Caveat emptor (buyer beware). In the bicycle industry those words usually only apply when buying used goods. But according to a report from Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, bikes are showing up in shops in need of repair sporting brand name knock-off components stamped with such dubious names as Shimona, Shinano and SunRun.
Bikes are even showing up for assembly, new in the box, with these knock-off parts included, and frequently the buyer had no idea the parts were look-alike products and not the quality name brand they expected.
That’s generally how it goes with knock-offs, where unscrupulous manufacturers mimic the name of a well-known brand by simply changing a couple of letters so that the casual observer or someone not familiar with that product won’t notice. They even go so far as to copy the font and logo from the brand of the product they’re imitating. This can be especially confusing for customers who are new to cycling, and may be intimidated by the vast selection of bikes and components out there, as well as the high price many of these products command.
In the case of SunRace, a well-known brand with operations in Taiwan, Europe, and North America, the knock-off problem has been ongoing. Their mimicking competitor, SunRun, is a Chinese brand whose product has been around for at least 10 years, and appear to be much more widespread. SunRun components are available from at least a handful of online retailers that can be found via a Google search.
SunRace tried suing SunRun for intellectual property rights violations, but foreign companies rarely succeed when going up against Chinese companies on their home turf. Cheap labor, reduced environmental restrictions, and attractive postal subsidies make it easier for countries such as China to undercut name brands with knock-offs. And the problem is certainly not unique to cycling. Louis Vuitton, Apple, Nike, and Under Armour are just a few of the big companies that face similar chicanery.
Unfortunately, many of these knock-off products are vastly inferior to the name brand, and in the case of cycling components, may be structurally weaker, which can lead to damaged components and/or catastrophic failures and bodily harm. At minimum, they may be difficult to work on to make reliable and/or safe. Some retailers are even turning customers away, refusing to service bikes with what are essentially fake components.
Many of the bikes that have cropped up with these dubious parts are labeled Aspen, yet very little information can be found out about the original manufacturer of these bikes. Their distribution source appears to be Art Van Furniture, a retailer with over 100 stores in the mid-west. The bikes were part of a promotional giveaway when customers spent over a certain dollar amount. With so many outlets, expect to see these bikes showing up at bike shops and sale sites.
Mtbr reached out to Art Van and Canada-based Primo International, which is the only brand listed on the bike box. Primo International revealed that the bikes come from Shanghai, but that was all the information they could provide. Art Van Corporate has yet to respond to our request for more information.
Bottom line, money doesn’t grow on trees. Many of us are tapped out and have to save up for months to purchase that coveted shiny new bike part. So wanting the best deal possible is understandable. But remember to do your research. If a deal seems too good to be true, well, you know the rest.