Counterfeit products in the world are increasing more and more. In this sad ranking, the United States of America excels, followed by Switzerland and Italy in third place. The turnover of counterfeit products represents as much as 3.3% of the world’s turnover.
This is what emerges from a report published by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Between 2011 and 2019, among all goods confiscated worldwide produced by SMEs, 13% and 11% of the articles carried the fake Made in Switzerland and Made in Italy brands. First position for the United States, with more than 50% of the articles. On the other hand, Great Britain (7%) and France (4%) are more detached.
The cycling sector is not exempt from it. On the contrary: counterfeit replica road bikes are widespread and easy to buy. Italian brands are highly regarded – ergo, they are also heavily counterfeited.
Why we are talking about Chinese replica road bikes
In fact, most replica road bikes are made in China, but this does not mean that all the frames produced in the East are copies or fakes. 85% of the products seized worldwide are made there, as it is easy to verify on the various Chinese e-commerce sites, from similar productions to those that produce bike frames for big world brands. We don’t want to blame all Chinese products, but the part of fraudulent work inside it.
A harmful phenomenon, not only for the brand
In reality, the trade in counterfeit goods represents a global socio-economic risk, which undermines the well-being of consumers. At the same time, this practice is becoming a significant source of income for organized crime. It also hurts economic growth, reducing firms’ revenues and undermining their innovation incentive.
The problem is particularly acute for SMEs, which are the backbone of many Western economies. Indeed, SMEs often need more means to protect their products and services, which makes them more vulnerable to counterfeiting.
What is counterfeited
Switzerland is in second place in the world due to the great counterfeiting of watches (these even represent over 25% of the counterfeit goods confiscated worldwide). Italy is particularly affected in the fashion sector.
Counterfeit product experts forge everything from electrical components to pizza ovens to medicines, while clothes and shoes are particularly popular. The phenomenon of Chinese replica road bike frames is even more worrying because they are not simple wearables or jewels but means of transport. So not only is a guarantee missing but a whole part of the safety of a vehicle put on the road. In addition, these fake Chinese frames will, in the future, cover a considerable slice of the second-hand market, where unsuspecting cyclists will pedal on bikes with poor safety qualities.
How fake replica road bikes are built
Modern technologies have greatly facilitated the creation of replica road bikes. If before a fake was often produced with disused moulds from large manufacturers, today with 3D scanners it is much easier and faster to copy a project and reconstruct the mould in an almost perfect way. Maybe it is also better for safety. In fact, a disused and reused mould to build a fake is a mould that has lost its precision. The final product will therefore be far from guaranteeing quality and safety standards. Not surprisingly, these are moulds abandoned by the parent company. If, on the other hand, the mould is reproduced anew, at least it is not the starting waste material.
How to distinguish a fake from an original?
They are often indistinguishable. Often, only the product code is valid. The most counterfeited replica road bikes are the big American and Italian brands, such as Specialized, Cipollini, Pinarello, Colnago, but also BMC, Cervelo, and many others. Chassis codes are also often false and they reproduce existing codes, so the only way to understand if a frame is original is to understand if there are 2 identical codes in circulation. The problem becomes greater if it is a used bike, perhaps with a few years behind it, where it is more difficult to trace the code and compare it.
Are all the replica road bikes bad quality?
No. Esistono falsi perfetti, talmente perfetti da essere perfettamente paragonabili all’originale. Il problema è sapere quale. I produttori in Cina sono molteplici. Ovviamente essendo produttori contro la legge non si fanno ricoscere. Quindi è vero che un falso costa magari 4 o 5 volte meno di un originale, ma non abbiamo modo di sapere di che qualità è. Ergo, acquistiamo lo stesso design. Per fare un esempio pratico: è come se acquistassimo un’auto di alto livello, come una Porsche. Ma non sappiamo cosa c’è nel cofano. Potrebbe esserci il motore di una Corvette, ed essere paragonabile al Porsche. Oppure potremmo ritrovarci con un Porsche con il motore della Panda. La decisione è data totalmente dalla sorte. Potremmo quindi dire che il nostro investimento economico nel cercare un buon produttore potrebbe essere superiore alla spesa di un originale, se non supportati dalla fortuna ai primi tentativi.
What are the real differences between a fake and an original
Apart from the fundamental differences, such as not being supported by customer service and a guarantee, we could find incompatible components with replica road bikes in hand. For example, bottom brackets of different diameters or headsets with particular angles. These are problems that can be solved by purchasing compatible components. Slightly less solvable issues are when the counterfeit frame does not faithfully reflect the geometry of the original, as has already happened in some cases. In this case, it will be necessary to resort to a good dose of bike fitting and hope to find the correct position in the saddle.
But the most severe problem is finding yourself with a product of low build quality. We have already talked about how the resins used in the construction of carbon frames affect the frame’s resistance at different temperatures. Indeed the corporate vision of a manufacturer of replica road bikes will not be quality, but low price. The resins are not visible and will hardly be of good quality. We have often seen counterfeit carbon wheels deformed by the high use temperature. This could be very dangerous for a frame or fork, which has to support the weight of the cyclist at high speeds and all the micro-impacts of the road. Quite different from using a fake watch.