Factory Tour: Trek Bicycle Company’s Waterloo Headquarters, Part 1

Factory Tour: Trek Bicycle Company's Waterloo Headquarters, Part 1

Our visit to FrostBike this year meant braving the Northern snow covered roads from here to Minneapolis, but it also meant that we had time for brief pit stop in Waterloo to check out what was going on at Trek’s headquarters. It dawned on us that we have never done a true “factory visit” with Trek and it just so happened that the timing worked out perfectly, and we were treated to one of the most comprehensive tours I’ve ever been a part of. As the central nervous system of Trek’s operations, the Waterloo, WI HQ was bustling with activity throughout.

Take a walk through Trek’s halls with us after the break.

Factory Tour: Trek Bicycle Company's Waterloo Headquarters, Part 1

Trek’s current campus (first image) resides just on the outskirts of Waterloo, across the street from Briess’ Waterloo Malthouse (if you’re a homebrewer, or really into beer, the delicious malt smells will drive you crazy). However, Trek’s roots spread out from the original red barn shown above where Dick Burke and Bevil Hogg first started making steel touring frames in 1976. In 1980, when Burke recognized the need for expansion to increase their manufacturing capacity, Trek broke ground on their new facility where it currently resides. The original barn is still used by Trek, and an additional building was built adjacent to it to house machines, and other secret stuff that we couldn’t see.

Factory Tour: Trek Bicycle Company's Waterloo Headquarters, Part 1

Waterloo is also home to the Farm which houses the Trek owned and maintained Jim’s Trails – which have become Trek’s in house testing grounds so to speak. If you’ve attended Trek World, then you know how good some of the trails are, and they are constantly being improved. We were told they just recently added a new pump track jump line, unfortunately the snow kept us from experiencing it first hand.

Factory Tour: Trek Bicycle Company's Waterloo Headquarters, Part 1

As you walk into Trek’s HQ, their mantra is pretty clear, “We believe in Bikes.”

Factory Tour: Trek Bicycle Company's Waterloo Headquarters, Part 1

On the other side of the atrium there is a beautiful tribute to Trek’s co-founder and chairman, Dick Burke who sadly passed away in 2008. Dick’s story is told through his son and current head of Trek, John Burke in the moving book, One Last Great Thing.

Factory Tour: Trek Bicycle Company's Waterloo Headquarters, Part 1

Representative samples of various eras and styles of Trek’s bicycles greet you as you enter with some of Trek’s earliest steel touring bikes on display. It should probably go without saying, but Trek’s headquarters have had a Lance scrubbing, removing any reference to the Texan. Instead, the new design focuses on bikes in general and the amazing places they can take you, rather than one specific athlete.

Factory Tour: Trek Bicycle Company's Waterloo Headquarters, Part 1

Throughout Trek’s offices, group layout is used so that employees are stationed together to perform similar tasks. When you walk into Trek, the marketing/communications side is on the right,  and the business/finance department is on the left, though they are reversed in the photo above. There were some clear differences in the layout and office furniture of the two groups  – perhaps working with the whole left brain/right brain thing?

Even though the business/finance department has to deal with a sea of cubes, at least they had this sweet keggerator on their side. Sadly, it was empty save for a lone Modello tall boy.

Factory Tour: Trek Bicycle Company's Waterloo Headquarters, Part 1

Not too far away from the business group are the offices for Ascend – Trek’s Point of Sale system that many Trek retailers use to run their shops. Sure, it’s not the most glamorous part of Trek’s offices, but having the offices on site allows for easy collaboration between Trek’s other offices and Ascend, which in turn means better support for the dealers – like when your database computer catches on fire, and the Ascend team has to rebuild it from scratch (true story).

Factory Tour: Trek Bicycle Company's Waterloo Headquarters, Part 1

Factory Tour: Trek Bicycle Company's Waterloo Headquarters, Part 1

Believe it or not, Trek has not always had their own photography and video studio. Bringing everything on site made the logistics of developing creative for various uses quite a bit easier as you can imagine. Plus, there are oil paintings of Gary Fisher, which is always cool. Examples of past work lined the walls next to mannequins in storage.

