SR Suntour Factory Tour Taiwan Fork and Ebike Procution Facility Chang Hua583

Admittedly, most cyclists’ thoughts probably turn to inexpensive forks when you mention SR Suntour, and that’s a shame. It’s not that SR Suntour doesn’t produce these forks. They do. And in large quantities. The truth of the matter lies in the fact that the company has a long history of technical innovations in the bike industry that just happen to allow them to produce that suspension fork you’ll find on a bike under $500 and make it affordable while still working exceptionally well for the price. That, and a vertically integrated company that allows them an economy of scale. As the continuation of SunTour which started as Maeda Iron Works in 1912, SunTour is responsible for bringing us technologies we still use today, like the slant parallelogram rear derailleur.

In 1988 when the Japanese founded company moved to Chang Hua City in Taiwan, Suntour brought with them a new casting technology based on the melt-forging process. They called it Accurad forging (AC4C) and it involved injecting molten metal at high pressures into molds. Sharing a lot of similarities with casting, Accurad forging meant that the finished product was free of air bubbles or inclusions which can plague standard gravity casting. Combining the benefits of forging and casting, the process allowed for complex parts to be produced much more cheaply, giving rise to affordable components. Low end components aren’t as sexy as many of the forks you see splashed across our pages, but when you’re talking about producing something in the millions of units rather than the thousands, it takes some serious manufacturing skills to ensure repeatability at that scale.

However, SR Suntour isn’t about inexpensive parts, rather value and performance at any point in their line. The company’s Taiwan headquarters and factory is actually geared towards production of their higher end products – basically Taiwan produces forks with magnesium lowers and China makes forks with aluminum lowers. While the Chang Hua factory is capable of producing up to 5,000 complete suspension forks in a single day, their factory in Shenzen, China handles their higher quantity goods and is capable of making up to a whopping 20,000 forks in a single day. As you can imagine it takes a lot of people to keep a facility that size moving so you’ll find around 500 employees in Taiwan and around 900 at Shenzen. On top of that SR Suntour has a third facility in Kunshan, China that employs another 400-500 people. All together SR Suntour produces around 10,000,000 suspension forks per year with their Taiwanese facility running 8 hours a day, and usually two shifts in China. Together that makes them the biggest fork producer in the IBD market.

Earlier this year we found ourselves in the Fu Hsing Industrial Zone where SR Suntour Taiwan calls home. Take a look around the factory next…

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Situated in the middle of a bustling street in a modern industrial district, SR Suntour finds a home among a row of palm and well manicured trees.

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The oldest building on the campus now serves as the office space for the accounting and purchasing departments as well as meeting rooms and dormitories upstairs.

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The facility is a cacophony of manufacturing. Loud crashes intermingle with the nearly constant drone of forklifts and trucks dotted with the warning beeps of heavy equipment in reverse. To produce 5,000 forks a day, you have to move. The facility in Shenzen must be deafening.

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Did someone say metal?

Raw ingots of magnesium alloy await their turn at becoming fork lowers. Before going any further we should point out the obvious – SR Suntour is very protective of the proprietary technologies involved in their casting process so there was quite a bit of the facility that we weren’t allowed to photograph.

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Over the years more and more casting machines have been added to the facility as production has ramped up and their technology has improved. Ingots are melted down in special tanks that allow for the proper blending of alloys then are injected into molds with high pressure in specialized casting machines that clamp down on the dies with hundreds of tons of pressure.

Just being in the casting room is an experience in itself. Between the heat radiating off the molten metal and the steady percussion of the casting itself, suddenly I felt as if I was an extra in the Temple of Doom.

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The whole melt-forging process is very efficient but still leaves cast parts with excess material. After the large pieces have been removed, and things like disc brake mounting holes are machined, parts are individually inspected and hand filed or sanded as needed before the head out for finishing. In the whole process, only the polishing, plating, and painting is done elsewhere. In addition to suspension forks, the Chang Hua facility also produces cranksets among other parts.

SR Suntour is also working on a full cabon fiber production facility on site that will continue making products like carbon fork lower, and cranksets.

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Meanwhile other suspension parts are turned out to all the finished fork lowers and crowns for assembly. Like many of the factories we have seen, large bays of CNC machinery work to turn bar stock into end caps.

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In other parts of the factory rolled steel is stamped into chainrings as it travels through an automated machine.

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Finished parts gather before assembly including giant drums of suspension oil. One of the newer technologies that SR Suntour is quite proud of is their QSP or Quick Service Product cartridge design. Instead of waiting around for a complicated and expensive damping cartridge rebuild, all of their QSP forks use a sealed cartridge design that is designed to be completely replaced if it needs repair.

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On the 2nd floor of the casting building, the finished parts are assembled into complete forks. Cellular manufacturing methods use small groups of employees to assemble a certain model in one are of the factory.

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Step through into the quality control area of the factory and it gets impressively quiet. Among a host of manufacturing acronyms, SR Suntour also uses the ERP or Enterprise Resource Planning program to streamline production. Additionally as with any quality manufacturer, the parts go through rigorous QC checks and batch testing before they leave the factory.

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Up another floor and there is more assembly, but this time for parts like rear shocks and suspension seat posts.

