The Taiwan Bicycle
Manufacturing Industry Review

Bicycle Components

Glenn Reeves

Taipei International Cycle Show

Yes components, nuts and bolts, bits and pieces are a bit ho-hum. But this is what Taipei Cycle is more or less all about: the increasingly complex Taiwan – China – Taiwan supply chain that makes mid- to high-end bicycles possible.

Taipei International Cycle Show

You’ll find agents of  well-known and no so well-known brands moving about, checking, comparing, and negotiating with the myriad of small components manufacturers.  Stems supplied by X last year may be replaced by Y this year and back to the original arrangement next year.

That’s not to say that all suppliers are here because they are not. But the increasing importance of the show has booths occupying office space on the 5th and 6th floors of the Exhibition Center as well as outside.

Taipei International Cycle Show 2011

You would hardly give this bunch a second look as there is some very nice carbon frames next door. But a torque wrench is one of the most important tools in a bike workshop.

If you do any significant amounts of maintenance on your bike yourself, you should have one of these.  These models will give you readings up to 28-30 nM, enough for all the important small nuts and bolts.

Luckily these are not for sale as how would you choose? There are are a whole lot more a little further along this row. Actually, explicit rules dont allow sales to take place in the show. It’s a place for displaying products and making connections.

Taipei International Cycle Show

Not for sale and not necessarily available for order. Nice designs or even weird designs make a statement about possibilities. “Come and talk to us about your ideas and we may be able to make them happen” is the message.

Taipei International Cycle Show

Getting into components manufacturing requires more than just buying a machine and getting into it these days. This is how much of Taiwan’s components manufacturing sector started off decades ago.

Buy some machinery, bring in family to work it and share the successes or the failures. You learn as you go. Going and doing over a long period of time means becoming expert.

Quite a few workshops still prefer to keep it relatively lowtech. One very well-known master wheelbuilder in the very north of Taichung city still feels he does not need this machine. Wheels are assembled by hand alongside of more sophisticated mechanized processing.

On one hand there is a feeling that the capital outlay is not justified as well as a preference to keeping people who are very good at this in a job. In recent years this was beginning to be viewed as less and less sustainable because of the challenge from firms moving some or all of their operations to lower-cost bases across the Taiwan strait.

But with skilled labor increasingly hard to find in China and labor costs quickly going up, the scales are undergoing a rebalancing.

Taipei International Cycle Show

This is just about as basic as it can get. A bare booth, a few guys looking a bit bored, and one machine. It might be the same next year or the year after.The important thing is to be there.

People are watching. They notice. This year they’ll look. Next year they may ask a question. The year after, a deal of sorts may be done. The thing is, you are still here: this demonstrates commitment and sustainability.

Taipei International Cycle Show

And whether they are into this or . . .

Taipei International Cycle Show

. . . this,

Taipei International Cycle Show

or perhaps this: it’s largely what this show is all about.

Taipei International Cycle Show

Of course, lets not leave out the high-value adding, particularly as this relates to Electric Assist componentry. Here we have a complete or partial solution, depending on your angle.

The question can be thought of as what is the level of value-adding that you are looking for in the position you occupy in the supply chain?  Or better still, can you supply an answer to a question that hasn’t yet been asked by the market.

There were quite a few of those around this year as there are every year. And every year those who come up with these sorts of answers are counting on customers asking the specific question for which they feel they have a good answer.

Being slightly ahead of your time is the best place to be. Too far ahead and you’ll be invisible. And too late is just too late.


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