Factory Tour: Trek Bicycle Company's Waterloo Headquarters, Part 1

Trek’s design studio certainly doesn’t look like the typical office setting as you enter. The idea was to create a welcoming space that projected the design aspects to be conveyed in the future bicycles.

Factory Tour: Trek Bicycle Company's Waterloo Headquarters, Part 1

Various artwork of Trek’s graphic designers graced the walls as you entered.

Factory Tour: Trek Bicycle Company's Waterloo Headquarters, Part 1

Paint, anyone? In an immense display of color, nearly every current shade of paint that Trek has at its disposal was displayed on actual bicycle tubes to help designers choose colors. Just to the right of the photo is the color viewing station that replicates most common spectrums of light so you can see exactly how the paint will look in daylight, fluorescent light, etc. The frames on the wall are various sizes so designers can figure out graphic placement and size on future bikes.

Factory Tour: Trek Bicycle Company's Waterloo Headquarters, Part 1

Factory Tour: Trek Bicycle Company's Waterloo Headquarters, Part 1

Much of the design room was off limits not only for us to show, but for us to even see. However, this beautiful bicycle design exercise wasn’t off limits. Labeled the 2013 MTB form concept, the design is supposed to be agile, tense, technical, and integrated. Clearly, this was never intended to be a rideable bike, but the striking design may signal future MTB design cues.

Factory Tour: Trek Bicycle Company's Waterloo Headquarters, Part 1

One thing you’ll notice if you visit Trek at any point, is that they seem to always be rearranging. Things change, and in order to improve efficiency or create new procedures, the building is reorganized. This part used to be the model bike shop that Trek used to educate retailers, but due to the new store in Madison taking its place, the space is being repurposed.

Factory Tour: Trek Bicycle Company's Waterloo Headquarters, Part 1

Factory Tour: Trek Bicycle Company's Waterloo Headquarters, Part 1

Like any great bike company, Trek’s cafe is not your typical cafeteria. Bright and airy with vintage Trek bikes and cycling jerseys adorning the walls, employees are treated to an awesome spread for lunch on a daily basis. Want to know what part of Wisconsin your burger came from today? Check the board. Utilizing as much local produce, meats, and cheese as possible, the food is first class – fresh made gourmet sushi, anyone? Interestingly, Trek uses a sort of “junk food tax” placed on the unhealthier options to help subsidize healthier choices like the colossal salad bar spread and keep costs down to eat healthy. Even so, nothing was expensive making it easy for employees to eat well on a daily basis. The cafe also has a library of various books available to any employee on a regular basis.

Factory Tour: Trek Bicycle Company's Waterloo Headquarters, Part 1

In order to keep employees healthy and happy, especially in the dead of winter, Trek has a full wellness center on site with a complete gym, aerobics studio, and nearly ever exercise contraption you could imagine. It’s no surprise that next to the stationary bikes in the gym were a set of rollers. Employees can sign up for fitness classes or take part in weight loss challenges that include nutritional coaching on how and what to eat to stay healthy.

Factory Tour: Trek Bicycle Company's Waterloo Headquarters, Part 1

Factory Tour: Trek Bicycle Company's Waterloo Headquarters, Part 1

 In addition to looking out for their own employees, Trek also looks out for others with advocacy projects like the latest Project One Team MTN-Qhubeka project. MTN-Qhubeka is Africa’s first Pro Continental team that is part racing, part philanthropy thanks to their ties to Qhubeka, a South African based program that provides buffalo bikes to children in rural areas in exchange for community service – picking up trash, and the like. The children are able to get their own bikes in addition to bikes for their families  with Qhubeka having already distributed over 40,000 bikes with a goal of 200,000 by 2020. In addition to being the bike sponsor for the team, Trek is now donating 200 dollars from every Madone, Domane, or Speed Concept purchased with the MTN-Qhubeka team Project One paint scheme. The money is more than enough for a Buffalo bike meaning those buying a MTN-Qhubeka team Project One bike will actually be buying two bikes, one for themselves and one for a child in Africa.

