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Meet Your Maker: Johnnie Olivan of Rejuiced Bikes

Posted by on September 28th, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Using recycled bike frames and parts, Johnnie Olivan of Rejuiced Bikes in North Portland melds artistry and utility into his creations.
(Photos © J. Maus unless otherwise noted)

[Welcome to Meet Your Maker, a new column where I'll take a closer look at the many talented makers in our community.]

At first glance, 26-year-old Johnnie Olivan’s bike creations might seem more like art than functional bikes. But for the 26-year old Olivan, his Rejuiced Bikes are all about utility. I dropped by his shop in North Portland last week for a closer look at his bikes and to learn more about how and why he builds them.

The bikes of Johnnie Olivan-18
Johnnie Olivan

One of the interesting niches Olivan has found for his bikes is among people with disabilities. “I got into that accidentally, but after I realized it works for them, it’s felt better than anything I’ve done. People are really stoked.”

For a recent client, Olivan created a custom trailer for a woman whose son has cerebral palsy.

Bikes for people with disabilities aren’t that easy to come by and Olivan’s can be made custom for any use. Previous projects have included a “wheelchair accessible social tricycle.” Check it out below…

(Photo: Johnnie Olivan)

Not only can Olivan make custom solutions for the disabled riders, he’s found that his bikes — which he makes exclusively using old used frames and parts that cost bout 50 cents a pound — are much more affordable than other adaptive bikes on the market. “And people are already tackling medical and insurance bills,” remarks Olivan.

What strikes me about Olivan’s bikes is how well they are put together and how smooth they ride. They may look a bit outlandish, but don’t let that fool you. These bikes are made to be ridden… and ridden by people of all ages.

These kids at the Portland Twilight Criterium couldn’t get enough of Olivan’s bike.

And check the details…

But don’t start pedaling a Rejuiced Bike if you’re in a hurry to get somewhere. “My bikes are also about slowing down, seeing the neighborhood,” says Olivan, “you’re not going to go fast.”

One of his more intriguing projects is the Water Bike. It’s a three-seater with a roof that doubles as a rain-catching device. A series of tubes capture the water and then funnel it into barrels pulled by a trailer. It’s perfect for anyone who needs a mobile, human-powered irrigation device.

Olivan has mastered the re-use of bike parts to make bikes.
Fill ‘er up (with water).

“I was thinking,” Olivan says about the water bike, “I’ll build something that would occupy the same space as a car when it’s parked, but it would actually do something while it’s sitting there.”

Another type of bike Olivan makes that does a lot while not moving at all are his custom food cart bikes. Olivan is excited about building more bikes like the one he built for Paige Common and her Eatin’ Alive food cart business.

Olivan made this custom food cart bike for Paige Common, owner of Eatin’ Alive.

Speaking of food, Olivan recently shipped one of this standard cargo trikes to Simply Grown Beef, a company in McMinnville that plans to use it to deliver meat to local customers.

Olivan estimates he spends about 100 hours on a typical bike project (he also paints them himself). With a price range of about $1,500 bucks, he’s not growing rich by any means; but like many local bike makers he is passionate about his work.

Olivan’s shop spills into the alleyway behind his house.

Making a living as a solo builder of unconventional bikes — especially when you rely on salvaged parts as your source material. Olivan says it’s becoming harder and harder to track down good used frames and parts. His vision is to someday recreate a bike manufacturing and salvage operation similar to one in his hometown of Tucson.

BICAS, the Bicycle Inter-Community Art and Salvage is a space in downtown Tucson where anyone can go and cobble together used bikes to build any number of things. Missoula Montana has a similar facility.

For Olivan, bikes are all about utility, being resourceful, and using what we already have to do even more. And of course it’s also about having fun.

“When I think of being eight years old on this bike,” Olivan says as we pedal one of his trikes through his North Portland neighborhood, “I could ride all over the neighborhood with all my toys… Actually, I feel like a big kid now.”

— See more photos of Olivan’s bikes in the gallery. Learn more about Rejuiced Bikes on his website.

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Comments
  • Joe September 28, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    Awesome got a free ride on one at biketobeerfest.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Carl September 28, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    I love that moment on N Williams when you cross Killingsworth and all the traffic is gone, there are trees overhead, and then BAM! there’s this house just exploding with colorful bicycles. Thanks Johnnie O.

    (…and yay Bikas!)

    Recommended Thumb up 6

    • Carl September 28, 2011 at 4:02 pm

      (*ahem* BICAS not Bikas)

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • aaron October 3, 2011 at 10:40 am

      Yeah, it’s a lot of fun, I missed getting hitting up their juice bar this summer :(

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • matheas michaels September 28, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    That’s the only reason I don’t turn and go down killingsworth, is so that I can see what’s parked out front of that house :-)

    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • Ted Buehler September 28, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    Johnny also makes bicycle sculptures — I have one in my front yard and get many comments on it.

    And yes, Portland definitely needs something on the magnitude of a BICAS — a huge facility dedicated to salvaging bikes, teaching folks to fix their own bikes, and art space.

    Ted Buehler

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Gregg Woodlawn September 28, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    This guy and his creations are sooo Portland. I love all of his bikes. It is really pleasing every time I get to see one in use.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Johnnie Olivan September 28, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    Thanks for the write-up and pics Jonathan!!! I love this city and have always been inspired by the people around here doing cool stuff!! If anybody wants to try out any bikes, send me an email @: rejuicedbikes@gmail.com

    Recommended Thumb up 4

  • n8m September 29, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Johnnie for prez!

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Derek September 29, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    Pure Awesomeness- will be sure to check this out next time we’re in Portland

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Ted Buehler September 30, 2011 at 12:12 am

    Photo of the lawn sculpture at
    http://biketemple.blogspot.com/search?q=meeting+of+the+clergy

    This one now ornaments the landscaped island at Williams and Jessup.

    Ted Buehler

    Recommended Thumb up 1

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