NiteRider launched in 1989 after founder Tom Carroll, who had been developing a waterproof light for night surfing, saw an opportunity to offer rugged, powerful lights for outdoor athletes who didn't want to stop playing just because the sun went down. The company still makes a range of SCUBA diving products, but it's best known for its bike lights. It's not uncommon to see 10-year-old lights being serviced at its San Diego headquarters, where a staff of 30 handles everything from R&D to assembly. The 750-lumen MiNewt Pro 750 represents how far the company's product has come. It weighs just 245 grams, and works as either a helmet- or handlebar-mount option.
Moots has been building bikes since 1981, and producing the high-end titanium frames it's famous for since 1991. Its founder, Kent Eriksen, is in the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame, and its off-road offerings continue to be objects of obsession for many a mountain biker. But Moots makes a damn fine road bike, too. The Vamoots RSL ($4,550 with RSL fork) utilizes all the latest whiz-bang frame features such as Press Fit BB30 bottom bracket, internal routing for electronic shifters and a carbon fork—but still delivers the inimitable Moots ride quality, thanks to a front triangle made of oversized double-butted seamless 3/2.5 US-made titanium, stout chainstays for direct power transfer, and “micro-diameter” 6/4 seamless seatstay tubes for a silky smooth ride. While proper bike fit is important with mountain bikes, it’s absolutely critical with road bikes, and although the Vamoots RSL comes in nine stock sizes, the company still recommends a custom frame. And why not? They’re made right on premises.
Spokes are perhaps the most elemental part of the bicycle, and while there have been many attempts to reinvent the wheel, the basic 32-spoke wheel has persisted. Wheelsmith, which started in Montana in the early 1990s and is now part of the Hayes Bicycle Group in Wisconsin, has perfected the art of the J-Bend spoke and continues to produce every single spoke with the iconic W stamped into the head out of its Milwaukee-area facility. Each is drawn from 304 stainless steel with threads rollednot cutinto each end at a precise 65 threads-per-inch. The spokes cost about $0.50 apiece. They're a staple of bike shops nationwide and a favorite of discerning wheel-builders everywhere.
Club Ride was born in the mountain town of Sun Valley, ID, from a dissatisfaction with the available crop of mountain bike apparel options. Beginning in 2007, the founders were looking for stylish gear that would meet the technical demands of trail riding but also perform post-ride—at the local pub, at work, in life. Fast forward a few years and the Club Ride concept has found incredible success and can be found in bike shops in almost every state. One of the original products from the company, the Go West jersey ($90, left) sports zippered rear storage pockets, strategically placed vents and is made from technical quick-dry fabric. The Short Shot ($90) packs those same technical features into a women’s-specific design.
Ever since he laid out the first frame on a kitchen table in nearby Lake Elsinore, CA, Jeff Steber has remained dedicated to U.S. manufacturing. Today, Intense Cycles is among the most well-regarded boutique mountain bike brands, and going into the 2013 season, the company is taking advantage of its flexibility as a manufacturer by producing a 650b wheel mountain bike right as demand for the bike is beginning to spike. Also known as 27.5, because it's in-between the 26- and 29-inch wheel size standards, the new Tracer 275 uses the same proven VPP suspension (which it licenses from Santa Cruz) and aggressive geometry and tube shapes that have made its other long-travel trail bikes so popular.
Dorky? You bet. Maybe you’ve seen this advertised in the back pages of your favorite running, cycling or fitness magazine. It’s a kooky ad and easy to dismiss, but the performance benefits of this simple elastic device are undeniable. Say goodbye to rivulets of stinging sweat flowing into your eyes on long, hot climbs. The Halo II headband really is a godsend—its simple design uses a silicone gutter to divert sweat from running down the front of your face, and its thin, cushioned material guards against the chaffing effect of long-deteriorated foam helmet padding. The headband comes in nine different color options—all of which are invisible under your helmet, anyway—and is about the best $13 gear investment going.
Chris King is a lifelong machinist with three decades of experience crafting exquisitely precise bicycle parts like hubs, headsets and, most recently, bottom brackets. The headsets that bear his name are legendary, and a ubiquitous feature on any cyclist's dream bike build. The company makes everything in its Portland facility, where each employee rotates through every position on the factory floor, and where, despite the fact this is a manufacturing facility, the company is remarkably green, a far cry from the green-washing lip service many corporations pay toward minimizing their environmental footprint. Of course, in addition to keeping a clean machine shop that recycles every ounce of scrap, it doesn't hurt that these products will outlast most of the cyclists who buy them.
