09 November, 2007

Business News

Every once in a while I like to share my plans for Velo Orange. Of course these plans don't always work out, but it's good to get feedback and it adds perspective. So here is what's underway or being considered:

VO Imports

As you may know, Velo Orange offers some of it's VO brand products to other bike shops at wholesale prices. It seems to me, however, that this is too limited an approach. Most bike shops don't have access to the sort of parts that VO sells and imports. The obvious solution is to have a proper wholesale company that's geared to rando, touring, and city bikes. Starting or buying another company is not something I undertake lightly, but it seems to be something that needs to be done. I've started three serious companies in the past and a few very small ones so I know what's involved. In a mature market, like cycling, starting a successful company is very tough, but by using the same approach that has worked with Velo Orange, keeping prices low and not worrying about short term profits; finding products other companies don't have, listening to what cyclists say they need, and stressing customer service; I think there is a good chance for making a go of it. The working name of this new company is VO Imports.

I am considering buying an existing bike wholesale company, starting a new one, or both. On the first front, I'll be touring an existing company that's for sale and starting the "due diligence" process very soon. On the second front I'm working with a web designer to create a VO Imports site and with our agents to increase contacts with Taiwanese and European manufacturers. I think it's time for a trip to Taiwan and Japan too.

Increasingly our orders are coming from overseas. We ship to customers in Europe and Asia almost every day and often get inquiries from European shops. I have no illusions that this is not largely due to the weak dollar, but over and over I am told that cyclists can't get VO-type parts in Sweden, Norway, Germany, Italy... Having an American wholesale company that could sell French-style parts to European shops would add depth to our business, not to mention a bit of irony.

VO Pedals

We are considering the idea of a line of VO pedals. These would have traditional shapes, but incorporate high quality cassette bearings and replaceable cages. By having them made in Taiwan, I think they could sell for prices that are similar to Japanese pedals with ball bearings, non-replaceable cages, and similar finish quality.

VO Handlebars and Stems

Again, we are looking at traditional designs, such as those of the French bars and stems that we sell, but made in Taiwan. This idea depends on the future pricing and availability of Japanese and European products; there is no point in making our own products if we can buy them elsewhere. I'll write more about this in the future.

One underlying issue in my considering more products made specifically for VO is that we might soon see a significant rise in the long sluggish Japanese Yen. This would make Japanese parts more expensive, as has already happened with European parts. So it makes sense to look into having more high quality parts made in Taiwan and perhaps even in India and China. If the superb Thinkpad notebook I'm writing this on can be made in China, they should be able to produce a pretty good bike stem. The trick is stressing that we are looking for quality over price.


We are already outgrowing our Annapolis shop and have just signed a lease for more space that will be used for storage and shipping/receiving. We are also looking for a warehouse for VO Imports.


C said...

Nice! Hard to believe there's room for yet another importer/wholesaler in this business.

I like the bars idea. As many bars as there are out there I still can't find a set of road bars I like. Just please make them bulge formed and not sleeved. I long ago swore off sleeved bars after dealing with too many creaking Nitto and Cinelli models (and spare me the Loctite fixes - been there, tried that)

Supreme Commander said...

I'd love to see a stem with a top cap covering the quill bolt and custom engraving of the owner's name and address.

Oh, and tapped for a bell, of course.

Anonymous said...

It sounds ambitious. One observation: VO Imports or whatever might be misconstrued as denoting Very Old (as in cognac VO, VSOP).

IMhO: There are far too many company names relying on intitials.

Your name should immediately say something about your purpose so that customers and potential customers who come across it don't need to decrypt it.

Abbreviating should be something that happens later by regulars and people in the know - like a nickname.


franklyn said...


Becoming an importer is a serious undertaking, at the least is the eating-up of your personal free time, whether the venture is successful or not, but I like your approach to business and would like to wish you luck.

The more I ride and use my bike as my main mode of transport (as my volvo languishes in the drive way) the more I discover the coolness of non-clipless pedals, usefulness of racks and bags, etc. I would love to see a line of high-quality pedals. I am not such a stickler on finishes for pedals, after all, they are something you put your feet on.

