Provenance


Every company has a story to tell. Glossy ads, marketing copy, websites, blogs, Twitter feeds, all of it aimed at creating a very specific impression of the brand. Paradoxically, ours is an industry that chases technology at the same time it basks in its sepia-toned heritage. A bike, component, or apparel maker who can bridge the gap between the two is destined for success.

And more than materials, most of which are common across product categories, provenance is perhaps the clearest shorthand for what a company is about. Campagnolo, that company founded on the back of a lost bike race and new invention (the quick release skewer), embodies what it is to be Italian, the melding of the aesthetic with the practical. For decades Campy’s graceful swooping lines and Italian bonafides have kept riders coming back, even at high cost, even when Shimano was doing everything better and cheaper. To Campy riders, the product and the provenance were inseparable, which is why Campagnolo are still making their components in Italy (and Eastern Europe), rather than the Far East.

The modern way, of course, is to research and design a new product, a jacket for example, in the market into which it will be sold. Numerous companies in the US and Western Europe maintain robust R&D groups in their homes countries. But then manufacturing happens in the Far East. When labor and materials cost roughly 10% of what they do in the target markets, outsourcing production makes good financial sense, although it plays hell with the provenance of the product. It changes the story.

If the short-term fiscal gain of outsourcing production proves too tempting for most, one question the industry hasn’t yet answered is whether that divorce between design and production makes a long-term difference. And part of the reason we don’t have an answer to the question is that most of the companies manufacturing in the Far East are still telling the stories they founded themselves on. They believe they can be coy about where their stuff is made. In the States, the law mandates a MADE IN XX tag on most products, but that’s not story-telling, that’s just compliance. In Italy, the standards for establishing “Made in Italy”-ness are so loose today that taking a product made elsewhere and placing it in a box, in Italy, will just about qualify.

The new stories are mostly about the design and technology of the product, not where it’s made. So we see a nylon rain jacket made in China retailing in the U.S. for over $250. None of the advertising for the garment mentions Asia. Instead it portrays hardened Europeans perched on the side of Alpen cols. It hits on the heritage of cycling, not on the reality of high-volume, contract production, even if it maybe sells short the skilled workers who make those jackets. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, we are told.

There are Chinese and Taiwanese craftspeople capable of the same quality work that their European or American counterparts produce. It is possible to manage a manufacturing process that effectively melds cutting edge design by passionate and experienced engineers, with low cost materials and labor, to produce a good product. In fact, the best monocoque carbon fiber frames being turned out in Asia are better than anything being made in the U.S. by the same method. They have the tools. They have the expertise.

And you know that there are good stories to tell about the technology, quality and methodology the industry’s Asian design partners bring to the game. It would be tempting to say there is a cultural bias working against these stories getting out, a covert racism, but the truth is it’s about the money.

It is hard to determine the value of a product without knowing the whole story. Are we paying for one talented designer and a slick marketing campaign, or is the thing in my hands actually very costly to make? The same jacket, from the previous example, also gets made in Italy by a different company. The price is roughly the same. Does being made in Italy, as advertised, increase its value?

You could argue (I have) that people and places find their way into the products they make in ways seen and unseen, measurable and immeasurable. So, even if it’s just a feeling, I believe that it’s ok to place a premium on the provenance of a thing. I want to know who the man behind the curtain is.

I realize that I am, perhaps, in the minority here. To a wide swathe of cyclists, the price is what matters, and as long as the products conform to their expectations, they see no problem. My issue remains, if you’re not willing to tell me where and how you make it, how can I validate what you want me to pay for it? If you’re telling me it’s the finest Italian design, I don’t expect ash from Mt Vesuvius embedded in the finish or a faint smell of Parmagiano-Reggiano, but I do expect that an Italian sensibility informed every aspect of its production, even if I can’t tell you exactly what that means.

