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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
If you ever plan to, or find yourself tooling about south-central Pennsylvania, consider setting up a visit to the Cannondale factory. The factory is located in the small town of Bedford, which really is a stone's throw away from the Breezewood exit off the PA Turnpike.

Two weeks ago, I had a business trip in the area so I called up the factory and arranged for a tour. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I figured it would be a little half-hour group tour where you get to peek through a few windows. Instead, one of the office managers took me on a one-on-one in-depth tour, allowing me to see the entire fabrication process.

It started off in the warehousing area where all the raw supplies are kept. The pallets and pallets for drawn tubing and other parts would be gathered and the appropriate bar codes would be scanned. They then went to the machining area where rows of lathes were carving away at forged blocks of aluminum. The one lathe I was looking at was forming part of the swingarm on a C-dale Rush. Another was working on dozens of dropouts. At each step in the process, parts were scanned in by barcode to keep track of everything. We then headed over to the welding area, where some of the factory's most skilled workers were. There were rows upon rows of welding workstations; I even got the chance to put on a welding mask and watch the TIG welding for awhile. Rather than use complex jigs, the tubes are cut to fit pretty precisely. They're then tack-welded to stay in place. A master welder then goes in weld the seams. The frames were then cleaned, prepped and sanded down. Workers in contamination suits under venting hoods use belt sanders to create that signature smooth weld. After that, it was off to the oven for heat treating. The painting area was mostly off limits because I was told it's a pretty toxic environment. After the painting though, the decals would be hand applied by about a dozen people. The frames would then go back into the paint room for clear coat. There were a couple racks of 'custom' frames with paint/decal schemes of local teams. A lot of the frames seemed to be bound for Helen's Cycles since they have special decals on them. I also saw a few frames with this spectacular translucent powdercoat on them. It's tinted with a particular color, but you can see the raw aluminum underneath...gorgeous. They were running a large producting of the upcoming (I'm guessing 2007 model) Six 13 Slice...it's the TT/Tri bike with Six 13 technology. The frames then went off for assembly. I've never seen so much choice bike inventory. Crates upon crates of whatever components.

I guess I never realized how big an operation it truly is, and how much manpower goes into making a bike. And when they say 'Handmade in USA', they certainly do mean it. It's very labor-intensive and it's inspring to see this type of manufacturing still done in this country. It definitely made me proud to own a Cannondale. And my tour guide was the best - he really took a lot of time out of this day to show me around.

So if you ever get the chance, check it out. If you're a bike nut, you'll be near nirvana. If you're not a bike nut, you'll be impressed with the ingenuity.
 

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nice report. a friend of mine works with them on some of their CF tubes (I've been riding Cdales with him for 20 years) and has also been there. He really likes working with them. It's great to know that you got a personal tour. I hope they stay made in the USA for a long long time.
 

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very nice!

I am waiting for my r5000 right now, which I ordered a couple of week ago. Your report made me dream about how my upcoming ride was built. Thanks dontimberline!

This gives me an idea. It would be great if more RBRers made factory reports just like you did. Did you take any pics? It's always interesting, at least to me, to see how frames are built and how factories are set up.

Coot72
 

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Hey, great post and thanks.

So you just call them up and ask for a tour? Simple as that?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Well enjoy your R5000. I'd love to do more tours of bike factories, but unfortunately there really aren't too many in this country. The only factories I can think of that actually have tours or open houses besides C-dale are Trek in Wisconsin, American Bike Group (Litespeed, Merlin, Quintana Roo) in Tennessee and Serotta in New York.

No, I didn't take any pictures as I didn't have a camera with me, but even if I did, I'm not sure I would have been allowed to take pictures anyway.
 
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