Should we buy unicycles made in China?

The other day I read an article in the Economist which said that 60% of the bicycles in the world are manufactured in China. As high as 80% of the bicycles sold in the US are made in China.

In the old days, most unicycles were made domestically, but increasingly unicycles are made in China and Tiawan (which often subcontracts out to Southeast China).

As unicycles have gotten cheaper, they have increasingly switched to being manufactured in China. They are no longer a specialty item, but a mass produced good, like the rest of the standard bike market. Brands like Torkers have overtaken over the old domestic makers. To compete, brands such as Shwinn are now produced in China as well. Only in the high end market do the domestic brands compete. For instance, DM Ringmasters are made in England or parts such as Poznanter Hubs by Profile are made in the US, but the rest of the market has switched to China or Tiawan.

Despite the fact that we deride Chinese goods, they have generally brought us good quality at a much cheaper price. Today some of the highest quality components are made in Tiawan, such as Kris Holm seats.

As a consumer I love the cheaper prices, but I wonder if we shouldn’t be asking ourselves about the human rights abuses and exploitation of labor which is taking place in China and the Tiawanese companies who subcontract out to China. How do I feel about my latest toy, a Torker unicycle, knowing that it was made by Chinese workers who probably earn $15-$20 per week?

I know that neo-liberal economic theory should allieve my sense of guilt, but I don’t buy it. Whichever way you look at it, I am enjoying a beautiful new toy because other people are being exploited. By buying their products, I am economically propping up a government that abuses human rights, prohibits free speech, and carries out more legal executions than any other regime in the world. I know that China has gotten better over the last couple decades and many claim that free trade has brought new freedoms to the country and might even lead to eventual democritization. It is possible that a better future lies ahead, but it is inescapable that we are currently participating in this system by buying Chinese-made unicycles; and we are therefore somehow responsible for what is going on. We are asking people to work hard for little pay while living under a repressive regime so that we can enjoy luxuries like unicycles. Does this bother anyone else besides me?

Alright, having got that off my chest, I’m going outside to play with my Torker with a guilty conscience.

–uni on, Amos Batto

Yeah, your right. Let’s all go and buy Profiles, DM’s and throw away our Torkers, KH’s and Yunis. :roll_eyes: And what about our computer parts. Some of them are made in taiwan too. And clothes.

This doesn’t mean I support cheap labor, but this is how it usually works.

I feel sorry for the laborers in China, but us not buying Chinese made unicycles isn’t going to help them out. I’m sure that China’s economy doesn’t really very much on unicycles. Thats just my opinion.

I think the Chinese economy needs the sales more than the American one does. I didn’t feel too good about giving the USA $4000 New Zealand dollars to buy my Unicycle, but I didn’t know of any better place to buy a MUni. I like supporting but if any taxes go towards George Bush’s wars and bombs I would be disappointed. I don’t want to have anything to do with supporting a selfish hostile regime such as the USA. My parents are going to go and live in China next year. They will be teaching english. My mum has already taught there for 6 months a short while ago, and she said there are lots of really nice people there. At least if they are getting $15-$20 a week it is far better than not getting paid. Food is much cheaper there too, a big feed of rice (at a restaurant) costs less than a dollar. My mum saw a website while researching her teaching position, which mentioned about the pay foreign teachers get, “This is not to be spent in rich countries such as America”. It is a blunt but honest statement. I think people should keep on buying chinese unicycles, and if you feel guilty about slave labour, go to China and set up a business in which you pay all employees fairly. If you are going to boycott anyone, boycott American made, just in case the taxes fall into the wrong hands.

We should only rent or lease unicycles from China. Maybe rent with an option to buy, but not outright buy. We should only buy unicycles from Jagur Thomas, Inc.