In the absence of being able to test every product in advance of buying it, I rely on the story when I put my money down. I can tell you that I will NOT pay north of $250 for a nylon jacket made in China for the simple fact that I know it didn’t cost more than $50 to make. The same is true of a $5000 carbon frame. I don’t dispute the quality of the thing, but I do resent not having the cost inform the price. When I buy a jacket/bike/derailleur, I don’t want to buy a million magazine ads and a pro team sponsorship. The story is important, but I shouldn’t have to pay for it, and telling misleading or incomplete stories to part me from my cash isn’t the way to make me a long-term customer.

We don’t hear more about Asian manufacturing because those stories drive down prices. They make it harder to differentiate one frame coming out of a factory from another. The net effect is a lot more dollars spent on marketing. Telling a different story.

I want to be able to connect to the products I buy, just the way I want to be able to connect to the people I have in my life. Provenance is a way to connect. It lends authenticity. It fills in the gaps in an ongoing conversation, but it’s also a way to validate the price you’re paying for the thing in your hands, no matter where it came from.

In a very real way, Italy spoke to the world through Campagnolo and the myriad frame builders who turned out steel frames throughout the twentieth-century. We have this thick sense of Italian cycling, of French cycling, of British cycling, of Belgian cycling, and the bike industry is keen to exploit the richness of that sense to sell us stuff. But that’s mostly veneer. Like Italy before, Asia is speaking to us now, but the companies who sell their wares are only letting them lip-synch.

Follow me on Twitter @thebicyclerobot.

29 comments

  1. A Stray Velo

    That was a timely poignant piece. I couldn’t agree more.

    I really don’t mind at all where something is made just don’t try and sell me Italian or whatever cultural heritage it may be just to get me to buy your product. If companies were up front about where their products were made I’d have no issues with it. No one likes being feed a false story only to be lured in just for a sale. The cycling community and culture isn’t about that at all. At least I would like to believe we’re not.

  2. Wsquared

    Well said Robot. Have you been following the Rapha shoe review comment thread? Very relevant to this subject.


    1. Author
      Robot

      I have read all those comments. As is typical, Padraig and I are thinking many of the same thoughts on many of the same subjects. I would bet he doesn’t agree with everything I’ve written here, but it’s all of a piece. We work together because we share a basic world view, much of which is now informed by the things you and other readers say in these comment threads. So thanks for that.

  3. Chris

    Great piece. Show some pictures of Chinese laborers on the marketing looking at vistas of polluted rivers and trash, and give us a more genuine picture of the provenance of some of these products. Seriously–why is there never a photo of China (and I’m not being facetious) on anything produced there? If it’s good enough for the company producing the product, let’s see some pride in where it’s made. Stop showing black and white shots of guys in wool jerseys if the people producing it have never seen a road bike outside of the factory (unless it’s being smuggled out to see on the black market).

    I dunno–it’s harder to check the tags and do some research, but I think it’s short-sighted and rewarding the wrong people (mostly the company that’s taking advantage of us by selling something that cost $9 for $200) just to grab the cheapest thing every time.

    I probably have less stuff than lots of people, but for the most part, I know a thing or two about what I buy.

  4. Walt S

    Robot, you make several key points that address what everyone else seems to avoid considering. All of what you have observed boils down to this: for so many of today’s cycling products, whether it is clothing, frames, or components, it is about making the money, not about making the product. That may seem like a small semantic distinction, but it is not. When one explores the provenance of a cycling product made by Campagnolo, for instance, you can clearly see the connection to the Italian way of thinking and doing things. That Italian tradition is founded in the melding of the utilitarian and practical, and integrating it seamlessly with what is aesthetically pleasing to the eye and to the soul. When one thinks of products that have panache AND beauty, you think of Ducati motorcycles, Ferrari sports cars, Ferragamo shoes, and yes, Campagnolo cycling components.

