E-Bikes & Bikes Customised to You
December 15, 2021
Hey everyone. Peter Kaltreider here with Sixthreezero bicycles. Here's a question we get a lot. This is a very popular question. Are there any e-bikes made in the US? Well, so don't waste your time, I'll tell you the answer is yes. But it's pretty fascinating, so stay tuned.
Okay. So this is a really hot topic of the day, and very many people are interested. A lot of people want to buy a bicycle that's made in America, and it's kind of a complicated topic and there are so many facets to it that I'm actually going to do this in a few parts. So this is part one. And what I really want to do is just give you straight facts, no opinion, everyone else can use the YouTube comments below to solve the world's problems, but we'll just talk about what you can do to get an American made bike. Now, there are a lot of bicycle manufacturers in the US. I think this is... A lot of people in the bike industry don't really think about it, but there are a lot of bike manufacturers here. Most of them are very small like boutique operations. But then a lot of people who are not in the bike industry, a lot of them have a conception that a lot of bicycles are made here, which is not true at all. It's actually very few bicycles in terms of a global scale.
So first of all, there are, like I said, many, many, many boutique manufacturers. There's a lot of guys and girls out there who are in the back of a bike shop or in a garage with their lugs and putting frames together with a jig for their friends or maybe they're selling to a small fan base, very custom. So those are not going to be in the e-bike world. None of that's mass manufacturing, that's done by one or two people in a very small shop. They're beautiful bikes. And there are lots of really wonderful frame builders out there. So you can check those out, but those would be for regular bikes. Those could always be made and converted into an e-bike. So that is definitely an option.
Now, in terms of like mass manufacturing, buying an e-bike that's already made in America, yes, it is absolutely possible. But what we want to say is that I don't think any bicycle is made in any one country anywhere. It's just we live in a global economy and stuff comes from everywhere. I mean, for instance, we're not going to get the rubber for the tires from here, obviously, that comes from elsewhere. So a lot of materials are going to be sourced from all over the place, depending on where they are available. And then other things will, depending on supply and demand and economic constraints will be sourced from different places. But what I'm going to talk about today is brands that make frames and wheels at least here in America. And then in subsequent parts, part two, part three, I don't know how many parts it will be, but we'll discuss other components like the batteries, the motors, and then also the mechanical components like derailleurs and brakes and things like that.
So it's a really cool topic, and I just want to give you guys the facts. Like I said, everyone else can discuss this in the comments below because it's a hot topic and people have a lot of passion about it. But anyway, I did a lot of research and some of my colleagues here at Sixthreezero helped me out, and we found a handful of electric bicycle companies that do make bikes here. And believe me, there are a lot of options out there. So I know that I missed very many. I'll give you five good ones that I know about, and hopefully, I'll find out more. And course, if I miss any, please let me know.
So anyway, first of all, I would go with the largest manufacturer of... Well, I'm not sure. Detroit Bikes claims it's the largest manufacturer of bikes here in America. I'm not sure if that's true because there's another one, Bicycle Corporation of America in South Carolina that makes a lot of bikes as well. So I'm not exactly sure about that. So I don't want to give you any information I'm not absolutely sure about, but Detroit Bikes does make a lot of frames here. So Detroit Bikes will make the frames and the forks and the wheels. And that's important, that's actually most of a bicycle. After that, you just need some components and those usually come from Shimano or something like that. And we'll save that for another part, but they do.
Now Detroit does not make aluminum, a lot of times people want an aluminum bike because aluminum's a little bit lighter. However, chromoly is also very light. And I think with the assist of an e-bike, it probably doesn't make that big of a difference. So I would definitely check out Detroit Bikes. They make a chromoly frame e-bike. And so they're in Detroit, they weld the chromoly there and the forks, and then they build the wheel. And building a wheel is actually quite fascinating, it takes a lot of skill. And it can only be done really on kind of a mass scale with a machine at first, but there's a lot of human and machine co-working really. People call it, I guess, cobots instead of robots. But there'll be someone that puts the spokes into the hubs, and then the hub is stuck onto a little pillar, and then the rim is stuck into the machine that turns it and another person laces the wheel, which means putting the spokes in the right order.
And it's very intricate and you have to know exactly what you're doing. After you've done it a while, it becomes second nature. But at first, it's a little confusing. And then there is another machine that will tighten the... Well, that one tightens the nipples, which are the little parts that screw into the spokes. And then another machine will give general truing of the wheel, which means tightening the spokes up to approximately the right tension. Then there'll be fine-tuning, and then it will go to actually a person who will put that in a truing stand and will tighten the wheel up.
