Who actually made my bike?
Revised March 18, 2008
Kerry Roberts is the past president and chairperson of the National Bicycle Dealers Association and provides consulting
services to the bicycle industry. He is also the owner of The Bicycle Company, which includes Bike Pedlar retail stores
in Nashville, Brentwood, and Hermitage, Tennessee.
The information contained in this report comes primarily from Bicycle Retailer and Industry News' Factory and Suppliers
Guide, published annually in October. Bicycle Retailer and Industry News is the definitive trade publication in the bicycle
industry. Other sources of information include trade show and factory visits, technical writers in the cycling media,
and bicycle company employees who wish to remain anonymous.
Some bike companies have a few secrets. And one of those secrets is where your bike is made or who actually made it.
The bike companies like it that way because many of them rely upon the same factories to build their bikes!
The big picture is pretty clear: around 95% of the bikes sold in the U.S. are made in China or Taiwan by a handful of
manufacturers of which Giant is the largest.
Generally speaking, low to mid level bikes are made in China and mid to high level bikes are made in Taiwan. The
exception is carbon; many manufacturers use Chinese manufacturers to make their carbon frames - even their high-end
When it comes to knowing where your bike is made, shouldn't it be as easy as looking at the sticker on your bike or
what is printed on the box in which your bike came? After all, how confusing can a label that says "Made in the USA"
or "Made in France" or "Made in Italy" be?
Well - in a word - very. It is very confusing because your definition of "made in" is different from the bike industry's
A typical rule of thumb is that the country claiming origin has to add 60% or more of the value of the final product.
For example, you and I can import an unpainted carbon fiber racing frame from China to Spain which will ultimately retail
for $4,000 with Shimano components in the United States.
The frame and fork may only cost $200 from the Chinese manufacturer. In Spain, we will paint, decal, assemble, and box the
bike for shipping to the U.S.
Our cost to paint, decal, assemble, and box might be $300 and the cost of the components might be another $800.
So is this bike "Made in China" or "Made in Spain?" According to the bike industry's definition, the bike is made in Spain.
The sticker will say "Made in Spain" as will the shipping box to the United States because over 60% of the value will be
added in Spain.
Let's say we take the same frame and have the Chinese manufacturer paint it, decal it, assemble it into a bicycle, and ship
it to Spain. When we ship it to the United States, the label will have to say "Made in China."
Perhaps the best way to eliminate the confusion is for the bicycle industry to follow the lead of the automobile industry
and tell the end consumer the countries of origin of all aspects of the bicycle.
After all, if you are led to believe by a bunch of marketing people that your bike was handmade in Spain when it was
actually mass-produced in a Chinese factory, would you buy that bike? Maybe - but you wouldn't pay a premium for it.
With these things in mind, here is an alphabetical brand by brand run down of some key bike brands sold in the U.S. along
with a few bits of trivia.
Bianchi As I was writing this, it occurred to me that Bianchi and Schwinn have remarkably similar histories. Both were turn-of-the-century family-owned companies, manufactured their own bicycles, were popular brands in their respective countries, fell upon hard times, were eventually sold, moved substantially all of their production to Asia, and have seen a resurgence in the past few years under new owners!
In 1996, Bianchi was sold to a Swedish conglomerate (now known as Cycleurope1) whereas Schwinn went through several owners before winding up with Pacific in 2001.
Under Cycleurope, which owns 11 bicycle brands, much of the bicycle production shifted from Italy to Asia, with the exception of some final bicycle assembly (i.e., Asian frames assembled into complete bicycles) and limited high-end production.
Let me take a minute and address Reparto Corse bicycles, because their "Made in Italy" sticker is a source of confusion.
The historic Treviglio factory - a monstrosity of a thing which used to house much of Bianchi's manufacturing before it shifted to Asia - has a section dedicated to Reparto Corse. It used to be that Reparto Corse (RC) meant the race department where high-end bikes were made. Now it is used as sort of a branding logo to identify the upper-end bikes that get the RC design and marketing treatment.
Many of the RC bikes have a "Made in Italy" sticker, which usually means assembled in Italy using a frame made in Asia. For example, the carbon RC frames are made by Advanced International Multitech (a Taiwanese carbon manufacturer of bike parts, baseball bats, golf shafts, arrows, fishing poles, etc.) and the aluminum frames are made by Taiwan Hodaka.
