BMX is interesting because there are so many factors that determine the frames and parts we ride. Cost and availability of materials, technology, time schedules, quantity and quality control issues are all things that most of us don’t really think about when it comes to buying something new for our bike. However, those are just some of the things brands have to consider when it comes to making the decision to have their products made in Taiwan, the U.S or anywhere else in the world.
Recently, Deluxe announced that Mark Potoczny’s signature PA Model frame would be available in two versions; made in the U.S and made in Taiwan. Over the years we have seen a handful of brands do products between the two and with the U.S option appearing to become more and more appealing of an option for production again, I figured it would be an awesome time to catch up with Deluxe’s Mark Noble to find out what lead to some of the decisions to give the U.S production a run and what kinds of differences we can find between the two production locations. Let’s see what he had to say along with a closer look at both frames!
So let’s start this off… The PA Model has been delayed about a year now, right? What were some of the issues that lead to that set-back?
We’ve had Mark’s PA frame in the running for a seriously long time, I think we even had first Taiwan samples at Interbike two or three years ago now, and the PA graphics were completely finished the beginning of last year – it’s nuts! But yeah, finally we’re happy to release the production frames now, after going through a couple different Taiwan frame shops, testing prototypes, refining drawings and tubing, and taking our sweet time on sorting a US frame maker that was down for this. Finally, PA frames – both types – are just about ready to go. In the meantime, we brought out Max Bimar’s signature frame, the Sacre Bleu, which has been a really dialled frame for us this year – a little different to previous Deluxe frames with sharper geometry and different detailing, and it went down a treat. We’ll evolve that for next year again, with input from Max and the team on taking it a step further.
A little while back you decided to give getting the frames made here in the U.S versus Taiwan. Since Deluxe’s inception a few years ago, you guys have always had your frames made in Taiwan, right? What were some of the reasons that lead to you giving this option a shot?
Since day one we’ve had our frames made in Taiwan, and the quality and build has been great – so far so good, this year’s Sacre Bleu came out awesome, and each year we evolved the frames to improve them every step of the way. I kinda always had it in mind to create US-made frames as well, and our US team was really keen to ride US-made, and general feedback from American riders in particular was that they wanted US-made product – so here we are, at last. It took us longer than we thought to find an American frame builder that we could work with, and vice versa, and I’m stoked about that now – Aaron from Solid is looking after our PA USA and new Welcome bars manufacture.
Obviously, there’s a reason for people going to Taiwan to have their products made. Care to share a few of those key things a brand looks at when it comes to something like frame production?
For sure, the main reason for going to Taiwan is pricing – for one thing the cost of building a Taiwan frame is hugely different to US-made, and secondly is international shipping – most of our worldwide distributors ship via Taiwan, they can combine shipments in some cases with other brands or orders, making it more efficient to bring in say an order of Deluxe frames and parts and combine it, ship it from Taiwan and import it… and nowadays, we don’t have to worry so much about the quality from Taiwan – as long as you’re on the case with the design, quality control, and choosing the right factories in the first place and working with good people, the frame build quality is excellent… which is why we’re building both Taiwan and US-made frames for 2014.
There’s a lot of perks to having products made in the U.S though, right? What are some of the things that appeal to a U.K based brand to have products made in the U.S?
I guess for years, we’ve been looking at US-made frames and parts as having the best reputation there is – and here in the UK, US-made frames always came with a price to match, so it’s always a serious step for a rider to choose US over anything else. Perhaps being based in the UK, we should ideally have UK-made frames, but the price of making BMX frames in the UK is unbelievable right now!
Now for Mark Potoczny’s frame, you guys have been doing some pretty extensive testing with both versions; Taiwan and U.S produced. Have you noticed any major differences in the quality of the product, costs, production time, etc. between the two different frames?
Oh man, we’ve been testing prototypes and samples for bloody ages, but we’re finally set now. Our frames are subtly different, and it’s all in the details – the Taiwan-built PA Model has a slightly oval down tube, tapered rear stays, integral chain tensioners, beautiful hourglass BB shell where the down tube comes into it so sweetly, and is built from seamless Japanese Cromoly. Whereas, the US-made PA USA has butted round tubing up front, plain gauge rear stays, externally butted seat tube, plain Mid BB shell, and different dropouts and is made from American Cromoly. In terms of production time and costs though, the frames are wildly different. Otherwise, with regards to the geometry and proportions of the frames, they are the same… the quality in both cases is great, to be honest – the Taiwan frame is the best we could get from Taiwan, and the PA USA frame has a supreme handmade quality to it.
Did you guys change up materials, geometry or anything between the U.S version and the Taiwan version?
For sure – the PA USA is all American Cromoly, and the PA Model is Japanese Seamless Cromoly – the geometry is the same for both since we know it’s proven and feels badass to ride.
When it comes to creating a new product, there are usually some flaws that need to be worked out before the release. Care to share some of the bumps you guys have run into along the way between both versions?
We didn’t have a lot of flaws per se, just refinements here and there – gusset shape and size, tubing, dropouts, stay spacing etc. We know the geometry is on point, so that was set early on.
Who all has been testing the frames other than Mark?
