Home
Buy a fake and you’re risking your life and supporting organised crime, according to bike industry body

If you buy a counterfeit bike on an internet site like Alibaba, you not only run the risk of injury or even death, you could also be supporting organised crime like drug trafficking and prostitution, says the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI). The problem of counterfeits in the bike industry has become so great that fakes might even be finding their way into local bike shops.

According to Robbert de Kock (above), Secretary General of the WFSGI, “It is since many years the WFSGI’s aim to tackle counterfeits, as it represents both a severe threat to the health and safety of the consumer and a huge loss for the image, the goodwill and the business related to the trademarks and products of our members.”

The counterfeits being spoken about are bikes and other cycling products that are passed off as the creations of big brands like Shimano, FSA, Specialized, Zipp, and so on.

In a presentation by the WFSGI to members of the bike industry at Taipei Cycle last week, Michele Provera (below), Vice President of Internet Brand Protection at Convey, a company that specialises in internet brand protection, said, “We’re not dealing with sweatshop factories, we’re dealing with very sophisticated organisations who launder money they gain from drug dealing, from prostitution, from slavery.

“They invest this money into selling counterfeit products because it gives them huge profit margins. They have no R&D costs, they save everything that was invested by the legitimate brand.

The WFSGI has teamed up with Convey to combat internet-related counterfeits. The objectives of the project include (in the WFSGI's own words):

• To discover and analyse the existing online threats for… brands covering domain name abuses, illegal offerings and counterfeit product sales on third-party operated online platforms.

• To remove counterfeit offerings from the major e-commerce platforms and online marketplaces and to permanently banish the respective operators and sellers.

• To shut down rogue websites and regain control of abusive domain names used and registered by third-party operators.

The WFSGI and Convey believe that the internet provides counterfeiters with the ideal platform to exploit bike brands because they can sell fake goods on e-commerce platforms and create counterfeit online shops with domain names that lead consumers to believe they are legitimate sellers. They can also highjack websites, divert traffic, and post videos, ads and links to counterfeit shops on major social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest.

Convey says that the problem could be about to get worse with new gTLDs – generic top level domains – giving counterfeiters the opportunity to confuse consumers with legitimate-sounding web addresses like www.shimano.sport, www.giant.store, www.cervelo.bike, and so on. Trademark holders – the brands – get preferential treatment in securing these gTLDs. They can also recover a domain name that is identical or confusingly similar to their trademark or has been registered by somebody with no legitimate interest, but that does take time and money.

Convey says that fakes on Western marketplaces like ebay and Amazon are just the tip of the iceberg. Chinese e-commerce platforms are the main source of counterfeits: sites like Alibaba and AliExpress. That said, we shouldn’t be complacent if we buy from more mainstream sources.

“We are seeing that more and more buyers are not just purchasing one piece for their own bike, they are purchasing hundreds of pieces of the same product,” said Michele Provera.

“This means that they resell them in Western marketplaces or, worse, they can maybe have a local bike shop and – who knows? – start to mix the counterfeits with real ones. If someone buys one of these products and the next day the frame breaks, what could the consequences be? If you’re lucky, the guy will [just] complain on all the forums, and social media… but there could also be liability problems.”

The project is in its early stages but the WFSGI and Convey say that they have attacked hundreds of counterfeiters, removed 21,000 fake products from sale, and blocked 5,000 annual transactions with an estimated value in excess of €1 million.

Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over the past 20 years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for seven years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.

87 comments

Avatar
SteppenHerring [328 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

This would explain why my bike is really hard to pedal uphill - it's a counterfeit.

Avatar
cyclingDMlondon [488 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

This 'organized crime' canard is trotted out every time they want to influence our habits.

'Don't buy cannabis, it's a gateway drug and supports organized crime!'

'Don't download films, it supports organized crime!'

'Don't buy stolen bikes, it supports organized crime!'

What next .. 'don't step on the cracks in the pavement, it supports organized crime!!'?

Do they really take us for effing mouth-breathers?

Avatar
userfriendly [562 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

They certainly can't fool you!  105

Avatar
cyclingDMlondon [488 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
userfriendly wrote:

They certainly can't fool you!  105

 1

Hey, isn't the guy in the first piccie a dead ringer for Chris Addison?

Avatar
farrell [1950 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

We're back to this again aren't we:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALZZx1xmAzg

Avatar
usedtobefaster [172 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Hey, isn't the guy in the first piccie a dead ringer for Chris Addison?

That's it I knew it reminded me of someone.

Avatar
David Portland [83 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Counterfeit products massive problem, says man who gets paid to tackle counterfeit products.

