Posts in the category Factory Tour

Factory Tour: Breadwinner Cycles’ Small Batch Custom Approach

Breadwinner-Cycles-Factory-Tour-2

Located in a garage in the northern outskirts of Portland, Breadwinner Cycles is the brain child of two of the best custom bicycle designers and builders in the industry – Ira Ryan (pictured) and Tony Pereira. Both have created Best in Class winning bikes at NAHBS, but teamed up together to bring their unique sensibility in small batches to the hand built market.

During a recent trip through micro-brew heaven, I had the opportunity to stop by their small workplace and see where the magic happens. Take a closer look at the #ShopVibes after the break… READ MORE ->

Factory Tour: Aerospace Composite Engineer Matt Appleman’s Carbon Fiber Workshop

Appleman-Logo

Custom frame builder Matt Appleman has a degree in composites engineering. Although the bike industry uses a lot of composite materials, an actual composite engineer is usually a resource only the largest of companies has available. We have seen Matt’s final products at NAHBS 2014, and his attention to detail is obvious.

Matt spent years after college working in California on larger scale wind turbine blades, and on composite raw materials for large corporations. Growing tired of that, he moved back home to Minnesota to start his own bike company.

Building bikes full time for more than four years now, Appleman takes a much more scientific approach than most custom frame builders. We visited and got to take a look at his South Minneapolis shop, find out what makes his frames different after the jump…

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Factory Tour: Inside the SR Suntour Headquarters in Taiwan

SR Suntour Factory Tour Taiwan Fork and Ebike Procution Facility Chang Hua583

Admittedly, most cyclists’ thoughts probably turn to inexpensive forks when you mention SR Suntour, and that’s a shame. It’s not that SR Suntour doesn’t produce these forks. They do. And in large quantities. The truth of the matter lies in the fact that the company has a long history of technical innovations in the bike industry that just happen to allow them to produce that suspension fork you’ll find on a bike under $500 and make it affordable while still working exceptionally well for the price. That, and a vertically integrated company that allows them an economy of scale. As the continuation of SunTour which started as Maeda Iron Works in 1912, SunTour is responsible for bringing us technologies we still use today, like the slant parallelogram rear derailleur.

In 1988 when the Japanese founded company moved to Chang Hua City in Taiwan, Suntour brought with them a new casting technology based on the melt-forging process. They called it Accurad forging (AC4C) and it involved injecting molten metal at high pressures into molds. Sharing a lot of similarities with casting, Accurad forging meant that the finished product was free of air bubbles or inclusions which can plague standard gravity casting. Combining the benefits of forging and casting, the process allowed for complex parts to be produced much more cheaply, giving rise to affordable components. Low end components aren’t as sexy as many of the forks you see splashed across our pages, but when you’re talking about producing something in the millions of units rather than the thousands, it takes some serious manufacturing skills to ensure repeatability at that scale.

However, SR Suntour isn’t about inexpensive parts, rather value and performance at any point in their line. The company’s Taiwan headquarters and factory is actually geared towards production of their higher end products – basically Taiwan produces forks with magnesium lowers and China makes forks with aluminum lowers. While the Chang Hua factory is capable of producing up to 5,000 complete suspension forks in a single day, their factory in Shenzen, China handles their higher quantity goods and is capable of making up to a whopping 20,000 forks in a single day. As you can imagine it takes a lot of people to keep a facility that size moving so you’ll find around 500 employees in Taiwan and around 900 at Shenzen. On top of that SR Suntour has a third facility in Kunshan, China that employs another 400-500 people. All together SR Suntour produces around 10,000,000 suspension forks per year with their Taiwanese facility running 8 hours a day, and usually two shifts in China. Together that makes them the biggest fork producer in the IBD market.

Earlier this year we found ourselves in the Fu Hsing Industrial Zone where SR Suntour Taiwan calls home. Take a look around the factory next…

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Video: Kross Bikes Gives An Inside Look At Factory & R&D

Poland’s Kross Bikes has created several videos giving us an inside look at their factory and R&D teams in action. Mostly unheard of in the United States, Kross is a full-line brand primarily sold in Europe.

A large percentage of their products are made right in Poland, giving them greater control over their manufacturing, but also the ability to tell the story in depth since they own the process. The third video tells the deepest story, and it has English subtitles.

