Portugal is known for a lot of things: The sun-drenched beaches of the Algarve, its rich history as a world sea power, and its magnificent cities and charming countryside among them. But now Portugal thanks to the pandemic, Portugal is gaining a reputation as Europe’s new leading provider of high-end bicycles.
In northern Portugal, the bicycle industry is booming. A large concentration of bike manufacturers — about 60 companies in all – are building carbon-fiber bicycles, bike parts, and other accessories like handlebars, brake pads, and helmets to meet the soaring demand for bikes in Europe and beyond.
While Portugal has a population of about 10 million people — only about 2% of the European Union’s total population — it currently produces about 25% of the EU’s bicycles. Bike building its related industries has quickly become one of Portugal’s leading industries, with the workforce expanding 65% during the past five years to a total of about 7.800 employees, according to Abimota, a bicycle industry group.
The rapid buildup of the bicycle industry in Portugal is partially due to recent trade laws that block cheap, low-end bicycles from China from entering the EU. And as other manufacturers shut down or move elsewhere in search of cheaper labor, Portugal’s bicycle companies moved in to swoop up skilled workers.
One of those companies, Carbon Team, has quickly become one of Europe’s leading providers of high-end carbon fiber bicycle frames. And the company only launched in January.
Carbon Team has a brand new $10.2 million manufacturing facility in Vouzela and plans to make 25,000 frames per year and has room to expand to double that amount very quickly. It is a joint venture between three Portuguese firms and two partners from Germany and Taiwan. About 30% of its factory’s construction costs were paid by EU subsidies. Until it entered the marketplace, nearly all of the carbon frames used in racing bicycles and other high-end bikes were made in Asia. But the company plans on changing that.