HIA VELO: BRINGING MANUFACTURING BACK TO THE U.S.
Having research and development, and manufacturing, separated by great distance isn’t just a matter of moving materials from one place to another; there’s also a time element, in particular how long it takes to bring a finished product to market. For example, it commonly takes a full two years from the moment a company decides to develop a new bike to when it is actually available on a shop floor. A lot can change in two years, however, and in a rapidly changing market, that delay can feel like an eternity.
One new American bike company, HIA Velo, aims to flip the accepted manufacturing norms on its ear, headquartering its R&D facilities and manufacturing operations under a single roof in Little Rock, Arkansas. The brainchild of Orbea USA founder Tony Karklins, HIA Velo was practically started on a whim after Karklins and a few investors were able to acquire the assets of failed Canadian custom bike company Guru at auction for pennies on the dollar. The company’s name is an acronym for “Handmade in America.”
FI’ZI:K: STAYING PUT IN ITALY
Whereas Karklins is seeking to bring bicycle manufacturing back to the United States on a mass scale, saddle company fi’zi:k started out 20 years ago making high-end saddles in Italy as a premium sub-brand of giant saddle conglomerate Selle Royal.
Fi’zi:k never left, and today, the brand manufactures about 550,000 saddles in its Vicenza factory, supported by a local network of subcontractors and suppliers. According to product manager Luca Viano, maintaining manufacturing operations in Italy is definitely more expensive than what it would cost overseas, but doing so also provides value in and of itself.
“There are two main reasons [we stay in Italy],” Viano said. “The first reason is kind of a circle: it’s a consequence, but also a benefit of having saddles produced in Italy. If we speak about fi’zi:k saddles, this year the cheapest saddle retails for €79. Last year, we were at €99. If you consider the panorama of saddles that we have today, €99 is extremely expensive; you can get a good saddle for thirty bucks. That’s because we produce in Italy, but also the reason why can sell them for so high, is because they are made in Italy. So it’s a balance.”