    I looked up Italian shoe makers and the search revealed an Italian shoe making philosophy. “We believe that all shoe lovers deserve the best that Italy has to offer at an affordable price. We call it the new ‘Made in Italy.’ While those three words are known all over the world as a hallmark of fashion and quality, our innovative production process has allowed us to honor Italy’s centuries-old tradition of fine footwear while fulfilling the modern customer’s demand for comfort and value. And while comfort and value are emphasized, in true Italian tradition, style is never compromised. We believe that creativity is to footwear what fuel is to an engine—it is what motivates and drives. The ongoing conversation with the world’s shoe lovers that motivates Italian shoemakers to constantly exceed expectations and deliver our brand of ‘Made in Italy’—hand craftsmanship, fine materials, rich artistry and first-class style at an affordable price. 100% Designed and Made in Italy . . . Obviously With Love.”

    Who but the Italians would have a shoe making philosophy? Whether it is the Italian philosophy for making shoes, motorcycles, or widgets, the reason we love Italian goods so much is because the Italian Way is like no other and is based on centuries of Italian tradition. I would have issue with what Italians think is affordable, because usually it means more expensive than just about anything else. But if one looks at the entire picture of what Made in Italy entails, the fact that it integrates so much heart and soul as well as function, the resulting price actually could be considered affordable.
    The New Stories, as you refer to, are just that, stories. They are made up by ad men to seem like the cycling products they are trying to sell are based in the past traditions where honor, deceit, heroic deeds, guts and glory, and all the stuff that comprises cycling and why we love the sport so much. It is a flat out lie. These products are based on how many can be made as cheaply as possible and sold for as much as a gullible market will bear. Don’t get me wrong. Italian companies are in business to make money just like anyone else. But they try to incorporate the Italian way of doing things by trying to produce the best quality product first, and then sell it to make a profit, instead of profit being the first objective and then coming up with a product that will fulfill that goal.

    I KNOW that when that when I buy a Colnago, there is a man behind it whose philosophy is spurred by passion to be the best. When I buy a made in Asia frame, I know there is an Ad Man behind it whose philosophy is spurred by passion to make the most money. There IS a difference.


    1. Author
      Robot

      @Walt – I think about this distinction a lot. There are people in the bike business to make money, and there are people in the bike business to build bikes/parts/clothing. To me, the whole strategy of low cost manufacturing is predicated on the idea that you can STILL charge top dollar for those goods and then turn the competition into a marketing battle. In other words, charge the same and spend the difference on advertising. Most who pursue this strategy would tell you the products are just as good. Maybe so. Maybe not. The point is that the price is too often derived from the cost of sales, rather than the cost of production.

  5. Peter Lin

    Interesting discussion. I consider myself cheap, so I don’t have any attachment to the traditional brands. From my own recent experience, design and manufacturing are two different things. Even if some designer/artist creates the blue print, there’s no guarantee the production of that “thing” is going to match the design specification. That is universally true every where. Without quality assurance and strict over sight, the production of that item could deviate tremendously.

    Given the economy is global, figuring out where a “thing” is made and by whom is tough. Even if an item is made 100% in america or italy, how do you know the person is a seasoned professional or a new trainee?

    For myself, as long as the company selling the item stands behind the warranty and provides good customer service, I will give them my business. Recently I bought a Castelli due jacket that was on close-out sale. The minute I tried it on, the fit was noticeably better than my pearl izumi jacket. I took a close look at the design and stitching of both jackets. I’m not a seamstress, so I can’t tell the difference. Both look good to me. The castelli was made in Macau, the pearl izumi made in china. As far as I can tell, the difference in fit is the design.

    Like others, I prefer to know where a thing is made, so that I can decide for myself if it is really worth the advertised price.

  6. Walt S

    Chris makes a really good point. Why are there never pictures in the ad copy of the passionate and talented Chinese workers producing amazing products? If these products are truly the best, wouldn’t it make sense to promote how skilled the workers are that produce these products? It may sound quaint, but if you go to a SIDI factory in Italy, there are workers who have been producing shoes for decades. If you go to a factory that is producing Rapha, there are workers who have come from the farms to the city to make money, and have been producing a products since they were trained to do so since last week.

