With gas prices on the rise and new policies and ideas on the table, it's time to look at how we get around. We all need to get someplace and we use many different modes of transportation to do so. As we kick off 2011 at OnMilwaukee.com, we’re taking an in-depth look at how we get around with a special "Transportation Week," featuring all kinds of stories about how Milwaukee gets where it’s going. So, buckle up, hop on and all aboard.
Many Wisconsinites are aware that the Trek Bicycle Corporation is somehow affiliated with our fine state -- some may even know that the corporate headquarters are located in Waterloo -- but what does this really mean? How much of Trek’s production actually takes place in the Badger State and how many local employees does the company have?
OnMilwaukee.com recently talked to Trek’s public relations manager, Eric Bjorling (it's tempting to use a bad pun here and call him a "spokes"person for Trek), about the world’s largest bicycle company and its 30 years in Wisconsin.
OnMilwaukee.com: What percentage of Trek’s employees work in Wisconsin?
Eric Bjorling: It’s a very healthy percentage. We have 1,800 employees worldwide and just under 1,000 of our employees work in Wisconsin’s three facilities.
OMC: Where are these facilities?
EB: The worldwide distribution center is in Oconomowoc, the assembly facility is in Whitewater and the worldwide headquarters are in Waterloo.
OMC: How many Trek bicycles are made in Wisconsin?
EB: First of all, Trek produces more bikes in the United States than any other company. And how many we produce really depends on demand, on what season it is. It’s almost impossible to give a number. It’s somewhere in the 10,000 range, but again, it just really depends on the year.
I will say this, right now we are manufacturing exclusively carbon fiber bikes in Wisconsin. The models we produce here are higher end.
OMC: What exactly do you mean by "carbon fiber?"
EB: The carbon fiber we use on our bikes is the exact same material Boeing uses to make plane wings. And Aerospace uses it all the time, too.
OMC: So the majority of Trek’s bicycles are manufactured overseas?
EB: Yes. We work with Hartmansdorf, Germany, and we also manufacture in China and Taiwan, as well.
OMC: How many bikes are manufactured in these locations?
EB: Again, it’s tough to say. We do sell roughly 1.5 million bikes every year, so that gives you an idea.
OMC: How did Trek originate in Waterloo?
EB: This is a great story. In 1975, there was a large fitness boom. People really got into running and biking. So two guys, Dick Burke and Bevel Hogg, came together to start making steel touring frames in a little red barn in Waterloo. They picked Waterloo because Dick was from Milwaukee and Bevel was from Madison and Waterloo was in between the two.
They eventually had five employees in the barn and then the business really expanded in the ‘70s and ‘80s to what it is today. The ‘80s were about development in aluminum frames and the ‘90s were about laying the groundwork for carbon fiber. Today, just about every manufacturer uses carbon fiber.
OMC: If someone buys a Trek bike, what unseen value are they getting?
EB: If you buy Trek bicycle you are buying a product that was designed and engineered in Waterloo. And our retail network is phenomenal. We only work with the world’s best bike shops; we only sell through people we believe in.
Also, Trek does a huge amount of bicycle advocacy. We support many different organizers that help make the world a better pace for bikes because we truly believe bicycles help improve the environment and people’s health.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.