Industry Ticker: The Vanilla Workshop launches ‘Urban Racer’ model

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The new Urban Racer from The Vanilla Workshop, the latest in Sacha White’s Speedvagen line.
(Photos by John Watson)

Sacha White, the southeast Portland-based maker of fine bicycles who has sat among the top American framebuilders for years, has just released a new bike: the Urban Racer.

“Designed as a super commuter, getting you around town as fast as possible. Minimal, modern and shred ready, the Urban Racer is the answer for the discerning cyclist who wants to go fast and find new lines on the way to work,” says the official announcement.

The Urban Racer comes out of The Vanilla Workshop, a brand that houses White’s Speedvagen line. After years of toiling under the pressure multi-year backlogs, White created Speedvagen to make his bicycles more accessible. He took a more batch-oriented approach (rather than one-off builds) and enlisted highly respected builders to help his shop ramp up production of a very select line of bikes.

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The Urban Racer might be the most daring bike White has ever offered. Known mostly for road and cyclocross bikes, the Urban Racer is a major departure. It comes standard with a minimalist chain guard, flat bar and a coaster brake, “for it’s utter simplicity and complete skidability.” The bike is officially described as “Your urban shred sled” and photos on the Vanilla website show a man wearing a full-face motorcycle helmet.

The complete bike starts at $4,895 and there are several upgrade options offered — including a custom front rack and a dynamo-powered front hub.

Here’s more from The Vanilla Workshop:

There’s a place for the commuter mule or the grocery-getter in every stable. The Urban Racer is neither of those things. It’s lightweight, nimble and the riding position is dialed to race, not cruise. Like any bike we make, we’ve hit every nook and cranny with a critical eye. The integrated chain guard is functional, sexy and made of super light stainless tubing. The wheel and tire size (650b x 42) make this bike feel like you can ride it through a brick wall. And the coaster brake was deliberately chosen for its utter lack of complication, leaving you free to focus on building speed & spotting jumps.

And here’s a quote from the man behind the bike, Sacha White:

“I used to think that a bike for getting around town could be as heavy as it needed to be and if that meant it had more utility (lights, racks, integrated everything), then the heavier the better. While there’s a place for the mule, or grocery-getter in every stable, what I’ve gravitated toward with this new bike is fun. A light bike that has some good volume to the tires, has a minimalist, modern, sexy design and above all is something that I totally want to SHRED on.”

And here are a few more photos.

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— Learn more at TheVanillaWorkshop.com. Read more local bike industry news in our Industry Ticker archive.

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Chris I
Chris I
7 years ago

How fast can you stop with a rear coaster and no front brake? What if a truck turns in front of me?

Dan
Dan
7 years ago
Reply to  Chris I

You are too practical for this bike.

Tom Hardy
Tom Hardy
7 years ago
Reply to  Chris I

Not very! Basically toast , unless you momentarily locked it up , swerved sideways and rode it out with both tires sliding. Been there, dun that, don’t plan on it again!

Fallaballa
Fallaballa
7 years ago
Reply to  Chris I

Coaster brakes are good for no-handed dismounts…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8N0beEYB11U

patrick
patrick
7 years ago
Reply to  Chris I

What about all those folks with just a fixed gear and no hand brakes. Seems a coaster break will be the same braking power if you lock up the rear wheel anyway…

John Liu
John Liu
7 years ago

I’d prefer the fork to be drilled for a front brake. Stopping distance with just a rear brake is pretty high. Very pretty bike. Love the clean stem.

Peter R
7 years ago

belt drive and discs would have been cool.

Dan
Dan
7 years ago

Prolly.

pat lowell
pat lowell
7 years ago

“Urban shredding”-based ad campaign in light of recent serious collisions.. too soon?!

9watts
9watts
7 years ago

Shred?

UncleMuscles
UncleMuscles
7 years ago

So out of touch it’s not even funny

aaron
aaron
7 years ago

single speed? with a coaster brake? maybe i can afford a vanilla bike?

nope.