Lorenzo H. "Ronnie" Thomson opened up his first aerospace machine shop in 1968, and by the time his company began making bicycle components in the mid-1990s, Ronnie pretty much knew what he was doing. The stems and seatposts that bear his name quickly became legend. Offered in simple silver or black anodized colors, the lightweight, high-quality components have established cult status among cyclists, many of whom are lining up to purchase the company's latest, long-awaited product, titanium handlebars, which are going on sale for the first time this fall.
Regardless of how you feel about the punny name, the honest truth about Darn Tough socks is that they are simply incredibly well made, stylish and, well, darn tough. The Cabot family has run this local institution for three generations, and after 30 years, they’ve just about perfected their fine-gauge needle work—creating a range of socks from 1/4-length ultra-thin wool/CoolMax hybrids to full-length custom ski socks. The $17 3/4-length bike merino wool micro-crew seen here breathes well, dries fast and has no discernable seams to chafe or irritate. Plus, a pair comes in four different sizes for a tailored fit and has a lifetime guarantee…wait for it…to boot!
Ever since it made its first product, an industrial grade repair stand (model PRS-1) circa 1963, Park Tool has been proudly manufacturing the best-in-the-business bike tools for both bike shops and home mechanics. Eighty-five-plus percent of everything Park sells is still made right in the company's 30-person Minnesota factory. From $7 SW-2 spoke wrenches to its Mack-Daddy MK-218 Master Tool Kit, Park's ubiquitous trademark blue handles have become synonymous with quality. The TS-2.2 truing stand ($310), in particular, can be found at most every single bike shop in America and in the garage of more than a few discerning home mechanics.
You've heard of Schwinn, Huffy and maybe even a few other iconic American bicycle brands with roots in U.S. manufacturing. But Worksman Cycles has quietly outlasted them all as the longest-running U.S. bike manufacturer. The company first started making bikes in 1898, near the modern-day footprint of the World Trade Center in Manhattan. For reference, that's just few years after Schwinn and a few before a guy named Henry Ford started producing automobiles. The company still makes heavy-duty cruisers and delivery bikes for companies all over the country, as well as a recreational cruiser line that starts at $300.
Unlike most cycling caps—cheap one-size-fits-all promotional pieces—Walz Caps come in two different sizes and are individually sewn by hand in California. They come in one of three styles: three-panel, four-panel or an earflap version for cold-weather riding. They range from $20 to $36, depending on material choice (cotton blend, wool or synthetic) and on whether you decide to splurge for custom embroidery. These comfortable caps last considerably longer than their cheaper counterparts and do a great job of keeping helmet hair under control, too.
The U.S. isn't just making bottle cages and bespoke cycling caps—we can do high-tech, too. Just check out the Wisconsin headquarters of Cycle Ops, where workers painstakingly assemble hubs with incredibly miniscule high-tech strain gauges that are so sensitive they can calculate the wattage a rider puts into the pedals in real time, and communicate that data to a handlebar-mount readout you can download later. These sorts of metrics have become invaluable for racers in training. For example, you can bet that each and every one of the 192 riders that started this year's Tour de France trains with a power meter, and a good number of them ride on PowerTap-equipped wheels.
Ron Andrews has worked for bike companies including Fat City Cycles, Ibis, Merlin and Yeti, but his longest running gig has been fabricating handmade water bottle cages out of his home garage in Durango, CO. Andrews has been making titanium cages since 1991, and stainless steel versions for nearly as long—all with materials sourced from U.S. suppliers. The cages—$17 for steel; $60 for titanium—won’t mar your bottles like painted cages will, plus they’re light (28 grams for Ti; 48 for steel) and guaranteed for life. Check out this video of the process.
In cycling's at-large quest for lighter, stronger, faster materials and component technology, no single product has inspired such lust as the carbon fiber wheel. A single carbon fiber rim from ENVE, one of the industry's leading manufacturers, starts at $800. That doesn't include spokes, a hub, wheel-building labor—nothing. But the resulting finished product is not just lighter than a traditional box-section aluminum product, but it lasts forever and relays an ethereal ride quality that has seen carbon fiber wheels catapult to the number-one wish-list upgrade of cyclists of all stripes. From tubular XC rims to deep-dish triathlon models to downhill options that have been proven on the World Cup, carbon has proven itself, and ENVE has proven its ability to keep up with demand producing each and every rim in its Ogden, Utah, facility.