America's Rebel Band of Custom-Bike Builders | The Atlantic
Nearly all of the bikes sold in the U.S. are manufactured abroad, but these guys are welding and tinkering in shops and garages across the country.
|Low Bicycles in San Francisco|
Like many people who take up bicycle building, Tony Pereira and Ira Ryan are avid cyclists who began experimenting in their home garages, welding together bike frames.
Several years after founding separate bike-building operations in Portland, Oregon, in 2005, both came to a similar realization—that building bikes needed to be about more than passion if it was going to sustain them: It had to be about business too.
“I was only able to build, on my best year, 30 bikes, and that was never going to change,” Pereira said. “I’d been so excited about the actual making of the bikes that I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into, which was owning a business.”
Last year, after years of playing catch-up, the two long-time frame builders teamed up to launch a new venture called Breadwinner Cycles. Rather than designing a brand new bicycle for each customer like they had before, the duo developed six (now eight) basic models, priced from $4,000 to $8,000, that customers can tweak to their specifications and size. While they still build the bikes by hand, they’re able to turn them around in eight to 12 weeks, rather than one to two years.
“It’s been fun to change it up and start over,” Pereira said. “We have a really well developed business plan and a very clear vision of what we want Breadwinner to look like.”
|Tony Pereira and Ira Ryan at the 2014 North American Handmade Bicycle Show|
Breadwinner’s latest designs—a mountain bike called Bad Otis and a gravel-road bike called B-Road—were among the hundreds of bicycles on display at the 10th-annual North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) in Charlotte, North Carolina, this March.
The hand-built bicycle industry has flourished since the early 2000s, according to NAHBS chief judge Patrick Brady, publisher of the cycling websiteRedKitePrayer.com, who has written about custom builders for the last 22 years.
“Right now is the Golden Age in custom frame building,” said Brady before stepping onto the NAHBS stage to announce the winners of the show’s awards, which included Breadwinner’s Bad Otis for “Best Mountain Bike.” “There have never been more builders producing, and the quality has never been higher.”
|Breadwinner’s Bad Otis, winner of “Best Mountain Bike,” is a hard-tail mountain bike (as opposed to a full suspension) designed for the new “flow” style of mountain bike trails, which have a smoother rhythm and deliver a more roller-coaster-type experience than many of the older trails.|
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