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Three Bicycles
By Podofdonny
Date: 12/2/2002
Three Bicycles

Nothing like a Tour winner to promote your bicycle. Since Lance Armstrong started winning the Tour de France the Trek bicycle Corp. have gone from strength to strength. Today they announced a marketing plan in combination with Leading Brands.

Trek Bicycle teams up with beverage maker

Trek Bicycles

Trek Bicycle Corp., based in Waterloo, has signed a long-term licensing agreement with a Canadian beverage company to jointly market and promote Trek bikes and the beverage maker's Trek brand of sports drinks.

Trek's agreement is with Leading Brands Inc., an independent beverage company based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Leading Brands launched its Trek Optimized Performance Beverage line in July, and is marketing the product across the United States and Canada.

Trek Bicycle is a manufacturer of premium bicycles and is most famous for being the brand used by Lance Armstrong, four -time winner of the Tour de France. The company owns subsidiaries in Austria, Netherlands, Germany, Japan, Spain and Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

"We share a mutual desire to build brands recognized around the world in the outdoor and adventure markets," said Leading Brands chairman and chief executive officer Ralph McRae.

Meanwhile the Giant bicycle firm from Taiwan scored an historic first in this years Tour De France -

Spanish team races on Taiwan's Giants

Giant Bicycles

Giant is the first Asian company to have a bike used by a team in the the Tour de France, a race that has for decades been dominated by European companies such as Colnago, Pinarello and De Rosa.

Taiwanese factories are known for cranking out affordable bikes that are great for tooling around the neighborhood or campus -- not the two-wheeled steeds that the world's best cyclists pedal through the Pyrenees mountains in the sport's main event, the Tour de France.

But Taiwan's Giant Bicycles is proving its bikes can sprint and climb with the best in the grueling three-week Tour, which ends Sunday in Paris. They are used by the Spanish team Once, which led this Tour for six days before race favorite American Lance Armstrong took over.

Giant -- the No. 3 brand in America and Europe -- is the first Asian company to have a bike in the race that for decades has been dominated by small European companies like Colnago, Pinarrello and De Rosa.

Antony Lo, president of Giant Manufacturing Co. (¥¨¤j¾÷±ñ), can't think of a more cost-effective way to boost the company's image.

"Five years ago, consumers looked at the Giant brand and said, "Yeh, it's a good product, very reliable, very nice," Lo said. "But now they look upon Giant and know that we're in the top racing scene. We have a lot of innovation and, of course, if you're in the Tour de France, you are very, very reliable."

Speaking in the company's yellow brick headquarters in this grungy, gray industrial town in central Taiwan, Lo said Giant got the prestigious sponsorship by doing two things most Taiwanese companies fail to do: create a global brand name and establish a reputation for innovation.

Founded in 1972, Giant started in the same way most Taiwanese manufacturers have and focused on OEM, or original equipment manufacturing. It cranked out cheap steel-framed 10-speed bikes for other companies that provided the design and slapped on their own brand name on the final product.

The company -- with sales revenue of US$433 million last year -- still makes bikes for American brands such as Trek and Specialized. But years ago, Giant began selling its own line of bikes, and now 70 percent of them are made under its own label, Lo said.

The company cashed in on the mountain bike craze in the 1990s and later earned a reputation for innovation by tweaking the frame of road bike so that the top tube sloped down, making the frame smaller, stiffer and lighter.

Bike expert Pascal Petrau said the new Giant frame, called "compact road," had many detractors who complained the bike didn't meet the norms of racing.

"They tried to get the Giant bike banned. But now almost all the bikes have the sloping form," said Petrau of the National Professional Center for Sports Commerce, which trains technicians working in sports.

Lo says that Giant linked up with Once five years ago because the company thought the sponsorship would prove Giant's passion for the sport and challenge the company to make better bikes. So far, the push is paying off, he says.

"Five years ago, we were already one of the biggest bike companies in the world," said Lo, 59. "But in the past five years, we've become one of the best -- in innovation, quality and, of course, manufacturing."

Lo said that Once was interested in Giant because of the company's expertise in making super light bikes from carbon fibre -- similar to the high-tech materials used in airplane wings and missiles. Giant has been building carbon fibre bikes since 1985.

Hitting a bump on a carbon fibre bike feels like a dull thud, not a rump-numbing twang felt on a metal bike. This is a key selling point for Tour de France racers who spend most of the day in the saddle covering a total 3,282km.

Lo calls the bike Once is using in the race the "new weapon." The entire bicycle weighs 6.5kg.

Giant provides Once with about 100 bikes each racing season, and the sponsorship deal costs the company a total US$1.2 million a year, including equipment and service. Last year, the team signed a new four-year contract.

Once's coach, or team director, gives one of the best testimonies for Giant.

"It's a company that invests a lot and brings good material in," said Manolo Saiz as he followed his team through the Pyrenees. "For me, without a doubt, they're the best bikes in the Tour de France."

Meanwhile sadder news from the United Kingdom where the famous Raleigh factory has become a shadow of its former self . Time was when the Raleigh TI team with Peter Post at the helm were indeed “ Giants of the road “ - sadly the famous “made in Nottingham” logo will soon be a fading tyre track on the page of cycling history.