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Peacock Groove’s Erik Noren is The Cycling Industry’s Misunderstood Artist

Peacock-Groove-HeadtubeErik Noren is a creative genius.  Spend 15 minutes with him, and you will see and hear the ideas of what bicycle artistry can be. Making just 30 bicycles per year, he pours his heart and soul into each one, toiling away in his shop, metal as his canvas, investing so much time and care into each one that he rarely makes a profit.

True to his craft, Erik doesn’t concern much for money with his bikes, as long as he is allowed to express his vision in the end. Stories from almost 20 years as a framebuilder, he talks about the only people who have really recognized him directly for what he was trying to say with each frame are other framebuilders.  An artist who can only be understood by another artist, he then goes into his ideas for this year’s NAHBS show…

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Factory Tour: The Garage Shop & Growth of Gamut USA

Gamut Chain Guide

The word Gamut means broad or far reaching, and judging from the Gamut’s presence at all levels of racing, it’s easy to imagine they’re a large corporation. Yet despite the polished website and big name sponsored athletes, Gamut is actually a small, rider-owned company.

Their idea for a better chain guide came about because Co-Founder Juan Graziosi wanted a lighter & more reliable solution for racing. Working in conjunction with his father Ed Graziosi, a machinist, they fabricated a working prototype in their garage. The idea would have likely ended there, but soon friends and fellow racers wanted guides as well, and selling the home made components quickly became a way for Juan to offset the cost of racing. The project began to look like a viable business venture when older brother Mateo and riding buddy Michael Poutre joined to to help crank up production and craft a business plan.

Today, Gamut continues to produce a large quantity of their products in the garage where Juan and his father created their first chain guide. Learn more about the process after the break…

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Factory Tour: Seattle Based Hampsten Cycles Builds Steel, Ti, And Now Carbon

hampsten cycles fabrication shop

While Oregon seems to be mecca for custom frame building, there is no shortage of exemplary builders located throughout out the North West. For those in Seattle, one of the best options is Hampsten Cycles. Over the fifteen years they’ve been in business, their frame construction has been subcontracted out to various industry luminaries including Kent Eriksen, Parlee, and Moots, but they’ve recently brought everything under one roof.

Today, all Hampsten Cycle frames are built in house by Max Kullaway, who has welded thousands of frames for high profile builders including Merlin and Seven Cycles, and fabricates his own bikes under the name 333Fab

During a recent trip through the PNW, I stopped by their small workshop to get a closer look at some of the beautiful bikes Hamspten cycles produces from a two car garage in a quiet residential neighborhood in Northern Seattle.

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Factory Tour: Hunter Cycles’ Santa Cruz Mountain Workshop

Hunter Cycles Factory Tour (17)Nestled deep in the coastal redwood forests of Northern California, acclaimed custom builder Rick Hunter quietly builds hand made bicycles for clients from around the world.

Starting with steel tubing, and dabbling in carbon, over the past twenty years he has created a reputation for clean lines and a unique aesthetic.

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Factory Tour: From Raw Metal to Finished Pedal, VP does it All

VP Components Modus Taiwan Factory Pedal Production Tour409

There are a number of things that come to mind when thinking about Taiwanese manufacturing in the bicycle industry. On the small island you’ll find every level of producer making complete bikes right down to the individual bolt. Much of the production is similar to what you would find in the US with companies getting a number of different parts from their suppliers and then assembling the final product on their own factory floor.

Then there are companies like VP Components. Where raw materials are swallowed up by the gargantuan facility only to be spit out as finished goods. VP may be a relatively new name to the US market on the consumer side, but if you’ve ridden bikes for any amount of time you have probably used their products without even knowing it. Situated as one of the largest suppliers of OEM headsets in the world, VP is also one of the last producers of high quality, inexpensive square taper bottom brackets. Oh, they played a big roll in the development of reliable methods to mass produce the ISIS BB standard in Taiwan as well.

All of the buildings on VP’s campus work together in harmony to fulfill VP’s specialty of one stop production. Their customers receive completely finished and packaged products that are ready for the store shelves, or to be assembled into bikes. Capable of producing up to a half million items in a single month, bottom brackets, headsets, and pedals all roll out of the facility on a regular basis. And yes, they have their own BMX track….

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