"There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper," wrote the great 19th-century social thinker John Ruskin, "and the people who consider price only are this man’s lawful prey."
He added: "When you pay too much, you lose a little money – that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do."
And, in an aphorism much repeated in business books since the dawn of the 20th Century, Ruskin was supposed to have continued: "The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot – it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better."
Wise words, and attributed to Ruskin since at least 1916, but they’re not his. They’re real words, and somebody wrote them, but they’re not Ruskin’s words even though they sound like words he would have strung together.
The fake Ruskin quote beautifully illustrates why a bargain-buy may, in fact, turn out to be expensive in the long run, but the very fact that the words were not spoken or written by Ruskin, the person they are always attributed to, flags up the fact that – as that orange fella says – you shouldn’t believe everything you see on the internet.
What is real and what is not real? What is a bargain and what is not a bargain? When is a Pinarello a Chinerello?
These concepts, and much more, are explored in this series of twenty long-form articles about the shady world of counterfeit bicycles, fake parts, and knock-off clothing. Fake news? Not a bit of it. It’s all horribly real.
(Oh, and Ruskin hated bicycling – "to wiggle on wheels will never supersede the appointed God’s way of slow walking," he wrote some time before 1888. Probably.)
Cream, Competent or Cowboy – Which factories are faking it? Who is making fake carbon frames: a “third-shift”, back-street workshops, or “the same factories that make for the big brands”?
Alibaba and the forty fakers – Who’s retailing the counterfeits? Chinese websites and apps offer “factory-direct” prices for big-brand carbon bikes and parts. Too good to be true?
When a fake isn’t – open molds vs the knock-offs No-name versus brand name.
When is a Pinarello not a Pinarello? When it’s a Chinarello Some roadies proudly ride fake Pinarellos, but how good are the “Chinarellos”, and are they made in the same factory as the real thing?
Snap, crackle, and pop – do fake bikes and parts crumple? Some fake frames and counterfeit parts are built tough; some aren’t. How can you tell which are which?
“I bought a fake” – who’s buying the knock-offs and why? People who buy fake frames, bike parts and cycle clothing may think they’re getting a bargain, but is it a Faustian one?
Tribute bands and the Shadowlands – a design professor’s take on IP theft What’s real? What’s fake? A crash course in “intellectual property” and Platonic idealism with Professor Steven Kyffin.
Faking bikes is as old as cycling – knock-offs are nothing new Folks have been faking bicycles since 1817.
Fake China – where copyright means copy-it-right In recent years, China has taken steps to counter the counterfeiters, but in a culture where imitation is said to be the sincerest form of flattery, the fakes won’t fade away anytime soon.
Tiger watching the Tigers – Specialized’s Andrew Love fights the fakers Andrew Love is Specialized’s in-house IP investigator.
Whack-a-Mole Inc. – the lawyers clobbering the counterfeiters Preventing Chinese factories from churning out counterfeit goods, and merchants from selling them is a tale of take-downs and sanctions.
Fake folders – how Brompton and Strida tackle the copiers Counterfeiters don’t just target carbon frames they also make fake steel and aluminium folding-bikes.
Sham chamois – never mind the quality, feel the width BikeBiz asked three apparel companies to share their views on counterfeit cycle clothing.
Fake sense of security – counterfeit helmets are not for headbangers Put a lid on it, just not a fake one.
“They’re just bits of plastic” – why cyclists buy fake Oakleys Of all the counterfeit cycle products available the most ubiquitous are Oakley sunglasses – fake Oaks are known as “Foakleys”.
Moles, meet the mole-catchers – officialdom takes on the counterfeiters Law enforcement agencies, governmental organisations, bureaucrats and trade associations all play their part in tackling IP theft
Don’t mess with the mafia – is it dangerous to expose the fakers? Tussling with the Triads is not to be recommended, says bike boss.
On your marques – what can manufacturers do to foil the fakers? It’s not easy to stymie the copiers, but there are overt, covert, legal-eagle and forensic authentication systems that can help.
Get real – how and why to avoid buying a fake Low price too good to be true? Then it’s possibly fake …