Factory Tour: Trek Bicycle Company's Waterloo Headquarters, Part 1

 In addition to bikes and bikes everywhere, the hallways at Trek are no stranger to a little workplace humor.

Expecting more of the above? This is a sneak peek at what is in store for parts 2 and 3. As you may be able to tell, a visit to Trek is very difficult to portray in just one post. Make sure to check back as we get into what you really want to see – a first hand look at Trek’s in-house OCLV carbon manufacturing and race bike and prototype development!

Make sure to check out parts 2 and 3!

Part 2

Part 3

 

Comments

Tom Moore - 03/11/13 - 8:33pm

Were are the photos of Lance?

sr. lobo - 03/11/13 - 8:54pm

factory?? you say factory?? where are the machines??

Antipodean G - 03/11/13 - 8:56pm

Who? No one by that name lives… or lived here.

Javan - 03/11/13 - 8:59pm

What, no Lance jerseys or bikes?

Eyal - 03/11/13 - 9:02pm

Too bad this company was once affiliated and sponsored a doper. They really should change their name to Bontrager and shake off those dark days.

uglyyeti - 03/11/13 - 9:06pm

Been there. Total lobby reno post-Lance.

Zach Overholt - 03/11/13 - 9:12pm

@sr.lobo – please read the last paragraph and tune in for the next segments

John - 03/11/13 - 9:23pm

Here’s the million dollar question – how many giant photos of Lance used to be hanging up at Trek?

DaleC - 03/11/13 - 9:37pm

I smiled when I saw the poster with Jesse Lalonde’s name on it. I still have the Bianchi BUSS he sold me many moons ago and it’s still a great bike.

Eyal – I would hate to have to learn the new names of every major bike company on the planet.

gravity - 03/11/13 - 9:56pm

Every bike maker who sponsored or sponsors a pro team also sponsors dopers. Shut the hell up about Trek already.

mzungu54 - 03/11/13 - 10:44pm

Think it can use one more… . :-) Where are those Lance posters? it’ll be collector items some day. Trek milked the Lance cow more than any dopers in the peleton, in the expenses of others…. So, it deserves some ridicule.

Dale - 03/11/13 - 10:47pm

So sick of hearing about doping. I never liked Lance Robot, but seriously who cares unless you are a pro trying to compete with it.

m - 03/11/13 - 10:56pm

ok. forget Lance… how about they install have a live-action display showing them brutally beating Greg LeMond with a lead pipe.

mudrock - 03/11/13 - 11:13pm

I started a shop with a friend in ’79 and we sold Motobecanes (when they were french) and Treks. the roots of this company are very cool. Easy to lose sight of that now that they are so big, and their sponsorship of Lance. Now when I think of them I think of how they forced their dealers to drop competing brands, or lose Trek. My favorite LBS lost Fisher and Lemond because they wouldn’t stock Trek. too bad..

bikeboy999 - 03/12/13 - 12:19am

Brings back memories of my visit to the two Trek factories in Wi. Never got up into the cafeteria but did see some cool wheel building setups and carbon work.
Looking forward to parts 2 and 3.

B

Matt - 03/12/13 - 12:23am

Trek new about Lance’s doping. Trek new about all of Lance’s team mates systematically doping. It did not matter at the time, because it was financially advantages for Trek. Trek knowingly supported a doper for its own benefit. I am not saying to buy a Trek or not, nor to support them or not. But we should all know the facts before making any decisions.

james - 03/12/13 - 12:54am

its crazy how much has change since lance-gate. the lobby used to be a shrine of shorts.. it is a pretty neat building though.

