European importers: Are they at it?

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Canuk
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European importers: Are they at it?

Postby Canuk » 9 Dec 2018, 7:09am

I recently bought a nice Look 386 frame to use through the winter. The price was great, but everything was missing from it. Seat post clamp, 25mm seat post, bottom bracket, most of the parts from the semi integrated headset, brake cable housings, and all the various small bolts (even a small 2.5mm bolt in the rear drop out).

So I set about looking for what I assumed were fairly generic spares to put it back on the road. Oh my Lord, what a shock I got: Look compatible seat post clamp £35, 25mm seat post £60.. And the bolts! £17.60 for a single stainless bolt for the drop out :roll:

These weren't look branded oem spares, they were just bog standard no name parts from Germany and the UK.

So I started to look further afield and the results were kinda stunning. Exactly the same seat post clamp : £1.85 free ship from China. Seat post (Taiwan): £8.40 delivered, stainless drop out bolt (pack of 2) £1.95. The quality of every single item I bought was impeccable.

Now, clearly if you are bulk importing from China you are expected to mark up to take a profit from it, but 1500-2000% profit...! It set me thinking why would you actually buy anything retail in Europe when you can find compatible or even better quality spares and tools from China /Taiwan for a tenth of the price? I've a friend who has a small Focus/Bianchi dealership here and I always wondered how he did so well from an lbs (and he does do very well, even in a small town with not much economic activity) He sources all his carbon fibre 'upgrades' from China, prints his logo onto a piece of cardboard, tie wraps the part on and probably multiplies the purchase price by at least 5x. I realise that for the likes of Thorn and SjS Cycles importing parts and frames and rebranding from Taiwan and China is their daily bread, but I can't help but think that are making an extremely good living out of UK and European cyclists by doing so.

I don't mind that my pal makes money like this, as he's cutting out the middle man, using his initiative and doesn't have the massive restocking fees whenever he sells parts or a bike from his supplier (it's a one out, one in deal). What I do mind is paying 15-20x over the odds, for odds and sods and spares that are readily available online at the click of a button. The only downside I can see to buying from China is the 3-4 week waiting time, but then again I've waited that long for stuff coming from the UK and the US. Is it still rip off Europe or are these importers justified in their pricing models? Should we be buying more proactively for ourselves? Surely a no brainer when the savings are so huge...
Last edited by Canuk on 10 Dec 2018, 9:41pm, edited 1 time in total.

thelawnet
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Re: European importers: Are they at it?

Postby thelawnet » 9 Dec 2018, 7:35am

Nothing new really, hifi, computer, camera shops, etc. do the same thing with accessories.

Sometimes the Chinese stuff can be exceptionally bad quality, but with forums, reviews, etc., you can usually pick decent stuff.

Also I believe the Chinese postal service is subsidised by other countries to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year to sell cheap plastic junk at less than the cost of post in other countries. For example it costs a minimum of just over £2 to post a <1kg package to me in one part of Indonesia from another part of Indonesia. However I can buy, say, a set of 5 Presta-Schrader valves for 60p posted from China and delivered to me in Indonesia. I am not even paying the cost of delivery in this case, due to international postal treaties.

JohnW
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Re: European importers: Are they at it?

Postby JohnW » 9 Dec 2018, 2:56pm

Canuk wrote:I recently bought a nice Look 386 frame to use through the winter. The price was great, but everything was missing from it. Seat post clamp, 25mm seat post, bottom bracket, most of the parts from the semi integrated headset, brake cable housings, and all the various small bolts (even a small 2.5mm bolt in the rear drop out)..................................

I'm surprised that your local, bone fide, bike shop let a bike out in such unwroadworthy condition. The local bike shop that I use always checks bikes out before selling them - some come only partly assembled and he assembles them himself, but they're always fully roadworthy when they leave his shop. It's a matter of decency and pride to him. Take your bike back to your local bike shop and ask him to put things right - I think that he's legally obliged to do so............................

thelawnet
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Re: European importers: Are they at it?

Postby thelawnet » 9 Dec 2018, 4:16pm

JohnW wrote:
Canuk wrote:I recently bought a nice Look 386 frame to use through the winter. The price was great, but everything was missing from it. Seat post clamp, 25mm seat post, bottom bracket, most of the parts from the semi integrated headset, brake cable housings, and all the various small bolts (even a small 2.5mm bolt in the rear drop out)..................................