As a career machinist in the USA, this issue has been the subject amongst my co-workers for several years now. It seems that only within the last six months or so the rest of my country is looking around and noticing the massive loss of our manufacturing jobs and the castration of our industrial might. It is a difficult situation to break into black and white. But I am troubled by the deeper implications of buying “made in China”, however because of trade practices endorsed by our/my own government there are now times when there is NO choice (has anyone tried to buy an American toaster lately?). I find it chilling to see our industrial abillity bleed away and I beleave in time it will actually undermine our security. This will be a growing issue and it is going to become more and more important for consumers to shop wisely, because the government seems infatuated with a blinding race to the economic bottom.

lardy tarr…another hungry customer summins trade.29er on the rise…

If we all stop with buying unicycles. and other people with buing outher stuff that comes from china or taiwan. Than the fabrics will close and the villigers will get instead of the 15 / 20 dollar each week .nothing because the had lost there jobs. The only way to help them is buying stuff from fabrics that give the villigers more money.
In netherlands we have got a special brand of coffie. By this brand the farmers that produce the coffie bones get a good price for the bones. So if you want to help them you can better buy things that works on the same way. Than you know that the villigers have a good life.


The JTI inventory also includes unicycle accessories along with some nice scratch and dent bargains! :smiley:

Re: Should we buy unicycles made in China?

In article <>, (eenwieler) wrote:

> In netherlands we have got a special brand of coffie. By this brand the
> farmers that produce the coffie bones get a good price for the bones. So
> if you want to help them you can better buy things that works on the
> same way. Than you know that the villigers have a good life.

It’s called fair trade food and is on sale all over the western world.
Unfortunately, though, I’ve never seen a cheap, fair-trade unicycle.



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If you have questions about a product, contact the manufactorer and demand facts about the production. If you don’t like what you hear, don’t buy the product.
That way, at least, you’ll force them to make an effort to hide the fact if the doors at the factory can’t be opened from the inside.

Probably everyone reading this is among the 5% richest people in the world. We don’t share the wealth, so we won’t go to heaven. Let’s have fun with our toys while we can.

Borges wrote:
If you have questions about a product, contact the manufactorer and demand facts about the production. If you don’t like what you hear, don’t buy the product.
That way, at least, you’ll force them to make an effort to hide the fact if the doors at the factory can’t be opened from the inside.

I agree with you that we as consumers have a moral duty to demand that goods which we buy are produced ethically. So I decided to test out your idea and contact the manufacturers of my unicycles. I own a Savage giraffe, a 20"Torker, and a 28"Sun. All are cheap unicycles probably manufactured in China or in Tiawan with parts from China. After a quick google search, I was unable to find any information about how to contact Savage. I’m sure that there must be a way, but there was no easy web site that I found which gave this information. Nor did this imformation come with the unicycle when I bought it from Ace Cycles, although a sticker on my giraffe says “Made in Tiawan.”

Next I googled for Torker. After poking around the site, I was unable to find a telephone number to call nor is there any information about where they are made (not even in what country). However, there is a snail mail address and an email address so I will try that and see what they say. My Torker has a “Made in China” sticker.

Finally I googled for Sun Unicycles. The closest that I came up with was, but they didn’t have any unicycles in their product list, so I am not sure that they are the manufacturer (or brand adfixer) of Sun unicycles. Their links to contact them and to order are broken. My Sun has no sticker telling me what country it was made in, although that information might have been on the box when I bought it from

Now I am sure that someone who works in bike store could find someway to contact these companies, but it isn’t easy for the average consumer like me. Even if I do manage to contact them, will they tell me where the unicycles were manufactured and whether they are produced under a fair wage or even the legal minimum wage? I don’t know in the case of unicycles, but I don’t hold out much hope if they are anything like clothes manufacturers.

Unfortunately it can be extremely difficult to find out any information about many manufacturers because they hide behind a web of subcontractors. Disney is famous for doing these sort of shady practices whereby they claim that they have no responsibility for what a subcontractor does. Many companies won’t reveal the locations of the factories where their goods are made, so it is very difficult to investigate whether there are labor violations. If goods are made in Latin America, there is some chance of obtaining this sort of information, but it is almost impossible to obtain this sort of information from a Chinese subcontractor.

