03 March, 2008

Logos, Packaging, and More on Headsets

In the long discussion about headsets in the comments to the previous post a couple of interesting points came up. One was that folks don't want big logos, or advertising, all over their bikes. I very much agree. Unless I'm being paid by a company to advertise their products on my bike (not likely in my case) I don't want their big logos on it.

I'm sure that many of you have noticed that most VO brand products have no logo at all.

Someone mentioned the Chris King headset and their huge and, IMO, obnoxious logos. They now refuse to sell their headsets without their logos and so we won't stock them. Fortunately there are threaded sealed bearing headsets made in Taiwan that are as nice as the KC. Remember the fantastic old Richey sealed bearing headsets? It's just that no one imports them. I'll see what I can do about that at the upcoming Taipei show.

As long as I'm on an anti-commercialism kick I'll mention my little effort to eliminate excess packaging. Whenever possible we are now ordering components without the boxes they normally come in. Some manufacturers offer OEM packaging, usually just a plastic bag. It's intended for "original equipment manufacturers," companies that install the components on their bikes rather than sell them. And this is what we now specify when possible, but we do tell the manufacturers that they are for retail sale in case there are any instructions or extra hardware that needs to be added.

Please note that this post was written with recycled letters and punctuation.


Allie said...

That's awesome! There's no need for the excess packaging and it's great that you're cutting down where ever possible.

C said...

You could further save some trees by not including instructions. Instead simply post them as PDFs on the site.

Anonymous said...

King's logos are my second issue with that product, the firt being the price. My $18 Tange headset looks better, works as well and will likely last as long as a King.

Anonymous said...

Good! Packaging makes up so much of our trash. If we want to reduce our landfills, then recycling is not enough. Industry needs to reduce packaging. But that's not likely because they seem to think they sell more if they have "unique" and "distinct" packaging.

howtostretch said...

As far as those "fantastic" Ritchey sealed bearing headset:

I bought a new one (the top of the line, WCS Pro or something like that) a few years ago, the OD on the top and bottom cup was a couple of tens of thousandths too big. Measured it over and over, did not fit into a steel frame with normal dimensions (that had other headsets on with no problem).

Couldn't use it, won't buy one again.


Anonymous said...

Logos that represent monopolies are the worse...especially when they're forced on us!

C said...

"But that's not likely because they seem to think they sell more if they have "unique" and "distinct" packaging."

There's no "seem to think" about it. Time and time again, packaging can be tied to sales. Doesn't matter if it's CD cover art, a box of pasta, a bottle of beer, or a bike part. Packaging done right will increase sales. May not do much for you or I but you better believe major CPG companies spend a LOT of money tracking this sort of stuff.

I prefer the OEM plastic bag since I'm putting the parts on my bike rather than putting the parts on a shelf.

Unknown said...

Way to go Chris. When I got my OEM (from Security) SRAM Red kit for one of my NAHBS bikes, I simply couldn't not believe the amount of packaging that came with it. It's one of the most disgusting over-use of materials I've ever seen.

Anonymous said...

Love that jersey, Alec!

I like the OEM packaging too. I've bought quite a bit of stuff in OE bags from mail order houses, and I'm always happy not to waste the box. Sometimes it's just a hub or whatever in a bag, with nothing else, which is even better.

One day years ago, I got sick of all the silly logos on my mountain bike, and attacked it with razor blades, hair dryer, and lacquer thinner. It no longer shouted TIOGA STEM! or TRU TEMPER HANDLEBAR! or MAGIC GEOMETRY! or any other such baloney. It was a huge improvement.

Anonymous said...

Agreed with Vertigo about the SRAM Red packaging, it's complicated enough to need an owner's manual. IIRC it also comes with little fabric pouches for everything, though the parts are not actually shipped in the pouches, and my memory was that at least one part didn't actually fit in its pouch.

The pinnacle of bicycle component packaging is Tange headsets. Hand wrapped in one light sheet of paper to keep everything together, and then placed in a small, unornate box that's no larger than it needs to be and has the contents clearly labeled. Open, unwrap, install, make paper crane out of wrapping paper, place old headset in box, place box on shelf with other excess parts. Easy, simple, low impact, no plastic.

Anonymous said...

I am no fan of the giant King Logo, but:

Their products are aggressively copied by companies that do not match the quality

Kings (at least mine) are shipped in simple plastic bags and a recycled box.

King recycles the headsets and hubs it does not use into salt and pepper shakers

If you get your King headset and hub in proper silver, the logo is no more obvious than Pelissier on the hubs I bought from VO

And, King products are made by a small group of well trained living wage paid machinists in a facility that takes pains to cut down its carbon foot print. How is that more consumerist than bikes and parts made by low wage labor in a large company located in one of the most polluted countries (Taiwan) on Earth and then shipped over to the US?

Joshua said...

