When Richard Burke and Bevil Hogg founded Trek Bicycles out of a barn in Waterloo, Wisconsin in 1976, they weren’t dreaming of one day outsourcing their manufacturing to Asia. Instead, armed with high-end road models, the upstart wanted to capitalize on the 1970s U.S. bike boom.
Nearly 40 years later, as most bike production has moved overseas, Trek is holding on to a bit of its “Made in USA” history.
Trek Bicycles is the largest U.S. bicycle company, making everything from kid models to professional road and mountain styles. And they’re the only major manufacturer still producing two-wheelers in the U.S. Overall, Trek makes roughly half of the bicycles manufactured here in the United States.
The company will make “somewhere between 20,000 and 25,000 bikes this year” in Wisconsin, says Jim Colegrove, Trek’s senior composites manufacturing engineer.
That might not sound like a lot. But it’s noteworthy when you consider about 56,000 bikes were made domestically last year. Remaining, domestic bike production is dominated by smaller companies like Waterford Precision Cycles, which makes about 2,000 custom bikes a year in an old Schwinn factory.
Despite Trek’s American-made legacy, U.S.-made bikes account for only about 1 percent of Trek’s total production. But Colegrove says domestic production creates opportunities for greater production control. “We control and drive all aspects of manufacturing bicycles here in Waterloo,” he said.
As with the manufacture of automobiles, we are gifted makers of bicycles and recumbents. I hope we never lose our sense of creativity in an effort to keep our economy going. What you buy should be make by your fellow Americans.