Making American Bicycle Production Great Again
LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas – Movement for manufacturing in US is stronger than ever and is even being pushed by the new US President Donald Trump. The timing of HIA Velo (Handmade in America) to reshore the production of carbon frames to Arkansas looks perfect.
HIA Velo’s production will start in early 2017. The first public viewing will be at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show in Salt Lake City, Utah from March 10 – 12, 2017. HIA Velo will also launch its first Allied branded road and gravel models there. Full-suspension MTBs are in development. Bicycles will be offered on a semi-custom basis, with options in headtube height, paint, and specs. The HIA team is also thinking about e-bikes, which will come most likely under a different brand name. OEM production options are there but limited.
Why frame production in the US?
Industry veteran Tony Karklins is the man behind the company and the one bringing very skilled engineers to Arkansas. Most of the 25 strong workforce is designing and planning future products and producing carbon bikes from carbon sheets that have been delivered from US factories. Karklins answers the most obvious question – why frame production in the US?
“Because we think we can do it better. We think we can advance it. And we think a large part of the market really wants more locally produced frames. With 100% of the process inside one building we can do it faster and better than any company that is outsourcing. We can go through the development cycle in a matter of months and not years.”
‘US production costs equal to Asia’
Another, and maybe the most important aspect of the HIA operation, is the costs of frame production in the US. Karklins says, “If you are about to develop your own, completely proprietary Asia-made frame you will be faced with lots of costs. Or you can choose the open mold approach and buy something off the shelf. But then you have a product with somebody else’s technology and geometry. Also you have to account for extra costs – moving people around, the amount of time it take for development, sending test samples, etc. Further, when you add the inventory and warehouse costs for bike companies in the US and Europe purchasing big numbers of Model Year tagged products and compare all these costs and risks to just-in-time production, the conclusion is that these costs are almost equal.”
Allied, high performance American-made bicycles, will be available via direct-to-consumer sales or in the network of selected retailers. Only 50 IBDs are planned for the whole US in the first year. After the US, Canada is first in line. However for Tony Karklins the most important areas for expansion are Europe and Asia.