F.U.trek - 03/12/13 - 2:48am

Where is the giant sign in the lobby apologizing to Greg?

Mortimer - 03/12/13 - 3:24am

Check all the doors. I bet one room leads to the “room of shame” where they’ve chucked all the Lance trinkets. Here Australia Trek have not supported any of the smaller shops that carried their product (many with 20+ yrs of support). Then as a customer one looks at the spec of a Trek and one has to say low spec hi price I’ll by brand X instead. About the only thing that sits okay in my mind about Trek is their support of the Pro team Marco Polo Cycling. Trek are certainly not a bike I would consider buying any more.

Rob - 03/12/13 - 3:25am

“One thing you’ll notice if you visit Trek at any point, is that they seem to always be rearranging. Things change…”

Yeah, Lance is a liability hide all his paraphernalia.

Michael - 03/12/13 - 3:26am

(deleted), they sponsored a man who was the best and who was the best under same circumstances as the other riders… year he was doped, but he is still the biggest star in cycling ever, and why do people forget about what he have done for cycling sport in especially the US… and what about Livestrong should we forget that 2?…. (deleted) :)

Clincher - 03/12/13 - 4:24am

More of a showroom rather than a factory, wrong title for the article, factory in China sweet heart.

lets get real, mass produced junk with lots of dosh behind it. simply soul-less

taylor - 03/12/13 - 6:50am

haters gonna hate…and then keep on riding their other-brand sh!t bikes

silly sheep

What? - 03/12/13 - 7:10am

@ Michael – Livestrong? Are you serious? That is a TOTAL scam and a front for Lance to take cancer peoples money. Shame on you!

Stamps - 03/12/13 - 8:56am

Haters gonna hate…let em hate and have their choices in bikes dictated by their pointless irrational hate that originates from something that probably has zero impact on their personal cycling experiences…I’ll let the quality of bikes do the talking. Trek makes great bikes….just like Specialized, Santa Cruz, Pivot, Niner, Giant, Banshee, Kona, Yeti, Pinarello etc…

heatwave23 - 03/12/13 - 9:09am

Good luck to anyone that ever tries to get Trek to stand behind their frame warranty, even for a obvious manufacturing flaw. From what I have experienced Trek has lost sight of what made them great. I sold all my Treks 3 years ago and @ taylor I am loving my other sh!t brand bikes ;)

bkf - 03/12/13 - 9:24am

Had zero problems getting Trek to warranty frames that have come into our shop.

Call them up, take pictures, send them in, and frame on the way.

Maybe your local shop wasn’t following through on their end?

Zap? - 03/12/13 - 9:25am

I hope they’re reading these comments and know that people like me who have purchased many Trek bicycles never will again until they make a formal apology to Greg LeMond for how they treated him during the Lance Armstrong years

Trey R - 03/12/13 - 9:30am

They sponsored a dude who was popular and helped sell their brand which made them money. Its a business, and that is what they do. As soon as they saw him hurting their business, they pulled out. There isn’t much more to it than that. Everything people complain about after the fact has no basis as its always easy to look back and criticize. A business can only prosper based on a currant situation regardless if it turns out to be a mistake later. Sure, they are pushy with their dealers, but that again is a choice that they made to maximize profits. I hate it as much as the next person, but how else should a business operate?

Alvis - 03/12/13 - 9:53am

Five fat blokes in the healthgy options cafeteria and an empty wellness centre…..just sayin’

Gummee! - 03/12/13 - 10:04am

I have it on good authority that dealers were complaining they couldn’t sell anything with GL’s name on it. I get why he was upset, but a little tact would have gone a long way.

dan - 03/12/13 - 10:29am

Where do they keep the lawyers?

King County - 03/12/13 - 11:09am

Trek = Full of sht company if thee ever was one..

King County - 03/12/13 - 11:10am

there*

Keith - 03/12/13 - 11:31am

@Trey R – “…but how else should a business operate?” Ethically, perhaps…like many other successful companies have chosen to do.