So this is where we also get into levels of quality. And then that's one thing that's brought up with China, and I'm not going to get into that because again, it'll be a matter of subjectivity about issues of quality and things like that. But it's going to come down to that last person, that person who actually puts the wheel into the stand. And it's also mostly going to depend on kind of how much you pay for the bike. How much time is that person spending truing your wheel? And that will mostly be reflected in the price of the bike, whether it comes from America or from elsewhere. So that's Detroit Bikes. I just want to bring them up because they do claim to be the largest manufacturer of bicycles here in America. Although I'm not sure, because like I said, Bicycle Corporation of America makes a lot of bikes too, we'll get to them in just a moment.
I want to bring up Worksman because Worksman is a very passionate company that's been around for a long, long, long, long time. They've been around since I think the 1880s or 1890s making bikes here. Their main facility I believe is also now in South Carolina. South Carolina is a right-to-work state where I believe they don't allow unions, so the wages are lower. Makes it easier to assemble bicycles and compete with overseas wages where they can also be lower just because of the... In China, for instance, there's a huge amount of labor, and it can be done... The labor is cheaper over there. So anyway, in South Carolina, it is competitive at a certain scale. I don't think they can do carbon fiber yet, because carbon fiber is so labor-intensive, which is interesting. So most carbon fiber obviously is made in China. Those are very high-end bikes.
But the bikes made here in America will mostly be steel, and that's what Worksman makes. And they make an e-tricycle. So that's fascinating. If you want an e-tricycle, you may want to check out Worksman bicycles. They make an e-trike. Just like Detroit, they weld the frame, the fork, they build the wheels. So that's great. So they make all of that here in the United States. And the reason why I wanted to bring them up is that the CEO of the company, I forgot his name, but I don't have it in front of me. He writes a pretty passionate little essay about why buying an American bicycle is a good idea. It's really neat. It's really neat to read that and see that perspective because there are so many things that go into how to source stuff and how to make stuff and how to present it in a way that is a competitive value, good enough quality at a reasonable price. These are all things that have to be taken into consideration.
But anyway, you may want to check out Worksman not just for their bikes, but also for the information that they give. Also, a very touching video about some of the people that work there, it's really nicely done. So Worksman bikes make electric e-trikes. So let me get back to Bicycle Corporation of America. Now, what I really want to talk about with them is, because they make several brands, but one brand that they make now is called Univega. And Univega has been around since about the sixties or seventies. And that was actually an American brand originally. Has a pretty good history, and they made really high-quality mountain bikes back in the day just when mountain biking was starting. It changed hands a few times and now it's actually manufactured by Bicycle Corporation of America in Manning, South Carolina. Same thing there, I don't know if they actually weld the aluminum there, the e-bikes they have are aluminum. Aluminum's a little bit more of a complicated process than welding the steel.
And so on their website, it says that the bikes are assembled in Manning, South Carolina. So I don't know if the frames are actually welded in Manning, South Carolina. I reached out to them, I reached out to all these companies, in this case, I did not get a response back. So I don't know. And since it says assembled instead of welded, I'd have to assume it's just assembled there. Two things about that, one is if you're looking at made in the USA, you're going to see things like made in the USA, assembled in the USA, designed in California, and then made in China or whatever. Look for these words like welded, assembled, designed. Just because something's designed in the US. You'll say that on your Apple products a lot of times. You'll see Apple designed in California, but of course, it's made over there at Foxconn in China. Designed in a certain place does not mean that it's actually made there. Same thing with assembly. They can bring in a bunch of parts and then have them assembled here. So it's really interesting too about assembly of a bicycle.
Assembling a bicycle except for the welding and the wheels and the painting is really very easy, you can just do that in a garage. If you've got the frame and the fork, and you have a set of wheels, and the frame is already painted, you just got to put the components on. If you want to make an e-bike, you can build a battery. A lot of people do. You can check out some videos on that. There are lots of them. Get those 18650 cells I've talked about in other videos, and buy a $250 soldering machine and make your own battery. So you can make your own made in America bike too if you just want to buy a frame. But it's really easy to actually assemble a bike. And I know that... So I've been to factories in China, in Vietnam and Cambodia. I have not been to the factory in South Carolina, I would like to take a tour of that one sometime. And there's one right here in Newport Beach that I'd like to tour as well I'll tell you about it in just a second.
