A question about Chinese carbon frames

Chip \'oyler
Chip \'oyler Posts: 2,323
edited March 2011 in Road buying advice
I was hoping someone might be able to answer something that's been nagging me.

Does anyone know if the chinese factories that a lot of people are buying frames from direct, actually design these frames in the first place, or is the R&D and design done by the European brands. In effect are the European brands the brains and the Chinese the brawn?
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Comments

  • dabber
    dabber Posts: 1,926
    That was my question on this thread.

    http://www.bikeradar.com/forums/viewtop ... t=12755829

    I still haven't worked out where the R&D is done. If it's done by a particular brand would they licence it to be rebranded or sold unbranded? If not it would suggest they are buying in the whole process from the Chinese.
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  • thel33ter
    thel33ter Posts: 2,684
    I would say it depends. Most big brand frames are designed in house then built in Taiwan.

    But then for example Ribble sell their frames as their own, but sometimes it seems as if the design had originated in China.
    And now you know, and knowing is half the battle
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  • JKHinton
    JKHinton Posts: 70
    Even if the frame R & D is done in Europe or the USA etc you can be certain the Chinese and Taiwan frame makers will take short cuts with the quality of the materials they use to produce the frames, they will be under massive pressure to produce the frames as cheaply as possible for the big names in the cycle industry.

    If you want a quality frame you would be better to buy a good steel frame produced by one of the smaller makers here in the UK.
  • Percy Vera
    Percy Vera Posts: 1,103
    JKHinton wrote:
    Even if the frame R & D is done in Europe or the USA etc you can be certain the Chinese and Taiwan frame makers will take short cuts with the quality of the materials they use to produce the frames, they will be under massive pressure to produce the frames as cheaply as possible for the big names in the cycle industry.

    If you want a quality frame you would be better to buy a good steel frame produced by one of the smaller makers here in the UK.

    Yeah, like anything some might but not all. These businesses have reputations to protect. If their frames break,or are defective in any way the 'Brand Names' will not buy from them again.

    There was a good thread on here from someone at PX last year, how it works.

    Here it is: http://www.bikeradar.com/forums/viewtop ... =#15988088
  • proto
    proto Posts: 1,483
    I suspect that apart from the big players, none of the R+D is done in Europe or the USA. The brand managers/marketing bods go to the Taipai bicycle expo, look at all the Chinese designed and manufactured frames on display and just pick one, which they then have painted up and decalled in their own in-house colour schemes.

    Their selection criteria will be ensuring the reliability of the product, the reliability of supply and the price negotiated. The technical stuff will be left to the manufacturer.
  • cougie
    cougie Posts: 22,512
    JKHinton wrote:
    Even if the frame R & D is done in Europe or the USA etc you can be certain the Chinese and Taiwan frame makers will take short cuts with the quality of the materials they use to produce the frames, they will be under massive pressure to produce the frames as cheaply as possible for the big names in the cycle industry.

    If you want a quality frame you would be better to buy a good steel frame produced by one of the smaller makers here in the UK.

    Interesting - I wonder where your boardman was built ? Or your pc/tv/whatever ?
  • EKIMIKE
    EKIMIKE Posts: 2,232
    Pretty ironic if JKHinton's post is serious. If it is then a massive :roll: is all it deserves.

    I suspect it varies between each case. It's probably a trade off between investing in R+D, paying for the tooling/mould, and the extent to which other manufacturers can use that tooling/mould too.

    I believe that is how PX explained it. CBA to read that thread again atm.

    Regardless, i'm pretty confident that the Chinese can make a fairly decent, respectable frame themselves based on their own R+D. They're not some sort of intellectually inferior beings. Just don't expect them to be doing much with regards to technical innovation - that will likely come from those with greater financial resources such as the big european brands.
  • Monty Dog
    Monty Dog Posts: 20,614
    Most product design is done empirically using design standards developed over the years - very few will start out with blank sheets of paper and a pile of finite element analysis and stress calcs - regardless of what the marketing bods tell you. Make a prototype, put it on a test rig, ride it around a bit and if it breaks, you modify the the mould to make it stronger.
    The accusation that somehow these products are inferior is purely jingoistic nonsense - the reason that frame building died in this country was that much of it was poorly produced and finished and was sold with a degree of sullen indignation.
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  • Chip \'oyler
    Chip \'oyler Posts: 2,323
    Percy Vera wrote:
    JKHinton wrote:
    Even if the frame R & D is done in Europe or the USA etc you can be certain the Chinese and Taiwan frame makers will take short cuts with the quality of the materials they use to produce the frames, they will be under massive pressure to produce the frames as cheaply as possible for the big names in the cycle industry.