On Chinese-made products. I have a training as a material scientist and worked in the manufacturing industry--albeit R&D for a first-tier chip company, not bike parts maker--for a while before becoming a consultant. From my knowledge, most of the parts in that computer you use are probably made in Taiwan or a Chinese factories run by a Taiwanese parent company (Taiwan owns a largest positive trade deficit from China largely because of electronic parts). Lenovo does make something, but largely it's an very efficient assembly company. I cannot speak for the quality of chinese commercial metal parts company, but the failure tolerance on a bike part is much tighter than on a computer--if a computer fails, send it back to the shop and replace a part, if a stem breaks on a descent, a cyclist can get seriously hurt. I am not doubting their technology capability, but their quality control practices and ethical standard (as can be seen by recent string of toy recalls). Therefore at this point i'd still be hesitant to buy something for my bike that's from china.

just my two cents


Phillip Franklin said...

Good Luck on your new venture into wholesale distribution. You seem to have some very good ideas about many products which I have seen on your web pages and blogs.

There is no doubt that this bicycle industry is starting to see some real change in a positive way. I guess most people in my age group always point to the so called bicycle boom that took off in the early 1970's and then we saw the mountain bike boom coming in the 1980's, And I guess to some extent we saw a major change dominated by the big manufacturers such as Trek, Specialized, and Giant into the super light weight racing bicycles during the Lance years.

I think if the industry is going to appeal to a truly practical and commuter conscious rider who seeks quality and comfort we will experience some of the changes which you along with others like Grant Peterson have been preaching for many years. These changes have been impossible not notice over the last few years. So in my opinion there is a need for a distributor who specializes in the parts and products that recognize these shifts in the industry towards quality commuter and practical bikes.

Personally I don't understand why many of these parts can't be manufactured here in the United States. Of course we all know that Phil makes the best hubs and bottom brackets, Paul is making some damn good brakes, and I understand he's building some fine hubs and cranks too. And The quality turned out by companies like White Industries can't be beat. And let's not forget Chris King and his fine products. And of course we all know of the outstanding steel frame builders some of which make these fine VO frames.

It seems like we could have a US manufacturer of handlebars and stems of equal caliber to Nitto and certainly we could see some rim manufacturers getting started here in the states or maybe even Canada given their French connection. So wouldn't it be cool to have a really nice bicycle constructed of entirely North American made parts. I'm not saying this simply to wave the flag. I think with the crashing of our currency on the international exchanges and the need to beef up our domestic manufacturing capabilities it would truly be something worth thinking about.

Good look on your new venture. I'm sure you will bring out some good products as you have always done.

Anonymous said...

Even though it may not be practical, I too would like to see these products made to a high standard here in the US.
FWIW and my .02, I have switched all of my bikes to SPD pedals a while ago to get the advantages of being "clipped-in" but still being able to walk around, or god-forbid, being able to walk any distance after an unforseen breakdown of some kind. I have a pair of Sidi Dominators that are umpteen years old that I love, but they are still a bit too "clicky-clacky". Mountain bike shoes with block treads seem to bulky and heavy, so something in the middle, that one could wear around but still have the lightness that one craves would be ideal. Don't know if I explained that correctly but efficency-meets-practicality is what I'd be after.
I don't use them but the Shimano 324 pedal seems to come close to this idea.
Agian, my .02

Anonymous said...

Sincerely, best of luck with your new venture.

How can you improve on the MKS road pedal for 25 bucks? I'm riding the ones that came on my 1982 Miyata 1000.

Shoes!Shoes! That's what we so desperately need. I have two pair of Sidi touring shoes and I think they are perfect for traditional pedals. Unfortunately Sidi discontinued making them.

I appreciate what you're doing at VO.


