Challenging times in the bicycle industry these days. COVID-19 has created a perfect storm caused by two main factors:
1. Major disruptions to the supply chain of bicycle products sourced from Asia, and
2. Massive increases in participation in cycling.
The combination of these two factors means that supply lines for bicycles, indoor trainers, helmets, and other accessories have been cut. Deliveries from major brands are seriously delayed. Yet, amazingly, even with social distancing practices, limits on the number of people in a retail store at any given time, and other challenges, bike shops are producing record sales numbers!
There simply isn't enough inventory available to meet demand. We're also seeing this with toiler paper, medical devices, and all other manner of imports from China, causing Americans to re-visit their consumption and purchasing habits. We're more focused than ever on spending more time with family and shopping locally, which includes buying American when possible.
This isn't a knock against Asian manufacturing, either - some of the best goods I use for cycling on a daily basis are all made overseas. The runaway leader in engineering and manufacturing is Shimano (Japan), an organization whose quality control and consistency puts others to shame.
Still, whether it's from a sense of patriotic duty, desire to help our neighbors, or simply choosing to buy goods that have a shorter, closer supply chain that's less likely to be interrupted, there is no denying the renewed movement to buy American.
This got me thinking about the gear I ride, stock, and sell. What's out there if you choose to "buy American?"
Top American-made equipment for cyclocross
At the top of my "made in the USA" list is Thomson stems and seatposts. I have such a high degree of confidence in their products that I'm going out of my way to recommend them, even though I don't sell them at RideCX - why?
Seatposts have to be one of the easiest components to damage during cyclocross racing and training. Flying remounts place unique stress on your seatpost and saddle, which are often held together with just a single 6mm bolt. I have seen aluminum seat posts bend. I have seen carbon seatposts break in two. I have seen the aluminum head come completely off the shaft of a carbon fiber post. I have seen riders break the head off the bolt. Many riders have probably personally experienced the saddle angle slipping during a race due to a seatpost that won't stay tight. In short, every mechanical failure possible will happen!
Thomson seatposts use a unique two-bolt opposing design that is ideal for cyclocross. They don't slip, don't break, will probably outlast you, and while we're on the topic, made right here in the USA.
Another product you might not realize is USA-made is Chamois Butt'r. Whether you're warming up for a cold race with embrocation or staying comfortable on long rides with chamois cream, it's a product you can feel good about buying and riding. Hint: single-use Chamois Butt'r packets are perfect for padding your RideCX order to reach the threshold for free shipping...
If you're coming to cyclocross from a road cycling, instead of a mountain biking background, Wolf Tooth Components may not be a name you're familiar with, but you should definitely check them out. They make their gear in Minnesota, including the chain guide I personally use to keep my chain on during races. It has never failed!
Small, Independent Businesses
In addition to USA manufacturing, maybe you're also interested in checking out independently owned and operated businesses?
Both offer small quantities and a product you can feel good about buying from an indie manufacturer in the United States.
Can't get enough?
There's lots more out there. A few that I know of worth your consideration:
- Paul Components (mechanical disc brakes, hubs) - that's their derailleur in the photo accompanying this article - long discontinued, sadly.
- Industry Nine (wheels / hubs)
- White Industries (Cranksets, freewheels)
- Phil Wood (hubs, and of course our favorite grease)
Don't fret - just because I like American-made gear doesn't mean I'm not going to continue offering parts that come from Asia. There's enough cake for everyone, and great tires, tools, and more come from outside the United States too.
As always, thanks for "thinking small" when you choose where to spend your dollars.