    If you want a quality frame you would be better to buy a good steel frame produced by one of the smaller makers here in the UK.

    Yeah, like anything some might but not all. These businesses have reputations to protect. If their frames break,or are defective in any way the 'Brand Names' will not buy from them again.

    There was a good thread on here from someone at PX last year, how it works.

    Here it is: http://www.bikeradar.com/forums/viewtop ... =#15988088

    Thanks for the link. That post from Planet X has answered a lot of questions.
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  • JKHinton
    JKHinton Posts: 70
    Interesting - I wonder where your boardman was built ? quote

    I am well aware where my Boardman was built :roll:

    My Boardman like many other brands produced today has just a average quality frame made in Taiwan hence the Total retail £649 price tag with the other fitted components.

    I only wanted to pay the price for a bike with a average quality frame. :roll:

    I was only pointing out that IMO if the op wanted something special above the average frame quality, that every tom dick and harry have, he would be better to buy a quality hand made steel frame etc made buy a small specialized maker.

    If the OP wants something better than a average quality frame, I have my doubts that he will not get one from a factory that pays its workers $2 a day
  • JKHinton wrote:
    I was only pointing out that IMO if the op wanted something special above the average frame quality, that every tom dick and harry have, he would be better to buy a quality hand made steel frame etc made buy a small specialized maker.

    If the OP wants something better than a average quality frame, I have my doubts that he will not get one from a factory that pays its workers a day

    The OP asked a question about how the working relationships in a global market operate and did not ask for people's xenophobic dogmas about the quality of manufacturing and living in the Far East so as to perpetuate a "them and us" attitude.

    Try reading the linked post from PX as it shows that the working relationships are not as polarized as you would have yourself believe.
  • Chip \'oyler
    Chip \'oyler Posts: 2,323
    JKHinton wrote:
    I was only pointing out that IMO if the op wanted something special above the average frame quality, that every tom dick and harry have, he would be better to buy a quality hand made steel frame etc made buy a small specialized maker.

    If the OP wants something better than a average quality frame, I have my doubts that he will not get one from a factory that pays its workers a day

    The OP asked a question about how the working relationships in a global market operate and did not ask for people's xenophobic dogmas about the quality of manufacturing and living in the Far East so as to perpetuate a "them and us" attitude.

    Try reading the linked post from PX as it shows that the working relationships are not as polarized as you would have yourself believe.

    Thanks :wink: I'm glad somebody can read!
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  • JKHinton
    JKHinton Posts: 70
    I am not sorry if I have upset the Globalized PC defenders of the cycle industry but IMO I still think the majority of goods produced in the Far East are of average to poor quality you can believe the spin if you want to, you only have to look at the quality of some of the sh!t that is in the shops today.

    To the op I can read and know spin when I see it, the only reason most of the manufacturing has moved to the Far East is slave labour, you can be certain it was not done to improve the quality of goods in the wests shopping malls.

    I was only giving you my opinion but I forgot if its not PC
    today we are not allowed to say anything.
  • cougie
    cougie Posts: 22,512
    TBH I've had the custom steel bikes from some of the top frame builders in the UK.

    Nice enough bikes.

    I've also had carbon bikes from the far east and they were pretty damn good too. Certainly lighter and if you factor in inflation - cheaper even.

    My top quality steel frame rusted through on the chrome chainstays - and that was treated very well - it was my summer bike at the time. My foreign carbon frame shows no sign of doing that yet....

    Buy custom steel if you want to. Just er, dont believe the hype.
  • Chip \'oyler
    Chip \'oyler Posts: 2,323
    JKHinton wrote:
    I am not sorry if I have upset the Globalized PC defenders of the cycle industry but IMO I still think the majority of goods produced in the Far East are of average to poor quality you can believe the spin if you want to, you only have to look at the quality of some of the sh!t that is in the shops today.