But actually assembling a bicycle can be done anywhere. You just have to have a few tools. It's not a difficult thing. The difficult thing is welding, painting, and assembling the wheels efficiently. So anyway, so that's Univega. Check out Univega, they are definitely put together in South Carolina. However, I don't know where the frames are made. I have no idea. My guess is probably China since they say assembled in South Carolina. Otherwise, they would probably say welded and assembled, but I may be wrong. I don't know. But I know that to do aluminum, a lot of times it's definitely a lot more cost-effective sometimes in China where they have really large factories and robots actually do the welding. So it's just much cheaper per frame than having a person trying to do it. So that's Univega. So check them out. If you're also interested, you can also check out Bicycle Corporation of America that makes Univega. They make several other brands, but I think Univega is the only one that makes e-bikes.
Another cool one is Electric Bike Co. They're right here. I live in Huntington beach. They're right here in Costa Mesa. I actually pass by their facility pretty often. And they have two retail shops and they have a factory. And I haven't been to it yet, I really would like to tour it. There is a video done by Micah Toll. If you're into e-bikes, you've probably run across some of his videos. He did tour of their facility, which is really neat. Like some of these other companies, they make the frame, the fork, and the wheels there, and then they'll source the batteries and other stuff from elsewhere. But yeah, they weld the frames and all that there, right here in Costa Mesa and then put the bike together. And they can also... Since they do it kind of on a small scale, they can also do more custom things as well. Some of these smaller companies that are kind of their advantage a lot of times, that they can make it custom. But a lot of them also are quite cost competitive too, they're competitive on cost. I know that Detroit and Univega and Worksman are all pretty competitive in terms of price.
Lastly, I'd like to bring up HPC. I don't know that they really make kind of an entry level-ish sort of e-bike. All these companies make different sorts of e-bikes, but HPC kind of focuses on e-mountain bikes. And they make really great bikes. They are made of aluminum. And we reached out to them. They have really good and quick customer service. They got back to us very quickly with really great information. And they told us, yes, they do. They do the entire frame there. They do the tubes, they weld, they finish it, they do the heat treating, they paint it, all of that right here in America. Where are they based? I forgot. But anyway, it doesn't matter. I think they're in Chatsworth. I think they're here in California. And so they do all of that. They also make their batteries. Now that's going to be another topic, because making your own battery and how much of that is made in the United States is a whole different topic. So we'll talk about that later.
But I would say that HPC is probably, from the information that I've gathered, again, I'm not trying to inject any opinion or supposition here, but from the information I've gathered, I would say that HPC is probably the most completely made in America bicycle from the information that I have. So yeah, check out HPC. So we've got Univega, HPC, Detroit Bikes, Worksman, and then Electric Bike Co. So those are five companies that make e-bikes in America. Of course, it's a little bit more complicated than just black or white. It's not like just growing an apple. An apple is either from Washington State or it's from here in the US or it's from saying Chile, South America. If you make an apple pie, who knows where the wheat came from? Maybe it came from Saskatchewan or from Kansas. It's more complicated.
So anyway, I hope that kind gives you a start. You're going to be on a fun journey if you do this. I'm sure that the comments will get really passionate. I hope they do actually, it's a great conversation to have to talk about where you can get quality bikes and whether bikes are made in America, made in China. Oh, one last thing I want to bring up is on the Worksman site, and I don't know if this is an accurate statistic, but it sounds correct to me. They say that about 88% of all bikes in e-bikes are made in China. I would say that's probably accurate. If it was my guess, I would've said at least 90%, but that's just a guess. I have no idea of how to actually calculate that. Bikes are made all over the world, but yeah, probably Worksman is probably correct. It's probably about 88% in China. Just a lot of folks don't know that, but that's how it is right now.
And it wasn't always like that, and that happened around maybe the eighties and nineties, stuff started to move to Taiwan. Taiwan will be another subject because, for the US, we have a different relationship with them kind of, even though they are part of China. So we'll talk about Taiwan at another time. And I think that wraps it all up for this particular topic. That's enough information for one video. I hope it helped, and I hope that it'll get you started on your journey of discovering where to get the best e-bike.
All right, thanks for watching. I really hope that was helpful. If you need any more help, please don't hesitate to contact us at 310-982-2877 or the team at sixthreezero.com. Sixthreezero is spelled out, S-I-X-T-H-R-E-E-Z-E-R-O. Also, subscribe to our channel. And remember, it's your journey, your experience, enjoy the ride.
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