How'd they do that?
How can R+E Cycles hand-build custom bicycle frames in Seattle for less than $1,000 and full bicycles from $2,000? Believe me, that's a question that our competition is asking as well. I could write a book on everything we did to make this a reality, but I'll try to condense it to one article for now.
Alright competitors, here are all of our secrets. There's no magic.
This philosophy might sound ridiculous to most bicycle manufacturers. The march to automation and mass-production has been in place for decades (and now the march to overseas production). I submit to you that we can do a better job when we focus on the product one at a time.
Need more details? OK, read on.
One thought here: What if every employee who touched your bike added value to it? In other words, get rid of inefficient inventory movements and procedures that just cost time.
A new way to make bicycles:
The goal was to blend the efficient aspects of mass-production while reverting back to that 'one-bike-at-a-time' method of the old days. At the same time, we didn't want to incur a bunch of debt to the bank. There were also no machines produced that were designed to do what we envisioned. Most machines are enormous, expensive and wouldn't even fit through our door.
Through the years, the bicycle industry has produced some rare birds with the most innovative minds. Some of these innovators have even changed the world in huge ways. At R+E Cycles, we have more than our share of rare birds right here on staff. When you've got folks like these, it seems like anything is possible. In November 2005, we decided to use that creativity to save you thousands of dollars and design our own machines so we could go back to the 'one-bike-at-a-time' method.
0% defect rate:
Whether you realize it or not, you're paying for mistakes made during production. This is true for every manufacturer. We've discovered that having one builder complete the frame entirely from start to finish guarantees an almost 0% defect rate. Now at R+E Cycles, one builder works from one piece of paper, on one frame, completing everything on it before moving to the next frame. During mass production, mistakes are common, and multiple (ie expensive).
No more wasted movement:
In mass production days, frames were moved around the shop in batches (movement is a wasted labor that adds no value). One guy did the welding, the next did the braze-ons, then someone else did the machining etc... Inevitability, the wrong braze-ons would end up on a frame or paperwork got mixed up and someone got the wrong paint color etc... These situations required re-working the defective bike(s). Re-working stops new production, and adds lots of time over a year to building frames (while adding no quality or value). Over the long haul, all of the bikes were more expensive than they needed to be if the defects wouldn't have happened. If we could achieve a 0% defect rate, we could save you (and us) lots of money.
No Cash Calls:
Most people think that hand-building one frame at a time has to be expensive because....well....it always has been in the past. For this reason, mid-sized bicycle companies will spend hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars on machinery to mass-produce their bicycles. Those machines are designed for mass-production factories, and make custom building very hard (ie. expensive) to do. All of those payments to the bank add greatly to the cost of every bicycle produced as those 'cash calls' come every month, and believe me, those costs are passed on to you. Equation - No payments to the bank for equipment = lower bicycle prices.
Over the last seven years, we've used our collective experience and talents to create a one-of-a-kind frame shop that achieves mass-production efficiency in a one-at-a-time custom frame shop. This is possible with the use of small machines that we've designed and built ourselves (for much, much less $$ than the big machines the other guys buy). Most folks think that's impossible, but if you know me well, you know that "impossible just takes a bit more time is all". Our Youtube video shows some of the process. It's called 'Building a Custom Bicycle' If you want to view it on Youtube.
The changes were massive, and completely unique in our industry. The changes included more than just machinery, they also included writing software and designing a new method of fitting bicycles. If you'd like to read a newsletter that details some of the changes we made, click here. It's a PDF file.
Big Flashy Digs:
Since most companies think they need massive machines to build bicycles, it only makes sense that a huge facility would follow right? Some of them even build new huge facilities to operate from. Equation - Big Building = Big Cash Calls.
Now, of course I'd love to buy a great big new building, but the fact is that the one we've been in for 40 years now works just fine and we own it. To buy a bigger one would cost us lots of money and that, of course, would end up ultimately costing you money. So, as long as Seattle will have us, we'll be right here at 5627 University Way NE, Seattle WA. Building bicycles doesn't require Big Flashy Digs anyway.
These are just a few of the philosophies that we've employed to maximize the value of our Rodriguez bicycles. Shop around, and I think you'll agree that we've created something unique......U.S. made, hand-built bikes that anyone can afford. You can pay more, but we guarantee you will NOT get a better bike.
If you'd like to visit our shop and see us in action, we'd love to have you. We give tours of the facility all the time and you are welcome any time.
Thanks for reading, and now on with the bikes!
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