I'd have to agree 100% with Joel's point. Chris King is probably the most environmentally conscious and sound bike company in the business. Their environmental commitment is detailed here, and in addition to those points and the points made above, consider the carbon footprint of a headset traveling from Portland, Oregon against one traveling from Taiwan.

I think it's unfortunate that you'd let your dislike of their branding outweigh your commitment to the environment.

Anonymous said...

I'm not convinced that company logos are all bad. If that were the case, then we might as well file off the Campagnolo logos on cranks and derailleurs, rip the T.A. stickers off their cranks, and do the same to Mafac and Simplex components. In doing so, I think the character of those classic pieces would be lost. God forbid we judge the value of a component simply on the size of it's logo!!

Anonymous said...

"consider the carbon footprint of a headset traveling from Portland, Oregon against one traveling from Taiwan."

Oh foo, I'm as green as the next bike nerd, but talking about the carbon footprint created by shipping of light, durable goods like bike parts is just ridiculous. One bottle of wine crossing the country (much less coming from another continent) or a 12 pack of beer coming even 100 miles from your semi-local brewery creates a bigger carbon footprint by an order of magnitude than whatever difference it makes to bring a 100 gram headset from Taiwan to the US. Worry about this stuff with consumables, but for bike parts? Forget it. You're better off just turning off your computer.

Anonymous said...

On Chris Cane branded parts I don't like gaudi decals either, (and I'm a graphic designer). I've found a little lacquer thinner or steel wool unpainted alimunum will take care of any unwanted promotional brand advertising on bike parts


Anonymous said...

No dice on de-logoing CK headsets, they're etched, not stickered or screened.

Anonymous said...

I have Chris King headsets on two of my bikes and they seem like a really quality parts. I really don't understand all of the fuss over their logos being screened on. It seems other brands such as Cane Creek are screened the same way.

But like the other poster said I am very impressed by the Chris King operation in that they are a top quality U.S. bicycle parts manufacturer. In fact I want to tip my helmet to some of the other top U.S. bicycle parts manufacturers such as Paul, White Industries, Phil Wood, and Thompson.

They all put their logos on their fine products and I have no problems with that. They all seem to have excellent support policies (as if you would ever need support).

I have always loved the classic 1970's Campy and TA products but it's getting hard to find NOS classic or vintage parts. So it's great to see these few American manufacturers turning out the best in a world that seemingly has forgotten quality for the most part. I think their logo is truly a mark of excellence. GM used to say that about their logo but sadly that just isn't the case for GM. However as for Chris King, Paul, White Industries, Thompson, and Phil Wood that is most certainly the case. And I can't think of any other bicycle parts manufacturer today anywhere in the world who can be viewed in that high regard for all of their parts. Even Campy has lost much of the luster it once held.


James said...

It's not the logos but the over use of logos. I have a cane creek headset and the whole damn thing is covered with Cs. It's like am a rolling advertisement for a type of over-rated micro brandy.

Why? Racing? Your logo needs to be visible to onlookers or magazine readers right who might see a bike from any angle. I don't know anything about bicycle racing and won't be interested until people start racing cargo bikes wearing suites in the rain, but that would be my guess. Most cars have visible head badges but they are not covered in logos like race cars. The parts that don't offend the logo offended like traditonal Sugino cranks and tange Levins belong to a dying breed that forces you to read the design instead of relying on a Logo.

Ian Dickson said...

I'm in the "logos are ugly" camp, with rare exceptions like the nameplates on the backs of Brooks saddles. But I wouldn't miss those if they were gone, either. So how about high quality frames without logos? the maker could just stamp the brand name on the bottom bracket shell, by the serial number. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Joel on this point. You seem to be saying two things in this post: while you dislike logos, from an environmental standpoint you dislike packaging more. And I would argue that CK can be criticised for the first point (althoughh Joel points out, the silver parts are no less obtrusive than any other branded part--like Simplex or NR derailleurs), the quality of artisanship and commitment to low-footprint manufacturing make a strong case for them to be included as paragons for inclusion in the second point. I don't own any CK parts--I am cheap, and have been able to find used hs and hubs for most of my use. The Stronglight headset I bought from VO was purchased for less because the plastic box it came in was damaged. And it has the most visible logo on my whole bike. I will step out and say that if the Chris King was a defunct 60s french company, there would be no question that they were the best parts ever made, and there would be calls for 'someone' to find the tooling and resume production.
A favourite Orwell quote is 'something a thing is true even if the [daily] Telegraph says it is.' Sometimes a modern part is superior to an old french bit.
M Burdge

Anonymous said...

that should be 'sometimes a thing is true...'

Anonymous said...

