Tachyon 3 Aero TT
Dave Perry of Bike Cult writes:
Re: [CR]Ukraine /  Kharkov / XB-3 components

I also found a couple Ukraine-made bikes here in New York City. These came 
from Recycle-A-Bicycle, which receives bikes through donation as a last 
refuge from becoming curbside trash.

One is a XB3 "Ukraina" a 28"-wheel military-style roadster

Another is a UKTb Velo "Takion" a Columbus-tube road racing bicycle

After queries to CR list, I was contacted by the son of the maker of 
Takions, who relayed his fascinating history and photos

It was very satisfying learn of this niche in cycledom, at it relates to 
custom manufacturing, trends in cycle sport, and global and local politics. 
Along with info from Doug Fattic, Toni Theilmeier, and many others, I would 
like to see, at least, a section of CR website devoted to on-topic 
Soviet-era velocipeds.

Dave Perry, NYC

[CR]FW: The Ukraine bicycle factory in Kharkov
Date: Sat, 04 Dec 2004 08:53:17 -0500
From: Doug Fattic 
Subject: [CR]FW: The Ukraine bicycle factory in Kharkov (too long)

John Thompson wrote:

That's cool.  I remember when I was over there in the 70s the Russians
had a big bike factory in Kharkov. I wonder if it's still working?  Most
of the output was awful Soviet copies of Western consumer-grade crap,
but IIRC, they did have a hard-currency store where you could buy some
decent stuff like tubular tires from Czechoslovakia and the GDR.

Toni Theilmeier wrote :

Dear John,
I think I need to comment on your remarks on Soviet cycles from Kharkov.

These generally were regarded as the better ones during Soviet times,
opposed to those from Perm which really were horrible. I have had
several Kharkov (XB3, G.I. Petrovski Cycle Works in Kharkov) cycles as well
some from Perm, inside as well as outside the SU, and I must say that I
admire those people who had to make do with either.

I once met a chap who cycled all over Central Asia on his 1979 XB3
model 155-411 "Start-Chaussee" racer. I've had this very bike for ten years
now, and it never fails to draw attention when there are visitors in my
dungeon, especially when I mention it has seen the deserts of
Kazakhstan and the cities of Bukhara and Samarkand, amongst other
places. Also it has a big red decal on the seat tube showing the 1980
Moscow Olympics symbol.

I cannot agree with your idea of the cycles being just "consumer grade
bleep". One thing which I find to be a nice touch is that they had "XB3" on
most, if not all parts (racing models), meaning that every part of the
cycle, save chains, tyres and lights, were made in-house.  Something else is
that the Kharkov engineers copied only the nicer bits of western cycles,
like Campag Gran Sport, MAFAC brakes and so on.

I do agree that most models were rather inferior in build quality to what we
are used to. Why this is so is a political matter not to be discussed
on-list, I guess.

Yes John, that factory is still working and I played a part in keeping it
open too.  And thank you Toni for keeping this thread alive so that I — the
undisputed list authority on the bicycle factory in Kharkov, Ukraine (close
the the Russian border) — can share some of my experiences of visiting there
7 or 8 times in the last 4 years.  Toni, we have in common more than just
the ownership of a Johnny Berry frame (who in my opinion was the best of the
British builders before he died in '74) but a Kharkov bicycle as well.  I
wish I could also share in your ability to speak Russian.  Of course this
post might wonder a bit off list subject (more likely a lot but never mind)
but I am going to give it a shot anyway to see if I can slip it past that
Soviet style censor.  So understand that if you read, in the middle of a
sentence, the words "my 1969 Hetchins" or "my 1972 Masi" and it 
makes no
sense with the flow of thought around it, I am trying to trick the big boss
in charge of keeping order (at the expense of freedom of expression) I'm on
toopic.  If I get caught, I will plead that Ukraine is big in the news right
now and that in free America, we want to get first hand inside information
about our sport and how it might be affected by current events.  Today
(Friday), in the South Bend Tribune, there is an article about what impact
the political situation in Ukraine has on local people connected to that
country.  My name is right there in the beginning of the article about our
bicycle project and they quote an e-mail from the secretary of our project
in Kiev — who, by the way, could ride most of you list members into the
ground.  Hold your breath, avoid eye contact with Dale, and here goes:

One of the goals for our Ukraine Bicycle Project was to spend as much of the
money we had raised for the bicycles we need in the country itself.  This
means purchasing bicycles made in Ukraine rather than buying them in boxes
from China.  Well this factory in Kharkov was established in the 1920's and
at one time made most of the bicycles used in the former USSR.  They claimed
to have made over 1,000,00 units a year at the peak of there production.
After the switch to capitalism, this company had become a shell of what is
was before.  In June of 2000, our team went there to negotiate the possible
purchase of 200 bicycles for our pastors.  We were ushered into the
president of the company's office and the various models are lined up for us
to choose.  Like Toni said, they made all of the parts for those bicycles
right there.  He was proud of the company and asked what I thought.  This is
where the challenge to my ethics began.  The thought running through my head
at that moment was they are all just crap and the only reason we want to buy
from them is because of obligations.  That wasn't, however, what I finally
was able to say.  We chose a 10 speed model (rather than an eight) that was
suitable for transportation and carrying lots of stuff.  At the time, all
the factory workers were home on a forced vacation because there wasn't
anybody buying their bicycles.  So we place our order and they ask for 70 %
of the final cost as a down payment.  This was necessary they said because
they had to negotiate with the government to turn on the electricity and
gas.  I am sitting there thinking this is crazy, what am I supposed to do?
What is standard negotiating practice?  I am looking at the Ukrainian guy on
our team and he is just looking back at me wondering what was my call.  I
pushed aside my instinct that 50% was more than enough and gave the
approval.  At the same time thinking that the committee back in the states
that oversees the project will kill me for such a rash act with donated
funds.  But my call turned out okay and a couple of months later, the
bicycles were built and ready for distribution.  The memory of watching
those workers loading our bikes onto the truck really left a powerful
impression on me.  They are probably paid about $50 a month and really
seemed in need (actually inbred West Virginians that have never left the
holler was my first impression but don't quote me.  In other words, a job
that the many highly educated and talented Ukrainians don't apply for).  I
couldn't imagine how they could survive when they go on "vacation".   The
next week, I traveled to different cities where we gave the bicycles to
pastors or other church workers.  I explained how to properly set the
bicycle seat and handlebar height and do a little repair and maintenance.
At one of the churches, there were a lot of pastors present and the women of
the church fed us a very terrific meal.  I thought this is great food and
there is an abundance of bicycles around, throw in sleeping bags and this
has all the makings of a bike tour.  We just need to ride to the next
church.  That is how the idea of our fund raising bike ride got started.
Our first one was in 2001 and we completed our 5th one week long tour in
2004.  It is by far my favorite week of the year.  It can be yours too.  Our
out-of-date- website is:  www.neocm.com/Ukraine_bike_tours/

That was just the beginning of my experiences at the Kharkov factory.  I
wanted them to make more than just improvements to our bikes but to the
factory itself.  It's kind of cool that they make all the parts there but
that idea alone has no chance in today's world economy.  What would you buy
when looking for a bicycle?  A frame with Shimano equipped parts or copies
of 1950 parts?  Well, list members are not a random sample of wants so never
mind but no one would argue that a company dies when it doesn't keep pace
with technology.  KLM stops in Holland on the way home from Kiev and I made
a point of visiting Shimano Europe.  I was fortunate that I had won the
latest Shimano sponsored contest of best bike at their booth at Interbike
and they knew who I was.  I asked the big boys and they agreed to help me (I
kept my personal Campy equipped bike out of sight) both with getting parts
from them to put on Kharkov frames for our project and for them to visit the
factory itself to explore marketing possibilities.  They thought that
Ukraine was not yet a market ready for them yet.  I explained my experiences
looking all around Kiev at almost every bicycle shop for our needs and had a
reasonable understanding of the market and the situation at Kharkov.  They
agreed to go.

