Q:I'll be bried because this space is small. I've recently "discovered" that nearly all bike companies use a handful of factories in Asia. Im starting to hear that the difference between a $900 dollar frame from PedalForce is really not that different from a $4000 Cervelo frame. I'm starting to hear that Zipps and Williams are probably made in the same factory, different stickers. Is this whole thing really just marketing??? Are the differences as big as we're told?
That’s a big yes and no… how’s that for vague?
Yes; many products that cost A LOT more than others come from the same factories and even the same molds. Sometimes there is little to nothing different between them. Other times the more expensive product uses better materials- lighter/ stiffer/ more expensive raw materials, and has better finishing.
Sometimes it comes down to “unscrupulous” factories selling the technology of other brands to smaller brands to make up for th cost of the molds they may have eaten to get the business of the bigger brand who purchased/ designed the molds.
It’s muddy, to say the least. That said, the smarter and more reputable brands actually have a reason for the higher costs, even if it is just in having been the first ones to invest in the research and testing.
I’ve walked into factories in Taiwan many times and seen products that are famous for being Italian, Swiss or “fill in the blank”. I’ve worked with frame makers with factories in China that produce the most famous of global brands- some who have said “there’s nothing really special about that bike”.
In the end, it comes down to this for me; the better brands are smart enough to be more worried about their reputations, so they will go the extra length to protect their brand image. Therefore, their products, regardless of geography, are usually more reliable. If the bike rides/ looks the way you want and you enjoy riding it, then geography and price are irrelevant- if you’re happy. And, as is the case with anything; if the deal seems too good to be true (the bike is “too cheap” for its advertised technology), there is always a reason. Always.
Hope that helps.