Dan
Dan
7 years ago
Reply to  aaron

Transition Klunker? Only $579. Get a whole fleet and scare the crap out of your friends.

https://www.transitionbikes.com/2015/Bikes_Klunker.cfm

JBone
JBone
7 years ago
Reply to  Dan

Sweet!

Justin
Justin
7 years ago

I like it

Justin
Justin
7 years ago

Expensive

Lester Burnham
Lester Burnham
7 years ago

Pretentious.

Adam H.
Adam H.
7 years ago

What is this, 2007?

dwk
dwk
7 years ago

$4895?
Good luck with that…..

Lester Burnham
Lester Burnham
7 years ago
Reply to  dwk

What’s really funny is you can add a “first scratch” for an additional $10. This is really Portlandia sounding stuff.

CaptainKarma
CaptainKarma
7 years ago
Reply to  Lester Burnham

The first rule about portlandia is you never talk about portlandia.

Barney
Barney
7 years ago

An interesting and practical bike for the city streets. Don’t worry, the concept and style will soon be copied, imported and sold for $500 or so. Surly, Trek, anyone???

Chris I
Chris I
7 years ago
Reply to  Barney

We must have different definitions of “practical”.

Jeff
Jeff
7 years ago
Reply to  Chris I

Agreed. I see nowhere to place even one growler of beer. I can carry at least 8 on my Edgerunner.

Chris I
Chris I
7 years ago
Reply to  Jeff

I can carry two pony kegs on my Big Dummy, but I probably wouldn’t be able to “find new lines” while riding home.

JBone
JBone
7 years ago
Reply to  Barney

No doubt, beautiful bike and interested in coaster brake concept, but for 1/3 of the price, I’m content with my nicely equipped flat bar single speed Surly with 2.3 Big Apples.

Nathan
Nathan
7 years ago
Reply to  JBone

… which probably sees more “air” than the Vanilla would.

Check out the handlebar – saddle deficit. It’d be like picking up a 6 year old each hop!

David Lewis
7 years ago

I think the action photos say it all. This is a bike to be seen on.

However, it looks like lights are not standard equipment.

Todd Hudson
Todd Hudson
7 years ago

>$4,895

No.

Mike V
Mike V
7 years ago

Good grief… such fussy comments so far…
Vanilla Bikes and Sacha are a huge part of why Portland is at the center of the bike culture/counter culture. Is this bike for everyone? Nope. Will he sell as many as he wants to? Yep. Worth $4895 for a piece of art that you can ride with wild abandon? Absolutely. Don’t like it, don’t buy it.

SHEESH
7 years ago
Reply to  Mike V

Vanilla and Sacha White are not a huge part of why Portland is at the center of bike culture/ Counter Culture. Good try.

This bicycle is a piece a jewelry to match a belt and shoes.

middle of the road guy
middle of the road guy
7 years ago
Reply to  SHEESH

Have you ridden a Vanilla?

sacha white
7 years ago
Reply to  Mike V

I don’t know you, but I like you.

Fred
Fred
7 years ago

Reminds me of car ads that have SUVs running through the forest at high speeds. I guess I’m too old to appreciate it.

Lester Burnham
Lester Burnham
7 years ago
Reply to  Fred

Aw come on Fred…you don’t have a cool beard or skinny jeans?

Zimmerman
Zimmerman
7 years ago

This bike is not what I want or can afford. It’s also marketed towards the recreationally inclined cyclist, which offends my very serious transportation cycling objectives.

It obviously sucks.

Did I get it right?

pengo
pengo
7 years ago
Reply to  Zimmerman

Add a self-satisfied bon mot or two about pants, facial hair and/or sketch comedy TV and you’ll have pretty much nailed it.

Zimmerman
Zimmerman
7 years ago
Reply to  pengo

I knew I was leaving something out.

sacha white
7 years ago
Reply to  pengo

nailed it!

Craig Harlow
Craig Harlow
7 years ago

I see the appeal to some folks of riding fast and hard and wild … IN THE CITY. I just don’t want them riding anywhere near my or my family (sorry, but we seem to be just around every corner).

sacha white
7 years ago
Reply to  Craig Harlow

Craig,

I have kids too and raised them without a car for the first ten years of their life. I think you’re over-reacting. This is not mad-max.