I timed my next visit to Ukraine to coincide with when the director of
Shimano sales for all of Europe as well as the guy in charge of sales in
Eastern Europe would visit Kharkov.  This visit was a personal illustration
of the differences between Western and old Eastern thinking.  As luck would
have it, I convinced a personal Russian friend of mine - that had inspired
me to get involved in this project in the first place - to serve as my
translator.  He received his PhD at Andrews University (were I got my
degrees) and now taught in Russia.  His thesis was on a 20 year period of
Czarist history in the 1500's when the Czar promoted a seventh-day Sabbath
(of obvious interest to a Seventh-day Adventist).  This idea went out when
that Czar lost power but lets kinda get back to the subject (or at least
pretend to) and not really, really annoy Dale.  His (my Russian friend)
hobby is making amateur films and I wanted some documentation of what we
were doing.  He agreed to come.  Now the setting of the story is that we are
waiting at the factory for the Shimano guys to show up and making small talk
with the various department heads.  Most of these guys are really good
people but I just couldn't/can't stand the director in charge (a change of
personnel from our first order).  He's the boss from hell.  Something made
people scatter from the director's office and while we are waiting in the
hall, our translator overhears the director talking to someone on the phone.
He is wanting to know who Shimano is and what is the value for them being
there?  I couldn't believe it?!  Their very salvation is dependant on the
negotiations about to take place and he is so uniformed and ill prepared!
Of course bicycles may just not be what his responsibility is but just a
cover but I didn't come to spy.  We wait again in the office nibbling
Russian chocolates and Ukrainian sweets.

Things get interesting when Shimano arrives and the meeting begins.  The big
boys gives the company guys the news first hand that over 90% of all
bicycles made in the world are equipped with some Shimano parts.  They
explain that it is possible for them to order directly from them and save
the middleman charges.  Immediately the young Kharkov salesman asks how much
of that saved money has to be kicked back to them under the table for the
privilege.  The Shimano guys smiled and assured them it was all theirs and
they work above board.  Shimano also wanted to know their marketing strategy
and manufacturing abilities.  During this presentation I saw the need to
give some advice as powerfully as I could.  They needed to make what
customers wanted and not what they wanted to make and hope it sells.  I
mean, this seemed too obvious to mention - the different approach to
manufacturing between Capitalism and Communism.  The head Shimano guy was
really backing me up and saying "yea, you really need to do that".
Everyone seemed to listen except Comrade Director who probably was wondering
if the cost of those chocolates was a waste on these Shimano guys unless
some were left to take home for himself.

Hmmm, I see that I have written too much and nobody will still be holding
their breath.  For the two of you left that have read this far (one of whom
might actually speak English but hopefully does not have the first name of
Dale) I will mercifully come to an intermission.  The short version of the
rest of the story is that the Director of the factory didn't want to bother
with a new order for us once they started to get busy after equipping their
bicycles with Shimano parts (you're welcome, thanks for remembering what I
did for you).  Now we are going to make frames ourselves in Kiev.  With some
confidence in these readship numbers, I think it might be safe to make an
offer.  Like I mentioned, my Russian translator/inspirer made a video of our
project including going to the factory and taking pictures inside their
interesting museum.  I was a little uncomfortable with it because it was a
little too much about my efforts (I'm not kidding) but it's what we have.
We also did a video of our bicycle ride.  Copies of either of these can be
made available.  Contact me for more information (read: let me figure out
how to do this in the meantime out of the 2 copies I have).  Someone might
be inspired to help with this project as well.

Doug "always give me the short version please" Fattic
Niles, Michigan