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New Portland bike frame manufacturer has Ellsworth roots

Posted by on October 7th, 2011 at 11:29 am

Group shot of Zen Bicycle Fabrication, a new company that will begin making bike frames (O.E.M. for other brands in North Portland.
(Photos: Zen Bicycle Fabrication)

The (somewhat mysterious) new O.E.M.* bicycle frame manufacturing operation we reported on last week has officially opened for business and released a statement with more information about their company.

David Woronets, a 20-year bike
industry veteran, co-owns
the company with his wife Jen.

Zen Bicycle Fabrication is owned by 43-year-old David Woronets and and his wife Jen Woronets. The couple lives with their three dogs in Gaston (near Forest Grove) on the back side of Hagg Lake, with road and mountain bike riding right outside their door.

In a statement released yesterday, Mr. Woronets shared that he’s the former production manager at Ellsworth Handcrafted Bicycles. The Woronets have also announced that the entire production staff from Ellsworth’s Vancouver production facility is joining them at Zen.

Ellsworth, founded in 1991, is respected in the industry for their high-quality mountain bikes. While they’ve expanded into cyclocross and even a city bike in recent years, full-suspension mountain bikes remain their bailiwick. The company has always made their frames in the U.S. and they brought fabrication in-house around 2003.

“With the lead times that have doubled overseas and costs going up… By the time you ship 50 bikes from Taiwan it gets pretty expensive.”
— David Woronets

In 2008, Mr. Woronets became production manager. In January of this year, he says he approached company founder Tony Ellsworth with the idea to buy the fabrication division. The resulting deal ended up with the Woronets’ acquiring not just the Ellsworth production team but all their equipment as well. Today, Ellsworth and Woronets remain strong business partners and Zen Bicycle Fabrication proudly counts Ellsworth as one of their first customers.

“Through this partnership,” reads the statement, “Ellsworth will continue to offer the quality bicycle frames for which the company is known.” And Ellsworth says, “It has been a great relationship and I’m excited to continue supporting David in his new endeavor.”

Zen has also unveiled its nine-person team of “passionate industry veterans and riders who share the common goal to fill the demand for quality American made bicycle frames.”

Mr. Woronets thinks his team can fill the sweet spot in American bike frame production. He also knows first-hand that the demand is there. During his time at Ellsworth, Woronets told me, he’d got to Interbike (the major U.S. bike industry trade show) and have several people ask if he could make their frames. Conditions with overseas production also play into Zen’s favor, he says.

I like the sound of that

“With the lead times that have doubled overseas and costs going up, I think we’re definitely coming closer to the mark of Taiwan production when it comes to small to medium production runs,” he told me via phone last week. “By the time you ship 50 bikes from Taiwan it gets pretty expensive.”

Zen’s “sweet spot” according to Woronets, is about 50-150 bikes at a time. The facility can make about 300 frames a month at its current capacity, but Woronets says that number could easily increase with the addition of another shift or two.

Woronets confirmed today that they’ve signed a lease on a factory space in the Mississippi/Albina neighborhood near N. Interstate Avenue. They move in mid-November.

(*Zen does original equipment manufacturing, also known as, O.E.M. This means they make frames for other brands.)

— Learn more about Zen Bicycle Fabrication at ZenBikeFab.com or “Like” them on Facebook.

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Comments
  • Matt F October 7, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    That’s great that they are making mountain bikes in Portland! Now we just need more places to ride mountain bikes in the city.

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    • middle of the road guy October 7, 2011 at 6:59 pm

      we also need fewer whiners.

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      • Matt F October 10, 2011 at 8:29 am

        that was actually a pretty funny response

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      • Matt F October 10, 2011 at 8:43 am

        though you probably consider the Occupy Wall Street protesters winers too…

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        • middle of the road guy October 10, 2011 at 8:48 am

          No. I don’t think the protesters have an overly aggrandized sense of entitlement…..and their issues actually apply to most people.

          complaining about not having more mtn trails just sounds petulant.

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          • Brian October 10, 2011 at 9:48 am

            Do you feel the same about those arguing for more bike lanes?

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          • Matt F October 10, 2011 at 1:22 pm

            got it…complaining about issues you agree with is fine but complaining about issues you don’t agree with is whining…thanks for clearing that up…

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    • Joseph E October 7, 2011 at 8:56 pm

      I’ve never understood this complaint. Are there any other mid-sized cities with good mountain bike trails within the city limits?

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      • Hugh Johnson October 8, 2011 at 5:55 am

        Leif Erickson is not a good mountain bike trail.

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      • Eric October 8, 2011 at 5:15 pm

        Philadelphia and New York to name two.

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      • Brian October 8, 2011 at 8:21 pm

        Yes. Many.

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      • Lester October 9, 2011 at 11:33 am

        Phoenix, AZ has miles of single track within the city limits. Ellsworth’s old Vancouver, WA fab shop was not far from some power lines. I’ve often wished there was single track below all the power lines up here.