Have you seen Mad Max, by the way? I haven’t, but I heard it’s good.

scott
scott
7 years ago
Reply to  sacha white

It rules.

craig harlow
craig harlow
7 years ago
Reply to  sacha white

Mad Maxx *totally* delivered :^) Sacha, you may or may not be right about whether I’m overreacting. I think I’m reacting to the feeling I get (with or without family along) each time I encounter someone riding the same city streets in the manner depicted in the video. It’s kind of a harsh judgmental reaction. I trust my feelings.

drew
drew
7 years ago

I can imagine hanging this beautiful bike over my fireplace. With 2 locks on it.
Like he says, it’s not a replacement for the commuter mule or grocery getter.
But without lights, fenders, racks, bags, bell, gears, and a good set of brakes, it has a mountain of practical limitations. And it makes no sense to me to load a bike like this with the city bike accouterments it wasn’t designed for. It will get you from A to B if you don’t mind walking the hill. Don’t stop anywhere or contemplate locking it up to a post if 5K is a lot for you. Shred away, and stick to easy or moderate grades.
I hope they sell well and his company profits, but wonder if this may be a marketing blunder.

sacha white
7 years ago
Reply to  drew

Drew,

During the prototyping and testing process (over a year of riding), I’ve outfitted the bike with rack (our own designs), fenders and integrated lighting and all have been re-worked so that they don’t take away from the enjoyment of the bike. And all 3 options are available on the final version.

As for walking hills, it’s a 2 speed coaster with an easy gear for hills (I’ve taken mine in Colorado mountains and San Francisco hills) and a stiff gear for actually getting somewhere.

As for marketing success, for some people (our people) it’s exciting and hits the spot. I knew that it would not be for everyone. For the record, we’ve already sold 2 months worth and have inquiries for another 15. We’ve thought through the bike and why it’s a good idea to make it… There’s a reason that it’s our first new model in 8 years…

I would love it if people would do more question asking and less presuming.

Zimmerman
Zimmerman
7 years ago
Reply to  sacha white

Have you been to Bikeportland before?

PS. I’d shred the living crap out of that bike.

caesar
caesar
7 years ago
Reply to  sacha white

I would love it if people would do more question asking and less presuming.

OK. Why does it cost so much?

sacha white
7 years ago
Reply to  caesar

Caesar,

Good question.

First of all, the bike is not rational, so I won’t pretend like it is. But we were compelled to make it, cause we’re excited about it and knew (some) people would like it too.

Now that that’s out of the way, I’ll answer your question “Why does it cost so much”:

We have a staff of 10 full time and 3 part time and build 100 to 150 bikes per year. So between fabrication, paint, fitting, design, final build, customer service, book keeping, etc. there are between 200 and 300 hours in to each bike that goes out our door.

This time that each person puts into each bike goes to creating a great experience for the customer, right down to getting clear documentation to sign off on and email responses within 24 hrs. I know it seems obvious, but this stuff takes time and was not the norm when I was bootstrapping it as a one man shop.

Our pay is good, we pay 100% of benefits and we’re committed to being profitable so that we can be here for our customers and so that our employees don’t have to run themselves ragged to pursue a trade that they love, but instead can have a decent standard of living.

On top of that, we make, or have made for us almost every piece on the frame including the tubing. That, in-and-of-itself isn’t special, but it means that we can elevate the bikes beyond a bunch of off the shelf frame parts to something that is more cohesive. Each piece being an improvement on what came before it and making the bike better.

There are things that we could cut both from the experience and from the frame and make it cheaper. Probably a lot cheaper. But that bike (the one that is made to meet a price point) already exists out there and honestly, the world doesn’t need another one. This bike is made to be as good as it can possibly be, for it’s intended use. Which in this case, the intended use is being like a kid on your bike, with your friends, having fun riding in the city…

Drew
Drew
7 years ago
Reply to  sacha white

Thanks for the response with the details, Sacha. If you’re looking for an independent tester to shred it down Repack road in Marin, I volunteer!