There are some frames still welded at Treviglio. My understanding is that the aluminum frames with carbon rears are either welded there or, at least, bonded there. I also understand that the frames with foam injection have the injection process completed there, even if the frames come from Asia.
Although Taiwan Hodaka manufacturers many of Bianchi's U.S. models, Fairly and Giant have manufactured for Bianchi in the past.
Cannondale Aluminum Cannondales are made in the U.S. Cannondale, which was owned by founder Joe Montgomery and his son Scott. Cannondale is now owned by its key investment fund after experiencing financial problems. Cannondale's market share appears to have diminished but stabilized.
According to Bicycle Retailer and Industry News in June 2007, low-end Cannondales are made in Taiwan - probably by Fritz-jou. Others are welded and painted in Taiwan then sent to the US for assembly. The Synapse is made by Top Key.
In February 2008, Dorel Industries announced the acquisition of Cannondale and Sugoi clothing in an all-cash transaction of $190 million to $200 million. Dorel purchased Pacific Cycle (Schwinn, Mongoose, and GT Bicycle brands) in 2004.
Cervelo- Cervelo is a Canadian company. Bikes are made in Asia and assembled in Canada.
Colnago In 1944, when Ernesto Colnago served as a 12-year old apprentice in the shop of Dante Fumagalli, did he have any idea he would become the most famous of all Italian frame builders?
Colnago is, perhaps, the most coveted of all professional-quality bicycle brands - just look at the pages of VeloNews or Pro Cycling and see how many professional riders race on Colnagos!
Frames are still hand-made in Italy, except for three entry level aluminum models made in Taiwan (probably by Giant) and the carbon CLX, which is also made in Taiwan.
De Rosa is an Italian company that is one of the Italian "big three" that includes Colnago and Pinarello. Ugo De Rosa, along with his sons, have been building bikes for over 50 years. As far as I know, all bikes are made in Italy.
Ducati - Bianchi has announced a licensing agreement with Ducati to produce a line of bikes with the Ducati name. It is my understanding that the frames will be sourced from Asia with the final assembly at Treviglio.
Felt was started by motocross guru Jim Felt. All production comes from Asia.
Fisher Gary Fisher is the "godfather" of mountain bikes. After struggling with his own bicycle company, he sold his brand to Trek Bicycle Company. Still involved in designing and marketing his brand, Gary is a popular figure at bicycle industry events. He's sort of a cult figure with an unmatched sense of fashion! Fisher bikes are made in Asia, except for the full-suspension rigs (which are made in Wisconsin).
Fuji is now owned by Ideal, who manufacturers most of their bikes. Ideal is one of the key Taiwanese manufacturers along with Giant and Merida. Ideal also manufactures for other brands. Topkey of China manufacturers Fuji's carbon frames.
Giant You may have ridden a bicycle made by Giant without knowing it! Giant is the world's largest bicycle manufacturer with factories in Taiwan, China, and Europe. Giant, a Taiwanese company started in 1972, manufacturers their own bikes - including the carbon bikes, which is unique in the industry (i.e., most other brands utilize other manufacturers such as Advanced or Martec).
In addition to making their own bikes, Giant also makes, or has made, bikes for many other prominent brands, including Trek, Specialized, Schwinn, and Bianchi. Giant's claim to fame is that they have the most sophisticated and efficient manufacturing facilities in the bicycle industry.
A bit of trivia is that Giant owns 30% of Hodaka, a key Taiwanese supplier for many brands such as Bianchi.
Giant also sponsors the T-Mobile professional cycling team.
Haro a California BMX company started in 1977 by Bob Haro. All production comes from Asia. Haro owns the Masi brand. Kenstone, with factories in Tawan and China, is a key supplier.
Jamis is the house brand of G. Joannou Cycle, a long-time distributor of bicycles and accessories. The bicycles are designed in the U.S. and sourced from Asia.
Kestrel, an early pioneer in carbon frames, introduced the first production non-lugged carbon frame in 1986. Originally, frames were manufactured in California. In recent years, production shifted to Asia. The frames appear to be made by Martec.
Kona a California company with all production from Asia. Kona, founded in 1988, is a very small company similar in size to Marin. Fairly and Hodaka in Taiwan are key suppliers.
