Inside the Belly of a Giant: Factory Tour

Words by Damian Breach | Images by Damian Breach & Giant

“Made in Taiwan” is a phrase that we’ve all become accustomed to and ever since I first saw those words stickered to my bike I have always wanted to go and see where my bikes are made.

 

0-1 Giant global HQ built in 1984

Standing tall outside of a small town is the Giant HQ. It’s here where the high level bikes are made and the HQ offices are located.

Like seeing a cow on a farm and being reminded of where our food comes from, and all the hard work that goes to put it on our table, visiting a bike factory feels the same for me. I wanted to see the scale, the engineering, the humans behind it all, and the hard work it takes to put a bike in my garage. I too wanted to feel a little less arrogant and grateful.

Lucky for me my dream came true on a grand scale as I recently got the chance to visit the Giant HQ Factory in Taichung, Taiwan.

Giant is arguably the largest bicycle manufacturer in the world and the HQ in Taichung is one of half a dozen locations that churn out over 6 million bikes a year. That’s a massive scale that can only be seen to be appreciated and as we walked amongst the people and machines I was struck most notably by the scale of human effort it takes to build our bikes. Yes, there are some fantastic machines and amazing modern engineering involved but building a bicycle still isn’t at the level of robotic craftsmanship like the auto industry – every piece of our bikes is touched by a very hard working and dedicated Giant employee.

What I took away from my visit wasn’t the amazing skill and workmanship, or scale of the operation, it was the very family nature that even such a large scale operator as Giant has. Despite what you may think of manufacturers at this scale, I personally found that they still do love bikes too. Even the CEO loves riding bikes and dedicates a far portion of his time and money to help others in Taiwan enjoy the same. Here are some photos of our tour. It’s pretty much near impossible to capture the whole process so here is a very abbreviated version. If only I was allowed to take photos of the research and development work spaces. So many cool toys.

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I travelled to Giant with Liv/Giant Ambassador Katie Holden and our journey took us from Taipei via 300kph high speed train to Taichung. Taiwan is densely populated but is surprisingly beautiful as well.

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A quick introduction to Taiwan was lunch without pictures or words. I nearly order fried fish-eye balls but was too much of a wimp and just got fried rice instead.

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Giant has been a leader in aluminium manufacturing for decades and Giant shapes and forms all their own tubing in-house.

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Each and every bike touches many human hands as is passes along a manufacturing process. There are also several checks and balances along the way to ensure quality control.

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Here is where the carbon magic starts. Giant manufactures there own carbon sheets from the raw carbon threads. This machine was the coolest.

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Like a sewing pattern, after the carbon is turned into sheets it is cut into various sizes and shapes and then added to a build “kits” for the builders.

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Layers and layers of carbon are added then heat and pressure is applied to make it form the sold tubing. It’s pretty amazing to see soft flexible sheets turn into solid tubing within about 30 mins.

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The frames have been built. painted and decal’d and this is the end of the line, where the bikes have their final assembly.

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Each person on the assembly line has a specific role and ensure the bikes are built while keeping the line moving constantly.

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Parts and build kits are all waiting to be added to the frames. There’s no guessing what part goes on what bikes as each part kit is delivered to the assembly floor exactly as needed.

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The final stage. Into the box and off to a big ship and showroom somewhere in the world.

 

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