The whole US team is riding PA USA frames now – so that’s Mark Potoczny, Jeremy Ball, Mike Saavedra and Ted Van Orman, all on PA USAs. Also on a PA USA is our Canadian rider Dylan King. Running the Taiwan-made PA Model frames are Aidan, Davros, Mark’s brother Mike, Seb Yates, and to be honest they all love them – the PA Model is a step up from our previous frames. The other guys on the team are now riding the Max Bimar signature frame, the Sacre Bleu. They’ve been shredding those too… and learning from the 2013 SB frames, we can improve those subtly again for 2014.
I don’t think a lot of people really know what goes into the price of something like a frame. Care to give us a little lesson in BMX economics? Why do we usually see a higher price in a U.S made frame versus Taiwan? What are some of the reasons for why these prices have been starting to balance out, if not become cheaper to have U.S made products?
The retail prices of frames vary wildly around the world of course, no matter where they are made – that depends on shipping costs and various import taxes and duty on bringing frames in from different countries – which is why our US-made frames will be far too expensive in Australia, for example – I think they’ll be carrying only our Taiwan frames there. The price difference in the States between a Taiwan-made and US-made frame is only 30 or 40 bucks, at most. Here in the UK, the price difference is more like $160, even $200 between the two, so running a US-made frame here is a real investment. Shipping costs from Taiwan are increasing a little, as are build costs there, which is why Taiwan frames are creeping up in price though, so the price difference in the States is becoming even smaller… hence US-made is even more attractive to an American rider, aside from riding something that was built in your country, the pride in that is clearly a huge part of it too, knowing it was built in your country. That’s awesome.
Are there certain features you can do in Taiwan and not in the U.S? What about the other way around? Were any of the options changed on either frames because of what can be done in either location?
Oh yeah – for sure – that’s why there are detail differences in the two frames. For example, we couldn’t really do oval down tubes on the US-made frame, it’d be way too expensive… so we make the most of the frames built in both locations, and to make them a little more distinct…
When I think Taiwan, I usually think of a massive factory that has all types of products being produced. When I think of U.S made products, I think of a small warehouse with a couple of BMX guys getting wild with a welder while drinking beer (thanks, FBM…). Is it easier to communicate with these larger production facilities that are definitely on point, or do you prefer to get ahold of another BMX guy who knows exactly what you’re talking about when you are tossing out ideas for something like a frame?
Hmmm… good question. It’s definitely different, but to be honest I like dealing with Taiwan, since I have a really good agent who has his act together, and at the same time I really like dealing with Aaron at Solid directly about what we want and what he can do. With our Taiwan frame builder, since they build frames for a bunch of quality brands like Premium and Haro, we have to slot in their timeframe and it’s very scheduled. With US, it’s definitely more bespoke than that. But I do like dealing with both…
I’d imagine by now you’re starting to lean one way or the other on who will be producing the first run of PA Model frames, right? Or are you thinking of doing two versions similar to how Cult has the OS and U.S versions of their frames?
Oh, we’re definitely doing both US and Taiwan frames for sure. The PA USA will be coming out first, because of shorter production time and shipping time, followed up by the PA Model.
Have you guys set an estimated release date for the frame yet? I know there’s a good number of people out there that have been waiting on this one to drop for at least a year now.
We’ll have frames out before the end of 2013 for sure. Good things come to those who wait, I guess… it would have been fantastic to get the frames out sooner, to be honest, but here we are.
Care to take us through the final geometry of the frame? What color options will be available?
Both the PA USA and PA Model frames will be coming out in three sizes – choose from 20.75, a 21.1 or the 21.5. The 21.5 has a proportionately longer back end, just a smidge, so it’s more balanced. That’s the one that Mark and Ted run, both seem hyped on it. Jeremy and Mike ride the 21 inch frames, when before they were running 20.75 Tech2 frames, so they went up a size and seem to really like it… colour wise, the PA Model will come in Clear Red, Clear Goldcoat, and Olive Green. The PA USA frame comes in Jet Black, Clear Coat, and Olive Green. My favourite? The Clear Red on the PA Model looks just amazing…
Welcome Bars made in the U.S – Photo via The Merged
In the future, do you see Deluxe doing more products in the U.S or is it too early to tell with the way the economy has been lately?
This economy – both generally and within the bike industry itself – is definitely interesting right now, that’s for sure, it’s pretty challenging. We’re doing US-made frames and handlebars, and I’d like to see if we can get more US-made going as well – some CNC parts made in America would be fantastic, maybe get our stems, sprockets, and seat clamps made in the States – that would be great.
Outside of the PA Model, what are you guys cooking on? Do we have any other fresh products coming through the pipe line that we need to keep an eye out for?
We’ll have Deluxe Tripod seats, new US-made Welcome Bars that come in two sizes and are again made for us by Aaron at Solid, we also have an evolution of the F-Power stem coming out, and the new copper colour way on our parts which looks awesome.
Where can we find the Deluxe guy in the future? Do you guys have any team trips in the works we can look forward to seeing something from?
The US team just got back from a weeklong trip around some of the best spots in PA, classic legendary spots – so look out for photos and video from that trip some time soon… it was great to get the team together, ride some amazing places, shoot photos and film video, and kinda launch the PA USA frames and Welcome Bars on a trip. Good times.
Is there anything I missed you want to say?
Thanks for your patience on getting these frames and parts made! It’ll be worth the wait, we promise…
You can find out more about Deluxe and their products by visiting their website — DeluxeBMX.com