Joshua Murdock - 03/12/13 - 1:48pm

No matter how you feel about Lance or Trek, you’ve all reduced this really interesting article to a stupid pissing match. Congratulations.

All of the top-end 6/7 series road bikes and 9 series/Apollo mountain bikes are built in Wisconsin. Sure, that’s a small fraction of their product line but it’s more than any other big company can claim. If nothing else, let’s be happy that the sport we all love is big enough to support major companies like Trek and its competitors. Although it would be great if we were all riding really neat, hand-built frames from a small builder or boutique brand, not everyone can or will do that. Love it or hate it, big companies like Trek bring more people into cycling than any group of small companies ever will and companies like Trek play a huge part in moving our sport forward.

And since we’re bemoaning the same scandal that every other comment thread invariably digresses to, I’ll point out that every manufacturer in the pro tour the past twenty years has sponsored dopers. It’s a terrible and ugly stain on our sport but it happened. We can’t change it. It’s done. Relentlessly dwelling on who-talked-to-who or speculating about who-knew-what doesn’t accomplish anything except getting everyone more fed up.

I worry about the ever-growing scandal hurting cycling not because of its direct impact and implications, but because of the way cyclists are handling it. If we let this bring us down it’s our own fault.

Darwin - 03/12/13 - 2:01pm

As others have said, Trek knew about Lance and supported him anyway right up to the last possible second. They also treated LeMond like garbage.
Lance may have done a lot for cycling but he did it for himself and now he has done great damage to cycling. Sponsors are dropping like flies as they don’t want to be associated with a doper sport.
I’ve seen Trek bikes since the early 80′s at least and always found them boring. Most of their bikes are made by Giant anyway so you are better off just buying a Giant with better components for the same or usually a lesser price than buying a Trek.
Also their CEO is a big Bushsupporter and tea party weenie and for me at least that doesn’t help.

J-Ride - 03/12/13 - 2:28pm

I love how all the most irrational, factless, comments are made by people who also cannot spell or grasp basic grammer…just saying.

Most of the comments on this forum are so off point, I just needed to comment.

First-off, yes, Lance is an embarassment. Not just to Trek, but American Cycling and International Cycling as a whole. But he was just one of many. People continue to vilinize him becasue he was the most visible offender, but really, all of cycling was on the take and profited from doping. Rather than continue to place all of the blame on Lance, why dont you take some responsibility for your role in the issue? Do you think all of this could have happened, if everyone in cycling didn’t have their head burried in the sand?

Second, Trek is an extremely philanthropic company. To question their ethics, is to not know any of the facts. They, and their owners, have donated tens of millions to chairities, local and international. Trek treats it’s employees far better than most companies of the same size (which was evidence in the article). They have also done amazing things for bicycle advocacy at the local levels thorughout the country. In fact, Madison WI, very near to Trek, is one of the top bicycling cities in the country, due in no small part, to advocacy on Trek’s side. Finally, their whole facility in Waterloo runs on wind energy, which is further than 95% of manufacturing in this country has ever gone for sustainble operations.

Finally, like it or not, Trek still makes a solid/great product. I have taken a tour at their facility also, and I have seen their test lab, and the extensive testing they do to all their product. They take product well beyond the normal conditions that it would see, to make sure it will stand-up. They still build bikes in both Waterloo, WI and Whitewater, WI (granted they are the highend bikes). I understand supporting smaller craft bike builders, but I think it is rediculous to sign-off on one of the few larger companies that is doing it right, at their size.

Pancakes - 03/12/13 - 2:37pm

It’s a tough balance, but no big bike company has a clean record. Lance was a golden goose, it would not have made business sense to cut him loose at his peak.

Sardinian Rider - 03/12/13 - 2:43pm

Lance is gone even from their youtube videos…

Trek Bs goats - 03/12/13 - 3:43pm

@ Joshua Trek does not make any MTB in the US any more. And to top it off, the Trek rep encourages the dealers in the territory I used to work in to pull the made in China/Taiwan stickers off the bikes and blatantly lie to customers.