Anonymous said...

how do you improve on the MKS pedal? well, funny you ask, because I have several MKS pedals, and have used them for decades. A few years ago in France, I happened to buy a pair of Taiwanese pedals, made by VP. They are obviously their high end pedals, with thick, replaceable, attractively anodized cages, sealed cartridges, etc. Much as Chris describes. I have used them since on my main commute/mtn bike. I have tried to replace them with MKS pedals simply because I am biased toward what I like and know, but I finally have to admit that the Taiwanese pedals are better. The balls in MKS pedals so often have that click which is sometimes impossible to get rid or. The VP bearings are as smooth now as they were years of daily riding ago. Based on my experience, I think Chris is absolutely right to go with a pedal he can design that offers better value for what the buck can buy.

michael white

Anonymous said...

Honestly, even though my MKS road pedals are many points above VP in style, functionality-wise, the US$10 (Singapore - $15) VP pedals that I use have replaceable cages, smooth and silents bearings, double-sided cages, and have lasted me five years and counting. And they're in silver.

If Chris were to make a large enough order for a TA look-feel-and-function-alike from VP, I believe it would cost no more than $50.00. Better still if you could incorporate the quick-release spindles.

I'll certainly buy a couple pairs when that happens.


gunner berg said...

I recently retired from a company that owns a Chinese sister company. A couple of my co-workers were recently on a three week trip to China investigating other potential manufacturers. Their reports of worker treatment and pollution issues were simply frightening. I will not buy any product you have made in China.

Joel said...

I think a wholesale co. would be great. Perhaps it is by design, but most local bike stores get pretty much the same race or poorly conceived commuter bike stuff. If not for VO and a few other on line sites, I would probably be hitch hiking.

I would prefer Taiwan or even India over China. Too much questionable stuff going on in China. India has its problems. But at least the Indians can vote on them.

Finally, I have been buying Macs for 20 years. The US made were bullet proof. When they went to Taiwan, I did not notice much difference. My Chinese made Intel IMac is giving me hardware headaches like crazy. I am seriously considering a Dell

ANDY said...

Congrats and thanks for sharing!

I encourage you to try and have more product made in the USA. I would pay a premium for it. I would also be disappointed to see more and more Chinese made anything.

Shoes! A better (prettier) quill stem! A $450 city bike!

The "VO Imports" name just doesn't have any character. I don't know if you're bringing in sweatshop t-shirts or selling tiger-stripe rugs out of your van.

BG said...

"..at this point I'd still be hesitant to buy something for my bike that's from china."

I agree. Taiwan is for stuff that matters. China is for bike bits that won't put you in the hospital.

Chris Kulczycki said...

Guys, VO Imports is just the working name, until we think of something better.

We do have racks, bags, leather stuff, bell mounts, chaincases, etc, made in the USA, but some things are simply so much less expensive when made in Asia that it is financial suicide to try to duplicate them here.

I was only speculating about India and China, but I must disagree with several of you on Chinese products. First off, it is due to trade that changes will probably take place in China. As a middle class grows, so will demands for better workplace and environmental conditions. If everyone stopped buying goods from China I think we would be fostering a more repressive society.

It is, however, the responsibility of those companies who import goods to see that they come from factories with the best practices. This is a lesson that was discussed by Yvon Chuinard (Patagonia's founder) in that talk that I linked too a few weeks ago.

Anonymous said...

Even if the factories espouse humanitarian workplace ethics, how much time and resources can you afford to ensure that the Chinese are delivering what you specified?

Unless you have a manager you can absolutely trust with your life, you might have to keep popping into the factory to make sure the packaged product is what you really ordered.

I think, that is a real concern for me, if I were to order something from a Chinese factory.

In Singapore, if I don't check in to see what's happening, little things do go wrong with custom work.


Lesli L said...

hey "anonyme" and other interested parties: i've been researching custom shoes by this venture in colorado. though not pictured, they make a "touring" version of their mountain shoe with a less of an uberchunky sole. maybe it's the eighties era teen in me but i do love that checkerboard design (if only as an accent detail):


Maybe VO could partner with D2 for a more refined design for randonneuring/touring use.