Kuota frames are made in Taiwan by Martec, the same manufacturer that makes Kestrel frames. Kuota is a creation of Sintema, an Italian manufacturer of components. Basically, they designed the frames, had the frames manufactured in Taiwan, and marketed the brand heavily in the U.S., Western Europe, and Australia. Kuota has been a successful brand launch in a very short period of time.
LeMond Greg LeMond is the first American to win the Tour de France, winning in 1986, 1989, and 1990. LeMond also won three World Championships and the Tour DuPont. His career was cut short by lead poisoning from a hunting accident. LeMond's early bikes were made by Roberto Bilatto in Italy and distributed by a now-defunct company named Ten Speed Drive Imports. The Bilatto-made frames are somewhat collectible.
After an attempt to have an independent bike company, LeMond licensed his brand to Trek Bicycle Company.6 Trek now designs and markets his bikes, which are made in Asia except for the spine bikes featuring OCLV carbon (which are made in Wisconsin).
A bit of LeMond trivia is that he helped develop the first aerobar with Scott and used it in his amazing come-from-behind victory in the 1989 Tour de France.
Litespeed Starting in the 1980's, Litespeed was a pioneer in titanium frame building. As their reputation grew, a steady stream of cycling legends came to Litespeed for their titanium expertise. For many years, Litespeed built frames for famous brands such as DeRosa, Merckx, Basso, LeMond, Tommassini, and others.
Litespeed was, for a period of time, the largest manufacturer of high-end bicycles in the world. All bikes, including the Merlin brand that they own, are made in Tennessee except for the carbon Pavia (which has been discontinued). The Quintana Roo brand is also owned by Litespeed but is made in Asia.
Look is a French company with frames made in France and Asia. Look is also a leading pedal brand.
Marin a California company with production from Asia, except for a handful of high-end models. Marin is a very small company similar in size to Kona. Key Asian suppliers are A-Pro, Fairly, and Sunrise.
Masi - Faliero Masi was, in my opinion, the "grandfather" of all Italian frame builders, serving as inspiration to famous frame builders like Ernesto Colnago. Faliero sold his company to Americans in the early 70's. Since then, the brand has had several owners including Schwinn! At present, the Masi brand is owned by Haro (the California BMX company)9 and the bikes are made in Asia.
One of my favorite frames was a made-in-Italy Nuovo Strada that I bought from Cumberland Transit in the 80's. Unfortunately, it was stolen in the 90's!
Alberto Masi, Faliero's son, still hand-makes the traditional Masi frames in the shadow of the Vigorelli Velodrome in Milan.
Unfortunately, these frames - due the licensing of the Masi name to Haro - are not sold in the U.S. under the Masi name. Instead, these frames are sold in the U.S. under the "Milano" name.
Merlin see Litespeed.
Olmo is a prominent brand in Italy. Traditionally, Olmo has been made in Italy. I don't have any information on whether any models are made in Asia.
Orbea is one of the two large Spanish bicycle manufacturers. It is sort of like Spain's version of Trek or Schwinn. Bikes are produced in Spain and Asia. High-end carbon frames are made in Asia and "finished" (i.e., painted) in Spain.
From Bicycle Retailer and Industry News:
Orbea builds aluminum frames in-house. Carbon fiber frame production, which accounts for half of its road bikes, up from 20 percent just three years ago, is outsourced to such Chinese specialists as Martec.
But unlike many bike makers who are content to tweak stock factory frames, Orbea does all of its carbon fiber frame design, engineering and prototyping in-house. It builds its own molds for new frames and assembles several dozen prototypes before handing off manufacturing instructions to China.
"We need to keep and develop our own knowledge of composites and carbon fiber, and then to find someone who can work with us to build what we want them to build," Joseba Arizaga (Orbea's marketing manager) said. "We make the molds, the first frames, everything here in Orbea. Then, when we are ready to do mass production, we send the instructions to Asia."
Pinarello This Italian company has been producing world-class frames since the 1950's. Pinarello - along with Colnago and DeRosa - is one of the Italian "big three." You can visit their website, pinarello.com, for a nice history of the company.
Some frames are now made in Taiwan, including the aluminum Galileo. I haven't been able to confirm this, but apparently the carbon frames are made in Asia then shipped to Italy for painting and assembly.