Carl
Carl
7 years ago

Nobody’s calling this the ultimate practical city bike. It’s a beautifully-made, fun bike for people who can afford it. As Sacha says:

“While there’s a place for the mule, or grocery-getter in every stable, what I’ve gravitated toward with this new bike is fun.”

You folks have a remarkable inability to appreciate craftsmanship or others’ conception of “fun.”

middle of the road guy
middle of the road guy
7 years ago
Reply to  Carl

There seems to be an underlying hostility on Bike Portland to anyone with the ‘privilege’ of being able (or having earned) the ability to purchase high end, artisan goods. I hate the word artisan, but in this case it is applicable.

Sacha makes a very expensive product. It’s up to you whether or not you see the value in it. I have heard many people say “I could buy 10 bikes for the price of one of his”. And I ask them “so you are saying you’d still get 10 bikes. What’s the difference? You’re still spending the same amount of money.”

The condescending attitudes towards suburbanites, SUV owners, Pearl denizens, custom bike owners, etc…it get tiring. And it sounds like thinly veiled jealousy.

sacha white
7 years ago

I just read the comments (I know, don’t read the comments).

Y’al are so serious!

This bike is for having a good time and not taking ourselves so seriously. It is not meant to be the height of utility, or the ultimate in pragmatism.It’s for having fun, which takes different forms for different people.

I know that some people love what do and other people hate it. This is my 15th year building and there has been love and hate for my bikes since the beginning. The truth is, I like that. I think it means we’re doing something meaningful.

I appreciate the positivity that some are bringing to the thread. Thank you!

I am also more excited about this bike than any bike I’ve built in a long, long time. I feel like a kid when I ride it, which is saying a lot for a guy with this much responsibility.

Have a good one, all. Back to making stuff.

scott
scott
7 years ago
Reply to  sacha white

Any plans for a limited edition Rapha collabo? Maybe 100% goose feather tires? Goat leather seat tanned the old way by Cippo himself?

I kid. It is out of my price range, but so is everything from them Vanilla Workshop. If they weren’t though, I would own many. Keep up the good work.

Welp, off to stare at my college degree. Maybe I can fold it into something neat….

sacha white
7 years ago
Reply to  sacha white

And I misspelled _y’all_.

Quick, someone nit-pick that! (winky face)

Adam H.
Adam H.
7 years ago
Reply to  sacha white

$5,000 for a fixed-gear is pretty serious to me. **Sentence deleted by moderator**

middle of the road guy
middle of the road guy
7 years ago
Reply to  Adam H.

How does one have a coaster brake on a fixed gear?

Dan
Dan
7 years ago

A fixed gear bike is a single speed. The gearing is fixed. You’re probably thinking of a fixed wheel bike.

That said, this bike is a two speed.

Skid
7 years ago

Room for fenders? This is Portland….

sacha white
7 years ago
Reply to  Skid

Yes! and front rack/bag and lights. Though the more stripped down the funner.

Skid
7 years ago
Reply to  sacha white

I like the fender stay mounts on the inside of the chainstays, I did that on the frame I made at UBI in 2012

benja
benja
7 years ago

Jesus Christ on a popsicle stick, everyone please chill.

Deep breathing folks.

This bike is NOT ruining Portland.

This bike will NOT force to you buy an incredibly priced Pearl condo.

It will NOT kill your children. Most likely not.

It looks like a super fun, very expensive bike.

You do NOT have to buy it, like it or anything else. Period.

ac
ac
7 years ago

sacha, you make beautiful things…congrats on being able to make it a successful business! I wish I could afford a vanilla or speedvagen but until then i continue to admire your stuff

Bike Rider
Bike Rider
7 years ago

What about all the other cool frame builders producing fantastic work?

scott
scott
7 years ago
Reply to  Bike Rider

Did they release new bikes too?

