If you've been on the forums looking for answers about what factory made your bike, you've probably read conversations that go a lot like this:
- Anyone know if they're any good ? Look pretty cool . At $1900 pretty reasonable too.
- Unlike their own design/own factory, they are just re-badged Chinese-built available as other names.
- I bought mine a few months ago, it's actually very well made, far superior to the usual chinese knock offs, trust me I've awned them all! lol ... everybody loves it, I get questions about it ALL of the time ... I say buy it, I love it as of right now I have 600 (miles?) on it and it appears to be holding up very very well. definitely NOT junk!
That's not a for example - it's an actual thread on an actual forum site. Only it's not about bikes - it's about motor scooters. I found it when I was doing some research on a new scooter to replace an aging Yamaha Vino. Since Dave and I have used open molds for the frames and rims we're currently selling, I'm not deterred by the "Chinese knockoff" language. We know full well that just because something is an OEM product available to be branded by the buyer, there is nevertheless significant R&D that went into the product. Some people equate "open mold" in the bike business with the absence of engineering. Not true - it's just that the engineering is not done by the brand under which the bike is sold. Anyone who has ridden our Wheelhouse or HOT BUNS can attest that they were designed and built by people who know (and care) a hella lot about how a racing bicycle is supposed to perform.
The question arises about who gets to take credit for the engineering. One of the ways we differentiate is to only take credit for what we've done. We don't claim to have a team of engineers on staff, or that a frame is made to "our" specifications using a carbon layup that "we" developed for increased stiffness yet lower weight. When we see other brands doing that for products we know are open mold (because we can buy them ourselves), we see red. Telling the truth shouldn't be a point of differentiation in this business. And when people believe the other brands as they stretch the truth further than an advanced Iyengar class, telling the truth also becomes a liability. If we could combat it by telling more truth, we would. So we do the next best thing - we throw the BS flag at the offenders.
Want an example? I figured. There is a niche frame brand we pay some attention to that claims to have engineered their own bikes, except for one which they admit is an open mold. On their website they include quotations from a review published on a major cycling site, touting how awesome the frame is. Only the site didn't actually review their bike - the review was of a different brand's bike that the first brand evidently believes is the same frame as the open mold they've purchased. We looked closely and based on the photos, it's actually NOT the same frame. And the reviewed frame comes from a company that insists it does its own engineering. So we're throwing a handful of BS flags. One of them has to hit.
But never mind that now. Let's assume that the frames are the same open mold, and use the exact same carbon fiber and layup (because bikes of the same shape are NOT always the same bike - you can't look at a two bikes from the same mold and know they're the same at all). Is co-opting one's review as your own acceptable? I understand the marketing desire to take shortcuts, but even if you know with certainty that the bikes are exactly the same (which is very difficult to do), are you representing the truth when you claim a reviewer's words on another brand as your own? That's not a rhetorical question - I actually want to know what you all think.
Our interest in the topic isn't purely academic. Our cross bike uses the same mold as another very popular bike sold by another brand. We didn't know when we made the decision to go with the HOT BUNS, and only realized when we saw this other bike showing up at a lot of the same races. (Dave even flipped one over to look at the serial number to make sure the code and sequence matched our frames, which it did.) Should we point at reviews of that bike online and say "This is what people have to say about the HOT BUNS"? For us the decision was easy - we'd feel icky doing that, even if it helped legitimize the bike and sell more frames. Trying to trick customers into buying our bikes is not who we are.
What's my point here? Tell the truth. Respect your elders. Stay in school. Don't believe everything you read on the internet. Be an informed consumer. Race smart.