I just made the switch over to sidi shoes and spd pedals on Thursday. With all that metal and clickety clack noise I dont feel like I'm betraying my retro leanings too much. Sara and the black randonneuse are making the switch too.

gunner berg said...

Are you speculating about buying from China to support the growth of their middle class or because the products are cheaper? Is buying from China encouraging the changes or supporting a system that oppresses the workers? Have we completely sold off the American workforce? Man, this could take a lot of beer and time to resolve.

this one guy said...

somewhat off topic...I looked at the d2 shoes & the base price is, um...$595...wtf?!? these shoes better do a lot more than cover my feet.

Lesli L said...

Yeah, there is definitely a wtf! factor to the price of those shoes--but they ARE custom made/fit. A recent set of orthotic inserts for my street shoes set me back 300 bucks. For two hundred more you could have a companion pair of cycling shoes.

Tim Mac said...

Shoes.... man, what is up with cycling shoes? Is there some reason the cycling shoe industry thinks that we want to wear dementing bowling shoes?

This is probably not really appropriate for the discussion of a wholesale business- or maybe it is, maybe it'd be necessary to have a broad retail channel to make it feasible- but good cycling shoes that are toe-clip friendly and don't stick out like a sore thumb if you wear them with slacks at the office would be great.

In terms of the pedals, TA lookalikes would be great but without the overly tall cages that lift your foot so high above the pedal spindle. Such height is needed only to provide clearance for cleats, but with regular shoes it makes for poorer ergonomics.

To me, the min quetion about starting a wholesale business is whether there are enough currently unavailable rando/cyclotourist/commuter/etc products to actually make starting such a business feasible? I have no idea. Or would you have to also sell a broad range of brake cables, cassettes, etc.?

Anonymous said...

Bata used to sell a canvas cycling shoe with a stiffened rubber sole. I got a pair at Nashbar in 1987 for about $18.00. They worked fine for 60-75 mile days.
They didn't need to be customized or require orthotics.

Does anyone know where to get a Dr.Scholl's style insert that would stiffen a pair of low profile sneakers (e.g. ADIDAS Sambas or Stan Smiths, Converse Chuck Taylors)?

gunner berg said...

Van's, made for skateboarding, are relatively stiff.

russell said...

Chris -

I encourage you to pursue this.

VO offers a pretty much unique collection of well made, attractive, and functional stuff, for much less $$$ than other, similar vendors. Your stuff also has an artisanal quality that the Nashbars and QBPs of the world do not. IMO there is a market for that.

Personally, I would pay a premium for US made vs Chinese or Taiwan, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

On the topic of shoes, all of my bicycle riding is functional -- commuting, going to the store, etc -- and I wear sneakers or leather clogs when I ride. Just a data point.

What I'd really like is a nice-looking, useful mirror that mounts on upright handlebars, but not in the bar end. I want my mirror on the bike, not on my head.

Good luck!!

Anonymous said...

Question is, who could make this stuff in the US? There just aren't many component makers, unless you count things like the Shinburger pedal :)
http://www.marresi.com Are an Italian company that make some really nice leather shoes. Import time?


C.F.G Wheels said...

Good luck with VO imports, I think it will do well. The company will fill a large gap in the bike industry. I am in the bike industry, and I can personally vouch for the lackluster quality of Chinese made products (broken carbon fiber components stuffed with chinese newspaper) just one example, list goes on. Products from Taiwan are of a much better quality i.e. quality control is better, treatment of employees, and theft. There are presently a lot of French type bikes made in India that are of decent quality (better quality than China) that would make a better cost feasible solution than China. I am not a flag waver, just giving you a bike industry perspective and many reasons not to manufacture products in China. I'm looking forward to your new business venture. As of current statistics 90% of the wealth in China is held by 1% of the population. Where is the middle class?

Anonymous said...

I agree that it would be very nice if you could have more US-made products. We certainly don't need more Chinese products!

Anonymous said...

