Californian-based ‘American Artisan Bicycles’ launched in July 2011 as a nonprofit carbon bicycle manufacturing cooperative with an objective to “design and build superior quality, innovative carbon bicycles in the USA that are cost competitive with Asian imports.”
Founder John Egger states the company brief is to “produce innovative high quality handmade carbon bicycles that delight their owners while reigniting bicycle manufacturing in the USA and creating manufacturing jobs which we desperately need in this country.”
According to a slideshow posted by Egger onto YouTube (below), less than 268,000 of the 19,000,000 bicycles sold into the USA in 2010 were produced domestically. In order to manufacturer a bike frame that is, in the company’s own words, “technically superior to the Asia imports”, American Artisan Bicycles (AAB) has engaged expertise from the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics within Stanford University’s School of Engineering. Toray and Chomarat appear to be the main suppliers of raw materials.
Aside from focusing on its own brand of bicycle frames, AAB seeks to directly create manufacturing jobs in the USA via a multi-level operation which includes OEM competencies, a carbon frame building school and a ‘bicycle company incubator’ which leases out frame-building equipment to budding frame makers.
The current product range comprises two road bicycle frames; the base-level ‘Classic Carbon II’ (introductory retail price of USD1,495) and a sub-700 gram frame (52cm size) called the ‘Carbon EX’ (USD2,995). A rough 2D aero road frame rendering also features in the YouTube video, but this doesn’t appear anywhere on the official website. No specification page exists for either the Classic Carbon II or the Carbon EX, nor are there any images of complete bicycles, so it’s not quite clear what a prospective buyer gets. Poorly photoshopped images, inconsistencies in product warranty periods and pricing, and a sparse-looking Facebook page, hint at a very small core team behind what appears to be a major undertaking.
Screen grab from American Artisan Bicycle’s website, showing in-house manufacturing process steps.
CAN IT WORK?
Currently, it would appear the company is almost completely off the bicycle industry’s radar, let alone that of consumers. To achieve its desired outcomes in today’s ultra-dynamic marketplace, AAB will certainly need to invest in marketing expertise. The “nonprofit” missive is especially difficult to consolidate with the stated aim of becoming a “major American bicycle manufacturer”. The company might do well to also adopt the official Made In USA certification mark.