Making it as a custom bike builder is not easy. Scaling up to reach demands and expectations is one of the biggest challenges. Should they stay solo and build bikes one-at-a-time while your wait-list balloons into years? Or ramp up production and lose touch with the spirit and soul of the craft that attracts most builders to the work the first place?
It’s been fascinating in the past decade or so to watch all the different ways our local crop of builders have grappled with this situation. After 15 years in business, Sacha White of Vanilla Bicycles seems to have figured it out with his Speedvagen line that’s made right here in Portland at The Vanilla Workshop.
The man who once had a four-year waiting list has dialed in production so tight that he can now offer fully custom framesets in 8-12 weeks.
We’ve got some fun coverage of Sacha and his 15 year building career coming soon. For now, in the spirit of our Industry Ticker, check out the press release and a few photos his people just sent over to us:
Introducing The New Vanilla Workshop
Portland OR, March 13th 2015 – Bespoke frame builder Sacha White owns and operates The Vanilla Workshop in Portland Oregon. What began as a one man operation 15 years ago has grown into a full scale fabrication shop employing the best and brightest painters, craftsmen, metal workers and artisans in the country. This year production has increased and Speedvagen’s are shipping in as little as 8-12 weeks for a full custom bicycle.
After the birth of Vanilla Bicycles in 1999 and the waitlist that soon followed, Sacha realized there was a market for full custom bikes without the long wait. The creation of Speedvagen in 2006 realized that dream. Each frame made to order, but produced in small batch runs on a monthly schedule. In the niche market of custom steel frames, wait lists have rocketed to well over a year before a client finally throws a leg over the finished bicycle, Speedvagen is breaking the mold and offering custom racing machines in as little as 8-12 weeks.
According to White, “In 2006 my wait list for Vanilla was exploding. I was faced with the conflict of not wanting to compromise what I was doing with Vanilla (It was important to me that I be the builder of my bikes and continue to pursue my craft). At the same time I didn’t want to be exclusive to the point that I couldn’t build bikes for my teammates and fellow racers that liked what we were doing.” In addition, White mentions, “That year, 2006, Speedvagen was given a name and a clear direction: a small run of race bikes produced several times a year. The wait would be months, not years. The bikes would be built in-house with the help of ‘A-list’ guest builders and a “take away everything non-essential and innovate with what was left” design approach.”
The Vanilla Workshop employs nearly a dozen local craftsmen, each bringing their own strengths to the table. Sacha states, “In the last two years we have nearly doubled the number of bikes we make, and we look forward to seeing that trend continue. Today’s frames are the best that we have ever produced. The level of focus and attention to detail are dialed. They’re next level, we are proud to send them out and we know they are going to improve the experience of the rider.”
Dialing the design, striping away anything non-essential, innovating with what remains. Speedvagen delivers on purpose driven machines, sized and fit to individual rider needs, but in a fraction of the time. Custom geometry, paint and graphics are all part of the package as well as upgrade options ensuring that no two frames coming out of The Vanilla Workshop are the same. Everything is completed in house, from fit to finish. This maintains control of the process, ensuring attention to detail, excellent craftsmanship and a beautiful aesthetic. The paint process alone takes between 8-20 hours depending on the nuances of the scheme, in addition to the 35+ hours in fabrication.
Lastly, White comments, “The most important thing for me is building an amazing riding bicycle. This is my way of making people’s lives better. I’m not a “that bikes is too pretty, you should hang it on the wall” kind of guy. The fact that we can do things with the excellence that’s become synonymous with the Vanilla name and achieve this on a larger scale just feels right.”
– Stock Frameset (frame/fork/seatpost assembly) MSRP: From $3,450
– Custom Frameset (frame/fork/seatpost assembly) MSRP: From $4,350
– Read more local bike industry news in the Industry Ticker archives.