Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Country of Origin

During the show, I get to meet a lot of people from many different backgrounds and it is interesting to see how we all only focus on the handmade theme of the show and the bikes. There was never any sentiment that I could feel that being a Chinese is any issue or disadvantage.

The reason I mention this is that a lot of times in various forums on the internet, people would mention "sh*t build in China" and it became a common phrase to mention or label something poorly made. However, not everything made in China is bad in quality. This kind of phrasing sometimes would get to me personally, feeling that everything made by a Chinese is poor in quality. Because of this, I had at one time thought of making a decal that says “ handmade by a Chinese”. But not wanting to alienate potential customers and making a combative intention, I had abandoned the idea.

With some of the consumer magazines that I collected during the show, I read an advertisement from Rivendell, a company that is well regarded by a lot of cyclists and people in the bike industry, the ad mentioned about a lot of the features of Rivendell's offering, and the last line says “nothing here's made in China”. It is amazing to see a company who sells products that are mostly made outside of the US to single out China. A country is made up of its people, does it mean Chinese made bad quality? Is it true that Japanese made product is always high in quality? Is it true that European made product is for sure perfect and of high value? How about Taiwan Chinese? Do they make quality products?

This truly befuddles me. China may not be up to the western standards in many front, but products made by China / Chinese are not inherently bad or low in quality. A lot of the companies in China which manufactures a lot of goods that is imported to the US are actually part owned by non-Chinese. What does it say about these business owners? If I were to move back to China, and keep on building frames, would it suddenly mean all my frames are rubbish?

I would really like to question Rivendell if their operation uses or consume anything made in China. I only hope that people can understand that broad stroke labeling can only hurt us. I am also disappointed that a company that so many respected can publicly advertise with such statements.

Well, enough of my rant, I better get back to my workshop and prove that Chinese / China made product can be of high quality. Rose's bike is just done and will be off to paint shortly.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

NAHBS withdrawal

I am officially suffering from NAHBS withdrawal. Work happens slowly, distraction from emails and already thinking about what I should have ready for the Rocky Mountain Bike show and the next NAHBS, wherever it may be.

I realized the cost for driving vs. flying is very similar. And of course exhibiting at NAHBS is a high expense for a micro operation like mine. However, working alone everyday can be like a caveman. And this is how my wife sees it too. The event not just let me see the world more by traveling to places I have not been to, but also to speak with fellow cyclists and fellow bike builders. There is a lot to learn and a lot to absorb. 

One of the people I met this time was the people from Nova. I have used their product / service since the beginning, but had never met them (though they were in Portland last year, we did not get to speak with each other). Lon is the big cheese at Nova, a very nice person and understand the needs of us framebuilders. He was kind to my work on display and encouraged me about the ups and downs of a small niche business. Lon’s wife, Lisa, was equally nice and kept my wife in saner conversations. They are both not involved in the bicycle industry and have their proper profession. I believe their conversation was way more contemporary and way less geeky.

I was surprised how much of the small details on the bikes were noticed, not everyone, but a good portion of people who stopped in my booth. I try to personalize each bike with small subtle bits when the situation allows, but they are not always noticed or even appreciated. These little subtlety is in fact the things that I spend more time on to try and blend in without it sticking out like a sore thumb. It is very satisfying to know that there are a lot of people who appreciate my work. Another interesting thing that I learned is there are a lot of Americans who had been to Hong Kong and China and this kind of cultural exchange is always intriguing. 

The small interview I did with Urban Velo was fun. I get to talk up Fort Collins a bit and interact with the public not just through pictures of my work. If you are interested to hear it, here is a link. I appear at about 10:50.

It is good to see the weather being warmer this week, and the clock had just sprung forward last night. Spring is truly in the air, although the Colorado front range is extremely dry and wild fire is on the verge of breaking out any time. I have a few road frames upcoming and a 29er. All of them I am very excited to build because the customers are all very appreciative of us small framebuilders. The economy may be sucking the wind out of everyone, but I hope the change allows us to think and ride a bit and remember that it will all be fine in the long run.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The show of the year

Wow, the Indy show was great. The showgoers, the volunteers, the exhibiting builders and vendors, they have all been wonderful. I met some new people and also caught up with others that I pretty much only see during this show.

It has been quite a week, driving 1200 miles one way to Indy, spent 4 days there and drive back. One of the cool thing was meeting Tom there, where he sees his new bike live for the first time.

If you have not seen the bikes I exhibited, check it here. Urban Velo also took some nice pictures as well. And they did a short interview with many builders and just uploaded it as a podcast. I appear around 10:50 if you do not want to listen to everything.

We got back home on Tuesday, but I am only just getting back to my routine. I guess I am getting old. I will have more to write about the show and what is happening in the shop soon.

Cheers for now.