Avatar
Neil753 [447 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

No-one condones counterfeit products, but if the "industry" wasn't so hell bent on making what we've just bought obsolete, as quickly as possible, so they can flog us yet more stuff, then maybe the whole counterfeit problem would be reduced substantially. The "industry" must play their part.

Avatar
Nick T [913 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I know a lot of cyclists. I'm sure we all do, collectively.

Quick show if hands, has anyone ever seen one of these fake bikes in real life? Can't say I have, personally.

Avatar
Wookie [235 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Nick T wrote:

I know a lot of cyclists. I'm sure we all do, collectively.

Quick show if hands, has anyone ever seen one of these fake bikes in real life? Can't say I have, personally.

I haven’t but I know a man that bought a Dogma 65.1 Think 2 Frameset for around $600. Now I'm just guessing but would have to conclude the frame was either stolen or fake. I personally wouldn’t want to risk my safety on the unknown quality of the carbon in such a frame.

Avatar
wwfcb [85 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
cyclingDMlondon wrote:

This 'organized crime' canard is trotted out every time they want to influence our habits.

'Don't buy cannabis, it's a gateway drug and supports organized crime!'

Maybe, it does support organised crime.

 39

Avatar
CanAmSteve [252 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Not the quite the same level of concern as for the fake Boeing and Airbus parts...

Avatar
Yorkshie Whippet [530 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Neil753 wrote:

No-one condones counterfeit products, but if the "industry" wasn't so hell bent on making what we've just bought obsolete, as quickly as possible, so they can flog us yet more stuff, then maybe the whole counterfeit problem would be reduced substantially. The "industry" must play their part.

What is that phrase that includes, nail head on and hitting?

Avatar
Mr Turning [116 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Neil753 wrote:

No-one condones counterfeit products, but if the "industry" wasn't so hell bent on making what we've just bought obsolete, as quickly as possible, so they can flog us yet more stuff, then maybe the whole counterfeit problem would be reduced substantially. The "industry" must play their part.

Not really. Bloke tried to sell me a fake Ben Sherman shirt down the pub the other day. They don't exist because button size changes every year, they exist because someone is attempting to make money off the back of someone else's investment and hard work in brand development.

If you don't like the bike industry's pricing, you simply don't buy it. You can buy a cheap frame or cheap wheels if you like. No one is stopping you from doing that - just not one that is pretending to be a Cervelo when, in fact, it isn't.

Avatar
Jon Burrage [998 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Mr Turning wrote:
Neil753 wrote:

No-one condones counterfeit products, but if the "industry" wasn't so hell bent on making what we've just bought obsolete, as quickly as possible, so they can flog us yet more stuff, then maybe the whole counterfeit problem would be reduced substantially. The "industry" must play their part.

Not really. Bloke tried to sell me a fake Ben Sherman shirt down the pub the other day. They don't exist because button size changes every year, they exist because someone is attempting to make money off the back of someone else's investment and hard work in brand development.

If you don't like the bike industry's pricing, you simply don't buy it. You can buy a cheap frame or cheap wheels if you like. No one is stopping you from doing that - just not one that is pretending to be a Cervelo when, in fact, it isn't.

lovely, sanity! thank you.

Avatar
dave atkinson [6223 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Neil753 wrote:

No-one condones counterfeit products, but if the "industry" wasn't so hell bent on making what we've just bought obsolete, as quickly as possible, so they can flog us yet more stuff, then maybe the whole counterfeit problem would be reduced substantially. The "industry" must play their part.

I went out on a ride Sunday with my friend Nick, whose Dave Lloyd still sports the original Dura Ace STI levers, from what, 1991? They're 8-speed, and they're a bit clunky, but hey, they work pretty well.

Thanks to "the industry" being "hell bent on making what we've just bought obsolete", i can now go into a shop and buy a pair of Claris STI shifters, 8-speed, for £79. I dread to think what the original Dura Ace ones cost. For what they did cost, I can probably have electronic shifting now.

the logical extension of your argument is that we should simply stop making new things, so we're all still riding around on 1991 Dura Ace STIs or whatever other arbitrary point you decide things are fine as they are. I don't want that, I like new things. Engineers tinker with stuff to make it better. And it does get better, and that's good. If you don't want to pay for new stuff because you think the old stuff works fine, then don't. Nick hasn't. But if you don't think an FSA seatpost is worth what they're asking for whatever reason, just go and buy a different, cheaper seatpost, not some piece of crap knock-off

Avatar
mad_scot_rider [581 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I think if these guys had their way it wouldn't only be counterfeits that were illegal, but also cheap, unbranded carbon frames & components made by essentially the same companies that churn out gear for the big names

Hyperbole, spin and protectionism all!

