are you saying that Pashley is lying or that you know better than they do where they make their bikes?

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  85. In 2009, I conducted an extensive telephone interview with Pashley, asking them very direct and specific questions about their production methods. I am satisfied that, at least as of summer 2009, their framesets were made by hand in England. I think that to suggest otherwise without concrete proof is unfounded slander and I do not support anyone making such comments.

    Conducting the same type of interview with Gazelle is what led to my discovery that as of 2007 or so, their production was in fact outsourced to China.

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  86. Somervillain - ". . .sorry, "Matsushita". . "

    As you yourself note Matsushita frames appear under more than one brand, Rivendell for instance. When specifically outside the realm of brand issues I will refer to the company name if I know it.

    Sometimes I will do so to bring light to the branding issue itself.

    "I've seen pictures of the Panasonic bike factory and it's not a small, hand-assembled type of operation."

    What would it take for Mike to increase his output tenfold? The desire to do so and one more employee.

    "So basically you live anywhere outside of NY metro"

    Exactly my point.

    "Syracuse? Binghampton? Corning?"

    That's within my visiting family and friends radius, yes. My sunglasses were made in Corning, but they seem to have sold the brand now and I don't know where the current ones are made.

    I have nothing against imports and owned Chinese goods when they were Maoist contraband (which made me seriously cool to the Maoists among my friends. My how times have changed), but I do like locally made things as well.

    MDI - "They do?"

    They do.

    Velouria - "What makes you say this?"

    "Pashley uses components made in the Far East"

    You make it too easy.

    Justine - "But going to France for a UO-8? Sacre bleu!"

    The very city of Rene Herse and Alex Singer. It boggles my mind, but it happened. You have to put in in the context that the early adopters were spending American gold. A shopping weekend in Paris could be cheaper than a weekend shopping in NYC.

    Our neighbors who vacationed at Disneyland all thought my family was rich, because we vacationed in Europe. They didn't understand that we vacationed in Europe because we couldn't afford Disneyland.

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  87. "Mike uses some components by Shimano"

    I have never made any reference to the parts Mike uses. It would be perfectly possible to build up one of his frames with all American parts. He is a one at a time frame builder who will supply them built up. Pashley is a production bike builder.

    "dismissing someone's experience of having seen the welding video."

    I did no such thing. I have seen such things in person.

    "I think that to suggest otherwise without concrete proof is unfounded slander"

    Indeed, if it were done, and with malicious intent, it would be. But it has not been suggested. I have, however asserted that my Rivendell frame was made in Japan and yours in Taiwan, however.

    And that Taiwanese robots are used in the production of a Pashley.

    Please refer to my specific, relevant claim.

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  88. "Gazelle . . . production was in fact outsourced to China."

    Which is what makes European bikes expensive here these days, because they're made in China, just like our cheap bikes. Oh, the webs we weave. See my comments on how political and corporate boundaries are relevant to the prices and markups on bicycles.

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  89. kfg - Yes, yes, but you are being cute. When we speak of such and such a bike being made in the EU by hand vs in the Far East on an assembly line, we are referring to frames. If we included components, then none of them can be described as being made in the EU. Your statement about Pashley was misleading in its implications, is all. It is like saying that a Peter Mooney bike "is made by Taiwaneese robots" if he hangs standard components on the frame.

    Regarding Dutch bikes made in China/Taiwan: I have noticed differences, which means that production methods vary for these bikes. Retrovelo to me, seems flawless in the way it is constructed and assembled, and it is now made in Taiwan (the first batches were made in Germany). The currently produced Gazelle and Batavus bikes are no longer 100% lugged as they once were, but still seem pretty solid, and the ride quality is good. Same with Workcycles, which is described as being made partly in NL and partly in China. Compared to the likes of Trek, Giant, Specialized, and other "city bikes" made also in China but sold by US manufacturers, the quality of the Dutch Chinese stuff is downright outstanding and, in my view, the price difference is reasonable.

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  90. Velouria makes a good point - that not everything made in China or Taiwan is the same. WorkCycles for instance, says their highest quality frames probably come from Taiwan. They apparently looked at frames from Velorbis (which come from Germany, if I remember correctly), and there were large variations in the same frame coming from them. Anyway, I'm pretty sure a steel frame used on a WorkCycles bike is of higher quality than a steel frame used on a modern Schwinn or Electra, even if they all come from Taiwan.

