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selling summer

JOHN LEHMANN

Rocky Mountain Bicycles is peddling hard to keep its Canadian identity in an industry that is turning more and more to Asian production.

When it was founded in 1981, the Delta, B.C.-based company prided itself on designing and manufacturing its high-end mountain bikes in Canada. Up until 1999, every single bicycle with the Rocky Mountain logo was produced in the company's factory just outside of Vancouver.

But the company had to relax its made-in-Canada policy as the economics of offshore production became overwhelming. China and Taiwan boast low-cost labour as well as an abundance of cheap aluminum and carbon-- two materials essential for premium bike frames. Once competitors shifted their manufacturing, Rocky Mountain had to follow suit to remain competitive on pricing.

"We held on as long as we possibly could in Canada," marketing manager Pete Roggeman said. "It's an industry trend as a whole, there's really no stopping it."

But Rocky Mountain continues to employ a 17-person Canadian staff and is intent on maintaining its Canadian roots despite the industry's trend to globalization.

Unlike many bike manufacturers, it does all its research and development work at home rather than outsourcing it to Asia. Rocky Mountain believes its six-person design team, five of whom are engineers, give it the ability to fine-tune products to maximum potential at minimal cost. The design team constantly tweaked the firm's newest model, the Element, as they crafted the prototype. Had the bike been designed overseas, the company could not have kept such a close eye on design details.

The company's designed-in-Canada bikes appear to be a hit with buyers. Sales exceeded 40,000 cycles last year. Rocky Mountain believes it could raise that number if it released more mid-priced models, but it wants to keep its focus on hard core riders, by offering a range of mountain bikes retailing from $600 to about $7,000. "Our bikes are geared towards the serious enthusiast," Mr. Roggeman said.

Company: Rocky Mountain Bicycles

Founded: 1981

Location: Delta, B.C.

Owner: Quebec-based Procycle Group

Known For: Premium mountain bikes designed in Canada

Price: Between $600 and $7,000

Sales: Over 40,000 bikes annually

Competition: High-end bike manufacturers that design and produce overseas

Strategy: Stay true to Canadian roots. Send production overseas, but keep design and engineering out west.

Quote: "Our bikes are geared towards the serious enthusiast." - Marketing manager Pete Roggeman

The Series:

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