Frames – Import vs. Domestic
With the constant outsourcing of frame production to over the big pond…the question is now; Which is better…import or domestic?
Much like the argument for beer (which beer drinkers will tell you is not an argument depending on what side of the fence they are on…), there is a lot of talk lately about whether the outsourcing of frames to countries like China and Taiwan is a good thing, and if we are getting as good of quality as domestically made product.
With the increasing cost of raw materials, specifically steel and aluminum, frame producers are having to find ways to cut costs. The larger companies like Trek, Cannondale and Giant have been outsourcing for years, but now we are seeing more “boutique” brands like Titus and Santa Cruz doing the same thing.
There are mixed results among brands. For example, Titus is bringing back some of their production to control quality control issues, and some larger brands are farming even more out to the other side. It seems these companies, like many manufacturers in the United States, are weighing cost vs. quality. Ideally, we would have the best of both worlds, but we all know this is not possible.
The bottom line is that this argument is not going to go away anytime soon. As American’s, we are going to have to get used to the fact that most of the products that we use on a daily basis are no longer made domestically, and this includes most of the bikes that are on the market today. So far, all of the design work is done here so we aren’t subjected to the exact same bikes with different names on them, but most of the work is done out of a small handful of plants overseas. This means that your frame is built in the same factory, by the same workers, as other brands.
What are my thoughts on the subject?
It’s a hard decision. Nothing beats the personal buying experience of purchasing a frame through a small builder in the states. You get that one on one experience and incredible customer service that we all know and love. The problem is it comes at a price. For some, this price is more than worth it, but for others…it simply isn’t. For me, I really like the ability to talk to the individuals to build my frames and parts. It really makes me feel like a part of the process, and I carry that feeling though the riding.
On the other hand, there are some great frames out there these days that are produced overseas. The first ones that come to mind are the Vassago frames. Even though they are imported, they are great riding frames that come with great customer service.
So what does it boil down to?
The same thing it always does…finding the frame/bike that fits you the best for the amount you want to pay. Everyone has different needs, and there isn’t one rule that fits all. My best advise is to take your time and get as much saddle time on the frames you are considering before purchasing. Once you get it down to the final 3, take a look at the companies and the craftsmanship of the frames. From there, pick the one that gives you the best package for your needs and ride the wheels off of it. In the end, that is really what it is all about…just finding the bike that will make you the happiest on the trail.