I love yah Chris but man, Yvon Chouinard is not a perfect role model (check out Ibex clothes for a more responsible, local, manufacture). For the past 20+ years Chouinard companies have imported almost all their products, never looking at helping our neighbors down south (Southern US and South America). Stop and think of all the pollution your flights back and forth to China will create, the pollution of shipping all your products half way around the world.

Time to think local!

Anonymous said...

I've got to agree. Don't source from China or India. I'm interested in old world craftsmanship by artisans. I'll spend more to support products from companies who's ethos I agree with. I ran in to this problem just recently with Rapha. I was sold on their PR and was ready to buy a few items from them. Then I found out that while some of their items are made in Europe, several items are made in the far east. They are a British company so I expect them to engage other British companies. Since I can't tell which of their products comes from where, I'm not buying any. It's a shame too, they have very nicely styled products and they stood to make quite a few pounds from me.

Phillip Franklin said...

Those D2 shoes are so ugly ... just like most of the racing costumes I see on way too many wannabe Lance Armstrongs plying the roads of the north San Diego coast. I understand that some geeky looking Lycra outfit along with very expensive plastic shoes may shave seconds off your Tour of France time ... but most people really ride for relaxation, exercise or commuting ... right??? And another thing there are too many bodies out there that should not be sporting Lycra spandex .... sorry off topic ... but hey I did not recommend the need for $600 shoes. Now that's really off topic. Right??? Why do people think you need to wear those Lycra spandex costumes to enjoy riding your bike? Other than Grant Peterson and a few others I seldom hear people talk about this horrible fashion statement. Sorry if I offended anyone.

Leighton said...

In an ideal world, Huret and Simplex and all the other classic European firms would still be with us and producing top-notch components (we can forget about the whole plastic-derailleur thing). That's no longer the case, however, so hats off to Velo Orange for working hard to find -- or create! -- high-quality, stylish components and make them available to all of us.

That said, I do everything I can to not buy goods made in mainland China. As discussed, it's essential for consumers to choose responsibly when purchasing goods or, for an importer, when deciding where to source them. Velo Orange has always stressed high quality over low price, and I would hope that for VO Imports, social responsibility would be central to what makes something "high quality." It's not just the goods themselves, but who made them, under what conditions, and at what environmental cost. For me, Chinese-made goods don't pass the test, and I'll happily pay double for something not made in China; any savings just aren't worth it.

Anonymous said...

glad to hear you are growing--obviously there is currently a desire for classic-style cycle gear. I would like to weigh in too on the importing question. I worry that in the drive to make old world-style parts, and make them cheaply, you will end up as the Restoration Hardware of bikes. Inherent in the beauty of that old bicycle stuff is the fact that it was produced on a small scale, using appropriate technology, and was produced for people who had less disposable income and thus HAD to buy better quality. While I understand that with the exception of perhaps Wald, there is little medium-range bicycle manufacturing occuring in North America, merely bringing a bunch of frenchie-style stuff over on a boat, stuff made by people who do not have the opportunity to use their own products, to a population of mostly middle aged, middle income North Americans, doesn't seem right. Returning to the furniture analogy, there is nothing classy about a factory-produced 'Morris' chair.
And I don't know if a Chinese-made Rando-style bike would be any different.
M Burdge

Jon said...

I agree with so many points of view here that it seems almost impossible to say anything of worth. But I'll try.

Being new to this whole cyclo-touring thing, but embracing it wholeheartedly, I may not have the most perspective on it as a whole. But I agree that something must be done to improve the quality of products that are available, while maintaining a feasible price point for those who cannot afford an expensive product. MKS pedals are an excellent example; I got two years of heavy use out of my GR-9s before they cracked at the pedal/clip interface. But they only cost me $25. I dearly love the look of the T.A. pedals, but $100-plus for a pedal that I'm going to beat the crap out of seems silly. Because when I do break it (and I will), I wouldn't want to shell out that same amount again.

Already for me, Velo-Orange has established a solid middle ground for products of this nature. Done right, cycle camping can be horribly expensive for most; a good rack is necessary, as well as bags, saddles, fenders, etc. I think that Chris made an excellent decision in manufacturing and selling the VO fenders. I can't afford $80 fenders. But I can afford to spend $30 on fenders, and another hour polishing them if I was so inclined. His fenders are right between steel Honjos and plastic SKS fenders (but closer to the SKS in price).