I am involved with a student group at Indiana University that demands that any clothes which bears my university’s logo has to be produced under certain conditions. The manufacturer signs a contract to abide by the minimum wage laws of his country, comply with that nation’s labor laws, and post the legal rights of workers for that country on the walls of the factory, …etc. We aren’t even asking that manufacturers pay a living wage, just abide by their countries’ laws. If a manufacturer signs the contract but doesn’t comply, we have the legal right to yank his contract. We have done it a couple of times, but it takes good organization and a number of universities working together in a consortium for changes to be made. One university working alone can not usually force a manufacturer to change its practices.

Althought the unicycle market is certainly different from the university clothing market, I think some of the same principles apply. One unicycling enthusiast who calls and asks questions about labor conditions won’t have much impact, although it might send a message that someone cares what is going on. I don’t believe that one consumer can force a change, but if 1% of unicycle consumers raise a ruckus, we might be able to improve conditions for the people who make our lovely toys. From what I have seen from the anti-sweatshop movement in other areas, the most important thing is organized opposition.

All that being said, I have seen almost no successes in the anti-sweatshop movement when dealing with Chinese subcontractors. They are protected by their own government from outside investigation of their labor abuses. This is why I ask if it is ethical to buy anything from China. I have less problems buying something made in Mexico, since there are some means of protesting what is happening in a Mexican factory and working in solidarity with workers who are collectively organizing for their rights.

So what can I do as a average consumer? If I have lots of money, I can buy expensive unicycles which are assembled domestically with most parts made domestically. Nowadays, I doubt anyone can find a unicycle which has every single part made in the USA, Canada, England, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, or any other developed nation.

If that strategy is outside of my budget (I am a grad student after all) I can write a quick email to the seller ( and the manufacturer (Torker) and express my concerns.

In addition, I can also try to buy stuff which is made abroad under better conditions than in China. In this case, I might try to buy things which are made in Tiawan rather than in China. This stategy only works if I am sure that the Tiawanese company isn’t subcontracting out to China. Most likely, a unicycle like my Savage was probably assembled in Tiawan, using Chinese parts. This is better than my Torker which is probably 100% Chinese made.

So my plea is for anyone who knows how to contact unicycle companies, to post that information on this thread. And let us know if you find out anything about where and how unicycles are made.

Speak for yourself. Just because you lack generosity doesn’t mean no-one else shares wealth. I loaned my old crap unicycle out, and got myself a KH saddle. After trying the seat myself, I loaned it out too, if that’s not sharing the wealth I don’t know what is (KH seats are costly). I don’t believe in heaven but that is no reason to be selfish.

Make up your mind, ethics or laws. They are two totally different concepts. While you are concerned with companies abusing labour, countries such as the US are abusing peoples rights under the pretense of abiding by law. Their own country protects human rights, so they take their prisoners of war to Cuba where human rights are not an issue. The taliban captives are not being paid, and are being held indefinitely under the new title of “detainees”, which means “Prisoners of war” but has been twisted in an attempt to bypass the law. Those people making unicycles in the Chinese factory are not “workers” they are “contributors” and do not have human rights as such.

Did you not like the KH seat? What kinda seat did you use now?

in my opinon i don’t mind buying items made in china the reason being is taht thee people are working for liek 20 cents an hour and are barely making enough moeny… and to me… if i buy one of these products it is like their work wasn’t in vain or anything… im ean as bad as it is… these people obviously derserve better but if this is wut they have to live doing… might as wells make sure wut they do is worth a little at least… if my opinon seems like a buncha BS and you can rebuttle it… i don’t mind… its just taht my opinion isn’t based on statsitcal standards but on morality… and just because it is made in china doesn’t mean tath its a terrbile item… i mean… it may have a slitghty lower standard of manufacturing compared to japan and america but if it works it works

I do like the KH seat. I didn’t like my first KH seat because it snapped, but I got a replacement and it works well. I only got it to try it, I didn’t intend to use it as my main seat, because I have a carbon fibre airseat with a leather cover, and a reeder handle. It cost a bundle so I have to use it in order to get my moneys worth, and I am yet to fine tune it to it’s best configuration. Although the parts for it were made in America and UK (and I don’t know where else) at least it was assembled in NZ, because they don’t come pre-made.