    To the op I can read and know spin when I see it, the only reason most of the manufacturing has moved to the Far East is slave labour, you can be certain it was not done to improve the quality of goods in the wests shopping malls.

    I was only giving you my opinion but I forgot if its not PC
    today we are not allowed to say anything.

    You need to lighten up!

    Where in my original post was I supporting frames being manufactured in China? I was asking the question because I was worried that people were buying frames direct from the manufacturers and not paying for the original R&D that the european brands were putting in. But it seems that it's a very grey area and that some Chinese manufacturers do indeed put in their own hard work in the development and R&D stages.

    And I'm afraid that as long as people want to buy products at cheaper prices then companies are going to find ways of cutting costs. You need to get used to that.
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  • MrChuck
    MrChuck Posts: 1,663
    JKHinton wrote:
    I still think the majority of goods produced in the Far East are of average to poor quality you can believe the spin if you want to, you only have to look at the quality of some of the sh!t that is in the shops today.

    I'm sure you're right in that there is a lot of cheap crap about, and a lot of it comes from the Far East. But it doesn't follow at all that everything made in the Far East is crap and everything made in the UK/West is lovingly hand built by old school craftsmen. I doubt that was even true 30 years ago- Rover, anyone? In every industry there's a range of stuff made to a range of price points, but the quaality of stuff at the lower end says nothing about the quality at the higher end.

    Good luck finding someone in the UK who can make a carbon frame to anything like the standard of the industry leaders in Taiwan, for anything like the same price. Of course hat's not to say that everything made in the UK is crap, but it's a bit blinkered to think the West leads the way in everything.
  • mike ives
    mike ives Posts: 319
    I have to say there has been some really scandalous and probably uninformed statements about the quality of carbon frames produced in Taiwan and possibly the Far East in general. Why do you automatically assume the workers in this geographc area produce inferior goods? As I understand it, Taiwan and Korea are reputed to have some of the most advanced skills in the production of carbon fibre products.

    Some of the comments strike me as colonial mumbo jumbo.

    If the frames are that crap, how do the pros manage to ride them down the Alps and Pyrenees at breakneck speeds without the bikes falling apart? They then get back on them the next day and do it again.

    I'd sooner have a good quality frame from the Far East than a boring old steel frame produced in the UK. Things move on!
  • rolf_f
    rolf_f Posts: 16,015
    I have heard of (ie heresay!) a top Italian manufacturer receiving a lorry load of frames from Taiwan and the QA being done on unloading - with a lot of frames going straight in a skip. Nothing wrong with that in practical terms; it doesn't mean that the frames that are accepted are in any way duff, but it would put me off paying a substantial sum of money for one. If a frame is going to cost me a lot, it needs to be handbuilt!

    There does seem to be a couple of variations to the outsourced frame manufacture as far as I can see.

    1) A European bike manufacturer just buys some generic Far Eastern Frame and paints it in their own scheme (eg most cheap bike manufacturers)
    2) The manufacturer designs their own frame and outsources its manufacture (most top end bike companies)

    or 1a) A company designs frames, gets commissions to supply from the European bike manufacturer and outsources to the Far East (eg Dedaccai frames for Ribble).
    mike ives wrote:
    If the frames are that crap, how do the pros manage to ride them down the Alps and Pyrenees at breakneck speeds without the bikes falling apart? They then get back on them the next day and do it again.

    Is that really your ultimate test?! I'd have thought that a nice days run on ultra smooth European roads and a rebuild at the end of the day was a fairly easy test of a bike. A doddle compared to a UK commute, day after day on crap roads. Something that both Far Eastern Carbon and UK steel are equally capable of in my experience.
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  • Percy Vera
    Percy Vera Posts: 1,103
    Rolf F wrote:
    I have heard of (ie heresay!) a top Italian manufacturer receiving a lorry load of frames from Taiwan and the QA being done on unloading - with a lot of frames going straight in a skip.

    And you believe that? :lol:
    That rumour was probably started by someone spending thousands on a frame, then realised their mate had as good a frame as them for a fraction of the cost. The penny finally dropped, someone has to pay for the marketing of the 'big brands'.
  • tx14
    tx14 Posts: 244
    JKHinton wrote:
    I am not sorry if I have upset the Globalized PC defenders of the cycle industry but IMO I still think the majority of goods produced in the Far East are of average to poor quality you can believe the spin if you want to, you only have to look at the quality of some of the sh!t that is in the shops today.

