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Former Planet Bike GM launches Portland Design Works

Posted by on September 24th, 2008 at 9:57 am

The former general manager of Wisconsin-based accessory company Planet Bike has moved to Portland and plans to offer a new line of products under the Portland Design Works banner.

29-year-old Erik Olson oversaw product development at Planet Bike for five years and moved to Portland this summer to start his new company. I caught up with him yesterday via telephone from his hotel room in Las Vegas where he’s attending the Interbike trade show.

Portland Design Works is currently a one-man operation, but Olson plans to hire several employees once he finds warehouse space which will enable him to package and ship his products from Portland to bike shops nationwide.

Olson is using Interbike to network with industry contacts and “continue discussions with suppliers.” He told me his products will have a “really simple, iconic design” and that they will be “100% designed in Portland (versus bought off the shelf overseas)”.

“When I look around at many accessories in the market, there’s not a lot of attention given to the design and style of the product.”

At RidePDW.com, Olson writes that he’ll produce, “bicycle accessories that focuses on simplicity, utility and beauty.” During our conversation, Olson said that Portland Design Works will “have a focus on sustainability” and that he’s sourcing vegetable tanned leather and bamboo to use in his products.

The first products we’ll see from the company (which will be made in Taiwan) will be a line of handlebar grips. According to Olson, the grips will be in bike shops by the end of 2008 and he’ll come out with more commuting and transportation-oriented products — like a line of cargo racks — next spring.

Olson says after his wife completed her law degree at University of Wisconsin, “it was a good time for us to pick, move, and try something different.” He said he always wanted to live in the Pacific Northwest and that “obviously” Portland’s bike-friendly reputation figured into his decision.

“I’d been to Portland a couple times before we moved,” said Olson, describing his decision to come here, “in Madison, more and more people are commuting (by bike), but it’s not the same vibe as in Portland… It’s not a big production here, people are riding as part of their lives, in regular clothes, I love it.”

Portland Design Works will make its official debut at the upcoming Oregon Manifest Handmade Bike Show.

— Keep an eye on RidePDW.com.

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  • K'Tesh September 24, 2008 at 10:02 am

    Welcome to Oregon!

    Glad to hear that another bike related industry is moving in. So, where do we send our resume’s? 😉

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  • Krampus September 24, 2008 at 10:10 am

    From reading this article it seems he moved to Portland just so he could claim the products were designed here? It would be like me moving to NYC and the next day opening a “New York Pizza” place… 😛

    Don’t get me wrong I with this guy (and anyone in the bike biz) success, but for some reason something about this seems a tad contrived.

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  • Zaphod September 24, 2008 at 10:50 am

    Krampus… dude, why you gotta hate? 😉 Just kidding but planet bike stuff is really rad and you’ll find their blinky technology and fenders adorning … I’d say *most* bikes that roll in winter here in PDX. While there might be some incremental benefit with a “designed in Portland” sticker, surely the guy just wants to be here, in the promised land. Got to make a living somehow.

    While I understand the difficulty in manufacturing locally while hitting a reasonable price point, it would be great if some items were fabricated here.

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  • T Williams September 24, 2008 at 11:59 am

    The “hate” is that point of view that some folks have where once they move here, all change/growth/etc should stop.

    I think we should be excited that a business as prolific as ex-Planet Bike would find our corner of the world attractive.

    Maybe I should polish up my dusty resume and send them a note… 🙂

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  • Anonymous September 24, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    Lame name.
    What is with all this Portland Design,
    Porland Line of clothes, etc ?
    Are they really not creative enough to
    come up with a name ? Find your own cred.

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  • brettoo September 24, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    He said he moved here because he liked the Northwest and Portland’s bike friendly culture, where regular people ride and commute. That explains why I and a lot of people I know moved here. What’s contrived about that?
    Another green boost for the city’s economy, thanks to bike entrepreneurs like this.

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  • Leo Touza September 24, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Surprised that the fact his products are going to be manufactured in Taiwan hasn’t been mentioned yet.

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  • Lisa G September 24, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    It’s Taiwan, not China. There’s a difference.

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  • Anon September 25, 2008 at 10:29 am

    Taiwan = sustainable products? When is that ever going to be talked about. I’m not a hater, just a realist. Folks think using bamboo is better that other materials. Many times it is not…

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  • Brad September 25, 2008 at 10:33 am

    What exactly is “cred” and who actually owns any rights to it?

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  • bill September 25, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    I want some sexy fenders, dammit! Planet Bike fenders are a little boorish.

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  • Krampus September 25, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    I’m not hating, nor do I have any problem with people moving here. I think Portland should always have their doors open, nor am I dissing the products. I haven’t seen them yet, but I own 2 Bike Planet lights and they rock.

    My issue is moving somewhere then erecting the business under the name of the city right off the bat. As I said, if you go to New York City and spot something like “Eddies NYC pizza” shop, you’re going to expect that the shop wasn’t opened by a dude who just moved from Idaho to New York a couple weeks earlier.

    He’s only visited Portland once, now the city is in his business name? He saw Portland was “hip” for bikes and capitalized. It’s a wise business move, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

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  • Krampus September 25, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    ETA: Correction, he’s been here twice, not once.

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  • Barbara Kilts September 25, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    How ’bout some ideas for this new enterprise…

    The lowly milk crate needs a make over. I’d love to see a purpose built, yet reasonably priced, replacement for this useful but ugly accessory. My bike-snob side hates seeing a nice machine with a crummy looking plastic box lashed on!

    I second the notion on fenders – Honjos for the rest of us?


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  • Krampus September 25, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    Barbara: you can order a wine or apple crate off eBay for cheap, coat it in a nice varnish and you have a slick looking, cheap and very durable box for transporting things

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  • Portland Designworks Launched - Urban Velo September 26, 2008 at 7:00 pm

    […] OR called Portland Designworks. Started by former Planet Bike general manager Erik Olson, . Visit BikePortland.org for more […]

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  • Lisa G September 26, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    Bamboo can be grown here in Portland, too. (The product that was mentioned as being made in Taiwan is handlebar grips.) It would be nice to see more local sources.

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  • Urban Jeff September 28, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    Barbara, we saw a Jango product you might be interested in. (Click the website link above.)

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