Return of manufacturing to the United States is difficult for the bicycle industry

DETROIT, Michigan – Almost 99% of the world’s bicycles are made in Asia. Even when an American company decided to take manufacturing home, it was more difficult than expected.

“This place has people who know how to make,” said Zakary Pashak, founder and president of Detroit bikes. “If there’s one part of the country that can create a place to do it, it could be here. ”

Here being Detroit. Pashak hopes that one day the Motor City will also be known for producing pedaling power.

“That’s kind of where my heart is,” Pashak said. “I like the idea of ​​you powering your own vehicle.”

Pashak founded Detroit Bikes 10 years ago with one goal: to get more people to ride bikes in his hometown and create jobs in Detroit by building bikes in America.

“This is really about the American middle class. We need to have that kind of work here, ”Pashak said.

Thirty years ago, companies sent bicycle production mainly to Taiwan and China to reduce costs. Then, in 1996, the United States government eliminated taxes on bicycle imports, giving even more reason for production to stay overseas. President Trump reinstated the tariff, but that has not yet been enough to create a large-scale shift in production.

“When an industry leaves the country completely, it’s really hard to fire that backup. It’s not just like turning a machine back on, ”Pashak said.

Pashak struggled to find machines in the United States.

“I now have to go over there even to get the machines, so I have this domestic production facility here and my machines are in Mandarin,” Pashak said, showing the handwriting on his production equipment that he had to. buy in china. .

So, with machines from China, Detroit Bikes is building bike frames from the ground up here in the United States.

“Some policymakers might really think people don’t want to do this job in this country, but I think they’re wrong,” Pashak said. “I think if they came to a city like Detroit, they would find out that it’s a job that people really want, and they take great pride in that job when they do it.”

Pashak employees agree.

“It’s pretty neat, really, you know?” You did it and someone appreciates your work, ”said Steve Nelson, who has worked with Detroit Bikes for years.

The team must use overseas parts to assemble the bikes once their US-made frames are complete.

“If I wanted to buy a bicycle tire in America, I couldn’t. America doesn’t currently make bicycle tires, and that’s sort of what makes this business difficult, ”Pashak said.

The pandemic has further amplified these challenges. Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a shortage of bicycles across the country. The shortage has only worsened due to recent supply chain issues.

Still, Pashak is hopeful that change is on the horizon.

“It’s always been a challenge,” Pashak said. “There are a lot of limitations to being the first type of business or person to do something. But I think over time that will change.

While this change may take generations, Pashak believes bringing manufacturing to the United States will leave this nation not only more successful, but also more community.

“What we’re trying to do is kind of just crop and bring back what we can in return,” Pashak said. “There’s just something really satisfying about knowing that this building has produced an item that is going to go to someone, and they’re going to cherish it and have that connection.”

If you would like to check out the bikes made by Detroit Bikes, including a new electric bike, click HERE.

Wiley C. Thompson