Would you buy a cycling product that’s made by a firearms company? There’s a good chance you already have

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Some of cycling’s biggest brands, including Giro, Bell, Camelbak, and Blackburn, have become the target of a boycott by US cycling advocates – because their parent company manufactures firearms and ammunition.

Imagery from Vista Outdoor’s website shows a rather odd mix of activities

Vista Outdoor bought Camelbak in 2015, and purchased Giro and Blackburn from BRG Sports in 2016, adding to a portfolio that includes a large range of outdoor brands. The bulk of Vista’s businesses, though, are related to guns. Browse through the brands on their web page and you’ll see telescopic sights, holsters, ammunition, as well as the firearms brand Savage.

Some of Vista’s brands, including some very familiar names

While most of Vista Outdoor’s products appear to be aimed at the sport shooting or hunting market, there are some which strike a much more uncomfortable note in light of recent events in the US.  Savage, who manufacture an AR-15 style assault rifle, offers a free T-shirt with its guns, with the slogan “Support the second amendment: pass the ammunition”, while Millett Tactical’s website shows an assault rifle-carrying helmeted figure with the slogan “Engage. Neutralise. Next.”

It’s Vista’s support of the National Rifle Association, though, which has really brought down the wrath of the US cycling community. In the wake of the Marjorie Stoneman High School shooting – the eighth school shooting in the USA this year – firearms lobby group the NRA are once again in the spotlight. Vista spent over $500,000 on lobbying in 2017, and are a major sponsor of the NRA’s in-house TV channel, which been criticised by progressive watchdog group Media Matters for its attempts to deflect attention from tougher gun control.

The company is also active in the smaller, but still influential National Sports Shooting Foundation, an industry-led lobby group which has campaigned for the relaxation of “concealed carry” laws, and wants to rebrand semi-automatic assault weapons as “Modern Sporting Rifles” (Although they do also support some gun control measures, such as more thorough background checks)

The call for a boycott has been led by New York-based cycling advocate Aaron Naparstek, who set out his reasoning in a series of Twitter posts earlier this week. The link between cycling and guns has since made the front page of sustainable transport website Streetsblog (of which Naparstek is a founding editor), and UK industry website Bikebiz.

Why, you might reasonably ask, is a firearms company buying up cycling brands? The US gun industry is a volatile market, and thanks to relatively high levels of gun ownership there, it doesn’t take much to trigger a slump in sales. The election of Donald Trump, on a platform which promised relaxed gun control laws, meant that firearms enthusiasts bought fewer guns and stockpiled less ammunition, and in 2017 Vista’s shares lost 67% of their value. So the purchasing of other sports brands appears to be a way of hedging their bets.

The other questions raised by all this are ones for Giro, Bell, Blackburn and Camelbak’s prospective customers. Will they be OK with buying from a company that makes good cycling products, but also cross-subsidises the firearms industry? Is it fair to avoid a company because of who owns it, when its employees and riders didn’t get a say in the decision? For some people these might be  difficult choices. For others, perhaps not.

Comments (28)

  1. Birmingham Small Arms, or bits stuck anywhere if you rode a Raleigh.

  2. Hmm, but hypocritical for cycling to turn round and try to disown the Firearms industry now isn’t it?

    Without guns cycling would never have taken off as a mass participation pastime. See the history of BSA, Beistegui Hermanos, Orbea etc. for examples

  3. Camelbak has been a military favourite for almost as long as they’ve existed. A huge chunk of their business is selling direct to governments to equip their soldiers with, on top of all the private purchases.

  4. “Without guns cycling would never have taken off” – What a load of nonsense.
    Yes some cycle manufacturers previously made weapons and ammunition but most of them never. Raleigh was set up by guys that used to work in the lace industry and I don’t think anyone has ever been killed with a doyley.

    For most liberal Americans the issue with regards to firearms is nothing to do with an outright ban on all guns, they just want a system similar to the UK. If you want to hunt with a sports rifle or shoot targets, clays etc then that’s fine as long as you can prove you can use it and pass extensive checks.
    The rest of the world has proven to America that the idea that easily available hand guns and assault rifles makes people safer is complete bulsh1t.

  5. It’s an interesting article and will certainly make me think what brands I spend my bike vouchers on.

    ‘Without guns cycling would never have taken off as a mass participation pastime. See the history of BSA, Beistegui Hermanos, Orbea etc. for examples’
    Really? No seriously, really?

  6. OK, so you’ve explained the arguments, now what’s Singletrack’s opinion? Are you going to stop reviewing and reporting on Camelback, Giro etc. Products?

  7. Why should they? They just raising it to our attention. Glad they did.

    It would be up to us, the end buyer to decide whether we morally comfortable with the purchase.

  8. The comment about BSA etc is largely irrelevant, unless they were still using profits from current sales to subsidise the firearms industry. It’s a simple case of choosing what your money funds – the subtle complication is the circular nature of money meaning your spends eventually make it everywhere, but that’s the cop-out argument of a lazy pedant.

    Agreed, tthew, interested to see how our most beloved forward-thinking subscription service adjust their output in light of this!

  9. ff29, don’t underestimate the responsibility of media – some will claim that Rupert Murdoch is the most powerful man in the world 😉

  10. What calibre tyres for……….

  11. As with lots of things it all depends how far you want to go…
    Stop buying the products? Stop buying the products and any companies that are paid to advertise their goods? (oh, hello ST)? Where do you stop – should I stop flying on any airline that uses aeroplane X because the same company produces aeroplane Y to bomb people living in country Z?
    Personally I couldn’t be bothered to go that far , but this would probably be enough to stop me buying a camelback or another giro helmet, yes.

