Posted on 20 March 2016
Walking into Curbside reveals a ton of steel bikes. Why? Steel is strong, lasts forever, and tends to do well locked to metal poles. The problem with aluminum is not the material itself but the assumptions designers have when forming it. The bike industry in North America is largely based in Los Angeles, and if they knew people were riding in the city and not just recreational paths - and locking these bikes all day to galvanized metal poles - they would go back to the drawing board pretty quick. Most frames as thin as a beer can, designed to be light and light only.
Luckily Devinci isn't from Los Angeles. No, they are from Chicoutimi, Quebec, of all places! Already, they are beginning to sound like a bit of an outlier - which is why we like em'. Devinci makes a bike that may be 2% heavier than its competition, but that 2% is adding 90% more longevity to the frame. We see very few frame warranties with Devinci, and our team has experience carrying Specialized, Trek, Rocky Mountain, Marin, and Cannondale (whose inside joke in the bike industry is "crack and fail").
We live in a world where very few companies have R&D departments, instead they go to the big Tapei show in Taiwan and find something they can slap their decal onto. Not Devinci. Theirs is a story of relentless R&D. We remember they once visited a tradeshow with a bicycle and human rider covered in electrodes so they could measure stress, weight, and comfort points. And this was not a racing bike, this was a hybrid. Devinci's target customer is not someone who lives in LA, it's someone who lives in Montreal, who rides over potholed streets in frigid weather, locks their bikes to a pole all day, and wants a bike that can tour on Le Route Verte and can tear down the Lachine Canal at mach speed. In other words, its not just a recreational bike, it's also made for the city.
This R&D work applies to all Devinci bikes, whether its made in their Canadian factory or overseas. And, that's another thing that makes Devinci special. They are truly "the last man standing" when it comes to North American production. No other company - and we say it again, no other company - produces their bikes in North America. Everyone has moved overseas. The only companies still producing bikes in North America are custom framebuilders, and they only produce bespoke one-offs. Devinci makes all of their bikes over $1000 (which is a lot) in Chicoutimi, Quebec - made with Canadian aluminum and Canadian hands. Everything else is made overseas at a hand-selected factory.
So, how is a company from Chicoutimi producing frames in Quebec? The answer lies in Chicoutimi's location. Chicoutimi is nestled in Canada's "aluminum valley." Made from Bauxite, the real raw-material aluminum requires for production is electricity, and Chicoutimi is smack dab in the middle of a whole lot of hydro-electric dams. The cost of shipping Canadian aluminum to Taiwan to become a bike and get shipped right back is pretty high. The cost of labour in Canada is high, but Devinci can basically walk across to street to Alcan and pallet-jack over all the aluminum they need. That ends up coming out to the same cost (we wish all Devinci bikes could be made in Canada but apparently that would require financing a very big factory). Their Chicoutimi factory produces some leading-edge product as well as all of the BIXI bikes used from London, England to New York City. Oh, did we say that Devinci designed BIXI too? Amazing stuff.
It also means that the huge R&D department is constantly tweaking the bikes they make overseas - and that's important. Devinci doesn't have to wait for the Tapei tradeshow to see what someone else made for them. They can produce their prototype in their own factory and with their own people. That gives them an element of control rarely seen these days in the bike industry.
But, back to the bikes. The Devinci you buy will not only have a better frame than its competition, it will also have better wheels - and ride-quality. Again, most companies are only concerned with weight, and this is because they're from LA and would never ride a bike in the city. The whole bike industry right now is trying to save a lot of weight in the wheels by reducing the number of spokes or lacing them in questionable ways. Again, this is great if you only ride on paths, but terrible if you ride over potholes or streetcar tracks to get to those paths. Devinci makes their wheels strong, and if they're 1% heavier than the competition, then fine - they last. In a market where many companies have simply missed the mark, Devinci has their priorities straight.
Finally, the ride quality. Many people who try a Trek, Giant or name-your-brand feel very stretched out in the cockpit. This is because the assumption is (once again) that you are riding on a long trail, with very few interruptions or hard corners, and are maintaining a certain speed. However, if you put a bike like that in the city - which is made up of 90° corners and tons of stop-and-go then these frames feel like an F1 car at a Rallycross. Devinci does indeed have a slightly shorter cockpit than the competition. This gives a bit more bend to your elbow, and a bit more steering angle. It's also great if you have a short torso, as many women do.
In sum, you could say Devinci is a Canadian company. They don't build their bikes for some person in LA for whom a bike ride means using a car rack first, they're built for the path and the city. And not just any city, but a Northeastern city: salt, snow, steel poles. They're one of the few products out there actually designed for Canada. And, that's probably why the Americans love Devinci too (they're a cult product down there), because they're known to be remarkably durable. And that's why we carry them. They're not just another aluminum bike with a decal on it, no that decal actually means something.