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Made in China: Why most bicycles are not made here

21 Apr 2012

A picture of carbon frame bike with the Chinese flag

We take a closer look at what happened to bicycles made in the USA. Cannondale was the last stronghold of US-made consumer price range bikes at Bedford, PA where the last bike rolled off its assembly line at the end of 2010. Cannondale was bought by Canadian-based Dorel Industries who already distribute Schwinn, Mongoose, and GT, all made in Taichung, Taiwan (Republic of China). According to a San Antonio Cannondale dealer, union wages helped influence the decision to close the Pennsylvania plant.

Schwinn manufacturing met its fate in the early 1980s. A strike in Sept. 1980 at Schwinn's 85-year-old Chicago plant prompted Edward R. Schwinn, Jr., the grandson of its founder Ignaz Schwinn, to outsource most of its bicycle manufacturing to Panasonic Bicycle in Japan, and then later Giant Bicycle of Taiwan. Wages were not the only factor in this move; the Chicago facility was outdated. Newer, state-of-the-art plants were going online in Taiwan and other places. As a last American hoorah, Schwinn moved its remaining manufacturing operations to Greenville, MS. As it turned out, the Mississippi operation lost money and Schwinn closed it in 1991, hence laying off 250 people.

Wisconsin-based Trek manufactured bicycles at its Waterloo plant until it introduced the lower line of products made in Taiwan. Today, except for the higher-end carbon frames, Treks are made in Taiwan.

Union wages were not the only reason that the U.S. lost its manufacturing of bicycles. The other reason has been the relentless transferring of U.S. jobs to foreign countries by means of trade agreements like NAFTA, CAFTA, WTO, and GATT. President Barack Obama promised during his campaign to revisit NAFTA but as of this date, he has not done so. The only item that he had done is appointing General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt as the Job Czar. So far, he has not been effective and has been reported by the media of actually creating jobs in China.

It has been noted that if the U.S. Government changes the monetary system from a debt-and-inflation model to a debt-free model and abolish trade agreements such as NAFTA which promotes the transferring of American jobs and technology to foreign countries, it would return America back to fiscal responsibility.

As a major factor, the government is paying too much for such things as health care. If only the cost could be reduced to realistic levels, it would reduce the deficit.

Another major issue is that American and governmental entities operate on an outdated management model. The model developed by the late Dr. Edwards Deming has so far been a proven model that could propel our production of goods back on track, not overpriced wages.

Only realistic government finances and realistic management may well rocket manufacturing back to America. This indeed includes the popular bicycle brands that we have come to love.

SRR News Services

China and Taiwan flag with carbon frame bike
China and Taiwan flags

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