Posts in the category Factory Tour

Factory Tour: Pivot Turns out Prototypes and Assembled Bikes in Tempe, AZ

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Looking back, it’s almost hard to believe that Pivot has been around for less than 10 years. After a surprise launch at Interbike in 2007, in the words of founder Chris Cocalis, the brand has seen hugely exponential growth in a very short period of time. Compared to two other brands launched that very same year (Tomac and Corsair Bikes), Pivot has manufactured their own success through extremely tight tolerances.

Of course, that’s no accident. Pivot is far from Chris’ first venture into the bike business. While many may know Cocalis from Titus, his roots go even deeper back to the days of the Sun Eagle Bicycle Works Talon. Cofounded with Allen Vaughn in 1988, Sun Eagle was the result of Chris’s BMX background and desire to build bikes at the end of his freshman year of college. After Vaugn taught Cocalis to braze, the first Sun Eagle Talon was born. The company would only make around 20 of the frames, but it was enough to be named one of the “Bikes of the future” in 1988 by Mountain Bike Action.

Little did everyone know that Cocalis really would go on to create the bikes of the future…

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Interview: Todd Ingermanson of Black Cat Bicycles

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Compelled by his desire for a custom 29er singlespeed, Todd Ingermanson took up the torch 13 years ago to attempt to build his own. After several years apprenticing with Rick Hunter, he broke out on his own with Black Cat Bicycles and is now building and hand-painting custom to order frames out of his home workshop.

There are two very striking things about Todd’s shop, one being its scale and efficiency. There is no redundancy in machinery; there is a single very nice manual mill, a lathe, and a welding cart. It’s very clean. Everything that isn’t a machine is on wheels. It’s evident that this level of refinement is driven by the second very striking aspect of his operation: its location perched on the side of an extremely steep incline in Aptos, California (my rental car struggled to get up to it). During my visit, Todd and I spoke about his operation, his approach to frame-building, and his Manifesto.

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Interview / Factory Tour: Zen Fabrications with David Woronets

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David Woronets joined the industry in a way a lot of ex-elite racers have: he needed a winter job. But unlike a lot of those ex-racers, David found himself compelled by manufacturing and development of the physical product. After moving around the industry and after working for Elsworth for several years, David saw an opportunity for a job shop model of domestic manufacturing and jumped at it.

Five years after purchasing equipment from Elsworth, David and his team have established Zen as a viable alternative to overseas manufacturing. At NAHBS this year, Zen released their full line of house product, realizing a long desire of David’s to produce his own product… READ MORE ->

Hayes Factory Tour Part 1: HB Performance Systems’ Mequon Wisconsin Headquarters

Hayes Factory Tour Wisconsin Sun Ringle Wheelsmith Spokes bicycle harley polaris arctic cat (59)

Hayes Factory Tour Wisconsin Sun Ringle Wheelsmith Spokes bicycle harley polaris arctic cat (58)

In a state that consists largely of farmlands and agriculture, Milwaukee remains a stronghold of US-based manufacturing stalwarts. Unlike many manufacturing cities in the US, much of the Milwaukee-based manufacturing firms have managed to weather the storm of an uncertain economy. Few exemplify that better then HB performance systems – or what we all know as the Hayes Bicycle Group. As a company that was started in the 40s by Harold Hollnagel making parts for outboard motors as H-H Products, today Hayes makes a lot of parts for what many would consider pleasure vehicles like bicycles, four wheelers, snowmobiles, and motorcycles. As you can imagine when the economy takes a hit those types of recreational vehicles are among the first to take a hit as well.

Fortunately, HB performance systems is alive and well – illustrated by the sprawling 160,000 square-foot facility in Mequon, Wisconsin and their sister operation, Sun Components, just down the road. Currently a multi million dollar conglomerate, the bicycle side of HB Performance Systems accounts for almost 40% of their total business. In the year 2000, the bicycle group became Hayes Bicycle which is part of 4 independent business units reporting to the same leadership among HB Performance Systems. Today the company is relying on their business practices and thorough quality control system to be a product based company that offers both quality and value across the line…

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Sneak Peek: The Marin Museum of Bicycling and Mountain Bike Hall of Fame Opens June 6th

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The answer to the question of where mountain biking was actually invented is probably one of those that depends on who you ask. Even if you refuse to call Marin, CA the birthplace of mountain biking, the area’s history with the sport is undeniable. Some of the very first mountain bikes, or more appropriately klunkers, were raced up and down the legendary Repack road giving rise to the Repack downhill. Taking pre-war beach cruisers and modifying them with knobby-er tires, different forks, and more robust brakes, the cast of the Marin mountain bike scene included some of today’s biggest names in mountain biking – Joe Breeze, Gary Fisher, Otis Guy the list goes on and on.

It’s fitting then that the newest addition to the streets of Fairfax includes the new Marin Museum of Bicycling and Mountain Bike Hall of Fame. Occupying the space of an old grocery store, the quaint setting is just a short ride from Repack and the heart of Marin.

Thanks to the work of Joe Breeze, Otis Guy, four other board members, and countless volunteers, their idea of a museum dedicated to the area’s rich mountain biking history is finally becoming a reality. Inside, the display includes three main components, one of which being the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame. Originally located in Crested Butte, CO and run by Don and Kay Cook, Joe approached them with the idea of relocating the HOF to Fairfax due to the increased traffic and proximity to the Bay area, and eventually they gave Joe and the team involved their blessing.

After months of hard work and donations, the new museum is just about to open its doors to the public. Until then, we have a little taste of the awesome machines you’ll find inside…

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Factory Tour: SRAM Taiwan Part 3 – SRAM’s Carbon Fiber Production, Truvativ, Chainrings and More

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From the sparkly new to the well established,  SRAM’s roots in Taiwan run deep. Well, SRAM does have a long history of manufacturing on the island, but in this case a lot of that history belongs to Truvativ. After SRAM purchased the company in 2004, the facility remained and is now the hub of much of SRAM’s carbon fiber production. Of course many of the Truvativ products that are still being produced or have morphed into similar parts under the SRAM name are made here as well.

Jump inside for a quick spin through the facility…

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Factory Tour: SRAM Taiwan Part 2 – All New Asia Development Center

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If factories are where bicycle components are born, then for SRAM, their Development Centers would be where products are finally conceived. Given SRAM’s global nature, new products could be developed in the U.S., Europe, or Asia, but most of them are now sent from the design centers to the new Asia Development center to undergo final testing and analysis. As it was explained to us, the ADC is specifically there as a bridge from the engineering side of the process to the manufacturing side.

After testing is complete, the products can then be transferred to the factories for full scale production. Having opened just before the Chinese New Year in 2014, the ADC illustrates SRAM’s commitment to Taiwanese manufacturing with a state of the art building that is just as impressive on the inside…

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

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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…

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#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.
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