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  91. "The vast majority of bikes are welded by robots in China/Taiwan"

    Years ago we had a Salsa postcard tacked up in the shop. It read "Made by Robots in Petaluma, CA" above a photo of Ross & the gang wearing cardboard boxes wrapped in aluminum foil.

    Having tigged up a number of stems myself, I can tell you it's not particularly rewarding work. Better to let the robots do it.

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  92. In any case, I don't think there are any Raleighs left, where basically everything from the frame to the accessories to the gears are made by the same company (or a subsidiary, since Raleigh owned Sturmey Archer).

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  93. Not just cute, but downright improper. "Seen such things in person?" What? You went to Pashley's factory and watched them not making the frames there? This is ridiculous and this is what happens when you argue yourself into a corner.

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  94. "Yes, yes, but you are being cute."

    Although I would prefer if you used the term "Socratic." It has a more Classicaler ring to it. "Cute" is rather Plebeian.

    If I just say something I'm just another asshole with an Internet connection (true as that may be), but if I can get you thinking about things in ways you might not have before you can increase your own understanding.

    Annoying as that may be. I am aware I might drink the hemlock someday. Amen.

    "we are referring to frames"

    No. What is happening is that I am having multiple conversations with multiple lines of argument and they are being conflated into one.

    In one of those lines I carefully restricted it to frames, because it was appropriate to do so. In another I did not, because it was not.

    Where were "cheap ass Robin Hood" hubs made?

    "Regarding Dutch bikes made in China/Taiwan: I have noticed differences"

    Need I bring up my observation that the classic cantilever frame cruisers sold to us here and different from the one sold there, again?

    On the other hand my Redline here is equal to anything similar there, but didn't cost over a thousand dollars here.

    "the price difference is reasonable."

    You are looking at the bike, but we are talking prices. You are supposed to be looking at the money. Follow the money.

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  95. Maybe I should upgrade "cute" to "intellectually naughty".

    I admit, that I have not read everything here as carefully as I might due to time constraints, so perhaps I should stay out of this conversation entirely. I remain intrigued by your $150 bike. I hope someone takes you up on it and sends me their impressions.

    Anyhow, I leave you fellows to it - but please minimise the naughtiness.

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  96. "You went to Pashley's factory and watched them not making the frames there?"

    If you may excuse my language (or not as you see fit, it's entirely up to you, of course), "What the hell are you on about?"

    I have seen bicycle factories and watched them brazing and welding frames. They used to be rather common both in America and Europe. I think I have mentioned there was one down the road from me. There was another right next to T-town where my aunt lived. I think you can still see some in the Boston Metro area (IF perhaps?). I know you can in Queens and Saratoga.

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  97. ". . ."intellectually naughty"."

    Maybe. Although I might prefer if you use the term "challenging."

    I am engaged in an act of informal pedagogy on an Internet forum, not formal dissertation for publication (although I am rather glad the Dialogues were published and maintained through the Dark Ages).

    It is entirely possible my theories of pedagogy do not match your own. It happens. They are certainly at odds with what they present in the schools these days.

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  98. kfg says "What the hell are you on about?"

    I think I, nay, we ought to ask you that, after your comments implying that Pashley is made in Taiwan, or whatever it was you were trying to convey.

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  99. "I remain intrigued by your $150 bike. I hope someone takes you up on it and sends me their impressions."

    Oh, yeah, that. Remember one of my stipulations was that "You will learn to love it. Choice costs money"?

    Anyone inclined to complain about a weld that's slightly sloppy, or a color they don't like, or too heavy, or that it's not "their style" need not apply.

    I assert only that it's a sturdy transportation bike that'll get you to work/the store within 5 miles on a daily basis; other than being cheap ass enough you'll likely need to make a $50 upgrade to it at some point (as I can't predict when that will be, carry bus fare). I can't work magic, it is a cheap ass bike; but I can pack a bearing and tune the spokes in a way that belies its humble origins.

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  100. "whatever it was you were trying to convey."

    Robots in Taiwan are used to make Pashleys. They were not to make Robin Hoods.

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  101. I don't care about Robin Hoods, but libeling Pashley with statements that could universally and equally apply to all of today's custom or production bike manufacturer who use SA hubs is beyond the pale.

