Wednesday, April 22, 2009


I've become very disenchanted with the current situation regarding the fudging, and in some cases, deceit about the use of "MADE IN ITALY" when it comes to bikes. As mostly everyone has come to learn many bikes are now made in Asia and labeled as MADE IN ITALY, or through omission you believe they are made in Italy. My issue isn't one of the quality of Asian made vs. Italian made bikes, I just fall into the category of people that believes if a bike has "MADE IN ITALY" it should be made there.

It's getting harder and harder to determine which are the Italian made bikes because of how the bike business operates:
1. there are finished frames that are made in Asia and imported into Italy labeled as MADE IN ITALY,
2. there are finished frames that are made in Asia and imported into Italy labeled as DESIGNED IN ITALY (hoping that no one will make the connection?),
3. there are naked frames that are made in Asia and imported into Italy and then undergo a certain level of "transformation" that permits companies to apply the MADE IN ITALY (MADE IN EUROPE) label. I've been searching for the official "transformation" rules, EU rules I believe, but have been unable to find them (if they indeed exist). Here are two opinions posted on cycling websites as to how these transformation rules work:
a)"I think European Union legislation states that they have to say "Made in Europe" ... furthermore if a product has some extra work done on it in Europe which increases its value by 60% it could be stated that its made in Europe - so a frame could be made in China for say 500 dollars and then painted, labeled, boxed etc for 300 dollars so that the finished product will have a cost price of 800 dollars and then sold as made in Europe for 1600 dollars."
b) "There is something to that effect, but I believe that the 60% is of the total value, not the added value, so if the frame sells for $500, if $300 is created in Europe, it can be labeled as made in Italy. That is my understanding but I am not sure. So effectively the value added component must be 150% of the imported content. All of this is however hearsay and not necessarily the case."
If any readers know of these "transformation" rules please leave a comment or contact me.

4. there is also of category frames that are Asian made for a strong Italian brand(s) that although there is no MADE IN ITALY you are decidedly left withe the impression that it's made in Italy.

Photos (from when bikes were MADE IN ITALY

Stories, including cycling trip stories, for the Italian Cycling Journal welcome; contact


  1. There's a quote from the EU rules in this article that goes to the question you raise:

    Here's the quote: "Goods whose production involved more than one country shall be deemed to originate in the country where they underwent their last, substantial, economically justified processing,"

    I believe I have read that this has been a persistent problem in Italy, and there has been a movement to protect the "Made in Italy" label by introducing more stringent guidelines than those imposed by the EU. There has also been outright fraud, as in the famous "olive oil" case. I agree whole heartedly with the post, and hope similar steps are taken as regards the Italian cycling industry, either in the context of a larger movement or self-policing within the industry itself. I now regard "Made in Italy" with a very large grain of salt, wherever I read it. The same goes for "Imported From Italy" (check this on your bottles of "Italian" olive oil and see where the olives really come from). And this is a shame.

  2. Welcome to the new world.

    I've recently posted similar views on my blog, concerning "Made in the USA", verses "Designed in the USA".

    As far as quality goes, there's nothing wrong with Asian made bikes. The higher end bikes look and ride great. I own a few myself.

    Why the deception? Because when you buy something "Made in Italy" - you expect a little magic - perceived or otherwise. By farming out the manufacturing, you're losing some of the history and mystique. Does this matter? That's up for debate.

    If it doesn't matter - why not use "Made in China" stickers on the frame?

    Because you are losing something - perceived or not - and people are willing to pay more for that.


  3. True, Dan. O.
    A lot of this may be mystique - but then many people are willing to pay for mystique. Heck, to a large degree, this is what purchases are about - buying a "brand" or a "concept" or a "lifestyle" as much as - or more than - an item of mere enjoyment and use. You're just not as connected to Fausto and Felice on a bike labeled "Made in Taiwan."
    But there's also a practical consideration not yet mentioned. Managing subcontrators a continent away and in a different culture takes real ablity and experience. Look at the quality control issues initially experienced by some Italian bike makers - Colnago and De Rosa are oft cited examples - when they originally began using subcontractors more extensively and transitioned to more industrial modes of production in the 70's and 80's. Ugo used to at least inspect every bike that went out the door. Ensuring that what is coming from a manufacturer in Taiwan - who may not share your vision and values - meets your standards is much harder to do, and it's not something many Italian builders are accustomed to.

  4. I'll add that once mystique is gone, it's hard to get it back - I think Masi (Haro) is a case in point. And once QC goes wrong, it's hard to get a reputation for quality back - I think Benotto is a case in point.

  5. I still feel it's much cooler to have a person - or company - design and make everything themselves.

    However, there's some nice bikes out here - designed correctly and manufactured off shore - or just some place else.

    Ibis comes to mind. I own a few older original bikes and a newer carbon bike as well. The new bike looks and rides great. It also "works" for me that Scot Nicol is involved with the reborn Ibis. If the Ibis name was just sold off to someone, then it would lose some value - to some people anyway.

    Schwinn would be the best example has to completely lose your valued identity.

    We're all suckers a bit for branding and paying for a sticker on a downtube.

    Still - "Made in Italy" means something special to old school bike geeks like me. Maybe the "kids" just don't worry about such matters.

  6. Oh yeah - on the Masi deal.

    I used to feel the same way and yes - it does lose something in the process when it becomes a larger scale production type bike made in Asia.

    However, I follow the Masiguy blog and Tim Jackson, Marketing Guy behind is all - certainly seems to live and breath bikes - and Masi.

    That kind of attitude helps me get over my old school thoughts to a great degree. There's still some passion there behind the bikes.

    There's still something for everyone. Get a production bike or pick a small builder and live that dream.

    All in all - it's all good. We're talking bikes here after all.

  7. This is as old as Italy itself
    other recent scandals include non Italian ''Italian ''Olive oil and Wine that turned out to be not wine at all