In the depths of winter 2012, I was lucky enough to escape the cold, white muck of the Sea To Sky for the sunny, dusty trails of Santa Cruz, California. For me, no trip to Santa Cruz was going to be complete without a visit to one of the most iconic brands of our sport, Santa Cruz Bikes. I was lucky enough to be treated to a full factory tour, gaining insight into the history and inner workings of this fantastic brand. Now with the winter of 2013 getting a strangle hold on us here in the S2S, we have begun to dream, and plan our next trip to the sunshine state, reminding us of our trip through the Santa Cruz Bikes factory from last winter.
Our tour started off right by the front gate, in what was the original and entire Santa Cruz Bikes when it all started, way back in 1994. Their facility now takes up 28,000 sq. ft. of space, of which they are constantly outgrowing (good news!), but it all started in this reasonably humble warehouse, more than 18 years ago. Remnants of the early days are visible on these walls, including the Tazmon—Santa Cruz Bike’s first forey into dual suspension mountain bikes.
Something I was not aware of prior to the tour, was that Santa Cruz build the majority of their wheels for the build kits you see on their website, in house. Once laced up the wheel is then placed into a rack, where it then goes through a machine which applies perfect spoke tension—hand built, machine assisted combination for perfection!
I’m not quite sure what it is about cyclists, but standing in a warehouse, layered floor to ceiling with boxes and boxes of raw frames drew an unexpected excitement from us. We opened a box and checked out what was the swing arm for an alloy Nomad, pre-paint, pre anything, in its simplest form. As many may know, a number of years ago Santa Cruz moved their manufacturing overseas. Their alloy frames are built in Taiwan and many are wet painted over there. These raw frames were for powder coating, a process they still perform here in Santa Cruz.
Parts of raw frames riddled the walls of the next few rooms, as we made our way through the powder coating bays. Mixed into these areas were a couple of guys carefully and efficiently loading frames with decals. You can all thank these fellas for the perfectly placed logos on your favourite Santa Cruz frame. With decals being another weak spot for me, I spent more time than most in this room, staring at the plethora of logo iterations plastered on the walls. Seeing this room made me weep.
Also riddled on the walls of the powder coat rooms were a range of test frames, including a classic Super 8 (never thought I would see one of these babies again). Testing paint methods and techniques is something that many would not think about, but it is another inherent process to manufacturing bicycles and some very cool paint schemes never make it out into the public arena, while others will end up as one off specials for the world cup racers. Strange green dots litter the walls also. These green stickers are used to ‘mask’ off frame openings (headtubes, bottom brackets etc) when going into the powdercoat bay.
Once painted up the frames sit organized among their brethren—frame models and colours—until inspected, then assembled. This was another room that would bring any passionate mountain biker to their knees, for you had a rather large room strewn with an abundance of frames and colours—the want disease kicks in pretty quick.
From this side of the facility, we move out and across the to the main building, where the sales team, design team and assembly teams are stationed. Within this warehouse are the final product, housed in cubby holes as a form of staging area. Builders initial and date frames, placing them in these cubby’s until they are spoken for, either in the form of a full bike, or a frame only, upon which they are boxed up accordingly and shipped out to their respective new owners.
Touring the Santa Cruz factory gave a new found respect for the brand and what it stands for. Up until recent models, there hadn’t really been a frame with numbers that suited what I was after in a bike, therefore never being able to show this respect by sporting the SCB colours—unfortunate, as I had always thought highly of what Rob started all those years ago.
Nevertheless, it goes without saying that the numbers work great for the majority, and really this is who you would aim your business toward, but this brand is the real deal. It’s not just an image portrayed to sell the bikes, it is SCB and in this era it means a lot to be, and remain, true to yourself as a brand. Don’t worry, Santa Cruz Bikes aren’t pulling the wool over your eyes and aren’t changing it up anytime soon.
Massive thanks to Danny and the rest of the employees at Santa Cruz Bikes, for allowing us to wander through your workspace. Everyone was so accommodating and welcoming, which again spoke bounds about SCB and their people.