    You are basically trying to slide by on something like "oh look, they are using this Taiwanese part, so I can say the bike is made in Taiwan."

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  102. "I don't care about Robin Hoods"

    If you unbalance my equation by removing terms from it, then take me to task for what you have created, it is not I who is being intellectually dishonest.

    "libeling Pashley with statements that could universally and equally apply to all of today's custom or production bike manufacturer who use SA"

    You both stipulate my claim and deny it in the same the breath; then use that to accuse me of libel? Isn't that a bit libelous?

    It is of course, equally true of my Rivendell, even though it has no Sturmey-Archer parts on it. The brake caliper arms are made in Taiwan. I don't get all worked up over the idea. I like them. They're good brakes.

    Why are you getting so worked up over the factual assertion that bits of Pashleys are made in modern Taiwanese factories, not in ivy covered Olde English ones? Do you have something against the Chinese? Or are you perhaps experiencing a bit of a cognitive dissonance between what you perceive your Pashley to be and what it actually is (I am taking your emotional attachment to your Pashley into account in dealing with your rather nasty statements to me personally. I understand we all have our "hot buttons")?

    I'm afraid that doesn't make me libelous. It means you need to take a chill pill before the discussion can continue on any rational basis.

    Or perhaps do some knitting; works for me.

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  103. This is an article from the Canadian Pashley distributers who visited the Pashley factory at Stratford-upon-Avon:

    http://www.curbside.on.ca/blog/archives/285

    There are other articles in their database with pictures of some steps in the productive process.

    It is grossly inaccurate to say that robots in Taiwan are used to make Pashleys. They are used to make certain Pashley parts.

    This is equivalent to someone saying that Chinese robots are used to make GM or Ford automobiles.

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  104. kfg, demagoguery won't help you change the fact that several people took offense to you implying that Pashley is made in Taiwan.

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  105. Our neighbors who vacationed at Disneyland all thought my family was rich, because we vacationed in Europe. They didn't understand that we vacationed in Europe because we couldn't afford Disneyland.

    kfg, I used to get the same reaction when I told people I took bike trips in Europe. It was actually cheaper to bike there because it was possible to stay in hostels, pensiones and other cheap accomodations without risking your life.

    Even given the context you describe, it's still odd to think that anyone went to France just to buy a UO-8!

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  106. "This is equivalent to someone saying that Chinese robots are used to make GM or Ford automobiles."

    The Honda Civic is a domestic automobile. Many Fords and GM cars are imports. This is not me saying it, these are US government legal definitions based on what robots made what parts in what countries as percentages, because that's the way it's done (last I looked the Civic was 98% American made).

    I've never looked into whether Chinese robots are used to make GMs or Fords, because I don't care, but with the quantity of electronics in them these days it wouldn't surprise me a bit. I know Mexican, Brazilian and Canadian robots are and that the "Italian" car to made by "American" Chrysler will say "Mexico" on it.

    I noted above that the union label on my Rivendell says "Japan" and when I assemble an Asian bike here I do not erase the "Japan," "Taiwan" or "China" label and substitute "USA," just as Ford and GM do not. That would be fraud.

    But as this is a bit of non sequitur to the actual issue you address I suspect you have browsed a few posts and commented without actually reading the thread and trying to follow my argument. As the kids these days say, "lurk moar."

    My claim, should you choose to accept it (and even if you don't), was not that Pashleys are made in Taiwan, but that Robin Hoods were hand made, or at least more so than Pashleys.

    Because you do not avoid Taiwanese robots by buying a Pashley. Taiwanese robots are used to make Pashleys.

    You do by buying a Robin Hood, because they were not.

    And I hope Sunrace kicks some Shimano ass.

    This thread self destructed rather more than 5 seconds ago when a Pashley owner went into his Tommy DeVito imitation.

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  107. Our neighbors who vacationed at Disneyland all thought my family was rich, because we vacationed in Europe. They didn't understand that we vacationed in Europe because we couldn't afford Disneyland.

    It's equally frustrating when people keep telling me to "enjoy my vacation" when I go to Europe for work. Yes, my 12 hour workday trips are fah-bulous vacations!

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  108. MDI - I take full responsibility for what I say. I take none for what others think.

    Justine - Well, presumably they took it as a good excuse to visit Paris. :)
    And not everybody knows that Rene Herse exists, or, if they do, cares. Heathens, the lot of them.

