Monday, April 6, 2009

A Cyclists Lament

In the final days of the Lenten season, I thought I was in the clear for having to let go of things. Lent is at it's core is a season of loss, in preparation for some thing greater. Letting go of one to grasp tighter onto other. Often part of this process is lamenting. A lament being 'a passionate expression of grief or sorrow' or 'expression of disappointment over something considered unsatisfactory, unreasonable, or unfair'. This Saturday I read an article and press release that has been frustrating and felt like an unnecessary gut check.

I was over at The Cyclist Site, a new upstart project of the two prolific bloggers G-Ted and Arleigh Jenkins, and saw the post called 'Cannondale no longer to make frames in the U.S.A.'. I was unsure about the post when I first read it because I had not been back to the site since the last week in March and figured it was probably a April fools joke. Unfortunately, after digging into it I saw that it was indeed true and was confirmed by Cannondale rider, Carl Buchanan.

Now this is where my lament truly begins...

I have always had a profound respect for Cannondale since I started working at a shop. That was a good 9 years ago now, although I had my moments of being confused by other companies to believe that Cannondale was not all it made itself out to be. Cannondales quality and craftmanship always stood out. Seeing the proudly displayed 'HANDMADE IN THE U.S.A.' alone meant some thing to me. Prior to 2007 [correct me if I am wrong], all of their line was produced stateside and only in the last two years have they started producing bikes overseas; and a majority of those bikes being entry level and still meeting the quality standards that Cannondale had long held it's hat on.

Although, Cannondale was bought about by Dorel [yes, the parent company of Schwinn and GT] a few years back, there were promises and no signs in the following years that the Cannondale quality would be changed. I was upset about this buyout since Dorel was not a U.S. based company but they have maintained Cannondales quality and kept Cannondale headquarters stateside, keeping more than 50% of the line still produced here [more than any of the 'big 5' can say].

Now, nothing can be said for sure about what lay ahead for Cannondale. They are joining the ranks of the other big 5: Trek, Fisher, Giant and Specialized. Trek is the only company out of that group that does any of their line stateside and that is only in their highend Madone line. Correction, Fisher has their steel frames made here, which I believe is only two models. I am attempting to walk tenderly around talking about these other companies because it is very easy to bad mouth them, when in all reality each, along with Cannondale, are very solid brands. Being a shop rat, I know that some dealers that are competing against Cannondale dealers will try to draw comparisons between Cannondale and what has occured with Schwinn in the last few years.

Which is simply not the case. The difference I see between Schwinn and Cannondale is the fact that the Schwinn name was already on the downward swing when it made it's jump to the big box. Cannondale is still innovating, still growing, still developing products that are pushing the industry, ie the BB30. Dorel [CSG] has already taken hold of the mass market bikes and Cannondale is the only brand they have that is primed and ready to make a break at the IBD market.

This might be the 'best' business decison for CSG right now, but the actual cost of such a move I can't quite make sense of yet. I do believe that quality will remain the same but there was just something about buying something that you knew that a good portion of the money was staying here in the US, especially given the current economic climate.

As my lament ends... knowing that all good things can and must come to an end. I can only hope that this shift in Cannondale births some thing great beyond my expectation. In a global economy, things like this happen but local stores will remain. These stores keep jobs here and help growth in the local economy in countless ways, and maybe that is where a shift must begin when companies move overseas, regardless of industry. SHOP LOCAL. We do have the power to change things, but there is always a cost.

4/7/2009 update: Carl Buchanan posted maybe one of the best responses to this change I've read. I can't say enough about Carl, he's a sage to say the least.


bluecolnago said...

it is a sad situation buddy, but the unfortunate truth is that american labor is expensive and the tax situation for businesses operating in the u.s. is bad and getting worse. i don't think that's going to change anytime soon. american manufacturers just can't compete in the "world economy" and have to "outsource" to make any money. americans want the latest, greatest, fastest, shiniest, lightest but they don't want to pay more than big box prices for it. sad.

oldmanandhisbike said...

There are US companies out there making great bikes and frames but you have to be willing to pay for it. Small guys, with quality workers, like Moots for instance. You get what you pay for.
If we demand quality and quality costs more, then we have to decide if that quality is worth it.
Instead we have progressively become a nation that demands more for less. If we want a DVD player for $29 and are willing to A, pay that amount only and B, accept that it has to be made somewhere else, then we can have a $29 dollar DVD player.
If we accept that a $150 DVD is out of our price range and we might need to wait until we have the money to purchase it, then the products can be made here.
I am not trying to put the blame on us, because the companies play to the market, but maybe the market just needs to start saying no to the companies.

Arleigh said...

I've somehow become prolific.

that word is dandy, thanks man!