Thursday, May 26, 2022

Copy-Cat Or Coincidence?

Which one is a Byway and which one is a County tire?
 The world of bicycle parts manufacturing is a strange brew of behind-the-scenes manufacturers in Asia and branding companies that pay for designs and product to be made. It isn't very often where you are actually buying from the folks who made the product and designed it. Usually it is one or the other. 

This was never made more clear to me than when I started attending Interbike, the old industry trade show, back in the late 00's. At that time 29"ers were just getting off the ground, and many of us riders were looking to lighten up our bikes with carbon legged, aluminum crowned forks. 

There was a bit of discussion and controversy surrounding a certain model of carbon legged, aluminum crowned fork. One was sold by a known, reputable brand. The other, which looked all the world exactly like the branded one, was being sold online at a much reduced cost under a Asian company's name. Some said they weren't the same. Some claimed that they were exactly the same thing. What the heck was going on here?

Well, I happened to cruise by a booth at Interbike one year in the Asian Pavillion, and I saw a vendor who was displaying no less than a dozen of these forks. They all looked the same, but they were not. The carbon layup differed for the legs, and the crowns were machined slightly differently, and forged differently, one from another. This was all done to offer solutions to meet a brand's price point. You want a cheaper fork than your competitor's fork that looks like this? They had that. 

So, that's just one example of how the bicycle industry can work which can lead to confusion and speculation on the consumer end. Things are still somewhat this way. Take for instance the tires I got in for test and review for Riding Gravel. There was something very familiar about them. Then it dawned on me. They looked very close to the WTB Byways I have here. 

So, are they from the same factory? Could be. Are they the same tire, just modified? Probably not, but who is to say that the overall idea wasn't , you know......borrowed. Asian manufacturers are well known for copying other designs and selling them as their own. 

I tried to get to the bottom of the Goodyear County tire's manufacturing company in Taiwan, (No- these are not really made by Goodyear, they just license the brand name to another company and they operate as the "bicycle arm of Goodyear") I couldn't sus out the relationship that the factory may have with other brands, which is not surprising. Suffice it to say that you are probably riding tires that are not Goodyear tires that came from the factory that makes Goodyear tires. 

Sound confusing? is meant to be that way. So, a copy-cat or a coincidence, but these two tires are too close in design, in my opinion, for this to be just happenstance.


KC said...

I'd go with convergent evolution on these, kinda like how all phones gradually morphed in to slabs of glass. Lots of other companies settled on the slick center/file sides design. Vittoria's Terreno Zero, Donnelly's Strada USH, & Specialized's Pathfinder come to mind.

Guitar Ted said...

@KC - A plausible theory. I can see that. However; the theme of these two tires is a lot more in harmony with each other than the tires you mentioned. Too close for it to be just the result of an evolution of the genre in my opinion.

The smooth center - knobbed edges tread pattern has been around since the beginning of gravel tires, and is not really all that new. (Challenge Tires "Gravel Grinder") In fact, I would submit that 'gravel' tires have been on a MTB-ish, more knobby track for several years now due to the way many industry designers are wanting to push the 'gravel' category closer to mountain biking. That's what I see. But maybe that's just me.......

KC said...

That's a good point - tires aimed at gravel have leaned towards the aggressive tread for a while & I didn't think about it being because marketers seems to want gravel everything to just be less capable mountain bikes.