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  109. kfg: "I am not, but I were, errrrrr, was. Why do people interchange those two words so often?"

    It is called the "past subjunctive mood". "Was" and "were" are usually not considered to be separate words, but different forms of the same word. I suppose that the petty attempt at ridicule is not out of place amidst the semantic argument about the meaning of the words "made", "built", and "assembled", and who might find them offensive.

    As it turns out, though your attitude has made me lose interest in almost everything you've said, I'm still curious about one thing:

    "Yeah, you can still buy a Schwinn, it just won't say "Schwinn" on it. See "Not Taylor" Love my Goat wine."

    I haven't been able to determine what you're referring to here.

    "As Velouria noted this is a financial decision due to the chaos going on these days. Grant makes no bones about being Japan centric for having things made; because they do it best."

    I suppose you think he's being disingenuous, then. After all, here's what's written about the A. Homer Hilsen and Atlantis frames on the Rivendell web site:

    "Where's it made? Early Homers were made in Japan by Toyo. Then gradually and now totally production shifted to Waterford, in Wisconsin. Although it's human nature to wonder, "Which ones are better? I want one of those!" --- there is no difference in quality. If there were, we'd know it and lay it out there for you."

    "The Atlantis used to be built by Toyo, in Japan. All new Atlantis frames are built in Wisconsin. Quality is the same, highest quality."

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  110. "Yes, my 12 hour workday trips are fah-bulous vacations!"

    I left that crap to my parents, but I did pull some ball busting all night crams while studying there; with much the same issue when I came home.

    Oddly enough my cousin who's working trip to Europe netted him several months in a Spanish prison didn't have that trouble. Everyone was all like, "Jeeeeeeezus dude, what happened to you?"

    He was thirty when he went in and looked it. Came out with white hair and face to match.

    But perhaps that's a story for another time and place.

    My niece majoring in fashion design is doing her next semester in Italy. I haven't asked, but I presume Milan. I'll have to ask her about her vacation when she gets home.

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  111. "I suppose that the petty attempt at ridicule"

    I was just being goofy. I'm sorry if you took it as ridicule. It wasn't aimed at anybody specific, never mind you or anyone else "here," it was just something I'd been noticing lately.

    You could take up the issue of whether or not they are different words with my English professor step-father, if he weren't dead.

    "I haven't been able to determine what you're referring to here."

    Waterford is owned by Schwinn, but he can't use his own name on his products, because somebody else owns it. Bully Hill Vinyards are owned by Taylor, but he can't use his own name on his products, because somebody else owns it. He addresses the issue in his own way with his Love my Goat wine.

    They got his name, but they can't get his goat.

    "I suppose you think he's being disingenuous"

    Not in the least. Waterford makes top drawer stuff, as do a number of other builders, such as the ones in Taiwan that make Sams and SimpleOnes.

    The issue he is addressing is that some of his customers think the Waterfords are "better" than the Toyos somehow. Waterford is where the legendary Schwinn Paramounts came from. Toyo is; some Japanese company. He refutes that idea. No need to feel bad about having an ucky Toyo when you could have had a Waterford. Toyo is top stuff.

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  112. @kfg

    "My claim ... was not that Pashleys are made in Taiwan..."

    "Taiwanese robots are used to make Pashleys."

    Your logic seems to be paradoxical and although you claim taking responsability for what you say, there is, unfortunately, some difficulty in justifiably assigning to it the epithet of honesty, inasmuch as the precise correlation between the information you communicated and the facts, insofar as they can be determined and demonstrated, is such as to cause epistemological problems, of sufficient magnitude as to lay upon the logical and semantic resources of the English language a heavier burden than they can reasonably be expected to bear.

    I can spot a lie when I read one without needing to read the 100 previous posts, and no matter how many times it is repeated it will still be a lie.
    Perhaps you can be a little more specific in enlighting the readers of which parts of the Pashley bicycles are made by Taiwanese robots and even more by revealing where did you get that information.

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  113. kfg: "The issue he is addressing is that some of his customers think the Waterfords are "better" than the Toyos somehow."