Avatar
joemmo [1164 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I wonder if they took a stroll round the Taipei show floor and questioned the provenance and copyright-skimming status of the various looky-very-likey products road.cc highlighted on the article posted yesterday.

Anyone for a Trak Medone or a Specialazed Illez?

Avatar
dafyddp [361 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I think (I'm pretty sure) I read that many pros buy cheap, unbranded, Chinese carbon frames to build virtually disposable winter/trainer bikes. I'm guessing the general consensus is that they are at least safe enough for the rigour they're likely to go through. if they add brand decals to these frames, they obviously become counterfeit, but it doesn't mean they're any less safe.

Avatar
Mr Turning [116 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
mad_scot_rider wrote:

I think if these guys had their way it wouldn't only be counterfeits that were illegal, but also cheap, unbranded carbon frames & components made by essentially the same companies that churn out gear for the big names

What evidence do you have to say this? Do you have a quote, or something else that would indicate they have a problem with people coming up with their own designs, then making them, then taking them to market, then promoting them? Anything at all?

Or is it, as I suspect, something that you just made up?

Avatar
joemmo [1164 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I heard that the only way to prove you have a real frame is to saw the downtube in half and retrieve a small piece of paper which either says “congratulations on having purchased a genuine product!” or “you are an idiot” - basically much like a really expensive fortune cookie.

Avatar
vbvb [594 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I went to a prs (music royalties collection agency) talk where they blithely mentioned music piracy being linked to paedophilia and terrorism. They got booed to a stop and quite right too.

The radio supposedly used in the Lockerbie bomb came from a market trader stall that had counterfeit handbags. That quickly turned into "Don't Buy Fake Gucci Or You Help Terrorism". It's quite shameful. Or shameless. Both, I suppose.

Avatar
glynr36 [637 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
dafyddp wrote:

I think (I'm pretty sure) I read that many pros buy cheap, unbranded, Chinese carbon frames to build virtually disposable winter/trainer bikes. I'm guessing the general consensus is that they are at least safe enough for the rigour they're likely to go through. if they add brand decals to these frames, they obviously become counterfeit, but it doesn't mean they're any less safe.

Really? I doubt that is happening at all. What with them getting given bikes by their teams.
It also does mean it's 'less safe' http://cyclingtips.com.au/2011/08/are-all-carbon-bikes-created-equal/ read this as a starting pont.

Avatar
Gordy748 [110 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

It's more Machiavellian than that. Pinarello, for example, buys all their unfinished frames from China at around 200 bucks a pop, perhaps less with bulk buys. They're brought into Italy where they are painted and finished (admittedly it's nice paint), after which they charge over 2,000 bucks for the finished article.

Because less than 10% of the total value of the end product is made outside of Italy, Pinarello can legally say that each from is made in Italy.

Now, while I've mentioned Pinarello, the truth is that all these brands are at it. Colnago*, De Rosa, Cipollini, Willier, Cervelo, Specialized*, Trek*... Even Zipp has the parts to their rims made in China (perhaps Taiwan) then the components are bonded in the USA. And they charge 1,000 bucks for doing this (admittedly Zipps are very nice rims).

While I don't condone piracy, so wouldn't ride a Chinarello, I have no problem going to the same factories the "manufacturers" do and buying the same product for a fraction of the mark-up they do. And they are the same as the real brand; a local pinarello dealer said they have seen fake Dogmas that handle exactly the same as the genuine article. They say you couldn't tell the difference.

Perhaps Road could write an investigative article about how much money the European and American manufacturers make by marking up Asian products and pretending it's home grown. Oh wait, then you wouldn't get invited to those provate launch parties in exotic locations, would you?

* These guys do make some frames outside of Europe.

Avatar
Nick T [913 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
dafyddp wrote:

I think (I'm pretty sure) I read that many pros buy cheap, unbranded, Chinese carbon frames to build virtually disposable winter/trainer bikes.

Why would they do that when they've access to an endless supply of free bikes? Fernando Alonso doesn't have to mess about with a P reg GTI in the winter, does he?

Avatar
simon.thornton [44 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

It's really scary that innocent bikers are being lured by organised criminals
with all their prostitutes and narcotics.

Avatar
Beefy [376 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I think the higher end bike products are massively over priced when you consider the manufactring and R & D cost. Just my opinion no evidence. But with cycling being "trendy" some rider want to show there wealth by buying very expensive gear that they will never get near to using to its potential. Bit like the shit golfer with the £1000 clubs who will never use the clubs potential.

Thing is manufacturers are taking full advantage of this (true capitalism) and they are charging as much as people will pay.

I really like Casstelli it's good quality and looks nice too but £130 for what are nylon tights come on? But I pay it because I'm a knob like all the other sheep. As for Rapha pricing well.....