I'm surprised that your local, bone fide, bike shop let a bike out in such unwroadworthy condition. The local bike shop that I use always checks bikes out before selling them - some come only partly assembled and he assembles them himself, but they're always fully roadworthy when they leave his shop. It's a matter of decency and pride to him. Take your bike back to your local bike shop and ask him to put things right - I think that he's legally obliged to do so............................


afaict, this is a quite old frame so it would have been off ebay or wherever, not a local bike shop

PT1029
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Re: European importers: Are they at it?

Postby PT1029 » 9 Dec 2018, 4:37pm

Generic parts :-
25mm seat posts are not "generic", they pretty much only fit Look, a few rare frames and old steel Peugeots as far as I know. No one makes a bog standard 25mm seat post for the mass market (except possibly a cheap steel one for cheap German roadsters). Certainly not a big seller.
Gear hangers are more/less generic depending on model/make/year/sales volume of the bike. The VAR gear hanger poster has 170 different patterns of hanger, the Wheels Manufacturing poster has 200 hanger patterns on it. A few sell in big numbers, some don't as there are not that many bikes about that fit them.
Most bolts are a standard of one sort or another (allen head/torx head/countersunck head/standard thread/fine thread etc), so a bolts supplier probably would have bolts available loose.
The Chinese bits :-
Are the Chinese parts as good as the Look ones? You probably won't know until you have some mishap/some other extra stress gets applied, or you get them tested in a lab. A year or 2 back there was something (by Bianchi?) about the quaility of Chinsese copies (I think carbon fiber frames/forks). They looked good enough, but when tested were no where near as rigid or strong.
I expect they are cheap due to low overheads, low wages (VS Europe), probable lax environmental compliance, probably cheaper materials. Of course some might be the genuine article sold via the back door.
So you might have got a bargin with the Chinese parts, or you mght not!
One of my customers has a 99p posted chinese replacement alloy gear hanger on his bike. I am tempted to give it a bit of a sideways tug next time I see it and see how flexible (or not) it appears....

Agree about subsidized Chinese postage, "that" president recently threatened to withdraw the US from the relevant international postage treaty for that reason, as it allowed cheap Chinsese parts to undercut US businesses by importing directly to the customer.

JohnW
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Re: European importers: Are they at it?

Postby JohnW » 9 Dec 2018, 8:41pm

thelawnet wrote:
JohnW wrote:
Canuk wrote:I recently bought a nice Look 386 frame ...................................................

I'm surprised that your local, bone fide, bike shop let a bike out in such unwroadworthy condition..............................................


afaict, this is a quite old frame so it would have been off ebay or wherever, not a local bike shop


Ah - I'm just showing my ignorance then - I didn't know the frame - sorry about that.

Canuk
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Re: European importers: Are they at it?

Postby Canuk » 10 Dec 2018, 4:52pm

I've received the seat post clamp and the seat post (there are literally dozens of nice light aluminium ones in 25mm, and two dozen other sizes to choose from on ebay). The quality of both is excellent, okay the seat post is a little heavy at 210gr but it's nothing to write home about for £8 quid. I'm so far, throughly impressed. I'm trying to source most of the spares from Taiwan as the quality seems to be much better than from China. Most of the big brand operators, Specialized, Trek, Giant and even Colnago have all their carbon frames made and painted there, so they probably are the best frame and components manufacturers in the world in 2018.

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mjr
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Re: European importers: Are they at it?

Postby mjr » 10 Dec 2018, 5:09pm

Canuk wrote:I've received the seat post clamp and the seat post (there are literally dozens of nice light aluminium ones in 25mm, and two dozen other sizes to choose from on ebay). The quality of both is excellent,

As far as you can tell!

If enough people switch to buying grey imports, then it will also suck to have to choose between delaying a tour by a couple of weeks while one waits for a part to arrive and paying even higher prices for even lower-volume suppliers, possibly even buying one used by another rider.
MJR, mostly pedalling 3-speed roadsters. KL+West Norfolk BUG incl social easy rides http://www.klwnbug.co.uk
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Canuk
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Re: European importers: Are they at it?

Postby Canuk » 10 Dec 2018, 6:59pm

mjr wrote:
Canuk wrote:I've received the seat post clamp and the seat post (there are literally dozens of nice light aluminium ones in 25mm, and two dozen other sizes to choose from on ebay). The quality of both is excellent,

As far as you can tell!

If enough people switch to buying grey imports, then it will also suck to have to choose between delaying a tour by a couple of weeks while one waits for a part to arrive and paying even higher prices for even lower-volume suppliers, possibly even buying one used by another rider.


