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Sweetpea Bicycles focuses on the ladies

Posted by on June 21st, 2006 at 9:03 am

[Introducing Sweetpea Bicycles]

Portland’s burgeoning crop of custom framebuilders just got a litte sweeter. Natalie Ramsland and her partner (in life and business) Austin have launched Sweetpea Bicycles.

Natalie recently quit her job as a bike messenger and is now working full-tilt to design and build bikes especially for women. She has set up shop in a studio in the RJ Templeton Building located adjacent to the Burnside Bridge.

Natalie’s first run of bikes is aptly named “First Edition”. The green protoype pictured here is a 26-inch cyclocross bike that Natalie is really excited about:

“It’s basically road/cyclocross geometry with smaller wheels. I was so inspired by all the women at the cyclocrosss races…but I realized they were all riding unwieldly men’s bikes. I found that by designing a smaller wheelbase and having smaller wheels I could build a bike that is much easier to control and doesn’t have toe overlap.”

She says the added control offered by this smaller-sized bike is especially helpful for single-speed and fixed-gear aficionados.

Another thing that sets Sweetpea apart is Natalie’s diverse athletic background. In addition to being a former professional bike messenger, she is also a competitive distance runner and triathlete. Adding to those sensibilities is a somewhat of a lucky coincidence.

Shortly after moving into their new shop in the Templeton Building, Natalie and Austin ran into Michael Sylvester. Sylvester just happens to be the pre-eminent bicycle fit specialist in the country. He created the widely regarded Serotta Fit System and was the long-time head of bike fitting for the Bike Gallery.

When Natalie ran into him they started chatting and not knowing who he was, Natalie said, “I’m looking for someone that knows about fitting. Do you know anyone?”.

Suffice it to say the two have struck a great partnership, and Sylvester – whose own studio is just two floors away – has become not just a friend but a valuable mentor.

Sweetpea will be one of nine local bike builders featured in the upcoming Portland Handmade Bicycle Show at City Hall on July 6th (details coming soon!).

Also check out the Sweetpea Blog.

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8 Comments
  • Austin June 21, 2006 at 9:35 am

    Thanks for the great write up Jonathan! We are just so excited about being able to build great bikes for women, and to be able to do it in Portland.

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  • MJ June 21, 2006 at 11:10 am

    That’s very cool to see a new frame builder in town and on top of that one that fills a special niche!

    Since Sweetpea is into female frames do they have tips on female saddles? My girlfriend is having a hella time finding one that fits.

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  • Austin June 21, 2006 at 1:46 pm

    Hi MJ,

    Natalie has been pretty evangelical about the Terry saddles lately; but when I asked her for specifics on finding the right one, she said “trial and error, and a good return policy are a girl’s best bet.”

    There is a lot more that can be said about this topic, so for the full story I would say just have your girlfriend give Natalie a call, she would be more than happy to help her out.

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  • Jim F. June 21, 2006 at 3:22 pm

    Funny — I’ve seen that sweet looking green Sweatpea out in front of the downtown Stumptown many times and have been meaning to check out who makes ’em. Nice bikes.

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  • Scout June 21, 2006 at 3:40 pm

    Natalie and Austin, you guys are amazing! I just spent way too long reading your website and blog. It was a breath of fresh air after breaking my bike on the ride in to work today, and so much nicer to think about than smashed derailleurs and warped spokes.

    I made the mistake of buying a supposed women’s specific bike a year ago, and have been futzing with and tweaking it ever since, to no avail. I guess today, it had enough.

    If you ever need a test rider, gimme a call. Me and the other girls of Portland thank you!

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  • elljay June 21, 2006 at 4:01 pm

    MJ – I love my Terry Butterfly saddle. One female shop person suggested ditching the padded shorts and using minimally padded rowing shorts. I’ve done 2 Cycle Oregons, one CO weekend, and ride over 100 miles/week. Several pals have also made the switch. No pain, no chafe, no need for “butter.”

    Since Chris Kelly went out of biz, I’m saving my pennies for a Sweetpea fixie!

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  • Natalie June 22, 2006 at 6:45 am

    Hey Scout,

    Glad you enjoyed the Sweetblog! Bummer about your destroyed ride. We don’t have an official test rider program and we don’t have a huge fleet yet, but if you want to swing by my shop and take a ride on my handlebars and/or take out the 26-er for a spin on your own, you are more than welcome!

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  • Scout June 22, 2006 at 1:16 pm

    Yay! That First Edition looks so beautiful, I might just have to swing by and pet it!

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