I am in the final stage of planning for an all-alloy bike, no carbon components at all, for the low-end of the market. This has meant selecting a quality fork producer. I produce my own carbon forks and have not yet used an alloy fork. So I have had to search for a producer.
Probably the best way to find a good component or component-service supplier is in the course of getting around to different suppliers with whom you are already doing business. You meet a wide variety of other suppliers/producers who are their customers, get to talking with them and get to see them as they are involved in the production of their components–a conscientious producer will be on the shop floor in person.
I had run into the owner of Kai Cheng who make forks out in Changhua in several places over the years. KC have been around for over twenty years and are one of the companies that resisted moving to China from Taiwan.
The workshop is small and neat. The company is quite small actually. A great advantage is that they will do small orders which is not necessarily connected to the company’s size. As a small company myself, this sort of flexibility is really quite important. In a way, we both occupy a niche that makes us well suited to each other.
Staying in Taiwan has been a good move for KC. They produce forks for a range of high-end brands including Brompton in the order of 50-70,000 every year, to name one. The customer pays a premium compared to what they get in China. But they can be certain of the quality.
The forks I selected weigh in at around 600g, which is not too bad. I could have used carbon which would have brought the weight down to 350-400g, depending on the particular design. But this would have added a premium to the price. There’s no point since the end-user for this type of bike is not fussed over a few hundred grams.
It’s all a matter of getting the balance right. And this comes from being hands-on and 100% involved in what’s happening on the shop floor and also your market niche at both the supply and demand ends.