    Asia has many traditions that are millenniums old. Acupuncture, Chinese medicine, the extraordinary cuisines of so many counties in the Far East, Japanese swords and knives that are amazing in their sharpness, as well as two World religions. All are renowned for their depth and scope steeped in tradition and history. Manufacturing goods for export is a most recent endeavor that is less than a few decades old. Don’t tell me it is more than that when the evidence says the contrary.

    1. Padraig

      All: Thanks for your comments. I’m enjoying the conversation. That said, Walt S, I need to rebut a few of your statements. First, regarding Colnago: It has been decades upon decades since Colnago produced anything approximating “best.” The production style of his factory resulted in a uniform practice for many years where frames were heated so long that the heat treating of the tubing was ruined. Consequently, nearly every Colnago owner I know has a story of the right chainstay breaking either at the dropout or at the BB. I won’t argue against his passion, but the quality of the product can easily be cast into doubt. That doesn’t change that they were beautiful and epitomized Italian cycling passion.

      As to the reason why you don’t see photos of Asian factories, the reasons vary on a case-by-case basis, but the first, biggest reason is that the manufacturer that might want to use shots of the factory doesn’t own the factory. Permission is an issue. Competitor’s frames being made in the same facility is also an issue. The things that really help differentiate carbon bikes venture into trade secrets, not the sort of thing you want to display in photos. Ultimately, I think it comes down to the fact that we have this romanticized image of the one-man frame shop. We find that process interesting. It is, however, basic industrial work. Making a carbon frame is similarly basic industrial work, but we don’t look upon carbon layup as skilled labor, when in actual fact, it is. Finally, your assertion that “It’s all about cheap labor first” is both factually inaccurate and insulting to a great many hard-working people.

  7. Walt S

    I can be trained to make anything. I have absolutely no talent in this area whatsoever. I would be terrible at it and the thing I produced would be mediocre at best. If I was willing to work for $1.00 an hour, I’m pretty sure I would get hired. It’s all about cheap labor first, NOT quality first.

  8. Nick

    While no company uses the imagery on their boxes or marketing, not every company completely hides the provenance, although you have to poke around to find this stuff: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwrwbxPKjAI

    It’s good to see the craftsmen and women who handbuild this stuff, even if the image of a factory floor isn’t as romantic as the man-in-a-shed history we’re typically told about.


    1. Author
      Robot

      I did see that when it came out. Yes. There is also ample good writing on this topic on inrng.com and at CyclingIQ.

  9. troutdreams

    Most consumers feel there’s a difference between goods that are made in China vs. goods make in Italy/USA/France/Germany. Whether it’s true or not, the perception is already there and only reinforced with these “New Stories”.

    Marketing departments don’t include images of Chinese manufacturing because it runs against the grain of our biases, which ironically were partially created by marketing departments.

    If Shimano, SRAM, Cervelo, Specialized, (the list goes on and on) started promoting their connections to China, consumer opinions would change. It’s not going to happen because it’s easier to spin something else.

    I’m not saying China doesn’t make cheap products, developing nations were always the best place to manufacture products designed to be price leaders in their market. The point is, you have a choice when your goods come out of China. Try manufacturing something so simple as a soccer ball in Italy or France. The social safety nets and costs of living in those (wonderful) countries push up labor costs. There is really no choice but to market the ball with all the “provenance” your ad men can squeeze out of their cheeks. But is it really a better ball?

    Yes, the original discussion is about products that are a bit more complex than soccer balls but the point still stands. Cheaper labor rates allow a company to choose their product placement in a market. If you want to go high end, provide the laborers with training, skilled managers, superior product design and materials. You’ll have high end cycling components or beautiful double stitched, goretex raincoat with a proper fit and pockets in all the right places.

  10. Patrick

    For a while velonews online had a series of articles touring specific factories. The Look tour is one I specifically remember and I was really impressed.

  11. wmderosset

    I KNOW that when that when I buy a Colnago, there is a man behind it whose philosophy is spurred by passion to be the best. When I buy a made in Asia frame, I know there is an Ad Man behind it whose philosophy is spurred by passion to make the most money. There IS a difference.

