Monday, April 1, 2013

Bicycles Are All Made In . . .

Your bike was not made in the United States.  The label on your Trek Madone is lying to you.

Granted, the above photo is not a Trek Madone.  However, even a bicycle that is actually labeled "Made In USA" is only partly made in the United States.  The "Made In" label refers only to the frame.  I know nothing about your personal bike.  However, I can tell you that if your bike has a crank, shifters, derailleurs, and brakes from Shimano, Capagnolo, Sram, or anybody else who manufactures these things that make a bike rideable, then your bike is composed largely of parts that are not - and never have been - "Made In USA".

Of course, it all depends on how we choose to look at these things. For example:

Where is this bike made?

I know this seems like the kind of question that should have only a one or two-word answer, but this is usually not the case.  If someone answers "Italy" when asked about the bike pictured above, they may be partly accurate, but that doesn't begin to cover the whole story.  The frame is most certainly labeled "Made In Italy", and the frame definitely was.

When a Pinarello ships out of Italy, it looks like this:

That is not a bicycle.  Therefore, we cannot say that the Pinarello Dogma Bicycle pictured above was really "Made in Italy".

Where did the rest of the bike come from? Shimano is a Japanese company and they still make Dura-Ace components in a facility of their very own in Japan, but their wheels are built in Malaysia.  The tires on the complete Dogma above are handmade in France.  The handlebar and stem were made Taiwan.

Still, we don't have a bicycle.  So far, all we really have is a box of parts from all over the world.

These ingredients are then handed over to the final link in a chain of craftsmen, commonly known as a mechanic.  This mechanic has the sole responsibility of building the final product, producing a functional bicycle.  The ground upon which that mechanic stands is where your parts are made into a bicycle.  So from that point of view, if you bought your bicycle complete from a bike shop in the United States, then the bike as you receive it was actually built on U.S. soil - made in the USA.

I cannot find another type of product in existence that is assembled in one place, but must bear the label of another.  I've looked.  Can't find it.  Maybe we should quit worrying about what nationality frame builders tend to be these days.  Maybe we should be more interested in the quality of the design and the work that went into the product you're actually riding.