The tragic loss of an old friend Wilier.
We were worried for our friend late last year, when we noticed he had gone from producing frames in the world's highest-performance, top-level manufacturing facility to out-sourcing production to lower-cost factories in Asia. We began to see a change, a shift to a dark world we never thought our friend would go: the desire to increase margins and maximize distribution. Our good buddy, who came from a cycling family that represented decades of hand-made craftsmanship, was now selling out quality for the goal of lower price points and inferior products. Seemingly overnight, he had gone from the production of frames that make you happy to frames that make mass retailers smile. We were alarmed, but as often is the case in these situations, our words of concern fell on deaf ears.
We all know what we're talking about here. Our riding partner, who was known throughout Italy and the world for producing small-production frames that riders like Marco Pantani had ridden to victory, this trusted friend had been swayed by the promise of high-volume, pre-assembled bikes that promise sweeter margins. Cookie cutter bikes that offer little new and different and look too much like the already-established brands of the industry. In his quest to cash in, our misguided friend had even begun offering house-branded products that compromise component spec – again, to reach a lower price point. Our mate, who had built frames that led the peloton, was now setting his sights on the lowest common denominator. The team at Studio Velo had seen this before, and we knew lower standards of quality control, inferior parts and warranty issues would ultimately be the death knell for us and perhaps the brand.
Not long after, we got the news.
Wilier, a long-term partner of ours, was gone. Over the past few years, Wilier has made the somewhat subtle shift in priorities and seeks to capture more of the growing cycling market by promoting value before performance.
As our position remains unchanged, we have elected to part ways.
This is a difficult position for us. Studio Velo, along with a few other small retailers around the Bay Area, built the Wilier brand over the past 4 years. Wilier’s growth in the Bay Area has been nearly triple digits. Wilier was indeed a friend to us, and us to them.
But the truth is, there are many ways to grow a company and we're not comfortable with Wilier's choice. So while they continue to grow and serve an ever-increasing international market, we prefer to offer our discerning clients the best smaller production bikes on the market like Independent Fabrication, Time, Cyfac and Guru. The global marketplace, ironically, gives us all access to previously out-of-reach manufacturers. Rising worldwide material costs allow domestic fabricators to make products responsibly and competitively. In fact, one of the biggest injustices in the industry is how some Asian-made frames are more expensive than higher quality hand-made domestic and European frames but are not nearly as nice.
Lastly, to all of you who like myself purchased a Wilier bikes in recent years, do not worry about support. We will continue to service any and all issues. We trust that our local Wilier rep, despite his new relationship with the “big little guy” will also honor any issues that may arise. As all of our clients know, Studio Velo stands behind everything we sell and we remain committed to you, our valued client.
Somewhere, high on a wind-swept col with a 12% grade, Pantani sheds a tear.