    Dear Walt,

    What happens when you buy a Colnago mass-produced in Asia? Or one which had just under half of its value added in Asia (the basis for provenance is the majority of value-added, and so would be labeled Made in Italy if it were painted there at prevailing wage rates)?

    Do you think that the passion of the designer to build the best (within his design constraints, which include constructability and cost) is diminished somehow because the shipping containers aren’t arriving from two hours up the road, but from eight timezones out?

    I personally like (and support) local cycling firms. I know the folks involved, I know most of their builders personally, they know their suppliers and so forth, and everyone’s got a face, and I’m lucky to get to ride their work. That’s got value to me.

    However, the mass-produced bikes I’ve had (Schwinn and Specialized from Japan, Colnago and Bianchi from Italy, Cannondale from Taiwan, Heron, Litespeed, and Merlin from the USA, and so on) have been reasonably well-designed and competently built, regardless of provenance. In the case of the Taiwanese bike, it is also a masterwork of value.

    The one-offs, built with passion to be the best by an individual artisan (or the small factory behind them), regardless of provenance (USA, mostly but France sneaks in there), have been much more uneven. Some have been sublime. Others, misfires. A couple have been sublime misfires. They’ve all been expensive.

    Best,

    Will
    William M. deRosset
    Fort Collins, CO

  12. Sidamo

    @Walt S, while you’d do a crummy job because working for $1/hr is such a massive step down, for many people in China $1/hr is a huge step up and a very worthwhile job to attain. There’s plenty of competition for these jobs, so the effort put into them is far better than you’d get from a few minimum-wage Americans.

  13. Champs

    Given the choice of two luxury watches, identical in every way, except that one has FABRIQUE EN SUISSE, and the other MADE IN CHINA lightly stamped on the backside, there’s no rational reason to pick one over the other. Would you choose at random?

    Personally, I pick my battles. You can go out of your way to avoid Asian imports or you can accept our new Far East overlords, but neither approach explores all the options. As it stands, all of my bike frames are domestically built, and I’ll continue to look stateside for quality, creative options from American companies/manufacturers like Thomson, PraxisWorks, RetroShift, Velocity, and so on. Every one of them is price/performance competitive with anything shipped from the other side of the Pacific.

  14. Gerard

    Provenance to me has become everything, not because I am some uber snob but because as Robot says,”I can tell you that I will NOT pay north of $250 for a nylon jacket made in China for the simple fact that I know it didn’t cost more than $50 to make.”

    As someone who runs the fine line, having both dealt with production of frames in Asia, while slowly and methodically building a clothing line that’s made using pretty much all ‘Western’ sourced materials, in Australia, I have seen, and see, the industry for what it is: 90% marketing a fabricated story and 10% substance. When a factory in Taiwan tells you that they make their carbon (as do most) in China, because it’s cheaper, everything is put firmly into place.

    At the same time, manning a tent at Sea Otter and having 80% of the people giving you attitude when they ask where the bike is made, and you say Taiwan, you realise that that spend on 90% marketing is paying off; a large majority out there think that their boutique bike is still made in the US (or Europe). Walking into a factory and seeing boutique brand next to major player hanging off the same paint racks, you realise the current state of affairs is a total farce.

    The reasons for the move to Asia are more than one would care to discuss here, but two of the major crunch factors are 1. people not wanting to pay what it’s worth to make in the West and 2. the margins needed to sustain the monsters that many companies have become; when you do the numbers, from production all the way through to retail (and what’s needed to ‘get on the retail floor’), you understand the shift, and the insanity.

    I do feel the tide is turning and people are wanting more than something pushed out of a mass line somewhere outside Shanghai, the crux will be if this trend keeps on growing enough to make mass production outside of China, or, if China for whatever reason is put in a position where it can no longer artificially control its currency, putting their cost of labour more in step with the rest of the world rather than the artificial bubble the Party keeps it in.