  12. Camelback have always done military products. But in the corporate world as in life you can’t choose your parents. So no won’t make a difference to me. If it is the right product I will buy it.

  13. “Without guns cycling would never have taken off as a mass participation pastime”……

    Oh yeah….

    Absolutely….

    Spot on….

    Soooooo true……..

    PMSWL at you ninfan.

  14. I think there’s some confusion shown by some of the comments here between companies that also supply equipment to the military and companies that donate large sums to the NRA, who in turn donate large sums to politicians who in turn keep the NRA nice and safe from any reasonable legislation.

  15. Like it has just been said, the cycling brands don’t have any say over who owns them. So it make no difference to me. If it bothers somebody, then where do you stop? If people are put off from these brands, the only thing people will be damaging is the cycling industry. not the firearms industry.

  16. One could argue that your pound is probably as powerful as your vote; if people exercised more care on what they spend with regards to ethics the world would be a better place. But hey as we see above, there’s loads of folk who just want to shop as usual for new shiny’s, and will construct any old excuse to why the status quo of mindless consumerism is the way to go. I’m glad they’ve highlighted it so those that do give a damn can choose.

  17. “If people are put off from these brands, the only thing people will be damaging is the cycling industry. not the firearms industry.”

    Not really – if 10,000s of riders buy a Laser or POC lid over a Bell or Giro because of this the bike industry overall isn’t damaged and the firearms company owner is. Maybe after a drop in sales another company picks up ownership of the Vista cycling brands and we can all buy giro and Bell (etc (great products, has to be said) w/o any concern over what their profits go toward. As said above, the everyday capitalist votes are as influential like any ballot box vote.

    ‘Savage’, a gun brand. Really nice. This isn’t new info but if it gains traction it’s a real shame for the bike brands owned by Vista. Good products and I’m sure good people at those brands.

  18. Fuck me, is there no tenuous connection that ninfy won’t try to shoehorn in to advance his nasty little agenda? Be that trolling or actually believing in the neo-fascist inadequacy compensator……..

    Next time I need a hydration pack I won’t buy a camelbak, I think I’m currently OK everywhere else looking at the brands.

    The only way to hurt these bastards is through their wallets, nothing else registers.

  19. Thought the swear filter would catch that – apologies for bad language.

  20. ff29 said
    Why should they? They just raising it to our attention. Glad they did.
    I wasn’t advocating that they should, I was wondering if they would take a similar moral stance to their handing of Daily Mail links in the forum, even though I’m not entirely convinced that it’s a entirely equivalent argument.

    FWIW, I’d probably not absolutely boycott these brands, but it would be a large factor against a purchase if it came to a close choice.

  21. Has made me think. The military sales don’t bother me, but the lobbying and sponsorship of the NRA does. Might mean my next helmet isn’t a Bell…

  22. “I think there’s some confusion shown by some of the comments here between companies that also supply equipment to the military and companies that donate large sums to the NRA, who in turn donate large sums to politicians who in turn keep the NRA nice and safe from any reasonable legislation.”

    “Has made me think. The military sales don’t bother me, but the lobbying and sponsorship of the NRA does. Might mean my next helmet isn’t a Bell…”

    Both of these, +1.

    I’m all for the military using decent kit. I have no issue with firearm ownership or sport shooting. However I do object massively to the NRA and its role beyond being a target shooting and gun owning association; its political lobbying is utterly vile.

    We don’t buy Nestlé in this house due to its business practices. And as there’s other equally good products out there I don’t see why Bell or Giro should get my money in future.

  23. I’m glad the point has been raised.

    As a rider who doesnt use Bell or Giro, and may look at a non Camelbak next time, the question is, ‘how far do you go ?’
    The NRA is vile as others already point out.
    But how’s about purchasing anything out of China ? That’s the non democratic, state owned, persecutionist *is that a word?) Human rights abusing China.
    Taiwan ? Still the money syphons back to China, doesn’t it ?
    What’s worse ? Americans shooting americans ? Or Chinese oppressing Chinese (and Tibetans, etc).

    Maybe the day will come when Hope and Orange make absolutely everything, all on Northern England.

  24. I’m happy to get behind this. I’m not going to dispose of existing products but I don’t plan any further purchases. I’m not particularly anti-gun but they can’t be freely available. I’m h

  25. Argh. posted partway through composing and can’t edit. :/

    Short answer, I’m not in favour of the NRA or what I view as their undue influence. I’m happy to deny them funds by buying other products. There’s nothing irreplaceable here.

  26. What is really fubar’d is that these companies lose money when a pro gun president is installed and that they seem reliant on the fear of restrictions to drive sales. I might pretend that mountain bikes are going to be banned to convince the wife I need to stock up on a DH rig…

    Anyway the Montaro is off the shopping list now, thanks for bringing to my attention.

  27. “But how’s about purchasing anything out of China ?”

    There’s a good point. Unfortunately we’re fond of good, cheap products. As has been discussed countless times on the forum, buying products made outside the far east is not cheap. However, if you can, personally I believe it a good thing to do.

  28. Seems to have worked Vista to sell Bell, Giro, Blackburn

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