Monday, February 12, 2007

Taiwan Redux...

As mentioned previously, I recently spent about 10 days in Taiwan. During those 10 days, I visited with many companies- new, old and potential vendor partners of mine. During the 5 weekdays we had there, we met with about 26 companies. For the math-impaired... that's a lot of people, factories and products.

(Masi carbon frames fresh out of production and awaiting paint.)

Taiwan was a fantastic experience for me professionally. I learned a lot about the biggest provider of products to the world cycling industry. China may beat out Taiwan on total units produced, but dollar volume still remains with Taiwan, as the production of high-end products is still largely in Taiwan (though China is getting better at it all the time).


(Beautiful steel rear triangle assemblies being brazed... not mine... yet....)

Taiwan continues to have a bad and totally unfair reputation. Taiwan is frequently abused as being a supplier of sub-par products at insanely cheap prices. Not to bash on the cycling manufacturers in other countries, but this reputation is totally unfounded. Yes, as is the case with any country, you can find some really bad products coming from Taiwan. However, there are US vendors you couldn't PAY me to work with. Same for some vendors from other countries with rich and storied reputations. Not to flog a dead horse, since this is a comment I frequently make; quality is totally independent of geography. A good supplier is a good supplier, regardless of their location. Taiwan continues to provide quality products to the industry at great prices, which has been one of the biggest reasons for the industry's rebound over the past several years. The sheer volume of products coming from Taiwan and the number of companies working with Taiwan is one of the reasons for the lower cost of goods- the economy of scale helps to make things cheaper.

What Taiwan really needs is a good PR campaign to reach out to the consumers of cycling products across the globe. A concerted effort to reach out to the folks who ultimately purchase and ride the products is one way to "win the battle of hearts and minds". Most consumers do not care at all where the products they purchase are produced. They just want a good product at a good price (maybe in a great color). It's an oversimplification, I know, but price is a major element of most purchases made.

Now, I am not trying to discount the ever-growing industry of small artisan builders that are springing up all over the place. There will hopefully always be a growing demand for custom made frames. I've always maintained that the heart and soul of our beloved industry is the small builder- the guys (and gals) who spend hours brazing tubes together, filing lugs, mitering tubes, setting up jigs and meticulously checking each and every measurement along the way. I always wanted to be a frame builder- I dreamed of being an apprentice with Richard Sachs, or working with Dave Moulton, or Bill Holland, or even Masi California... but it never happened. I have never lifted a torch or filed a set of lugs or learned to fillet braze, but I still have a lot of love for those who do. (By the way, you have to check out this builder in Austin, TX- thanks to my friend Bernie at Panther City Bicycles for turning me on to this guy's work... it's amazing.)

It is just my personal belief that the Taiwan cycling industry gets an unfair reputation. They produce some of the best products in the world for some of the biggest names in the industry, though usually under somebody else's name and yet people constantly turn up their noses to "Made in Taiwan" stickers on bikes. I think that is totally wrong and not just because I happen to sell and represent a brand that is now produced in Taiwan, rather than in its Italian birthplace. So, if anybody from the Taiwan cycling industry is reading this post (and I know that you do), I'd love to see you reach out to consumers more and spread the word about how wonderful your industry and products are. Heck, drop me a line and I'll happily help on my side of the globe. And consumers, the next time you look at a new bike or buy a new bike, don't peel that "Made in Taiwan" sticker off your bike in disgust. Instead, be thankful the bike is made in Taiwan because, believe me, it could be made somewhere else where the quality of the product isn't as important. Be proud. And for those folks with the money and time on their hands, support your local frame builders. Believe me, if I had the money, I'd probably have a couple hundred bikes by different builders by now. We are blessed to have such a rich and diverse group of builders in the US.

Ultimately, find and buy the bike that makes you happy when you ride it- happy because you got a great deal, happy because you had it made specifically for you, happy because it makes you smile when you throw a leg over it and hit the road... whatever it is. Ride what you love and love what you ride... I do.

Tim Jackson
Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser

Posted by Tim Jackson at 7:47 PM

5 Comments

  1. Anonymous Sean Howard posted at 4:40 AM  
    Masi, you rock.

    Giving lip service to the whole "small guys have a place too" is so prevalent in our world that I instantly expect a corporate line. But here you are actually giving exposure to the best of the smaller guys. Way to walk the walk, man.

    I must admit I had a view of Taiwan as cheap and imitation products. Thanks for helping to open my mind up on the topic.
  2. Blogger T-Guy J posted at 12:07 PM  
    The trip sounded amazing and incredibly interesting. It is good to hear that you are making sure the Masi name is supplies with some of the top mass-produced carbon frames in the world...I would to expect nothing less.

    As Sean said, way pay homage to some of the great builders who do it the old fashioned way. It is amazing to see how the US boutique bike building industry was developed through a lineage of just a few guys (Ben Serotta, Chris Chance, Richard Sachs, Peter Mooney, to name a few)
  3. Anonymous Deborah posted at 1:42 AM  
    Your trip to Taiwan must have been quite an experience! I've longed to go there for years.

    I stumbled across your site on another where you were you were doing Technorati favs exchange, but couldn't find your post for it.

    So I've added you to my favs :)

    I would greatly appreciate if you would fav me as well.

    The link to my fav is
    http://technorati.com/faves?sub=addfavbtn&add=http://www.fastlanetransport.ca/blog

    Love the name of your blog :)

    Cheers!
  4. Anonymous Anonymous posted at 9:23 AM  
    ~Your problem~ is that YOU only represent modern frames/bikes of Masi. As HARO owns Masi. (Searching on inet, and searching of the phone# vs. address verification, proves this.) You, nor the current Masi, do not represent the entire company history. Suggestions from owners (like me) of >classic Masi< Bikes suggesting website improvements -- directly to you/Tim Jackson, are ignored. As this is a HARO company.
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