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        • Dabby October 11, 2011 at 10:43 am

          If you are in Vancouver, to the East and Northeast of you are hills full of trails…..
          Easiest access is Rock Creek Campground right out of Hockinson… Bell’s Mt. trail, Cold Creek, Tarbell, and on and on…….
          Of course I can’t wait for the opening of the
          Camp Bonneville MT Bike Park…
          (my personal dream)

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      • Uncle Muscles October 10, 2011 at 12:14 pm

        There are tons of cities like this. Hell, Eugene has a better mtn bike trail network than Portland. I’ve never understood the hate for mountain bikes here on bikeportland. I feel like those of you complaining need to spend a couple hours on some singletrack and feel the magic. Mountain bikes don’t destroy trails and mountain bikers spend tons of hours on maintenance and advocacy. It would be amazing if Portland stopped forcing us to burn gas to enjoy our preferred form of cycling.

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      • GlowBoy October 10, 2011 at 12:18 pm

        My hometown of Minneapolis has a singletrack network within the city limits, and nearly a dozen networks within the metro area, including one easily reachable BY BIKE from my childhood home. Portland doesn’t even have significant mountain biking within its metro area. This was cited by Bicycling magazine as one of their reasons for knocking Portland down to #2 last year.

        Even Seattle, home to an equally vocal and aggressive anti-mountain bike hiking community, has mountain biking.

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      • Tom M December 8, 2011 at 2:03 pm

        Boston

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    • mabsf October 8, 2011 at 2:51 pm

      I don’t get it: Mountain biking -> go to the Mountains… City -> get a city bike…

      Recommended Thumb up 1

      • Brian October 8, 2011 at 8:20 pm

        “Mountain biking” is just a name that was created years ago. It has evolved into many different types of riding, and many of them do not require “mountains.” Not everyone enjoys riding on cement with cars. Some prefer this….http://bouldermountainbike.org/content/park-information

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      • Hugh Johnson October 9, 2011 at 8:54 am

        Believe it or not, people do enjoy different activities than you do. Diversity!

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      • Lester October 9, 2011 at 11:36 am

        I have 7 bikes. In a perfect world I could hit some killer single track on the weekends without having to own a car (or wear out my knobbies) to get to it.

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      • GlowBoy October 10, 2011 at 12:19 pm

        Besides its ignorance of what mountain biking actually IS (mountains are not necessary) “Mountain biking -> go to the Mountains” reminds me a LOT of the “Roads were built for cars!” argument.

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      • Tom M December 8, 2011 at 2:14 pm

        The original term was All Terrain Bicycle (ATB). That cost too much ink and was less catchy than mountain bike, so marketers jumped to mountain bike.

        seriously, think about sitting there in a room trying to market bicycles. They’re going to push whatever is easier to sell. Would you buy a car named Gremlin instead of a Corvette (I am not promoting cars, just an analogy)? You get the picture.

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        • John Stevenson December 12, 2011 at 2:47 am

          The original term was ‘Mountainbike’. All Terrain Bike was some tin-eared journalist’s invention. It didn’t catch on because it’s a foul, clunky, unromantic construction.

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  • Alistair Williamson October 7, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    This is perfect, sound like a great crew. I’m confident there are a few bike designs floating around town that need a first run (or two). Are they doing painting and part sourcing too? What about design analysis. I guess I could ask them…

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  • AL M October 8, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    U of O just won an award for bicycle innovations:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204226204576603301772974170.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

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    • roger noehren October 9, 2011 at 10:47 pm

      That bike & the rest of the winners are lovingly displayed upstairs at the Museum of Contemporary Craft On NW Davis (between Broadway & Park), through Oct 29th.

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  • lil'stink October 10, 2011 at 9:38 am

    Be interesting to see who they build for, and if they compete with Sapa (Turners made by Ellsworth? sacrilege!)

    Getting OT, but why not: the U of O bike seems to be getting a lot of mention, but the smaller wheels make me question who practical it is. The guy riding it at Oregon Manifest simply could not keep up with the other riders.

    As far as mtb’ing – Complaining about not having any legal singletrack in such a supposedly bike friendly city (a city that also happens to have one of the largest urban parks in the world) seems perfectly reasonable to me.

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  • Nom de Plume October 10, 2011 at 9:52 am

    Love it! A PNW version of Waterford or Indy Fab, although not necessarily building under their own name yet. I love the idea of regional production (as opposed to custom/artisanal). Great that they can start off with the Ellsworth contract and expand from there. I wish them the best!

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Kevin October 10, 2011 at 10:23 am

    In terms of what they’re making, isn’t co-motion the PNW version of Waterford or Independent Fabrications?

    I guess I don’t know the relative scale, so everything that’s bigger than a one or two person operation appears the same to me.

    Are there non-oem builders in portland who are bigger than co-motion or bike friday? I would expect that there would be, but it seems like all the attention is on the smaller shops.

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  • Nom de Plume October 10, 2011 at 10:55 am

    Yes! C-M is pretty good sized, but I don’t think they do work for others? Both W’ford and IF do contract work for other companies.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) October 10, 2011 at 11:01 am

      Yes, Co-Motion does do work for other companies. They currently build specific models for both Ahearne Cycles and Sweetpea Bicycles and possibly others?

