This week we have been at the Taipei Cycle Show, one of the biggest bike shows in the world and certainly the most important in the Bicycle Kingdom, as Taiwan has come to be know. This isn’t our first trade show, but it might be the one where we have most come to appreciate their value.
Bike nerd heaven
We knew that Taiwan was a unique place to come to learn about the bicycle supply chain; the island has emerged as such a central player in the industry that most projects pass through it at some point.
Before coming to Taiwan, we had spent a lot of time trying to get to know the suppliers for different components. Since we’ve been here, we’ve managed to meet just about everyone we were interested in.
For some suppliers, this has involved factory visits in Taichung and Taoyuan. For the rest there is Taipei Cycle where, within the walls of couple of cavernous exhibition halls, the entire industry gathers to trade ideas and show off their latest developments.
Everywhere we look there are interesting new ideas being discussed at trade stalls, or being displayed if they’ve come to fruition. Surely this is heaven for bike nerds?
Learning the ropes
The opportunity to meet so many suppliers in the same place has been particularly valuable to us as we had a few concrete objectives in mind.
One was to find the best possible components for our ebike. For most ebikes this would involve picking the components that best balance performance, price, and maybe weight. A folding ebike has the added complexity of needing components that will not clash when the ebike is folded. Sometimes we need to dig a bit deeper into component catalogues than others to find the best match.
A second was to look for suppliers of existing parts that can be substituted for custom parts in our design. As long as there is no sacrifice in quality, this is a no brainer as existing parts made in high volumes will inevitably be cheaper than parts that we design and manufacture ourselves. This both helps to reduce manufacturing costs, which we can then pass on to buyers, and makes sure that parts of our ebike, such as bearings, are more easily replaced if they become damaged or worn over time.
Finally, with new anti-dumping tariffs being imposed by the EU on mainland Chinese exports of ebikes and components, we need to ensure that the components we use are from the right balance of origin countries (no more than 40% by value can be from mainland China if we want to avoid tariffs, which can run as high as 80%, when importing into the EU).
Based on our experience here, the bike industry must be one of the friendliest sectors to start a new company in. Everyone seems happy to help out or knows someone who can. This has allowed us to achieve more in a few days here than a few months of emails and phone calls back home. We’ve found a few gems along the way as well.
Next for us is to take everything we’ve learnt and put it into the next prototype. We’ve finished the design for that and hope to have it built by the end of the month. It’s going to be an exciting few weeks!