    That's very unlikely. He has stated that the reason for the switch was to reduce the costs, which is frequently accompanied by a reduction in quality. Perhaps there are some customers who have expressed a preference for Waterford frames, but in the Rivendell News from 2009-08-20, Grant very strongly implies that he has a preference for Toyo. Losing a few sales to picky customers in the short term because they're afraid of getting a Japanese frame isn't good, but losing a lot of future sales because people think the new frames are inferior would be far worse. If you really want a Waterford, you could just wait until other customers have bought all the Toyo frames, then get the one you want.

    Do you honestly believe that he's going out of his way to say "the old version that we don't make anymore is just as good as the new one" rather than "don't worry, the new version is just as good as the old one, we're not passing of cheap stuff as the real thing". In truth, he's saying both of these things, but since I'm not going to pretend to know the preferences of Rivendell's customers are, I'm going to have to assume the motivation is primarily for the reason that makes sense for a company that's not having a "going out of business" sale.

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  114. I went out of my way to buy my hybrid (instead of buying it at the LBS literally across the street) because of staff attitudes and attention. Guy's Bicycle outside of Philadelphia was great to me, and if I hadn't moved, I'd still be their loyal customer.
    That said, when I moved to Boulder, CO, I knew I would have a lot of bike shop opportunities, and I'd go looking for the one that gave me the right amount of attention, understood my interests and what I was looking for, and would treat my girlfriend with the same respect (she is just getting into cycling after my, with her permission, Christmas gift).
    There are many options, but one shop specializes is road/cyclocross/mountain ("sport") bicycles has terrible service...unless you're a sporting cyclist. The Trek Store, is great, service-wise, but you're limited to Trek bikes. Another store very close to us seems to have a huge selection, great customer service, and caters to "people who ride bikes". So far, that's where we've gone to equip my girlfriend's bike.
    It's an interesting topic, especially when you're comparing Europe to America.

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  115. As for the country-of-origin question: A little birdie told me that Campagnolo carbon components are made in the same factories as FSA, TruVativ, SRAM and others. All I know is that it ain't in Italy.

    As for the "was" and "were" question:

    If I were the Queen, I would decree an end to flame wars and other forms of pettiness and vindictiveness.

    If I told you I was the Queen, I'd be lying to you! I never was, and probably never will be.

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  116. Just in case some less informed readers might be induced in error by kfg's fallacious (and obviously false) statement that Taiwanese robots are used to make Pashleys, I found the video that one of the readers mentioned, in which everybody can see how the bicycles are made and draw their own conclusions.

    http://vimeo.com/16852609

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  117. My experiences with bike shops in Pittsburgh has been pretty hit-or-miss. The customers most catered to by shops seem to be the lycra-clad carbon lot or the weekend cruiser-rider -- not the everyday transport cyclist. I'm definitely not this kind of rider, and have therefore usually felt quite ignored bordering on the line of undesired in several of the city's bike shops. I definitely fall into the accessory-buying league; frankly, I don't want any of the bikes they're selling.

    There seem to be a significant amount of modified bikes on the streets, but from what I can gather, these modifications are done by super-small, highly-heralded shops like Kraynick's, or through Free Ride, volunteer-based workshop through which one can learn more about bikes and even earn one. I've given the workshop a go (before cycling more heavily), and found the atmosphere to be incredibly
    intimidating without any existing bicycle knowledge.

    Experiences at BikeTek and ProBikes in Squirrel Hill have both been pretty positive. It is, however the middle of winter, and I'm sure that sheer boredom factors in. I will, however agree with a previous post and say that good, friendly service makes me want to come back. When I enter a shop and the sales clerk's attitude towards my ignorance about, say, wheel materials, seems to be that of contempt - no matter how subtle or how politely it is concealed behind professionalism. (Wink wink, Iron City Bikes.) This reception is why I have not gone back to certain shops, and why I have chosen to self-educate through the much more difficult path of online resources, despite the fact that there's no better time to get into the shop with questions than the middle of winter.

    Let all of this be taken with the grain of salt that I've only been riding heavily (ie daily) in Pittsburgh since acquiring a used Schwinn in early October. I'm definitely no expert on either my city's bike culture or resources. There's a decided aura of machismo going in in Pgh's bike shops that is honestly quite off-putting. That's why I don't ask questions in person -- I am a plainclothes girl in what seems to be a largely technical boy's bike universe. Changing mindsets do take time, though. I just feel like the overarching attitude is that of disdain for most riders other than knowledgeable "sport" cyclists. But didn't they start learning somewhere?!?!?!

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