Sunday, February 17, 2013
For the past decade there has been plenty of ink spilled and pixels pushed documenting and praising Taiwan's emergence as the world's center for bicycle production. International and domestic publications are quick to mention some of the larger manufacturers that produce high-end bicycles from factory complexes in both Taiwan and China. The focus has been mainly on composite "state of the art" racing bicycles that put a marketing premium on the concepts of "stiffness"and "aggressive" geometries.
With Taipei Cycle scheduled for March 20-23, we will undoubtedly be inundated with a barrage of pseudoscientific sales jargon hand crafted by marketing teams with the purpose of selling a technology that is over 100 years old.
On the fringe of the exposition at the Nangang Exhibition Hall are several of the smaller players hoping to catch the eye of the discerning brand developer, consumer or enthusiast.
At the 2013 Taipei Cycle I would like to direct a little attention toward one little company that is looking to grow and thrive in the gaps of sunshine between the shadows of industry titans through a fine focus on some of the basic elements of what makes a memorable cycling experience.
At this year's expo the TYA Bicycle Company will be introducing three new models of their steel framed bicycles that use the 650c sized wheels.
TYA Bicycles and its sister company TYALU were founded by Rocky Huang, the owner and operator of T-Mosaic Cycles where I usually have my bikes built, tuned and occasionally repaired.
For the past three years or more I have watched TYA move from drawings and basic ideas to a stream of prototype after unpainted prototype. As a regular rider and competitor, Rocky brings his experience on the bike and behind the wrench to TYA design. I have spoken to Rocky on countless occasions on the topics of fit, materials, geometry and design aesthetic.
Rocky is not only an experienced rider, but he has studied biomechanics and design, coming to bicycles from the world of advertising. As a cycling enthusiast, Rocky gives a nod to the classic steel bikes from the era of Maertens, De Vlaeminck, and Merckx in the lugged styling and steel tubing of the TYA.
These TYA bikes are certainly coming at a great time as Taiwanese riders are becoming more discerning in their choice of bicycle rather than simply choosing the cheapest model from the Giant sales floor or the one with the virtue of being the most expensive. Taiwanese riders are becoming more versed in international cycling culture and are looking for a greater variety of bicycles to fit their needs. It is an interesting phenomenon to watch the cycling culture in Taiwan evolve and mature.
The TYA can also hold the distinction and pride of being a bike that wears its Taiwanese roots with pride rather than obscuring its origin through tricky labeling loopholes.
The badge is crafted in the shape of two Taiwans in mirror image.
The TYA is not an all-out race bike and therefore makes no pretense of being a menace on the crit circuit. Instead the TYA is designed as a balanced road bike, offering lively and comfortable ride characteristics by maximizing the timeless benefits of ChroMo steel. Not every bike needs to win races. Some bikes just have to ride worth a damn.
The choice of 650c wheels was aimed at smaller Asian riders who often have trouble finding appropriately sized bikes with 700c wheels. There are other benefits with an increased low range and less rotating weight for climbers.
In Taiwan it is often difficult to find a decent steel framed bike in the first place. Very few offerings in the bike shops cater to riders who don't want to race, so this is a refreshing addition to the other available frames.
Here at Taiwan in Cycles I have received numerous emails from riders looking for a steel framed tourer or light tourer with the purpose of exploring Taiwan's amazing landscape. There are some models by Surly and Salsa sold through a few select QBP dealers, but it can often take as long as 6 months to receive a bike.
TYA is now offering both a Cyclocross/Light Touring frame, and a dedicated touring model complete with rack and fender mounts and cantilever brake bosses.
Both of these bikes would be excellent for the rider who would like to cruise the highways or hillsides where the pavement is less regularly repaired if it exists at all. There are still some sections of gravel road in the foothills. These would also make excellent regular commuters. Both bikes bring the durability of steel as well as the ability to mount wider touring tires to better support a bike under load. The cyclocross frame could also be fitted with off-road tires to mix it up off-road.
For true classics lovers, the TYA is built with the versatility to support downtube shifters (remember those?).
The new line of TYA bikes is a welcome change in a market that is increasingly saturated with composites, and there may be more on offer shortly. According to Rocky Huang at TYA, he is experimenting with both lugged and Tig welded frames. He has options for butted and straight gauge tubing and there may even be a 700c model on the horizon. It is still too early to tell how these ventures will evolve.
TYA is offering a build package around each frame set. Details of builds and geometries can be found at the TYA website.
TYA also has a sister brand that is trying to fill the gap left in the market for an alloy TT/Tri bike with aero tubing in a similar vein as the popular Cervelo S1. Alloy frames are still excellent for racing but have lost out in the market to the composite frames that allow companies to take advantage of the higher profit margins of composites.
TYA and TYALU will have test bikes available at the Nangang Exhibition Hall for riders to try. I highly recommend stopping by the booth at O0035 to pay Rocky and his crew a visit. He has some very interesting things going on and it might be worthwhile to pull yourself away from the plastic toys to remember why steel is still such an amazing material for the modern bicycle.
These are bikes developed and created by Taiwanese cycling enthusiasts for riders who share their passion.