    I wrote a piece on this topic after I spent 4 days in the dust of Sea Otter last year: http://www.lab-gear.com/2011/made-in

  15. Howard

    One interesting exception in the design/manufacturing paradigm, is Giant, a Taiwanese company, producing world class carbon composite bicycles. The pro level frames which we can also buy are expertly handcrafted, taking upwards of 20 hrs to produce, going through thirty some pairs of hands and fourteen QC checks for each frame. No robotic mass produced techniques.. Many other composite bikes share similar construction techniques, but none share a seamless integration from design,to material , to manufacturing. It is a shame these workers get so little recognition from the people that purchase the products. I think most consumers feel these items are largely just spit out of molds like other plastic consumer goods. No, I don’t work for Giant.
    I grew up in Detroit and saw first hand howthings were made by people, A tour of an auto plant is beyond amazing to a school kid. But we also saw inside big commecial bakeries and dairy plants. I’m sure many of my schoolmates parents worked in manufacturing and had good lives supported by those jobs. We have exported that to Asia, but they need us as much as we need them and that remains a healthy synergy.

  16. craig

    That’s why I love Ritte van Vlaanderen. It all started as a dig at provenance: couple of guys from California sourcing bikes from Asia and laying on a Flandrien provenance so thick that they called the company “Ritte from Flanders”. Only thing is, either people didn’t get the joke or think that idea of “provenance” is.

  17. Wsquared

    When I bought my Cervelo, it was obvious where it was made. It says right on the box “Made in China” as well on the frame. If you read Vrooman & Whites copious writings, they have never tried to hide that fact from their customers. You will also know that they are a couple of fanatical engineers with a passion for cycling who take a direct interest in all aspects of R&D & production and back their frames with a life time warranty. Despite being a smaller company, they sponsored a top pro team, at considerable cost to their bottom line. They have taken a strong anti doping stance while still giving riders who show that they can change their lives a second chance. They take a direct interest in the conditions of the workers in the factories that make their frames. Their designs have been consistently innovative inside and out, and are results oriented. They spend as much or more time in the wind tunnel than any other company and they do their R&D in California and produce test bikes by hand there. They communicate with their customers in a direct and honest way, including when they recently sold controlling interest in their company to a group that IMO will help them grow for many years to come. (it’s a different topic, but I feel good about the sale.) Their bikes are not cheap, but neither are they asking ridiclously inflated prices for a well regarded made in Asia frame. And of course, I love the ride and handling etc

    I say this not as a commercial for Cervelo, but as a window into what I considered in this day & age when I purchased a bike. There are other fine companies out there who make great bikes, but there is also often a big disparity into what goes into a “made in asia” frame. It’s up to the buyer to learn the difference if they really care

    1. Padraig

      Scott G: Ritte is all about (as my English friends say) taking the piss out of being too serious. My time with Spencer has taught me that he values the work that goes into great athletic achievement and loves being fit. He also loves sponsoring other athletes, which is why you see his team turn up in the results of all the local races. After all, fast is cool. But Spencer loves to poke fun at the guys who take themselves too seriously, as exemplified by the sticker he gave me that says, “My power’s up like 8% from last year.” He’s also really transparent about where his stuff comes from. I’d say both Rapha and Ritte strive to be authentic, but they are working from two very different definitions.

  18. Joe B.

    I have no delusions about quality having much to do with country of origin. The main reason I try to buy US-made (or Canada-made, or mostly any first-world country) is – perhaps naively – practical. The US has lost much of its manufacturing capacity, and I really don’t think our economy can sustain itself indefinitely without producing anything besides ideas.

    While most everyone I know romanticizes objects that are “Made in the USA” (and comes up with infinite excuses as to why they just can’t purchase them), nobody wants to work on an assembly line. We have this rosy dream of the craftsman in a small studio, selling to a small business, selling to a consumer for a fair price, but that’s not reality (unless we’re willing to own far less stuff). Yes, we are living in a global economy, but we can’t use that as an excuse for everything. Rigidly sticking to a Made-in-the-USA sticker is not the answer, but surely there’s a better way than buying most of our consumer goods from the same country that’s lending us trillions of dollars?