    To the op I can read and know spin when I see it, the only reason most of the manufacturing has moved to the Far East is slave labour, you can be certain it was not done to improve the quality of goods in the wests shopping malls.

    I was only giving you my opinion but I forgot if its not PC
    today we are not allowed to say anything.
    we are talking about bike frames, the kind with 8 tubes stuck together, not jet engines.
  • Chip \'oyler
    Chip \'oyler Posts: 2,323
    Percy Vera wrote:
    Rolf F wrote:
    I have heard of (ie heresay!) a top Italian manufacturer receiving a lorry load of frames from Taiwan and the QA being done on unloading - with a lot of frames going straight in a skip.

    And you believe that? :lol:
    That rumour was probably started by someone spending thousands on a frame, then realised their mate had as good a frame as them for a fraction of the cost. The penny finally dropped, someone has to pay for the marketing of the 'big brands'.

    Yes and this 'marketing' includes the sponsorship of pro teams. So if you don't want to pay for this 'marketing' then don't buy a bike used by the pro teams.
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  • rolf_f
    rolf_f Posts: 16,015
    Percy Vera wrote:
    Rolf F wrote:
    I have heard of (ie heresay!) a top Italian manufacturer receiving a lorry load of frames from Taiwan and the QA being done on unloading - with a lot of frames going straight in a skip.

    And you believe that? :lol:
    That rumour was probably started by someone spending thousands on a frame, then realised their mate had as good a frame as them for a fraction of the cost. The penny finally dropped, someone has to pay for the marketing of the 'big brands'.

    No reason not to.

    Somebody told me that that is what they saw on a visit to the factory - not a rumour from my perspective. No particular reason to disbelieve them. There is no reason to assume it is wrong - you can either spend a lot of time making sure an item is spot on and sell it for a high price or you can make loads relatively cheaply and accept a higher failure rate; the quality of either finished product may well be just the same. Most of the stuff we buy these days is made on that basis - hence the general ease of getting refunds as the customer is effectively expected to do their share of the quality assurance in return for very cheap prices.
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  • racingcondor
    racingcondor Posts: 1,434
    JKHinton wrote:
    Even if the frame R & D is done in Europe or the USA etc you can be certain the Chinese and Taiwan frame makers will take short cuts with the quality of the materials they use to produce the frames, they will be under massive pressure to produce the frames as cheaply as possible for the big names in the cycle industry.

    If you want a quality frame you would be better to buy a good steel frame produced by one of the smaller makers here in the UK.

    So (almost) every Carbon frame in the world should be written off as junk then? Yes, there will be some manufacturers looking to cut costs who are using cheaper materials but assuming their QC is any good that is the decision of the brand putting a sticker on the frame and not the fabricator.
  • racingcondor
    racingcondor Posts: 1,434
    edited March 2011
    I have heard of (ie heresay!) a top Italian manufacturer receiving a lorry load of frames from Taiwan and the QA being done on unloading - with a lot of frames going straight in a skip.

    Anything wrong with that? You can bet that if the %age of reject frames went over a trigger level the manufacturer got a phone call telling them to sort out their processes or lose the contract.

    I'm with Rolf, I can believe the story but I'd also suggest that it's a good thing. They were inspecting for flaws and binning the ones that didn't meet a set standard. What we don't know is how high that standard was so the example is essentially meaningless.

    JKHinton - I'm not defending cheap, mass production or saying that a lots of products aren't rubbish. All I'm saying is that a good company will get what it's paying for either from Asia or elsewhere (wherever works out cheapest). Agreeing that a lot of cheap tat comes from Asian manufacturers is not the same as agreeing that Asian manufacturers can't produce quality goods. All it suggests is that the US and Europe currently can't compete in that sector of the economy (anyone surprised by this really shouldn't be).
  • cougie
    cougie Posts: 22,512
    EVERY supplier is under pressure to cut costs.

    Thats not necessarily a bad thing and its not just bicycles - its everything. Cars planes trains tvs, pcs. Everything.
  • danowat
    danowat Posts: 2,877
    I am not convinced, I have worked (in different fields of manufacturing) with companies in the far east, eastern europe and india, and the QA is always done on site, there is little point shipping a ton of products only for them to be "skipped" at destintation.