The only danger I see in the establishment of a VO import company is an unwanted distance between cyclists and the company opening up. Not intentionally, of course, but as a by-product of the increase in the company's business. Velo-Orange has been able to make fantastic products of it's own design, but the biggest obstacle is still the time it takes to get such products made. VO is simply too small to have the kind of clout that a larger cycle company might have (No disrespect meant here Chris!). With an increase in size/product orders/customer base, that product development time may be shortened to bring improvements and innovative products to the US market (which is currently obsessed with racing for some reason).

I think that "VO Imports" is a fine idea, but that it must be allowed to mature slowly. There is no sense in taking leaps and bounds forward, only to discover that you've leaped along the wrong path, and have to retrace your steps, sometimes back to the beginning. Good businesses does not just expand to do more business. They satisfy the needs of their customers while maintaining the ideals that first brought them there. Velo-Orange has done a wonderful job of that.

Anonymous said...

"If the superb Thinkpad notebook I'm writing this on can be made in China, they should be able to produce a pretty good bike stem."

I work for a tech company that up to now has exclusively bought IBM ThinkPads because of their reliability. The last batch came after after the Lenovo takeover, however, and according to the head of the IT department, "They've been nothing but trouble. The quality control's gone down the tubes." He said they were the last ThinkPads he'd buy.

No, a bike stem isn't a computer, but the conclusion to be drawn is pretty clear.

Phillip Franklin said...

Just some last thoughts on the ideas of bicycle distribution. I noticed that Phil Wood has been in business for a very long time. His distribution is well established. It seems just about any quality shop or wheel builder can get Phil hubs and BB's. And IMO that is a good thing. I'm sure there are many small guys out there such as LeVel components and the like could use a good international distribution channel.

In the end it's not to support cheap crappy made copies of established products, but to bring about the opportunity of new innovative and high quality manufacturers to the end customer. Most well established shops seem to buy everything from one or two major distributors such as QBP and the like. So when they are asked about some product they can't get via their normal distribution channel the usually try to avoid getting those items.

I don't think we need to see any more poorly made Asian components. It seems the industry is overflowing with crappy snf poorly made yet overpriced bicycles with obviously high dealer margins. I would like to see the industry move away from that. I like supporting domestic manufacturers who turn out high quality. And I'm hoping to see more of those guy pop up up and get good distribution and support by people who love their bicycles as much as I obviously do.

d said...

How would this be different from the existing Velo Orange parts that are VO branded and made just for you? Or would those products become your core VO Imports offfering, and then expand on it.

I for one think this is a great idea. In fact, looking at Rivendell, VO, Kogswell, etc so much the last few months, made me want to start my own sort of mail-order company offering really practical parts with classic aesthetic for regular people. The only thing is I have no money or any business experience. I even have a good name, but again, no idea how to get started.

don't mean to invite myself along but... can I come work for you? I want in on this.



Anonymous said...

I just have to say that the folks who keep insisting on old world values and domestic products make me nervous. Cultural bias is cultural bias, and it smells fishy. The Nazis were sentimental too, ya know.

Saying that this country has a tendency to do things one doesn't approve of, and therefore you're on a personal boycott against any product from that country . . . doesn't seem very enlightened to me. It reminds me of the Harley riders who would throw rice at a Honda rider in order to prove their point. Just dumb. Taiwan, Korea et al are the new Japan, and many other countries are just around the corner. I think if you like a product, and believe in a design, and are satisfied with the transaction as far as you can see, you should support that product--and that's especially the case with a personal operation designed with great care like VO. Basically I think Chris is a guy with a dream, and he's looking for a way to realize it. He's obviously not looking to make a quick buck in the highly lucrative market for Asian French-style bicycle components. (lol) But I admire him more and more as he goes along--his vision really does seem to have substance.

michael white

z-man said...

