When Star Wars came out in 1977, it was a cultural phenomenon. It revived science fiction as a genre and inspired an interest in space that played out both in pop culture and politics. What many people don’t recall are the myriad copycat films that somehow did not dim our enthusiasm for the franchise. On the plus side, Star Wars paved the way for movies like Dune to be produced, but its coattails harbored atrocities like Starcrash, Message From Space and Space Mutiny. To me, the point isn’t that other people will copy your work and cash in on your good idea, but that originality isn’t the thing. Hard work is the thing.
Thomas Edison is known for having said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” It’s a cute little gem, but he backed it up with this: “I never did anything worth doing by accident, nor did any of my inventions come indirectly through accident, except the phonograph. No, when I have fully decided that a result is worth getting, I go about it, and make trial after trial, until it comes.”
Yeah, hard work.
As I was getting a tour Allied’s facilities in Little Rock last year, their CEO, Tony Karklins, told me they’ve already given tours to employees of several other bike companies, including Giant. He could have been more direct as he told me, “I want to be as transparent as possible. I want people to believe in the work we are doing.”
What he stressed to me repeatedly is that what makes producing great carbon fiber bikes difficult isn’t the engineering or the materials or any of the technology. It’s just hard work. And to his thinking, if someone else is willing to work that hard, then they are trying to make a good product, and why shouldn’t they find success.
While I don’t want to go political, I have to say that I’ve watched our brewing trade war with duties and tariffs galore, the skyrocketing cost of college, and talk of the return of trade schools—not to mention efforts to bring industry back to the heartland—and begun to wonder what this holds for the bike industry. While bicycle retailing is immensely troubled and not likely to get better, I see the possibility of bringing manufacturing of bicycle frames and forks back to the U.S.
The U.S. can be criticized for being overly materialistic (is a bigger house that necessary?), shallow (who really cares how many Instragram followers a makeup model has?) and perhaps disinterested in other cultures (only 36 percent of us have a valid passport), what this country has long had is a strong work ethic. While Asia is still the easiest place to get bike parts made, the rise of new bike companies—like Allied—gives me hope for a new era in the bike industry, and the U.S. economy.
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