Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on September 24th, 2012 at 4:28 pm
(Photos: Conscious Commuter Corp.)
Last month we shared the story of Kinn Bikes, a new company that decided to make their frames right here in Portland. Now, another company has decided that Portland is the place to manufacture their bikes. Conscious Commuter Corporation, a company with offices downtown and in Los Angeles, just had a batch of 50 frames made at Zen Bicycle Manufacturing in North Portland.
According to Bob Vander Woude, the company’s President and CEO, they were very close to producing the frames in China. “There were a lot of people in the industry telling us we had to manufacture in China or we wouldn’t be able to compete,” he told me via phone today. Vander Woude said they were all lined up for a trip to China to visit potential factories. “The more we thought about it,” he said, “It just really started resonating with our core principles,” Vander Woude said about the decision.
Vander Woude chose Zen Bicycle Manufacturing, a relatively new company founded by David Woronets, a former production manager at Ellsworth Handcrafted Bicycles in Vancouver, Washington. When Ellsworth decided to get out of the production business, Woronets bought the company and brought several of its employees to Portland.
Describing his decision to make this first batch of frames in Portland Vander Woude said many factors were at play.
“We also want to help rebuild the U.S. bike industry. We put a stake in the ground here… And by gosh, if there’s a way to make it happen, we’re going to do it.”
— Bob Vander Woude, President/CEO of Conscious Commuter
“When we started this company, part of our principles was sustainability… It really started resonating, and we also want to help rebuild the U.S. bike industry. We put a stake in the ground here… And by gosh, if there’s a way to make it happen, we’re going to do it.”
Vander Woude said that while the materials and labor are more expensive stateside (although not as much as you’d think on the materials side of things), he sees a lot of advantages in local production.
“Once you start to figure in the shipping charges [from China], the import duties, the miscommunications due to language barriers, shipping times, and so on, you’ve saved a lot of time and money,” he said.
In addition to making the frames at Zen, Vander Woude is trying to have as much of the other parts and labor done locally as well. He’s having them painted at Portland-based Class Act Powder Inc., the wheels are being built by Sugar Wheel Works on N. Williams Avenue, the electrical wiring is being done by Wakefield Gregg at The E-bike Store on N. Alberta, and the parts are being purchased through Cyclone Bicycle Supply in northwest. (The bike’s custom batteries are made by AllCell in Chicago.)
Full production models are still several months away, says Vander Woude, but they plan to launch a website for pre-purchases later this week. The bikes will be available in 17 different (and customizable) colors and in many different models; from basic, non-foldable models without electric-assist (around $1,200 retail), to a folding carbon fiber e-bike model that will cost nearly $3,000.
The bikes that have just been made at Zen are for a special project they haven’t announced publicly yet. Portland State University has received a grant from Drive Oregon (a statewide EV encouragement initiative) to purchase the bikes for an upcoming e-bike research project (stay tuned for more on this later in the week). In addition to the PSU project, Vander Woude says a high-end carbon fiber version of their bike has been chosen by luxury carmaker Lexus to participate in their “Ignition” project. That project will tally votes from the public and award one of eight projects $100,000. The video below will run on the Lexus Facebook page for a week starting on October 15th.