Taiwan: The powerhouse behind the Tour De France

Now the 2023 edition of the Tour De France has come to an end, the Taiwanese bicycle production machine can reflect on its influence on the competition and the cycling world as a whole.

Whether its carbon bike frames, foam saddles, tires, or any other cycling component you could imagine, you could find a bike factory anywhere across the country that has some input, but the majority would be found around Taichung - the heart of the global bike industry.

Since the 1980s, Taiwan took over control of quality bicycle and parts production after Japanese-made products became too expensive after the US dollar took a hit. Taiwanese plants and workers have become masters of what they do since.

Over 80% of all medium to high-end bicycles and bike components are made in Taiwan or Taiwanese-owned factories elsewhere.

Results at the Tour de France 2023

Although no Taiwanese riders, or teams, were competing, two of the global cycling behemoths and a newcomer to the scene got plenty of air time thanks to the teams using their bikes at the front of the tour. Giant (Team Jayco-Alula) and Merida (Team Bahrain Victorious) continued their successes, and the first-time Tour entrants Dare (Team Uno-X Pro Cycling Team) were impressive with their Scandanavian-based riders.

Bahrain Victorious, the Merida-riding team picked up three stage wins at the 2023 Tour. Stage 10, Pello Bilbao; Stage 15, Wout Poels; and stage 19, Matej Moharic. They also picked up a second place on Stage 3, and a further four third-place finishes at Stages 3, 9, 11, and 17. Two of their riders made the General Classification top 20, coming in at 6th and 19th.

Jayco-Alula picked up two second-place finishes, and a third-place, and secured two riders in the overall General Classification top 20 in 4th and 16th. Uno-X also grabbed two stages’ third-place finishes.

Made In Taiwan

With many bikes across the world coming off shelves bearing a “Made In Taiwan” sticker, it comes as no surprise for those in the industry that top teams and cycle brands are choosing Taiwanese manufacturers for parts and systems. It brings more attention to the contribution the small island has made when we look closely at the other teams competing, they may not bear a Taiwanese-branded bicycle, but delving further you’d find that many of the top teams source their frames, in particular, and other tech from Taiwan-based plants, they also get their testing and research carried out in Taiwan, as well as design, assembly, and more.

Giant, Merida, and Dare (although now heavily operating out of Norway) are the Taiwanese brands that would have been on display at the 2023 Tour de France, showcasing a range of bikes for the multiple disciplines riders faced from the flat, mountain, and time trial stages.

Merida, the second largest bicycle manufacturer in the world, not only develops and manufactures for themselves, but they also manufacture models for many third parties.

Products and parts from the brands like Colnago, BMC, Cervelo, Zipp, 3T, and FSA can find traces in Taiwan. Most major and minor brands’ products are either entirely manufactured by Taiwanese-owned factories or make use of sub-assembly lines at Taiwanese-owned factories.

Other top brands that would have sourced frames and parts from Taiwan include Canyon, Cannondale, Pinarello, and Scott who make use of the high-end carbon frame production that Taiwan has refined.

Bianchi designs and assembles their bikes at their Italian Treviglio factory, but most of the production of the parts is undertaken in Taiwan.

Specialized, one of the world’s most important bicycle companies that have teams in most UCI disciplined events, from road bikes to mountain bikes, mainly have products produced for them in Taiwan before they get assembled in California.

And a big competitor to them, Trek, get many frames and components produced in Taiwan, even though they proudly state they produce the most bicycles directly in the US.

Factor, as an example, will get their frames made in China, but have their research and design, testing, sanding, painting, and assembly done in Taiwan.

Taiwan’s Recent Bicycle Business

Taiwan’s bicycle industry output hit a record high of US$6.01 billion back in 2022, up 26.4% year on year. Fully assembled bicycles saw the largest surge in production value, rising 30.9% from January to October. This strong showing was attributed to the growing supply of raw materials, manufacturers’ replenishment of inventories, and increased demand for high-end bikes.

Bicycle component output rose 26.5% on the back of demand carried over from 2021, and on a side note, the output value of e-bikes also soared 21.9% with the easing of material shortages and delivery issues.

Also, according to the MOEA, Taiwan is the top source of parts for the U.S. and China, securing 59.8% and 59.4% of their respective import market shares from January to October 2022. The island country is also the largest provider of fully assembled bicycles to China, accounting for 59.7% during the same period.

In 2022, parts were a major contributor to the sector’s exports, accounting for 48%, reaching a value of US$2.95 billion. Fully assembled bicycles amounted to 26.6% totaling US$1.63 billion last year.

The top three destinations of Taiwan’s bicycle exports in 2022 were the U.S., 24.6%; the Netherlands, 16.6%; and Germany, 13.4%.

The impressive performance marks a steady upward trend and the industry’s output grew 34.5% to hit NT$176.8 billion in 2021.