By mid-October, a new company called Zen Bicycle Fabrication will be the latest addition to Portland’s always-growing bicycle industry.
A few weeks ago, a reader tipped me off to Zen’s website and today I confirmed that it is indeed a real business with a real plan. The person behind this new bike manufacturing start-up (whom I spoke to on the phone but he wants to remain anonymous at this time) says a formal announcement will come in the next week or so. For now, here are the details I’ve confirmed…
Zen Bicycle Fabrication will set up an OEM job shop (meaning they’d build bikes for other brands and builders and won’t have their own house brand) focusing on high end bicycle frames in a 10,000 square foot building in the Albina-Mississippi area near the N Interstate Ave corridor. The company already employs several bike industry veterans (including builders and an engineer) who will focus on small to medium production runs (about 50 to 150 frames) of steel, aluminum and titanium bicycles.
Here’s the blurb on their home page:
“…a dedicated manufacturing facility established to fill the demand for quality US manufactured bicycle frames… The company will employ a team of passionate industry veterans and riders who share the common goal of producing quality American made bicycle frames.”
The shop will be set up to take designs from idea into final construction. Another page on the site boasts capabilities in, “engineering, prototyping, CNC machining, tig welding, brazing, heat treating, finishing, fulfillment.”
Zen will already have clients on board when they open their doors.
This is potentially a very big development for Portland. People involved with this issue (myself included) have been discussing something like this for several years. Most recently, at a panel to discuss the question of making bicycles in Portland, it became apparent that as costs of making bikes overseas rises (due to rising labor and shipping costs), it becomes more feasible to make bikes — especially high-end bikes in small batches — in the U.S.
And what better place to do it than Portland? We have a huge amount of industry knowledge, considerable industrial heritage, a constant stream of skilled workers from the United Bicycle Institute, a well-known brand as a bike town and so on.
Currently in Portland, only aluminum specialists Sapa Extrusions Inc. is manufacturing bike frames on a large volume, production level. That company, located near the Portland airport, makes frames for several large U.S.-based brands (bike frames being just one small part of their business). Other OEM bike manufacturing happens down in Eugene at Co-Motion Cycles. They do very small runs of select models for a couple local builders.
It will be very interesting to see how this business develops. Stay tuned for more coverage.