They can go F–k themselves! and yes I do have a problem with them.

Seriously - 03/12/13 - 4:34pm

How could someone who has pushed as hard for national government funding of bicycle infrastructure as John Burke has, be a “tea party weenie” ?

Zach Overholt - 03/12/13 - 5:06pm

@Trek B….. You are completely wrong about that. Trek at least makes the carbon Session in the US still. You will see for yourself in part 3.

Andy - 03/12/13 - 7:24pm

@ J-ride: it’s spelled ‘grammar’, not ‘grammer’. Just saying….

Yo - 03/13/13 - 7:54am

My god, the comments are terrible. 10-15 years ago, I hated Trek for what I knew about Lance and Cancer research. The machine back then was at its worst. Oddly, I am pretty certain half of the haters here were fanboys back then. Now, I just bought a project one Madone 7, something I swear I would not do. I tried it, it rode great, I bought it. This report confirms to me that Trek is a strong firm business.

Now I actually think Trek is a great company and now fanboys are unleashing the same venom I had 10 years ago. I hate to say it, but you’re a bunch of freds… Big fat mamil freds.

J-Ride - 03/13/13 - 1:35pm

@ Andy, “Grammer” was purposeful. It is called irony, but if you looked closer you would have seen that I did forget to spell check, and there are a number of other spelling/typing errors.

The Dude - 03/14/13 - 8:17pm

Less type, more ride. Put your keyboards and KY down and go ride.

Haromania - 03/15/13 - 9:50am

Do you people howling about Lance, and Trek’s support of him, realize that every bike manufacturer that sponsor’s racing in some form or another have done so with a doper amongst their ranks? When doping permeates 90% of the professional ranks for the last 20 years, it’s inevitable that bike makers are going to have juiced up athlete’s powering their machines. Please tell me where to turn for a top flight bike with a proven pedigree that has never had a doper ride it? Answer? They don’t exist. Trek makes great bikes, period. If you don’t want one, fine, go buy something else, just be aware whatever your choice is, I can point to a doper who had some success with it. Trek has been awesome for the industry overall and Trek has forced other companies to up their game, so even if you don’t buy one you are still getting the benefit or what Trek has done for the industry, and that’s not a good thing, it’s a great thing.

archi - 03/16/13 - 2:44pm

if its not Lance photo.shirts there , then I dont need Trek.. I dont need nothing from Trek.. I will throw away all my 4 Trek bicycles…..
Lance are the best ever

Please - 03/18/13 - 12:06pm

If you don’t purchase something from a company for the people they paid to represent their brand that is just fine. I just hope you do it across the board. Don’t drink another Michelob, eat another Honey Stinger or FRS product, wear another Nike or Oakley product, never use another Motorola item or a Bissell vacuum and stop using the US Postal Service. And remember that he used to ride Merckx bikes and wear Specialized helmets and shoes. And he rode Litespeed bikes disguised as other brands. What else is out there? Subaru, Discovery Channel, Radio Shack, Nissan, Bell Sports, I don’t think Pacific ever supported him so that is a safe choice. Good luck on your persecution!

Peter Montgomery - 03/20/13 - 4:31pm

Lance and all the others all were doping & the dope only does so much. He & the rest are still amazing athletes. That being said Trek is and always has been a great bike . I don’t know about the politics of the owners but we all can’t be democrats. I have a project 1 Madrone & a top of the line carbon Lemond. I saw Greg win in France in 1990 & am proud to own a Lemond. I have also sold many Treks to friends sending them to East Coasters in Blacksburg,Va. Other than my handmade Ritchey bike all mine are Treks. I hope they continue to make U.S.A. bikes right where they are forever….

tim howe - 12/14/13 - 3:42pm

thee best bikes on earth!!
http://youtu.be/RNGOFsn4FIs

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