End of an Era

Raleigh Bicycles

Raleigh's Triumph Road factory finally closed yesterday as bicycle production is being transferred to the Far East. Workers quietly downed tools as the last bike rolled off the production lines. MARK PATTERSON spoke to some of the redundant workers.

The man who built the last wheel for the last bicycle made at Raleigh was in the pub enjoying a drink.

Barrie Wheat, a 40-year-old former pupil of Elliot Durham School, had the honour of knowing it was he who sent into the world the last bike which could still have been labelled 'Made in Nottingham.'

It was, for the record, a 20-inch disc brake wheel for a children"s Raleigh Max which rolled off the production line at 3pm on Wednesday. Yesterday the factory closed its doors forever.

And having done his last ever job at Raleigh, Barrie joined his workmates for a pub crawl which appeared to be part rueful regret and part bitter goodbye for a manufacturer once thought impregnable to drastic change.

From now on, Raleigh will no longer either make or assemble bicycles. As the company announced in March, manufacturing and assembly is switching to Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Thailand because production costs there are more than 20 per cent lower. Although Raleigh will retain a warehousing, design and distribution facility in Eastwood, the famous factory in Triumph Road, so long a solid symbol of Nottingham"s manufacturing prowess, is being closed down.

The site will be vacated by March and then developed by the new owners, the University of Nottingham.

Yesterday, Raleigh's factory floor had the forlorn air of a hastily abandoned ship. The precision machines which turned out as many as four million bikes a year in the late 1970s stood quiet, some decorated with sarcastic notices left by the final 280 workers.

"Awful, awful," muttered Phillip Darnton, Raleigh's 59-year-old managing director who will be leaving the company when the move to Eastwood is complete.

In his office, he explained that managers began to realise that the issue of where Raleigh's bikes were made would have to be addressed when Raleigh's previous owners, the American Derby Cycle Corporation, sold the Triumph Road site. "That was when everyone realised that the game was in play," he said. "Nevertheless, throughout 2000 we did big studies with a management consultant from Chicago which showed that we could still compete on costs with the Far East." On that basis, Raleigh started negotiations to secure a new factory site at the Blenheim Lane allotments in Bulwell. When Derby Cycle Corporation filed for bankruptcy in July last year, a successful management buy-out of Raleigh was led by Alan Finden-Crofts.

But by this year the studies of costs abroad were telling a different story. Raleigh found that factories in Vietnam, for example, were able to produce and assemble bikes 22 per cent cheaper than Raleigh could in Nottingham.

But wouldn't consumers prefer to keep buying British bikes if it helped manufacturing stay in Britain?

No, said Mr Darnton, because although the Raleigh brand is associated with reliability and value, most consumers don"t care where a bike is made. "If the price is right and the colour is right, they'll buy it," he added. "The dealers have told us that people buy bikes with their eyes."

The only part of a Raleigh bike which Raleigh will continue to assemble in Eastwood - out of imported components - are the wheels. What wheel-builder Barrie Wheatley wanted to know was why Raleigh hadn't invited the cameras in to record the historic moment when the last Raleigh bike came off the line in Triumph Road?

For he and his mates who went on a pub crawl yesterday to mark the factory closure, and their redundancies, it seemed that Raleigh had deliberately tried to downplay the last day. If true, it would make business sense to Mr Darnton, who stresses that the company wants to avoid creating the impression that it is not in the bike business anymore. On the contrary, it still has around 55,000 bikes in the Triumph Road warehouse ready for Christmas sales and a completely new range of bikes on offer next year. But this isn't how some former employers see it.

"They put on a buffet this morning, managers made some speeches, people picked up their redundancy cheques and then went home," said Claudette Green, a wheel-maker from Wollaton who worked at Raleigh for more than 20 years. "You didn't have a chance to say goodbye to people. It's the end of an era, but I don"t think Raleigh made that much of the occasion. It shouldn't have been so low-key. Raleigh has been a big part of Nottingham for 100 years. Everybody has a sister, a mam or a dad who worked there." Brian Halford, a tool setter for 38 years, admitted to feeling "gutted" at the closure and didn"t have another job to go to. His colleague, Harvey Linley, also a tool setter for 38 years, thought staff should have realised long ago how serious the threat from Far East manufacturing was to their jobs.

Other former employees, such as temp Katherine Duncan, stressed the family atmosphere that had existed at Raleigh. "Quite a few people have been in tears," she said.

But others were not so rueful. Colin Arnold, from Gamston, said he was glad to be out. He was quite clear that he didn"t think his £14,755 redundancy cheque and goodbye "mug" were good enough thanks for his 31 years service. They gave us a so-called golden handshake, which we earned, and a mug," said a colleague, who refused to give his name. "It"s sad for the people who have given that kind of service."

What about Raleigh's last wheel man Barrie Wheat? "It was really enjoyable making that wheel because I know what Raleigh"s been through," he said through the fog of cigarette smoke. "I feel grateful. I"ve made so many friends." Over at the Triumph Road factory, Phillip Darnton was reflecting on the so far enduring strength of the Raleigh name.

"Nobody in business in the UK has that sort of grip," he said. "Well, Dyson has, but that's a bloody vacuum cleaner. Everybody had a Raleigh. Everybody worked at Raleigh."

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