Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on December 7th, 2011 at 5:23 pm
According to Bicycling's Chris Lesser, Sapa churned out 750,000 to 900,000 frames at its peak in the year 2000. You likely haven't heard of Sapa because they made frames for other brands, many of which were secret due to confidentiality agreements.
Apparently, the bike frame business wasn't going well for Sapa. Here's more from Bicycling:
"Financially speaking, the bicycle division simply didn’t make sense to continue to run, [Sapa's Ray] Goody says. "The end consumer doesn’t care one iota whether their product is made in the USA or Asia…Our volume has been going down and down and down, and consumers don’t care. So why should we stay in a market that’s shrinking yearly?"
Sapa's move could be a boon for one new Portland company. As we reported back in October, Zen Bicycle Manufacturing just set up a 10,000 square foot frame manufacturing facility in North Portland. Zen will almost certainly scoop up some of Sapa's former clients.
It's important to understand that Sapa and Zen's business models are very different. Sapa is a massive conglomerate with $5 billion in annual revenue and work spread over a myriad of different industries. Zen is a small shop focused solely on making bikes.
But even so, as Lesser puts it on Bicycling.com, "Zen finds itself in position to become the next go-to contract frame company for brands who still want their frames produced in America."
For more insight into U.S. versus overseas bicycle production, read our May 2009 "In-Depth" article: Could Portland become a bike industry hub?