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Among the other products produced in Taiwan? E-bike parts and gear boxes. SR Suntour actually produces quite a few e-bike sensors, motors, and batteries but mostly for the European and Japanese markets. Speaking with SR Suntour, it seemed that the company feels e-bikes will really take off in the next few years in the United States but currently most companies seem to want more power than SR Suntour thinks is necessary. To SR, e-bikes should be more about range than fast, 500w plus motors. Keeping in mind that the average cyclist is typically capable of 100-150w, adding an additional 250w motor nets around 400w total. And with that power level the SR Suntour e-bikes are capable of up to 110km in a single charge.

Often, cyclists are quick to dismiss e-bikes as tools for the lazy, but in countries where driving is not an option, e-bikes can provide an effective alternative to scooters or motorcycles. Since many countries limit e-bike speeds to 25 km/h they maintain larger motors aren’t needed.

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Since the e-bike components are made on site, they have also had to develop testing equipment which is all custom built.

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Without diving deep into the tech of their e-Bike platforms, SR Suntour currently offers front or rear hub motors using their HESC Twin Sensor technology.

srsuntour-cycling.com

 

25 comments

  1. Bob on

    I had a Nashbar road bike with a Suntour group I rode for 20 years. Other than the usual maintenance (cables, chains, etc.) they performed flawlessly.

    Reply
  2. Gunnstein on

    Thanks, great article! Any more info on that gearbox? And where exactly in Taiwan is the factory? “Fu Hsing Industrial Zone” gives me nothing. “Fuxing”, which I’m guessing is an equivalent transliteration, gives hits all over Taiwan. So I’m beginning to suspect that “Fu Hsing”/”Fuxing” is Chinese for “Industrial Zone” 🙂 Good cycling in Taiwan, apart from the bloody dogs.

    Reply
  3. joby on

    Probably Fu Xing district in Tai Chung. Was there for the Taipei show back in the 90’s and some of the factories were scary from an environmental standpoint. As we drove into Tai Chung, I thought there was a huge fire somewhere because of the thick blue smoke….which turned out to be the industrial pollution. Nice folks though.

    Reply
  4. diddlebop on

    @joby, I visited many factories last year in Tai Chung and Dajia, and I can assure you it was nothing close to what you mentioned. Can’t wait to go back!

    Reply
  5. Gunnstein on

    @joby Yep, Tai Chung seems about right, it fits Chang Hua county in their official HQ address. Yeah, friendly people, not afraid to try to communicate with a foreigner whose Chinese skills begin and end with “Nihao”.

    Reply
  6. Bjarke Limkilde on

    I have been riding SR Suntour Durolux forks RC2 TA since may 2013, and they works great, stiff and a bargain price. Maybe not the most advanced forks but so simple to service.

    Reply
  7. Zach Overholt on

    @Gunnstein, I believe the black e-bike is just a frame that is capable of running a center mount motor like the Bosch system that has been modified to run a the SR Suntour Twin Sensor BB and Crank. I could be wrong, but I rode that bike around and it seemed to just have the standard gearing in the rear.

    Reply
  8. drjwbriand on

    I had a superbe pro grouppo back in the eighties and it was right up there with campy, I like d it better than shimano back then. maybe they can do it again!

    Reply
  9. mudrock on

    Was a big Suntour fan back in the 80s. Suntour was the first with indexed shifting, slant-parrallelogram derailleurs, and many other innovations, but Shimano integrated their groups better and Suntour lost market share. Like anon says it’s now owned by another company, that has no interest in bringing back complete groups.

    Reply
  10. joby on

    @anonymous – Since 1987. Suntour had a really clunky trigger index shifting system for their XCD group and an elegant ball bearing ratchet downtube shifter for their Superbe Pro kit.

    Reply
  11. Harlan Price on

    I started riding the Auron, Epixon and Epicon forks this year. I work with a lot of riders and always am careful about my recommendations. These forks have been great! Good value, feel and have been problem free. Don’t be afraid of these forks because of the lower price. There is a lot more here than you might think.

    Reply
  12. M68k on

    SunTour was experimenting a lot with different derailleur geometries. Some of that seems to be nowadays on SRAM and Shimano deraileurs.
    The Grease Guard Seals were made for lifelong work and the bottombrakets axle was designed to work forever.

    Reply
  13. Brian M on

    I STILL have SunTour XC Pro parts on one of my bikes nearly 30 YEARS later and working fine.

    My SunTour Cyclone derailleur is still the smoothest I’ve ever owned.

    Reply
  14. Gwyllam L Roberts on

    In regards to Suntour index shifting. Suntour invented ‘click shifting’ with the ‘Trimech’ group some time in the 1970’s or earlier. Suntour invented all sorts of things for that fishing reel company to copy. From what I can gather many of Suntour’s patents expired in the mid 1980’s and that fishing reel company was then able to catch up and over take Suntour in certain areas. Suntour also slipped up in the late 1980’s and never seemed to recover. I was slightly saddened when the original Suntour company stopped trading sometime in the 1990’s but not surprized. Some times the good guys loose. Back in the day I was a Superb pro and XC pro man.

    Reply

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