    Also, I've never heard of QA being done "off the lorry" :roll: , I'd imagine the QA at source is at least good enough to spot visual defects, so anything that would warrant "skipping" at destination would need more than a cursory glance whilst unloading.

    I think peoples impressions of manufacturing plants in these countries is way out of whack with the reality,

    Sounds like a crock of shit to me.
  • tx14
    tx14 Posts: 244
    I have heard of (ie heresay!) a top Italian manufacturer receiving a lorry load of frames from Taiwan and the QA being done on unloading - with a lot of frames going straight in a skip.

    Anything wrong with that? You can bet that if the %age of reject frames went over a trigger level the manufacturer got a phone call telling them to sort out their processes or lose the contract.

    I'm with Rolf, I can believe the story but I'd also suggest that it's a good thing. They were inspecting for flaws and binning the ones that didn't meet a set standard. What we don't know is how high that standard was so the example is essentially meaningless.
    might be a sample of sort, because if it's frames ready for stickering, and they are binning so many, the company would go out of business in a month. the material aint cheap.
  • rolf_f
    rolf_f Posts: 16,015
    danowat wrote:
    I am not convinced, I have worked (in different fields of manufacturing) with companies in the far east, eastern europe and india, and the QA is always done on site, there is little point shipping a ton of products only for them to be "skipped" at destintation.

    Also, I've never heard of QA being done "off the lorry" :roll: , I'd imagine the QA at source is at least good enough to spot visual defects, so anything that would warrant "skipping" at destination would need more than a cursory glance whilst unloading.

    Do you think that the manufacturer wouldn't QA the incoming frames themselves? Really?

    The defects could be just down to flaws picked up in transit. I don't know - it doesn't matter. The point is that it indicates that instead of paying a proportion of manufacturing cost to someone in a shed with a tube of glue, you are paying for a production system whereby failures are binned rather than fixed.

    I'd take your point if we were talking about eg Carreras but the example I'm talking of related to top end frames.

    BTW - I did say that I was told this. I didn't see it myself. Not really much point getting that pedantic about throwaway comments eg 'off the lorry'. That really isn't the point. :roll:

    Edit - now you see what you've made me do? You've made me use an :roll: - the worst smiley of them all........ :wink:
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  • wombler
    wombler Posts: 85
    Is anyone else getting a bit tired of these debates?

    The quality of what is produced - irrespective of where it's produced - is down to the manufacturing process and the quality control built into the process. The Germans and Japanese nailed this decades ago - hence we don't argue about where our cars are put together. I acknowledge that most car manufacturers do their own construction - but they certainly don't make all the components.

    The quality of the design is usually down to the 'brand owner.' Hence (usually) why we like particular brands. The brand owners will require a certain level of quality in the frames where they outsource the manufacturing, and if they don't get it they go elsewhere. The manufacturers that can't deliver the required quality will soon disappear.

    Given the volume of carbon frames being manufactured in the Far East, there will be a significant amount of expertise built up there, and they will be certainly capable of copying and/or adapting existing designs.

    Would I buy a frame direct from China? I like the idea of a UK/European vendor with the associated consumer protection that goes with it, so am prepared to pay a little more for it. But I don't see why a frame from a Chinese manufacturer bought direct should be inferior. Just more hassle involved if anything does go wrong.

    I mean, when you buy a pair of jeans, you don't ask "Were these made in a Bangladeshi sweat shop?" Oh, hang on...
  • rolf_f
    rolf_f Posts: 16,015
    edited March 2011
    tx14 wrote:
    might be a sample of sort, because if it's frames ready for stickering, and they are binning so many, the company would go out of business in a month. the material aint cheap.

    Fully finished I'd guess. As for going out of business - depends on the gap between manufacturing cost and retail as I intimated above. You can't really second guess the economics without really looking into it. In the case I heard of - remember we are talking about an Italian company. You know, the place where the factories shut down for 6 weeks in summer just as the new season bikes are due out........

    I'd agree it superficially doesn't seem that sensible a route. Certainly I think it is rather wasteful but then, despite what people may have you believe, industry creates a lot of waste - eg what is the waste in the food industry? About 30% isn't it?
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