Inside Miche: how a 98-year-old company adapted to the 21st century

Miche still makes its products in its factory north of Venice. But robotics and computerisation give it the edge over the Far East

Miche makes a huge range of products – over 10,000, including chainsets, cassettes and wheels. It sells them under its own name but also makes equipment under contract for other well known brands and as OEM for bike manufacturers. Miche also makes custom products, like the freewheel bodies used in Elite’s turbo trainers.

Wheels are laced by hand using Sapim spokes

Its two wheel lines, one for shallow wheels and another for its new deep section rims, make around 120 wheels an hour; that’s 60,000 a year. The wheels are laced by hand before a first machine pretensions the spokes.

The first machine tensions the wheel

A second machine trues the wheels automatically, taking around 100 seconds per wheel. Miche works to +/- 0.2mm, better than most wheelmakers’ +/-0.3mm.

Wheels are machine trued to +/-0.2mm

Miche makes its own hubs too, assembling the higher quality ones by hand. It’s tested ceramic bearings, but says that their longevity is less than steel and they do not justify the extra cost. Miche offers a two year warranty on its hubs.

Miche makes its own hubs, assembling the higher spec ones by hand

Miche puts a lot of resources into quality control too. Its carbon rims come in batches of 200. Of these, one rim is cut open to ensure that the interior carbon lay-up is correct, while another is made into a test wheel that is put through 450 acceleration and braking cycles, testing both hard braking from 44kph to zero and longer, softer braking action.

A test rim from each batch of 200 is put through 450 braking cycles

A probe measures the rim’s surface temperature, which can reach 150C. Braking performance is recorded by the machine, which can also simulate wet conditions.

Sprocket blanks are punched from a steel roll before being machined

Miche also makes around 10,000 cassette sprockets per year. They’re punched out of a continuous strip of steel as blanks then CNC machined. All its chainrings are CNCed from blocks of aluminium rather than being punched. The large chainring blanks are 4mm thick, while small ring blanks are 3mm thick. Some rings use 5mm thick blanks, while 15mm blanks are used for single rings.

Chainring blanks ready to be CNC machined

The blanks are fed into the CNC machines by robots that also retrieve and stack the finished product.

Machining generates a lot of waste alloy, which is recycled

All the waste from the CNC machines is collected for recycling.

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