Velo Saddle Factory Visit Taiwan

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If you use a bike and sit on your saddle then you will know as a rider how important it is to have the right saddle and how it is fundamental to your ride. Saddle production is concentrated in a few places in the world. One of those production centres is Velo enterprises in Taichung, Taiwan. We visited the factory to discover the latest production methods and how saddles are made.

The Factory

The Saddle Factory is located on the coast near Taichung, in the middle of a town, with more than 1500 people working at the factory of which half of the people live in dormitories nearby.

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The grip factory.
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Resources piled up ready to be made into the components we use.
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On the way to the factory these two dogs stopped all the traffic to cross the road.
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The area around the factory is mainly flat, all land is utilised as lots of Taiwan is mountainous.
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Before the tour we got to see some of what Velo makes and eat lunch.
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Packed lunch Taiwan style, it was good.
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The saddle portion of the factory.
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The production manager was on hand to show us around.
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Stella the owner of Velo industries built up the business over 35 years after being asked by her ex boss to make saddles at his factory. Stella is a rare star of Taiwanese business, respected by all and a hard worker, you could call her the Margaret Thatcher of the bike Industry.

 

Production Line

We visited the production line facility for the saddles and saw how the materials and components were used and created and put together to become the final products.

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All the materials that enter the factory are subjected to quality control tests before they are used.
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The rails of saddles start like this as coils of wire, they are then fed into a rolling machine to form the saddle rails.
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Once formed the rails are chopped and bent by this machine.
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This machine forms the rails into the saddle chasis shape.
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More rail preparation.
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The formed, bent and folded rails are now ready to be sent to saddle assembly.
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Each rail undergoes the process under the watchful eye of a production assistance.
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This is a newer rolling machine that does everything automated.
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This robot bends folds and cuts the rails one by one completely automatically.
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Quality control checks are made on the final product.
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Rails once cut are ready again here for assembly.
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These are the moulds for the different saddles Velo makes.
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More raw materials are fed into machines by hand.
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Next stage of rail production is laser etching the logo’s onto the rails.
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These are the saddle cushion blanks before and after finishing.
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Here the coverings are printed and cut.
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Many saddles = many blanks.
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Final checks to designs are made before sewing commences.
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The Saddle seamstresses have an average of 20 years of experience sewing.
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Production line showing the sewing section.
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Different saddles are put together in different ways, here the saddles are screwed together after being sewn, other saddles are glued, which we will see later.
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The worker was very precise with his putting together everything.
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Some elements are stapled.
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Stapling the nose of the saddle together.
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The finishing touches are applied here, where the workers follow a “Just in Time,” protocol for production.
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This batch of saddles is finished coded and the camera here links to another factory where they assemble the bikes, so they can see what is coming.
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The saddles that are not sewn and the foam cores are made in this machine here.
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Special polyurethane foam is injected into moulds.
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This machine feeds the foam into the moulds.
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The boxing area of the saddle production.
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Back to the highend saddle production, more hand sewing is taking place.
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these women worked really hard and fast.
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Foam being injected into the saddle moulds.
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The moulded saddle bases and foam cores pass through this machine which helps set the glue.
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The workers environment was clean ordered and organised.

Research and Development

Velo carries out it’s own research and testing to make sure that all of the components work as they intend and designed them to. With many processes automated saddles can be put through repetitive tests to make sure they meet the standards of quality control, we were shown, rubbing tests, temperature tests and sitting tests.

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These logos were subjected to being rubbed to make sure they don’t wear off.
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A sitting test machine.
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We werent quite sure what this machine was for, but it was about testing torsional rigidity.
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The freezing and color fast test machine.
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Rails are tested here, to make sure they meet standards.
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This display shows all the different forces that are applied to the products for the different tests.
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This carbon railed saddle underwent more than 100,000 repetitions.
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A testers dream lab.
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This saddle just came out of the freeze impact test.
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As Velo make many products secrecy is important and brands have an inspection room where they can verify their saddles have been made correctly. They are not allowed into the factory in-case they see other trade secrets.
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These saddles here are all made just in time and are ready for shipping.

Products

Velo showed us a range of features they have been developing for various markets in their product room after we finished the tour. We saw a few interesting features that will find their way onto production bikes soon.

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Here a reflective patch is added to a saddle, that only reflects at night, otherwise remains green.
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This child’s sadle has been developed so a child does not slide off the front of the saddle.
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Prologo work closely with Velo and showed us their product room and what they started from.
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A saddle fitting system has been developed by Prologo to help riders choose the right shape of saddle for their sit bones.

A Few Facts

The tours that day also allowed us to speak to the workers and we were able to ask about working condition’s and pay. Apparently workers work an average of 5 1/2 days a week depending on their role and are paid between 1200 up 2000 US dollars a month gross.  The average time workers have been with the company is 5 to 10 years. The jobs are very sort after.  All workers get lunch breaks and their lunch is included as part of their benefits, some have the option to live on site. Workers are from Taiwan and many other Asian countries. Velo produces about 80 percent of the high end saddle market, although numbers weren’t that specific about 1.5 million saddles are made every month.

Thanks kindly to the Staff at Velo for showing us around.

 

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