I buy all my parts for new builds in the winter. That way I have a 2/3 month window to build the bike up. Normally shipping from Taiwan is less than 2 weeks. I've waited that for a I part from Manchester :roll: I can only reiterate that the quality is far and beyond what I was expecting. The anodizing is excellent and for what I paid for it, I'd have to pay at least 6 times that in France for exactly the same product. I think 'grey imports' is very misleading, these parts are from Taiwan, currently the #1 supplier of high quality parts and framesets in the world. If that there can be no doubt. I could have obtained a Titanium version of the same seat post for £29.75. Exactly the same seat post from a German distributor: £179.80 Its about time I think we woke up and discovered a smarter way to buy.

I'm fed up being a mug punter, when there's bargains to be had online.
Last edited by Canuk on 10 Dec 2018, 9:45pm, edited 2 times in total.

rotavator
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Re: European importers: Are they at it?

Postby rotavator » 10 Dec 2018, 7:47pm

Can you post a link to this Taiwanese shop please. I want to have a nose around.

Canuk
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Re: European importers: Are they at it?

Postby Canuk » 10 Dec 2018, 9:02pm

https://rover.ebay.com/rover/0/0/0?mpre ... 1906970199

This is just one of the Taiwanese shops I use. I particularly like this full ceramic bottom bracket for £47.99. I've fitted one in my Cannondale and it's fantastic. The same bit of kit from a well known European supplier (even the photos are identical): £199.89.

They also stock a huge amount of titanium and carbon upgrades for Brompton from what I consider very reasonable prices. Like Hong Kong the shipping times are normally a week to ten days faster than China (all post free). I'm not sure but I think I recognise the full titanium frame here which is retailed by a well known UK distributor for about half price... :roll:

The Taiwanese really do make some of the best quality parts currently available in the world.
Last edited by Canuk on 10 Dec 2018, 9:46pm, edited 1 time in total.

Canuk
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Re: European importers: Are they at it?

Postby Canuk » 10 Dec 2018, 9:15pm

My friend bought this full titanium Touring/gravel frame for roughly the same price as British Reynolds 725 steel tourer (£685). The full carbon disk fork by Hylix to accompany it is about £70. (They also sell a full Ti disk fork upgrade for £220). Most of the Hylix branded components are incredibly high quality. The quality of this frameset is impeccable, I don't think I've seen a nicer full Titanium frame available anywhere in Europe. I've had my eye on one of these for about 18 months now and they've had at least two new models released since (different geometry and braze ons) so they are clearly not a company standing still on R&D. There's a frame they make on another site which I think absolutely identical to a similar offering from Lightspeed for roughly 4x the price... (It's also 130gr lighter than the claimed 1450gr in the advert detail, for a52cm!)

https://rover.ebay.com/rover/0/0/0?mpre ... 1872642907

If you look at the Lightspeed Titanium OR gravel frame ($4015) I really can't tell the difference. Save the curved seat stays and maybe $3000... I'm certain they are sourcing it in Taiwan. Even if they say otherwise... Colnago do exactly the same with their carbon frames (they'll look you square in the eye and swear they are made in Italy: made in Taiwan). The parent company make over 300 different designs and variety of high end titanium and also steel brazed frames.

https://litespeed.com/collections/ultim ... r-frameset

$3000 is lot of money, for a fancy set of decals :wink:

hamster
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Re: European importers: Are they at it?

Postby hamster » 11 Dec 2018, 10:50am

The weasel words are 'built in...' and 'made in...'
Built in means assembled, not frame fabrication.

Litespeeds are most definitely fabricated in the US.

Just because the tubes look the same doesn't mean that they are the same inside - butting profiles etc. However the biggest matter is the attention to detail on the welds - contamination leads to eventual cracking and failure.

My Litespeed has just celebrated its 25th birthday as is as good as new! :D I also note that their 50cm frame is 150g heavier than mine, suggesting that there are some serious differences in butting and wall thickness.

I'm not saying that the Taiwanese frame is poor quality, only caveat emptor.

Canuk
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Re: European importers: Are they at it?

Postby Canuk » 13 Dec 2018, 7:38am

Another of my Taiwanese favourite suppliers, nice Reynolds 725 full chrome fork for £56. They also supply hundreds of upgrade titanium and carbon parts for Brompton and Dahon. Reynolds chrome 725 frame with carbon fork anyone? The frame weight is 1680gr for a 53 cm version. That's Reynolds 853 territory, for £320..

https://rover.ebay.com/rover/0/0/0?mpre ... 2958441825
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Brucey
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Re: European importers: Are they at it?

Postby Brucey » 13 Dec 2018, 7:55am

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