In Part 1 I outlined exactly what Chinese carbon is, and how it compares with brand name products. In Part 2, I’ll talk about some of the major manufacturers, and how to go about seeking a quote.
As a preface to this post, it’s important for me to point out that you really need to have a good understanding of the products you’re looking to buy. Manufacturers aren’t going to help you decide whether carbon or alloy braking surfaces are better, what frame geometry is best for you, or whether or not your bottom bracket will fit in a BB30 shell. All they will do is give you factual information about the products they sell. You are responsible for understanding what features you want/need, what compromises you’re willing to make, and how much you are willing to spend. If you’re not sure – ask questions of experienced peers, and practice some Google-fu to educate yourself.
Where can I buy Chinese carbon components?
There are many companies and stores selling re-badged components bought from Chinese manufacturers and sold for a profit. However the general public can contact the manufacturers directly and purchase these products at a reduced price.
Here are just some of the major, more reputable manufacturers and their websites:
This is by no means an exhaustive list. There is a US-run website and forum called VeloBuild which is frequented by staff from many of these manufacturers from time to time and allows people to ask questions and compare experiences with other customers. It also has a ‘VeloBuild Mall’ which allows manufacturers to sell direct to the public with security.
How do I get a quote or ask a question from these manufacturers?
Two things you will notice as you browse the above links is a) many of them sell much the same products, and b) there are usually no prices listed on the websites.
As mentioned in Part 1, many of the manufacturers have licences to use the same carbon mould designs, which is why so many of them sell the ‘same’ products.
I’m not entirely sure why it is, but I am guessing it is Chinese government regulations which influence the decision not to put prices online, or perhaps the desire for flexibility in pricing to allow them to compete for larger OEM orders. In any case, it isn’t too difficult to get a quote or ask a question about a product – just send them an email!
The sales contacts at these companies either speak English themselves or will use a translation service to communicate with you. As such, it is important to use simple language, no slang, be clear in your request and polite. When asking questions about a certain product, it is useful to include a hyperlink to the product in question to avoid any confusion; this is particularly important with wheels where there may be many different varieties of ’50mm carbon wheels’ available.
It is also important to recognise that the sales contact may not have the same degree of knowledge about the actual use and function of the product as you. As such, there may be questions they can’t answer. Rather than saying, ‘I’m sorry I can’t answer that question’, they will more than likely simply ignore it. Read between the lines and don’t push the issue. That said, you may need to do some Google-fu research on components such as spokes and hubs in order to fully inform yourself as to what the differences are between different wheel build options.
Pricing will usually be quoted in US Dollars, and there will be a shipping charge for delivery by EMS (the major Chinese carrier). Make sure you factor in the Paypal exchange rate when working out what the total cost will be to you.
Once you’re happy with the information and pricing, you can inform the sales person of your order.
How do I pay?
Most manufacturers will request payment by Paypal. This is not only safe and secure for you, but also simplifies the process. They will give you a Paypal email address to make payment to, and will usually inform you when payment has been received.
Once payment is made, it can take a few days before the order is despatched depending on stock levels. You may or may not be informed when the order is despatched. Delivery will, in practice, take roughly a week to get to Australia once despatched, although if Customs decides to take a look at your package this may delay it.
What about duty and GST?
Under Australian law, any package with a value over AU$1,000 incurs a 5% duty and 10% GST charge. However, most manufacturers understand the desire of western customers to avoid these charges. There are a number of different ways in which manufacturers can ensure your shipment comes in below the $1,000 limit.
What about warranties?
Most manufacturers will offer some sort of warranty on their products – this will differ between manufacturers. It may be listed on their website, but it is smart to ask any questions you have about warranty during your email communications. Claiming a warranty from overseas can be a pain, but informing yourself of the process should make it easier. Discussions on VeloBuild indicate that most people are generally happy with their warranty experience – there is the odd unhappy customer, but no more common than people claiming warranties from western brands.
That’s all for Part 2, and should give you a good basis in how to access this alternative market. If there are any further questions sent my way I may put together a Part 3, but otherwise I’m working on some product reviews and other discussions for coming weeks – stay tuned!