Raleigh A few years ago, the U.S. management team, headed by former Murray exec Bill Austin, bought Raleigh from its U.K. owners. Headquartered in Kent, Washington, production comes from Asia, with key suppliers being Kinesis and A-Pro.
Schwinn was for many years the largest American brand. All bicycles were made domestically until the late 80's.
In 1985, Schwinn management called mountain bikes a "fad" - oops.12 After two bankruptcies, Schwinn is now owned by Pacific, who also owns GT, Mongoose, and the Pacific (and some other brands). Pacific is headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin.
Under Pacific's ownership, the Schwinn brand is returning to prominence. Pacific sells more bicycles than any other brand in North America. However, that includes Pacific brands sold at WalMart, Target, etc.
The bikes sold in the U.S. are made in Asia, many by Giant.
Scott USA got its start in Sun Valley, Idaho, when Ed Scott developed the first aluminum ski pole in 1958. In the 80's, Scott developed a bike line.
Eventually, Scott pulled out of the U.S. market and focused on Europe, where Scott is headquartered.
After an absence of several years, Scott has returned to the U.S. market under the direction of Scott Montgomery of Cannondale fame. Although the company is headquartered in Switzerland, production comes from Asia, with key suppliers being Hodaka and Giant.
Serotta is a U.S. manufacturer of high-end bicycles. It competes with Seven and Waterford and is of similar size to Waterford.
Seven is America's number one custom bicycle brand. Seven Cycles was founded by Rob Vandermark in early 1997.
Rob, previously head of R&D at Merlin Metalworks, decided to branch out on his own and develop a company to build high-end titanium and steel frames. He also wanted to offer the rider custom geometry, without extra charges and long lead times. So Rob assembled a team of experienced craftspeople who all shared a common goal: To build the highest quality, most innovative frames, and therefore provide the cyclist with the best riding experience possible.
All bikes are hand-made in Watertown, Massachusetts.
Specialized Started in 1974 by Mike Sinyard, Specialized has enjoyed a long-standing reputation for being a leading bicycle design and marketing company.
Several years ago, Merida (a Taiwanese manufacturer) bought a substantial interest in Specialized. Although Specialized is still headquartered in California under the leadership of founder Mike Sinyard, all bikes are made in Asia. Key Asian suppliers are Merida, Ideal, and Giant.
Time produces what is arguably the most advanced carbon frame in the world and all frames are hand-made in France, even the entry level frames.
Trek It's hard to believe that America's largest bicycle brand had humble beginnings in a barn! Yet in 1976, Dick Burke - with an investment of $25,000 - started making bicycle frames in a little red barn near Madison, Wisconsin. By 1980, Trek built their first manufacturing plant in Wisconsin and the rest, as they say, is history!
After many years of making its own bicycles in the U.S., Trek moved entry and mid level bicycle manufacturing to Asia.
In 1992, Trek introduced its proprietary OCLV carbon process (Optimum Compaction Low Void) which is still used in its handmade carbon frames. All OCLV carbon frames - road and mountain - are still made in Waterloo, Wisconsin. The all-carbon 5000 (which does not feature OCLV) is made in Asia.
Worldwide, Trek is the second largest bicycle company after Giant (of the brands sold only in bicycle stores). They are one of the most sought-after brands by U.S. dealers because of their strong commitment to brick and mortar bicycle stores (i.e., the brand cannot be sold mail order or over the Internet) and because of their dealer-friendly policies.
Trek owns (or licenses) Fisher, LeMond, Klein, and Bontrager.
Tommasini is a small Italian frame builder in Grosseto, Italy, of similar size to Seven, Waterford, and Serotta. Much of Tommasini's production is exported out of Italy, with their largest markets being the U.S., Germany, and Japan. In September 2006, Irio Tommasini's nieces took over U.S. distribution and are relaunching the brand in the U.S.
Waterford is America's number one steel custom bicycle brand. All bikes are hand-made in Waterford, Wisconsin.
In the late 1970's, a young rider, designer and builder named Marc Muller was hired by the Schwinn Bicycle Company. He brought the experience and innovation from his own framebuilding enterprise and took charge of building the Paramounts, the dominant brand of American-build racing bicycles.
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