I'm in the "nice logos or no logos camp." I certainly don't think there's anything wrong with a nice logo -- indeed, I prefer it to no logo. It adds, quite literally, the stamp of individuality to a product, and I think any company producing something truly useful and beautiful ought to proudly put their logo on it. Stronglight cranks; engraved Mafacs; Phil Wood hubs; Alex Singer and VO frames -- I say yes to all, because they complement the product, and enhance it. But gratituous logos on a humdrum product, well, no thanks. I find Chris King logos very ugly, so I wouldn't buy one (I'm not calling them humdrum!) -- but I was a bit sad to remove the classy Stronglight logo from my Delta headset when I polished it.

Anonymous said...

While not a big fan of over-sized logos & decals, I do prefer that companies "sign" their work. I have found that most riders who want no logos on thier ride are, deep inside, embarrassed by the tons of money they spend on this simple means of transport.

Anonymous said...

... and, while there is nothing inherently ugly about the Shimano logo, it tends to be it that gets rubbed off most often. I presume this is because Shimano is "common," so you can add your own note of individuality to it by removing the logo, whereas by leaving a Campy, TA, or other "unusual" logo on, you're achieving the same. That bicycles are (to enthusiasts) a form of self-expression can't be overstated. So much of this is psychology.

lynnef said...

How is Chris King's logo any different from that of Sugino, Weinmann, etc?

Minimal packaging... I like that. A friend gave me an Ultegra headset a couple of years ago, and it was in a wonderfully tiny little box.

Death to styrofoam popcorn and the plastic clamshell packaging.

Anonymous said...

Definitely hate excess packaging, and for related reasons tend to prefer used parts to new -- they already exist and generally can be rebuilt, so why buy new ones? But the logo thing always makes me think of Dr. Suess's story, "The Sneetches."


keithwwalker said...

Someday, someone will calculate the carbon footprint humans commenting on blogs, then WE are in trouble!

Packaging can always be recycled. My Bell helmet box holds bike parts, for instance.

Sometimes a logo and/or packaging is indicative of the quality of the product, not just deception; how about these examples:
Elegant and simple.

Ultimately, it boils down to aesthetic. For many it isn't just how a bike is built, but how it is painted, how it looks, and even extending to the font of the manufacturer on the downtube.

Just think how Velo Orange bikes would sell if they had MTB like sloping head tubes, yet identical frame geometry...?

Anonymous said...

Logos and trademarks PROTECT CONSUMERS. They are GOOD.

Chris, I truly admire your non-billboard approach, but I think you need to give yourself a little more credit here. Years from now -- who knows, maybe months after purchase -- there may be no one who can tell where your parts came from. And then -- what?

"What" is they won't buy from you, which will mean less VO wonderfulness around. As for me, small logos are great, no logos bad.

-- Will Rodger

Anonymous said...

lyneff said: "How is Chris King's logo any different from that of Sugino, Weinmann, etc?"

Pretty simple: King's logo is way too big (covering the entire product in the case of his headsets), so it looks outrageously ugly. Sugino, Weinmann, etc. don't do that.

Anonyme, please explain to us just how logos "PROTECT CONSUMERS". I've always thought they were there for the benefit of the manufacturer, not as a favor to the public.

lynnef said...

Aesthetics of a logo is always in the eye of the beholder. I think the new Sugino logo is plug-ugly, yet I still bought the crank. :-)

Simplex, now there is an elegant logo...

Logos and trademarks protect the user, in that the user has certain expectations about quality and performance attached to that logo. Knock-offs and counterfeiters try to capitalize on that, which is there are "Foakleys" and "Folexes" offered for sale in some parts of NYC. But the knock-off is often inferior in manufacture and durability. Plus it may be manufactured under conditions that you would be horrified to hear about. In the case of, say Chris King, there are those that like the quality and the country of origin. The properly protected logo/trademark ensures that the purchaser is getting just that.

I think what is being expressed here is not logos bad (except maybe by Chris), but logos that do not appeal to ME (for any number of reasons) bad.

And Chris - you may want to consider a small, tasteful logo. How are people going to find your really cool stuff that they see on other folk's bikes, unless they get a chance to ask them about it, if you've not got a logo? Like, say, when your front bags are available?

Anonymous said...

Speaking strictly as a parent:

What a lovely child.

Anonymous said...

What is the font used in the name "velo orange" on your frames, webpage, etc?

Philip Williamson said...

I'm with Chris on the packaging and logo issues.
Less packaging
, fewer logos.

I used to cut the logos off everything I owned, and most of my bikes we either de-badged or ironically re-badged (big yellow Peugeot mtb with handmade Caterpillar graphics - before CAT actually put their name on bikes and boots).
I no longer remove logos with extreme prejudice, pre-installation, but when I get around to it, a little paint thinner goes a long way.

BUT: This bike is based on the idea that too much of something makes a mockery of it.
Also, deliberate ugliness is kind of beautiful. Well, fun, at least.
I've been thinking it's my "poor man's Pegoretti."