Thursday, August 09, 2007

Cannondale Factory Tour

Last Friday on our way to the Wilderness 101 race Robin, Shari and I stopped by the Cannondale factory in Bedford, PA for a tour. It had been arranged through our local Cannondale rep, Jason E, a great guy who has really supported out team over the years.

Because production only worked a half day on Friday's we had to get there early to anything going on. We had driven to Bedford the night before so the plant was just down the road. At least it was once we got good directions.

We started our tour in the receiving area where we saw lots of raw aluminum stock, ready to be cut into the proper size. Some pieces of frames come in already cut for use. We went through the various machining areas and saw one operation where the machined crank spiders out of solid pieces of aluminum. We also saw them laser cutting some of the tubing.

In addition to other operations we saw the welding booths where all the frames are hand welded. The welds are so good that very little sanding is needed to finish them off. We saw the frames moving into the paint area and watched decals being applied. The final assembly area was like a huge bike shop with many people working on getting the bikes ready to go before shipping.

Our tour guide, Steve, took us back into the testing labs and we saw various frames and components undergoing tests. Not only Cannondale parts but other brands as well. While we were in there a handlebar being tested snapped at just about the predicted number of flex cycles. We also saw a sneak peek of a new FS model being tested but I'm not sure what it was.

One of the stranger ways of testing a fork was for testers to ride the bikes into a wall at 12 mph. Somehow they have figured out that this is the proper speed where a rider can still catch prevent himself from slamming his head into the wall as the fork buckles. The have spotters to assist the rider. I wonder who was the one(s) who decided that above 12 mph was too fast?

We felt like kids in a candy store with all the bike parts and finished bikes around. The employees we met were all very friendly and seemed to be proud of what they do. Working in the automotive industry and used to seeing assembly lines and robotic welders, I was amazed that almost every step of fabrication and assembly was done by hand. They are truly hand built in the USA. Lots of pictures of our tour are on the team website.

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