Americans Can Still Manufacture Quality Products If They Want To

by Chikashi

Chris King R45 Campagnolo hubs, No Thread Japan headset

As economies mature, they tend to evolve from agricultural and manufacturing economies to service and consumption economies. In such an evolution, production of less sophisticated goods that require low skill levels tends to shift to developing countries where they can churn out high volumes at low labour cost. The domestic manufacturing sector that remains competitive in a mature economy tends to be of a very highly skilled nature, specialised in producing goods of very high quality standards. In the US, through massive corporatisation and a tolerant consuming public, ‘made in the USA’ had lost much of its lustre and glory, particularly in comparison to goods made elsewhere. Automobiles are a classic example. However, there is a segment in the US, usually privately-held, owner-managed small and medium sized companies, that continue to produce world class products.

In the world of bicycles, there are some notable examples of the latter kind. White Industries, about which I wrote previously, is one example. Another is Chris King Precision Components based in Portland, Oregon, America’s cycling capital. I recently got my paws on a few of their products, the stars being the R45 hubs and the NoThreadSet headset. The hubs are particularly stunning. They are beautifully designed and engineered. Most modern hubs, regardless of where they are made, look like motor oil tins that were mass produced without any care or flare whatsoever. They tend to have a heavy-handed look and a cheap feel. In contrast, Chris King hubs combine classic aesthetics, precision engineering and impeccable finish. It’s tempting just to look at them rather than using them…

Americans can manufacture beautiful, quality products if they want to. It’s just a matter of interest and will, without which skills are irrelevant.

Pictured:

Chris King R45 front hub (24 holes) with stainless steel bearings, measured weight 105 g.

Chris King R45 rear hub (28 holes) for Campagnolo with stainless steel bearings and 12T lock ring, measured weight 237 g.

Chris King 1″ NoThreadSet headset with titanium bolt, measured weight 108 g.

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