      The big difference between Co-Motion and Zen is that Zen wants to build their brand as an OEM builder and Co-Motion’s brand is for their own bikes… and they do not make a bid deal about their OEM projects.

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      • Nom de Plume October 10, 2011 at 11:31 am

        OK, great to know! I didn’t know C-M was doing OEM work as well.

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  • One Ghost October 10, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    We moved 100% of our operations from Portland because of the anti-Mtb rhetoric and sentiments. Massive props to the NWTA for fighting a war they will never, ever win. As a mountain bike rider and one who literally owes his very life to the sport of mountain biking when I moved to Portland 4 years ago I thought I would be in the heart of good things including killer trails. Sh** was I wrong, even the owner of Ski Bowl is allowed to run down a cyclist while drunk and get away with it and the “cycling community” still touted that all of us Mtb riders need to go to ski bowl rather than boycott it because that jerk was allowed to buy his freedom.

    Not one single bike shop in Portland would carry my products even if they were hand fabricated right there in Portland. I tried for the entire 4 years I lived there to get at least one bike shop to carry my bikes or parts but they are all slaves to the multi-national big three of trek, specialized and Giant (the latter of which are both Taiwan companies, not even US companies, at least trek is a US family owned business out of Wisconsin).

    Portland needs to gets it’s head out of it’s ass and legalize real mountain bike riding and support it fully. To all of you so-called cyclists of Portland I send you a big F* you and challenge you to ride your bike for fun, I mean real fun. Not for commuting, not to save the earth, not for transportation but for fun. Go rent a mountain bike and get it the hell dirty. Go challenge your local bike shop and ask them why they wouldn’t carry anything from Ghost Industries, the ONlY production mountain bike company in Oregon!
    Until this happens and Portland stops thinking their collective sh** doesn’t stink, we will stay in southern California where we moved to. Somewhere that has hundreds of miles of legal single track, somewhere that bike shops support the companies that support the sport AND local businesses.

    Uncle Muscles
    There are tons of cities like this. Hell, Eugene has a better mtn bike trail network than Portland. I’ve never understood the hate for mountain bikes here on bikeportland. I feel like those of you complaining need to spend a couple hours on some singletrack and feel the magic. Mountain bikes don’t destroy trails and mountain bikers spend tons of hours on maintenance and advocacy. It would be amazing if Portland stopped forcing us to burn gas to enjoy our preferred form of cycling.
    Recommended 0

    Recommended Thumb up 5

  • Tito October 11, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Dear One Ghost:

    Wow. Now I know where your local sponsored racer gets his attitude. A match made in heaven, it seems. As for PDX, there are plenty of us here who ride bikes to get places, ride bikes to race, and ride bikes for fun. Most of the “fun riders” and racers I know also commute by bike. No, there aren’t trails out the back door and I’m as irritated by that as anyone, but your bitter generalizations tend to undermine your credibility.

    Recommended Thumb up 4

  • Jerko October 11, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    Mad Props to Zen Bicycle Fabrication. I have to agree with One Ghost. I too am leaving portland due to frustration with the outdoor recreation scene here. I miss having quality trails to ride on and decent rocks to climb.

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  • rob October 11, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    I just moved to PDX from Louisiana, where there are no mountains and everyone hates cyclists.
    Here is a short list of nearby major cities I know of that have BETTER networks of single track in the metro area than Portland:
    Baton Rouge LA
    New Orleans LA
    Shrevesport LA
    Jackson MS
    Mobile AL

    People back home would kill to have the type of terrain that West PDX has, not to mention that its all public parks and not leased out to hunting clubs. 70 miles and 5000 acres dedicated to hiking, the only thing you are allowed to ride on is roads and firelanes. It only takes about 200 acres to make a good 10 mile singletrack loop.

    Recommended Thumb up 5

  • John Monahan October 13, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    Mountain biking is good for the economy. Bend and oakridge have capitalized on it. Portland could too. There is a ton of space in Forest Park to make that happen. Something good there, combined with the rad rides in the Tilly and Mt Hood Forests, could get us on the map. Anyway, my friends and i will be driving an hour and a half to ride at surveyor’s ridge this weekend.

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  • MTB October 14, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    To hell with Portland and its lack of support for mountain bike riding and anything bike related not transportation. One Ghost..good luck, you work hard and tell it like it is.. Zen Bikes… Kick ass Dave! Follow your dreams man and get those contracts and don’t let these nay-saying fools get the best of you! The US needs more fabrication houses like you so we are not stuck buying POS bikes out of china posing as independent companies like Surley does (they are a huge corporate brand like Trek).

    And for the record.. Specalized is a TAIWAN owned company doing business in the US JUST LIKE GIANT Bikes!

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  • Todd Boulanger October 19, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    …sadness…Vancouver looses a major bike business…though they never seemed to want folks to know they were on the northside of the river. [At least when i tried to approach them for supporting cycling.]

    Perhaps with this new ownership they [now Zen] will be an open advocate for local cycling.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

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