Posts in the category Factory Tour

Factory Tour: SRAM’s Taiwanese Manufacturing Part 1 – RockShox Suspension, SRAM Drive Train, More

SRAM Taiwan Factory Tours Suspension Shifters Derialleurs Carbon production043

It may be hard to believe, but SRAM hasn’t always been the industry juggernaut they are today. Like many bicycle companies before them, SRAM started with an idea. It was an idea for a product that at the time seemed so crazy that it took an outsider to the industry to think it up. After working his way up through the fledgling personal computer industry, the gears had started turning for Stan Day Jr.

In 1986 Stan had an idea for a new type of shifter after being frustrated by the need to reach to the downtube on his bike while training for a triathlon. After leaving his job to work with his father for another job that didn’t end up panning out, Stan met engineer and designer Sam Harwell Patterson on a ski trip in 1987. The two discussed his idea for a shifter, and Sam thought he could make it work. Just a few months later Sam had developed a functional prototype that was a rotating barrel that mounted to a special handlebar – the first GripShift.

Near the end of 1987 the “original six” decided to launch their new shifter at the next big trade show in 1988. Sam would be the head of engineering, Scott King the director of finance and administration, Jeff Shupe would be the head of manufacturing, Michael D. Mercuri the head of OE sales, Stan’s brother Frederick King Day or F.K. joined Stan in managing operations. The team headed to the trade show with a product, but without a company name. After a number of rejected possibilities, SRAM was chosen based on the S from Scott King, R from Stan’s middle name Ray, and AM from Sam Patterson.

While the original GripShift opened the door for the company to try and take even a little market share from the gigantic Shimano, the original design left customers wanting more. So Sam went back to work which led to the adoption of a shovel cam instead of the original helical cam. The design allowed for a much smaller shifter that functioned better and was able to be dialed in for shifting index feel. Called the SRT-100, the shifter would lead to their big break as it was finally picked up as original equipment.

Originally planning to manufacture the shifters in Chicago, a visit to Taiwan where the bikes were to be produced resulted in a change of plans. As we experienced for ourselves, Taiwan is very close knit in their manufacturing and it results in very short lead times. So, on the very same trip Stan set off on establishing a factory in Taiwan. Eventually, they were able to lease a tiny building for SRAM to build their shifters. Little more than a guard hut, the space served its purpose as SRAM was simultaneously building shifters back in Chicago for bikes that were made in the U.S. and the aftermarket.

Having established themselves in Taiwan, the rest of the story is probably more widely known. In 1994, SRAM took a stab at their first product other than a shifter, the ESP 900 plastic derailleur. After a rocky start, SRAM went on to find derailleur success with their X0 product line after acquiring Sachs’ bicycle division in 1997. The first of many acquisitions, SRAM continued with the purchase of Rockshox in 2002, Avid and then Truvativ in 2004, Zipp in 2007, and finally Quarq in 2011.

That may be a long back story, but it’s important to paint a picture of SRAM’s manufacturing today. Truly a global company, SRAM currently has around 3,000 employees in 18-20 locations around the world with the Headquarters still in Chicago and most of the manufacturing (except chains which are made in Portugal) carried out in Taiwan and China. Focusing mostly on SRAM and RockShox’ high end product, their largest Taiwanese facility is the 42,000 m² factory in the Shen Kang district, just outside Taichung. As the first full sized SRAM factory, the facility was built in 1989 and began life as a giant warehouse. Now a sprawling development of different buildings, the Shen Kang factory even has a new clean room for assembling high precision parts like the RockShox Reverb seat post.

As birthplace to many of our favorite SRAM and RockShox products like XX1 and the Pike, there is a lot to see after the break…

READ MORE ->

#BIKESTARTUP – The First 3 Steps to Slaying the Manufacturing Dragon and Mass-Producing your Killer Product

Fourteen factories in three weeks: some incompetent, some inhumane, some overpriced, and one excellent.

Fourteen factories in three weeks: some incompetent, some inhumane, some overpriced, and one excellent.

Slava Menn is a serial entrepreneur and CEO of Fortified Bicycle. He loves biking, building, entrepreneuring, and teaching. In this monthly series, he shares his team’s hard-learned startup lessons with aspiring entrepreneurs.

Our first articles showed you how to ease a pain with a product idea and how to go from idea to prototype. Assuming you’ve proven the concept viable and have a working prototype, it’s time to hit “go”on the production line and manufacture en masse, right? Not so fast – you first have to slay the meanest, nastiest dragon in the startup world: volume manufacturing.

We’ll get into price negotiation, quality control, and supply chain optimization later, but first we must learn to source an honest, quality manufacturing partner to take you from prototype to thousands of products.
READ MORE ->

Headquarters Tour: Niner Bikes’ Fort Collins design and sales center

niner-headquarters-tour-workshop-build-room01

The build room for demo bikes and media samples.

As a company, Niner’s somewhat spread out around the U.S. Some accounting is done offsite, assembly and shipping of complete bikes for resale is in California, and their president resides in Las Vegas. But the main office is in Fort Collins, CO, and that’s where the day to day magic happens.

Product development, testing, demo bike programs and marketing all come together there to keep the brand steadily humming along from scrappy startup with crazy big wheels to mid sized player in a global market.

We swung by Niner HQ on one of our summer trips and, after a delicious burrito at the neighboring Mexican restaurant, took a tour of the facility. Here’s your look inside…

READ MORE ->

Take a Tour of the Santa Cruz Bicycle Factory without Leaving your House

Santa Cruz factory tour

If you’ve ever wanted to take a tour of the Santa Cruz bicycles headquarters in Santa Cruz but couldn’t get out to California, here’s your chance. Thanks to the wizards behind the curtain at Google, you can now take a full Google Street View tour of their factory. Check out all the new bikes, browse the merch shop, and see where your Santa Cruz bicycle is built up, packed, and shipped to your door. It’s like a bicycle themed scavenger hunt!

READ MORE ->

Mission Workshop’s New San Francisco Digs, Plus A Sneak Peak at New Threads

Mission-Workshop-San-Francisco--1

For many years, Mission Workshop was based in a beautiful (albeit very small) workspace in the back of a dingy alley. Surrounded by some of San Francisco’s best dive bars, taquerias, and messenger scene, the company prospered.

To celebrate some well deserved growth, the company expanded from it’s original back alley location into an adjacent retail space - and into some prime real estate. The new storefront now opens onto Valencia Street, one of the most well trafficked streets in the heart of the cities bustling Mission District.

We were on hand for the opening party and caught a sneak peak at some new goods. Head past the break to read more… READ MORE ->

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…

READ MORE ->

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…

READ MORE ->

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.

READ MORE ->