As part of our tour of Taiwan’s bicycle industry, we swung by Ming Cycle, one of the world’s largest OEM bike manufacturers.
But they’re far more than just an OE manufacturer. For some brands, they’re simply an assembly middleman. Or a painter. And they own Strida, the unique folding bicycle brand started in the UK. Ming started making them in 2002 and bought the brand in 2007.
We arrived a bit later than expected thanks to some very interesting routes, U-turns, stops for directions and other extensions to our bus trip. As such, the factory side of the building was closed for the day, but we did get to see some of the assembly line (above) and Strida build room. Then, we did laps on them around the conference room…
They have two assembly lines that can put together 300,000 bikes per year. They assemble Look’s bikes, though they don’t make them. Alloy and steel bikes are assembled on conveyer belt lines that resemble what we saw at Giant Bicycles’ World HQ. Carbon bikes, however, are assembled in one-person stations. Above, the new Look 675 is inspected after final assembly, wiped down, then carefully wrapped and packaged.
Like Giant’s plant, they have automated wheel building lines for the more mass produced items. Once the bikes are run through the assembly line, the first one for each model is pulled and quality checked for brake and shifting function, spoke tension and fit and finish. Then, bikes are spot checked by a line manager. While a good shop will still double check everything and fine tune it, it never hurts the brand when their bikes come well assembled.
Ming’s Taichung plant also does paint, with their own automated paint booths for high volume models. For higher end bikes, they have teams that hand mask and paint up to 20 frames per day.
STRIDA FOLDING BIKES
The Strida is instantly recognizable. It’s triangle shape belies it’s rather standard fit. You sit pretty upright, and reach and seat height are somewhat adjustable. It folds fairly quickly once you get the hang of it, too, and wheels along rather than needing to be carried.
Riding one is awkward at first. The tiny wheels and slack head angle (the entire front tube is the steerer) make for some twitchy handling, but before long we were whipping around the conference room, dodging our hosts, each other and show bikes hanging on the walls. Good times.
They make 65 a day with 12 people working on them. The frames are made in their mainlindChina plant, then assembled in here in Taichung.
The latest models can be equipped with some pretty trick components. On the high end, you get a belt drive hooked up to a Sturmey Archer kick speed 3-speed bottom bracket. Pedal backward a step and it shifts into a harder gear. Do it again for another gear up. A third time returns it to the easiest gear.
Clamshell pedals open flat against the crank for a narrower package when folded.
Disc brake and belt cog are all on the right hand side. The front axle flops around to connect with the rear when folded.
It definitely would have been nice to see the manufacturing side of the facility, but at least we had a good look at the fruits of their labor. All of the bikes shown here are really proof of concept items to show potential OE customers what they can do. Look around and you’ll likely see familiar shapes and design cues.