Sunday, July 5, 2020

How Long Would It Take?

If we decided today to build bicycles in the United States, how long would it take? Not just welding up some frames, the whole bike. Cables, derailleurs, brakes, hubs, rims, tires, tubes, seats, pedals, bearings, etc. It couldn't be done in an economically feasible way, so ignore the cost. We don't have the manufacturing base, so you get to start from scratch.

Treat it was a question of national interest. I don't have an answer, but it's not an idle question. The largest specialty bike shop in town, one that has been open for over 50 years, is closing next week. They sold every bike in the store and had been told it might be months before any could be delivered. They couldn't get replacement parts, either. Selling tires and tubes and fixing flats is the bread and butter of any bike shop.

I had a good reason to stop in the local big box store, so I went early yesterday, wearing an N-95 canister style mask, got in and got out. As I was headed back to auto parts, I passed what would be the bicycle area and took this picture.


This is a picture of a collapsed supply chain. It's still early, there's going to be more.

Basically all the worlds computer parts come from the same supply chain that runs from Korea, down through coastal China, over to Taiwan, and down to Malaysia. 
--Thomas Friedman

20 comments:

Eric Wilner said...

Starting from scratch does have its advantages; you don't have to deal with legacy facilities, contracts, methods, and so on.
Still need supplies of steel tubing, steel sheet, and such, which we seem to have mostly outsourced over the decades. And rubber; can we still make our own synthetic rubber, or has that all migrated to EPA-free zones?
Using modern manufacturing techniques, there might not be all that much tooling-up to be done initially, though working up specialized tooling would improve productivity.

... And speaking of supply chains - will there be fireworks next year? Seems like our Independence Day festivities have gotten awfully dependent on products of foreign sweatshops.

Ruth said...

I just said almost the same thing on my blog. This is gonna suck.....

Old NFO said...

Wow... No good answer over here.

Jerry said...

Much of the raw materials are still available in North America but you're quite correct about examination how things are made. Look at all the alternate processes and materials that have been developed for the Modern Sporting Rifle. This same methodology can be applied to all manner of manufactured goods. Since we're essentially starting from scratch, we can make things less expensive and better be reengineering how we make whatever. I'm looking at such a process for drum brake shoes.

Jonathan H said...

I don't think it would be that hard to make bicycles in the US - there are small specialty companies that do it. I suspect pieces like handlebar grips would be the hardest to make here, but if the market is there it will get filled.

As far as fireworks, all of the ones I've seen recently were made in the US. It is my understanding that few Chinese fireworks come in anymore due to Homeland Security explosives requirements, bans on imports from certain Chinese companies, and the big one is tighter shipping rules after some spectacular problems on ships that were transporting fireworks.
The paperwork and permits to import them from overseas, as well as the quality control, make US manufacture pretty much required these days.

Eric Wilner said...

Jerry: speaking of Modern Sporting Rifles, a couple of years back I was at a mini manufacturing show and someone was explaining how a single CNC machining center, with some specialized tooling, turns raw bar stock into (IIRC) finished bolt carriers. Amazing what they can do nowadays.

Jonathan H: fireworks are made in the U.S. of A. now, and they're still affordable? Most excellent news! Maybe our businesses can adapt after all.

MacD said...

Either it's a supply chain issue, or it's something else.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/bicycle-sales-up-inventory-shortages-coronavirus-pandemic/

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Borepatch, I went into my large box Sporting Goods store today to acquire some training equipment. I was shocked to see how largely stripped out many items were.

doubletrouble said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
doubletrouble said...


Quick! Set your hair on fire & commence running with undue reasoning!

Tsgt Joe said...

WEll, this explains why my local bike dealer hasnt called me back after I told her I wanted a particular model of an Electra Townie bike. Electras used to be made on the left coast but I suspect that after trek bought the company manufacturing went to China.
There are american made bikes but, as far as I know, they are all expensive custom or semi custom bikes and likely all the gear shifts and brakes etc are sourced from asia. We could tool up and build as many bikes as we wanted but we could never compete with the low end"department store bikes". I actually was looking for a bike this winter when I was in florida, the local walmarts did have a decent selection of under $250 bikes, I did notice the selection had gone down conciderably by the end of march

Ted said...

There are still things manufactured here in the US. It just takes some effort to find them. It's not a Bicycle, but Factory 5 makes a great many of the basic frame and body parts for it's component cars. Virtually everything else needed can be found made by US Manufacturing. Specialty engine manufacturers included. If cost is ignored it can be made here. But skilled workers who can make things are rapidly ageing out.

That is the knowledge and the skills we need to protect and foster.

BobF said...

After being told in Lowes and Appliances Direct that freezers, both upright and chest type, were out of supply for over a month, I ordered one from Home Depot on May 17, though not to be available June 8. Later it was delayed until July 8, and as of this past week delayed until September 8. (They don't know until a week before that it will be delayed?!) Though owned by a Chinese conglomerate, I understand G.E. Appliances are manufactured here in the United States. I am beginning to wonder.

Richard said...

@BobF

High demand for freezers right now because of disruptions to the food supply chain. When the disruption hits the grid, there will be a spike in generator demand to keep the freezers running.

Ruth said...

They may be made in the USA, but are all the various parts and gaskets? I have my doubts.

I actually work for HD, though not in appliances, I know that they're behind on ALOT of appliance orders right now, and they're not happy about it. Freezers in general are almost impossible to get.

Jonathan H said...

Bob F,
My understanding is that some GE appliances are made in the US, but not all at this time. I've read conflicting articles about how much of their appliance manufacturing is coming back to the US . I have not read anything about how many of the parts of made here though...

Suz said...

There is a company in Detroit Michigan called Shinola who is manufacturing luggage, watches, and bicycles--very high end stuff--to put inner city folks to work Has been there for about 10+ years or so. I thought they started from scratch and made each part using CNC equipment, but I could be wrong.

slow joe crow said...

It would be 6 months to two years depending on what you are trying to build, and how far you're willing to go for some items. Assuming a hybrid or retro road bike with thumb shifters you can find almost everything except derailleurs, shifters, chains, tires and some finishing pieces. Frames are easy as long as you have a source of tubing, or carbon fiber. Unfortunately Easton and True-Temper both quit making frame tubing several years ago. There are still several specialty component makers in the US so between Chris King, Cane Creek, Phil Wood and Paul Components you can get headsets, bottom brackets, brakes and hubs. I think Wheelsmith still makes spokes in the US and there are several aluminum and carbon rims so wheels are sorted. Handlebars are just bent tubing and Thompson (sp?) makes stems and seatposts. Pedals, saddles and grips are a question mark but are not complex. Crank arms, derailleurs and shifters are not currently made but 90s CNC designs could be resurrected. Chains are a common enough product that you could find a manufacturer which leaves tires, and if you go all the way rubber to make tires.

Spin said...

NOT LONG if the tooling can have a priority. I'm the Technical Director for a USA (Chicago, spit,) based manufacturer. We do everything but cast foam (Wisconsin), Roll tube and sheet (ASTM A513, ASTM1011, Chicago, Injection mold (Italy, proprietary designs) and weave fabric. We do everything else in 3 sq block on the west side. So if the Gov't was serious about American Jobs then this is what Congress should work on not what we are going to rename military bases. We still have the finest engineering schools in the world, we have the talent on these shores. Free the engineers to solve some of our problems.

Spin

Tsgt Joe said...

Suz mentioned Shinola of detroit making bikes, I didn’t know. Being from Detroit and still living in Michigan, I thought to give them a try, the bikes run a bit expensive and they appear to be in short supply till the fall.