    On the “true cost” of goods:

    Every step in the supply chain has to make a profit, and while at first the cost of manufacturing something may seem absurdly small, it makes a lot more sense when you consider all those steps it takes to make it to the consumer’s hands. Having worked in small bike shops for years, it’s tough for them to stay open even with the markups they currently put on products. Then the distributor has to make a profit before they sell to the shop. Then the brand has to make a profit (after shipping something halfway around the world). Then the factory has to make a profit. Finally the materials must be purchased and the workers paid. Of course there’s going to be a HUGE gap between cost of production and cost to consumer. There’s no way to avoid that, no matter where something’s produced.

    This turned into more of a rant than I was hoping to write…. Truly enjoying this conversation!

  19. Captain H

    First off, I concur, this is a great conversation.

    While there might be a Don Draper influenced cabal in play, I don’t think that anyone who reads this column (or pays upwards of $5K for a frame) really is naive enough to not know the “provenance” of the products they purchase. In our highly globalised society we all understand the reasons that products are manufactured overseas. Luckily for us, there are numerous venues and options to help us scratch the itch (whatever our personal choices are); niche frame builders to large-scale production, small clothing manufacturers that embrace “Made in the USA” to Rapha. It’s all there.

    Truth of it is that in a kind of Mad Men driven alternative world, we as cyclists are drawn to the image, smell, touch of all that is old-school European; from Campy to Colnago to Gitane to….. It’s what Gimondi, Merckx, and so many others rode. That I think is what the essence of Rapha is all about. Whether or not you feel that cultural, old-school vibe when you don a Rapha jersey or ride a Colnago is more about marketing and not provenance. None of these companies hide the fact that their products are produced overseas but neither do they go out of their way to state it. Why? Because to do so, would detract from the visceral connection their iconic marques invoke; namely, old school European.

    Bottom line: I hold in high regard the skilled craftsmen who can turn out a Vittoria tubular tire or build a Colnago, Pinarello or Giant frame; regardless of their country of manufacture. I have no data to tell me if a Colnago C-59 produced in Italy is in fact better than an M-10 produced in Asia. Frankly, they both seem to work just fine and were either to fail catastrophically, the company wouldn’t be around very long anyway.

    In so many ways, cycling and all it embraces tugs at our desire to be connected to the past as well as to our current favorites (count the number of Molteni jerseys you see out this weekend). And so much of that connection is made in the clothing we wear, the bikes we ride and the components we choose. Key word: choose. If riding a Colnago or wearing a Rapha jersey makes us feel closer to those halcyon days, then all the better. Who gives a hoot where it was made.

  20. Wsquared

    Re Rapha. See also Giordana’s “Sport” line & adverts. Old school/retro is trending right now at the higher end. I really like the look, but I could use some “old school” pricing too. Still, not ridiculously expensive I guess.

  21. Peter Lin

    This video from Jay Leno’s garage http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4aatqMxFnE&list=UUQMELFlXQL38KPm8kM-4Adg&index=4&feature=plcp feels applicable to the discussion. American culture needs to change to be more balanced and we need to value everyone’s contribution. A white collar job is not better or more grand than a blue collar job. It feels like for many years, the media looked down on certain types of jobs. As a result, american culture had a negative image of skilled craftsmen.
    I’m hopeful that little by little, american culture can find a balance that is more honest and healthy. Having open discussion like this is a great step towards that.

  22. LD

    While I admire Ritte and Rapha neither are original ( despite what their devoted little armies might say). In fact Rapha is in danger of trying to be too elite, thereby pushing customers away and Ritte is in danger of becoming too self important despite what they say or do. Neither are true to their (fabricated) roots and like the state of most end user companies they pander to the Disney-fication of retail. While the Detroit model is over, its refreshing when you see companies that are true to their roots regardless of where they are made. Give me a guy (or gal), some tubing or carbon cloth, a dingy garage and a huge imagination any day.

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