It's not cultural bias to hope that good products can be made here (and they can).
These products are somewhat retro-appealing in their looks, but they still have to have modern functionality. Anybody who taps into this sentiment will be sucessful. Just look at how Japanese m/c manufacturers build replica bikes of their favorites from years gone by but still have things like ABS, reliable eltrical components, etc. Or one could look at the success of the PT Cruiser, etc.
The problem with sending all of this money overseas is that the profit is not reinvested here. i too would pay more for American-made products, all else being equal, not because I'm waving the stars and stripes, but I'd like to see more people here working.
It seems we are losing our sovereignty to the Wal-Mart effect of the lowest price, period. What happens when we make nothing here? Eventually we will grow nothing here, and then all hard goods and food will come from overseas? I'll be dead before that happens completely, but I still don't want to see it happen.
This has nothing to do with the Nazi's, BTW. They killed a bunch of innocent people and also were mostly responsible for winning the space race. Some good and some bad, neither having anything to do with the other.
A lil off topic there, sorry 'bout that.
It's a great idea Chris, go for it.

Anonymous said...

Holland ruled the world in the 17th C. strictly as a a mercantile economy. They never had any resources at all to squander and produced very little hard goods of their own besides salted herring and cheese. That absolutely did not and does not matter, and never did.

The point being: you don't get ahead by waxing nostalgic about the fictitious good old days like the Nazis. Look, you don't like developing economies, don't support them. Personally, I'd much rather see my dollar go to someone in Taiwan than big industries in the US (like oil, timber, or war). How's that for OT? This is meant as half-sarcasm, like my earlier post. But only half.


Anonymous said...

10 years ago there were plenty of people complaining how poor quality the current Made in Taiwan bikes were, and that the Made in Japan bikes were much better built in 1987. And in the mid-late 80's I was around all sorts of crumudgeonly types who were reminiscing how much better the French bikes were back in the day.

Have you ever worked on a mid 70's peugeot?

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the OT rant below but I can't let uninformed mud be slung. Chris, your idea sounds great.

"(check out Ibex clothes for a more responsible, local, manufacture)."

Ibex wool is shipped from New Zealand and Europe to be manufactured in the US. Local??? This is done for quality reasons, the same reasons that Patagonia sources and manufactures where they do.

"For the past 20+ years Chouinard companies have imported almost all their products, never looking at helping our neighbors down south (Southern US and South America)."

Ever heard of the Patagonian Land Trust? Do your homework. You won't find another company more transparent in their practices.

"Time to think local!"

Time to think holistically. What is "local" if you do business all over the world? Does it not make sense to manufacture close to material sources? You grossly oversimplify the situation. Patagonia is currently tracking the carbon "footprint" of many of their more popular products. It is shattering many preconceived notions of what does the least harm.

Anonymous said...

The parts that we hold up as the aesthetic ideal were all produced by small 'cottage industry" type companies....Simplex...mafac...Huret....and even Nitto. Their ideal was not unlike the arts and crafts movement here in the US and the UK...honest products made in small quantities with intensive handwork. For me...and I am sure many others...that was part of the appeal of speccing those parts as opposed to Shimano, etc...The small companies imbued their parts with alot of soul. That soul is completely missing from anything made in China.

Cøyøte said...

Hello Chris,

I was hoping to entice you into carrying Velosteel coaster brake hubs. They are made in Czechoslovakia under a license from Sachs. Kogswell was carrying them for a while, but Matthew is not very responsive. Interested? I know coaster brakes are not that sexy, but they are the original weather independent brake. Once you get used to not being able to backpedal, they make a huge amount of sense in the city.

BTW I made a tortured ply kayak inspired by your "Sea Kayaker article in the late 80's. I could not afford epoxy at the time because of college, so I used Liquid Nails, luan ply, and nylon string for the stitching (which I inlaid and left in). Most of the deck was a canvas drop cloth with a coat of latex paint, and I had a few scraps of ply to use as shear panels on the deck. It only lasted a few summers, but damn that thing was fast.