But as true up and coming capitalist some companies apparently in the Far East (who I suspect make the legitimate gear too), have seen a gap in the market.

Some of it is very poor quality but some appears very good. I am aware of a rider I met on a sportive last year who had a Dogma which he bought as a frame set for £300 a chinerelo he called it if memory is right, it was identicle in every way to a friends genuine dogma. Ok I couldn't X-ray it to check integrity of the carbon ect but felt the right weight and he had ridden a few thousand miles.

Now in not saying copy right infringement is ok but then neither is profiteering and I can see why a person who could only dream of spending what they may see is a fortune on a bike would want to look as good as the bloke who can spend £5000plus on a bike. But that is our society isn't it?
Now I suppose you might say get a better job and buy a better bike AKA Clarkson argument for cars. Or the bike companies could stop taking the piss with the pricing.

As for organised crime, it could be argued that by over pricing the posh bike manufacturers are creating a market for counterfeits. IMO I cant see Colombian drug Barrons investing in fake bikes. The only crime I can see is if the buyer is not told its a fake. Is it criminal to charge £4000 for so thing that cost £300 to manufacture.

I'm very happy with my Ribble not posh but rides great.

Avatar
Jimmy Ray Will [470 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Straight away I can tell you that pros do not have an endless supply of free bikes. The bikes are very reluctantly handed out and are closely monitored... nothing goes to waste, and no one gets freebies... OK, not many get freebies.

In the same way as Alonso doesn't have a Ferrari F1 car in his garage I guess.

However, I doubt there are many buying cheap knock-offs, when they'll be issued with a genuine training bike that they are contracted to ride.

I find the whole industry a bit weird when it comes to carbon frame manufacture. The reality is, for all the mystique surrounding carbon frames, they are not so magical as we are made to believe. Its simply clever plastic. Therefore its not hard or expensive to make a good frame. We are all being taken for mugs and the only way to make it stop is to stop buying these super expensive framesets. What is not the right way forward is to buy a knock-off.

Avatar
cyclingDMlondon [488 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Mr Turning wrote:
Neil753 wrote:

No-one condones counterfeit products, but if the "industry" wasn't so hell bent on making what we've just bought obsolete, as quickly as possible, so they can flog us yet more stuff, then maybe the whole counterfeit problem would be reduced substantially. The "industry" must play their part.

Not really. Bloke tried to sell me a fake Ben Sherman shirt down the pub the other day. They don't exist because button size changes every year, they exist because someone is attempting to make money off the back of someone else's investment and hard work in brand development.

If you don't like the bike industry's pricing, you simply don't buy it. You can buy a cheap frame or cheap wheels if you like. No one is stopping you from doing that - just not one that is pretending to be a Cervelo when, in fact, it isn't.

I'd never buy anything off the back of a lorry, or off a bloke down the pub, quite simply because it's nicked and someone, somewhere is going to have to shoulder the cost.

But that's not the point.

The point is the tired old canard that buying a fake something is somehow 'supporting organized crime'. It's a slightly different version of the old 'if you're against CCTV, then you must have something to hide'. Or the, 'if you oppose Internet monitoring, then you must be into kiddie-fiddling'. Or, 'if you object to being asked for your ID in the street, you must be an Al'Queda sympathizer'.

And the list goes on. The politics of social control all nicely wrapped up in a guilt-ridden package.

Why not just try the truth? 'Buy a nicked or fake bike, and you're shafting someone who worked to design the real thing'.

What's so hard about that?

Because at the end of the day, either fake bikes do 'support organized crime', or they don't. If they do, then the same could be said of any consumer product bought illicitly. Plasma tellies, laptops, mobile phones, electronic pianos, SLR cameras.. .and so on.

I see where they're coming from. I just don't like being lied to.

Avatar
levermonkey [664 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Counterfeiting will exist for as long as people are prepared to pay extra for a name [ NO THIS IS NOT A DIG AT RAPHA BUYERS!].

A few years ago when I built my 'Weekend special' I decided that I wanted a carbon frame. After much searching I settled on a b'Twin composit 700 frame. Why?

1. It's geometry was perfect.
2. As it was a fraction of the price of an equivalent from Trek, Cannondale, Scott, etc I was able to spend my budget where it really mattered (Seat, wheels, brakes, drive-chain, bearings).
3. Any thief is going to walk straight past my 'budget bike' and steal yours.  19

Yes I know it's not as pretty as yours, but pretty is not going to get you up that hill any quicker.

Where counterfeiting is a real problem is where safety is compromised. If something looks too good to be true then it tends to be too good to be true. If you think something is counterfeit then don't buy it. Simple.

Pages