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Bicycle manufacturing facility coming to North Portland

Posted by on September 28th, 2011 at 4:06 pm

By mid-October, a new company called Zen Bicycle Fabrication will be the latest addition to Portland’s always-growing bicycle industry.

A few weeks ago, a reader tipped me off to Zen’s website and today I confirmed that it is indeed a real business with a real plan. The person behind this new bike manufacturing start-up (whom I spoke to on the phone but he wants to remain anonymous at this time) says a formal announcement will come in the next week or so. For now, here are the details I’ve confirmed…

Zen Bicycle Fabrication will set up an OEM job shop (meaning they’d build bikes for other brands and builders and won’t have their own house brand) focusing on high end bicycle frames in a 10,000 square foot building in the Albina-Mississippi area near the N Interstate Ave corridor. The company already employs several bike industry veterans (including builders and an engineer) who will focus on small to medium production runs (about 50 to 150 frames) of steel, aluminum and titanium bicycles.

Here’s the blurb on their home page:

“…a dedicated manufacturing facility established to fill the demand for quality US manufactured bicycle frames… The company will employ a team of passionate industry veterans and riders who share the common goal of producing quality American made bicycle frames.”

The shop will be set up to take designs from idea into final construction. Another page on the site boasts capabilities in, “engineering, prototyping, CNC machining, tig welding, brazing, heat treating, finishing, fulfillment.”

Zen will already have clients on board when they open their doors.

This is potentially a very big development for Portland. People involved with this issue (myself included) have been discussing something like this for several years. Most recently, at a panel to discuss the question of making bicycles in Portland, it became apparent that as costs of making bikes overseas rises (due to rising labor and shipping costs), it becomes more feasible to make bikes — especially high-end bikes in small batches — in the U.S.

And what better place to do it than Portland? We have a huge amount of industry knowledge, considerable industrial heritage, a constant stream of skilled workers from the United Bicycle Institute, a well-known brand as a bike town and so on.

Currently in Portland, only aluminum specialists Sapa Extrusions Inc. is manufacturing bike frames on a large volume, production level. That company, located near the Portland airport, makes frames for several large U.S.-based brands (bike frames being just one small part of their business). Other OEM bike manufacturing happens down in Eugene at Co-Motion Cycles. They do very small runs of select models for a couple local builders.

It will be very interesting to see how this business develops. Stay tuned for more coverage.

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Comments
  • A.K. September 28, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Very awesome. It’s always encouraging to see more skilled labor/fabrication jobs come to the area. I’m interested in seeing who they are going to be supplying with frames…

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  • Bill Stites September 28, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    This is excellent.
    The discussion of the return of US manufacturing is happening in cities all across this country – actually making stuff again is what will save us.
    Once again, Portland is poised to take the lead … let’s [continue to] do it!

    Recommended Thumb up 4

    • A.K. September 29, 2011 at 8:49 am

      Indeed. Skilled manufacturing/engineering jobs can actually pay someone enough to own a home, take vacations, and other activities that put good money back into circulation in the economy.

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  • noah September 28, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    It’s a long shot, but I wonder if this place is named for the dog that used to hang out at Seven Corners Cycle in its Division Street days.

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  • t.a. barnhart September 29, 2011 at 8:05 am

    i love my Surly Long-Haul Trucker. if they can make a bike to match it, in quality & price, i would be very happy.

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    • Perry Hunter September 29, 2011 at 9:49 am

      Well now…isn’t that a remarkable coincidence? I’m going to have to get our mutual friend (La Vida Loca) to make introductions.

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    • Dabby September 29, 2011 at 11:03 pm

      It says they are making high end bikes.
      While fun, a Long Haul Trucker is not high end, (med maybe) so you would probably not match it as such.

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  • Chris I September 29, 2011 at 8:36 am

    This will be great, if they can provide good bikes at a decent price. Portland is a great place for this type of business. We have a lot of vacant industrial/warehouse space, a good knowledge base in manufacturing and engineering, and a strong bike community. I wonder if they will be hiring any local process and design engineers?

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  • SloJoeRecumbo September 29, 2011 at 8:56 am

    Yo Jonathan,

    Bike Friday is also an Oregon company that manufactures bicycles. Thought they deserve a mention.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Art Fuldodger September 29, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Jonathan — or anyone — what’s an “OEM job shop”? Couldn’t suss the acronym out, and it doesn’t seem to be defined anywhere…

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) September 29, 2011 at 11:30 am

      good question,
      i edited the story a bit.

      and michael downes (below) is right. The shop will make bikes for other brands.

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  • michael downes September 29, 2011 at 11:22 am

    Original Equipment Manufacturer. In other words a facility that makes stuff under contract for other brands.

    Also, doesn’t Santa Cruz have a low volume frame shop in Vancouver?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) September 29, 2011 at 11:30 am

      You must be thinking of the Ellsworth shop in Vancouver. Yes, they do make frames and I believe they do some oem stuff.

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    • Art Fuldodger September 29, 2011 at 12:00 pm

      thanks for explaining, Jonathan & Michael.

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  • Evan September 29, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    Perhaps some of our local artisan builders could work with these guys to get some of their commuter specials on a limited production run. Now how cool would that be?

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • k. September 30, 2011 at 9:18 am

    Great news all around. And hopefully an example for other would be over seas manufacturers of all stripes. It’s high time to bring stuff like this back to the US, even if it costs nominally more.

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  • middle of the road guy September 30, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Titanium? Oh noes! They are making bikes for rich people! BOYCOTT!

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