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Doing business halfway around the world

Silverdale Cyclery owner David Brumsickle visited bicycle factories in China in February. He watched as this worker at the Ace Trike bicycle factory in Shanghai, China drilled holes in a bicycle wheel rim. - Courtesy photo
Silverdale Cyclery owner David Brumsickle visited bicycle factories in China in February. He watched as this worker at the Ace Trike bicycle factory in Shanghai, China drilled holes in a bicycle wheel rim.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Silverdale Cyclery owner travels to China to tour

bicycle factories.

Silverdale Cyclery sells a lot of bicycles.

In fact, the bike shop sells thousands of Raleigh bicycles a year and earned a trip to China.

Silverdale Cyclery is one of the top 25 Raleigh bicycle dealers in the country and owner David Brumsickle earned a trip to China as a reward.

The top 25 Raleigh dealers, known as the Heron Council Dealers, are typically offered an all-expense paid trip to a tropical paradise to bask in the sun and sip cocktails, Brumsickle said. But this year, Raleigh decided to send the Heron Council to China to tour the factories that produce various bicycles.

“We usually qualify for the Heron Council trip, but I usually don’t go,” Brumsickle said.

Brumsickle decided to go on this trip because he had never been to Asia and wanted to see firsthand where and how the bicycles sold at Silverdale Cyclery were manufactured.

“It’s such an opportunity. It was an expense paid trip to Asia which is something I’ve never gotten to do,” he said.

At the end of February, Brumsickle and the other Heron Council Dealers flew 18 hours from Vancouver, B.C. to Shanghai, China. The group spent a week in China touring various factories that made everything from inexpensive children’s bicycles to high-end bicycles for serious riders.

“The image that you get is the same bicycle with different paint, but they all really look different,” Brumsickle said.

The Taiwanese-owned factories employ Chinese people between the ages of 18 and 30. Brumsickle said each factory has its own dormitory where the workers live for free

“You’re expected to be able to work seven days a week and probably months on end,” he said. “People take a lot of pride in their work and they are very serious about putting out a good product.”

Brumsickle said he and the other Heron Council Dealers did not know what to expect before they entered the factories.

“I think all of us expected things to be really gritty, really third-world,” Brumsickle said. “It was all pretty modern, at least as modern and efficient as the American factories I’ve seen.”

Brumsickle said “it’s easy to imagine that you’re getting third world products” from factories like those in China, but that was not the case.

“A lot of people are concerned about the quality of products from China and the human rights around manufacturing things,” Brumsickle said. “As far as the manufacturing of bicycles goes, I didn’t see anything. What we saw was a really high level of quality control, frankly higher than I saw in the United States.”

While in China, the Heron Council Dealers gave input on the design of some of next year’s bicycles.

“We got to see some of the prototypes of bicycles for next year and help decide if some prototype bicycles should be produced,” Brumsickle said.

The Heron Council Dealers did not have much time for sightseeing on their China trip, but Brumsickle said he was in awe of the sheer number of people living in the country.

“If you’re from the Northwest it’s just hard to wrap your brain around how many people there are,” Brumsickle said. “We passed apartment complexes that could fit the entire population of Bremerton in them.”

Brumsickle said that contrary to what many people believe, not everyone in China rides bicycles. He added that riding bicycles is considered a lower status symbol in China.

“There were almost no new bicycles and almost no evidence of people riding bicycles for sport — most ride bicycles more for transportation,” Brumsickle said.

Brumsickle said he and the other Heron Council Dealers swapped business ideas throughout the trip. Brumsickle is beginning a campaign at Silverdale Cyclery to get more people to save money by riding bicycles instead of driving vehicles. The campaign stemmed from another bicycle shop owner’s idea and includes advertisements and T-shirts.

“I got some really good ideas from other bike dealers,” Brumsickle said. “The other bicycle dealers on the trip are industry veterans.”

Brumsickle said Silverdale Cyclery’s success doesn’t really surprise him because people from Gig Harbor to Port Angeles do business at the Silverdale shop.

“The bicycle shops in Seattle all know who we are and they’re often jealous because our economy is good over here,” Brumsickle said.

As for another China trip, Brumsickle said he is more than willing to take the 18-hour flight to Shanghai again if offered.

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