Re: Should we buy unicycles made in China?

Amos_And_Ego <> writes:

> All that being said, I have seen almost no successes in the
> anti-sweatshop movement when dealing with Chinese subcontractors. They
> are protected by their own government from outside investigation of
> their labor abuses. This is why I ask if it is ethical to buy anything
> from China.

And I though cynicism like this was reserved for those of us old
enough to have left the university.

Anyway, I’m happy to say that at least some products made in China are
produced ethically. Participants in the Fair Labor Association
[], a group of apparrel manufacturers, agree
to a code of conduct and independent auditing. I can’t vouch for
every member of the FLA, but I know that Patagonia is deeply committed
to social change and maintains extremely high standards at all of its
production facilities, including those in China.

But this doesn’t help unicycle shoppers. Oh well.


Rowan, I agree. Ethics and laws are two different things and I have participated in a number of “illegal” activities which I believe to be ethical, such as civil disobedience and working in a homeless shelter “aiding and harboring the further entry” of illegal immigrants into the US, which are illegal activities.

I am not confusing law and ethics, I am simply stating what we have been able to demand of our university administration. So far, no school in the USA has signed a contract to only merchandise clothes produced under a “living wage.” So far we have only managed to get school administrations to sign contracts with a “code of conduct” demanding that manufacturers abide by a certain standards in addition to their own countries’ laws. Obviously a “living wage” would be more ethical, but “a code of conduct” is the best that we can do for the time being. Our long term goal is a true wage increase, but that will take a lot more time and energy. Still asking that a company abide by its own countries’ laws in this case is more ethical than not asking it to abide by any labor laws–which is the defacto reality. In many of these factories, the minimum wage is not paid and people are forced to work overtime without proper compensation.

As for the ethics of US Foreign policy, all I can say is that I am deeply upset about what my country is doing. I am currently a graduate student in Latin American History, so I am very familiar with the immorality of my country abroad, both in the past and the present. I am not trying to suggest that America is an ethical nation, whereas others are not. If America was an ethical nation, we wouldn’t be engaging in this sort of trade in the first place.

Also the holding of the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is illegal according to the Geneva Convention and the US is violating the law, even though our Congress did pass laws allowing it. I think it is less a question of ethics versus law and more of a question of international law versus US law.

My two cents, Amos

Not to go out on a tangent, but I’ve been tracking this thread in hopes that I can get to hear Kris Holm’s opinion on this topic, since he does basically control the manufacture of KH brand products. Mabey he could do some influence on the contractors he’s using, partially because he probably owns rights to control the manufacture of the products bearing his name. Just my musings.

My stock answer to this general line of thinking is “If you don’t like what workers overseas are paid for their labor, start your own plant over there and pay them what you think is fair, or ethical.”

My hat is off to Patagonia, Ben and Jerry’s and other business people that put their principles into their business decisions. But Anglo-American capitalism had child-labor and sweat-shops for years, and people worked there because it put bread on the table better than working their gardens. As an economy, we have grown out of it. Growing economies go thru logical stages.

The fact is, the developed economies (that’s us) have the purchasing power. If we don’t buy from the developing economies, no one will. They will be stuck with no way to build capital and grow into a consumer economy like us. Not that I think consumerism is the greatest thing, but that is the model the world strives for. And it does provide us with nice toys like hi-tech MUnis.

my two cents ©