Dabby McCrashalot
Dabby McCrashalot
7 years ago

Seriously people; look at this bike.
And quite complaining that someone else’s vision does notmatch yours.
This bike makes me wanna take it out the door; Jib everything in sight, and skid through every tire I have, laying down butter.
It is pretty much going to be the best test ride ever…

Tony Pereira
7 years ago

Cool bike, Sacha. Looks like fun. I dig it.

sacha white
7 years ago
Reply to  Tony Pereira

Thanks, Tony. So stoked on this bike.

caesar
caesar
7 years ago

Overpriced.

Benjamin
Benjamin
7 years ago
Reply to  caesar

Hand made by Portlanders with health benefits, paid time off, fair wages, and job satisfaction.

Lester Burnham
Lester Burnham
7 years ago
Reply to  Benjamin

Considering how minimal this bike is, the retail is a bit much. Is this bike really offering that much more performance over any of the number of home brew fixies I see riding around this city? Are those people not “shredding” the town as well?

middle of the road guy
middle of the road guy
7 years ago
Reply to  caesar

That’s up to the buyer to decide.

I bought a Vanilla back in 2008. Was it very expensive? Yes. Overpriced? No. I accepted that it was what I was willing to pay for something I wanted.

Eric
Eric
7 years ago

Jeezus…this crowd sometimes….

Same people that would go on Autoblog and complain/vent overt the Porsche 918 Spyder not have a big enough trunk for their cargo, or that it looks hard to get out of and is too expensive.

This is a special bike, for $pecial people, if they choose to buy it. Give Sacha a high five and be glad he is making something fresh and new for cry’in out loud. Diversity makes this industry interesting!

If our only bike choice on this planet was a practical commuter bike with full outfit of fenders/lights/lock/etc. strictly for serious-faced transportation, I would shoot myself.

Peter from Swobo
7 years ago

I think a lot of folks making negative comments have never tried to make a bike nor own a bike company. I don’t know Sasha, but did recently see one of these bikes in person here in Fort Collins. It’s an awesome bike. For everyone? No. Expensive? Yes. Worth it? If it is for you, that’s all that matters. People buy bikes for lots of reasons. “Too expensive” is relative. Hell, we get that on our bikes even on the low end. What isn’t relative is the craftsmanship and work that goes into this bike. What isn’t relative is Sasha’s carving out a niche for himself and employees. I think that’s fantastic and worth applauding.

jered bogli
jered bogli
7 years ago

YEAH!! Nice work Sacha!! Glad to see this thing get released!!

MORE SHRED ON EVERYTHING! Plant a foot and skid the back out to stop – I try to do this at least once per ride – it creates smiles on all faces! BIkes are fun and more fun if you have fun on them.

Dabby McCrashalot
Dabby McCrashalot
7 years ago

I sometimes wonder if people really understand the therapeutic value of a well laid out skid.

Butter.

U.D.
U.D.
7 years ago

Hell yeah. That shit was dope when I was little.

I’ve had singlespeed on the brain for a few months considering how finicky my road bike can be. I want I ride that I can just “do.” Fuck gears, fuck cadence, fuck grades, elevation, heart rate, watts…lmao

This bike is inspiring. I’ll be building something similar with at least a disc on the front for practical, not dying, reasons. 🙂

Brian
Brian
7 years ago

Beautiful bike, Sacha. I appreciate the quality, and business model, you pursue. We could use more people creating “small” business models such as yours.
Brian (Serg’s friend)

Ward
Ward
7 years ago

5 grand is a lot to pay for a fashion accessory. But conspicuous consumption being what it is, I’m sure there are a few mustachioed trust-funders who can’t wait to get one.

Ward
Ward
7 years ago

I must assume that this company is an advertiser on BP, which would explain this free publicity puff piece. Yuck.

Brian
Brian
7 years ago
Reply to  Ward

Or because people like me (the same people who enjoy things like the handmade bike show) enjoy pieces such as this.

pengo
pengo
7 years ago
Reply to  Ward

Indeed. Your worldly cynicism has blown the lid off of this scandal and will surely keep us safe from future Positive Opinions of Opulent Products. Solid work, citizen.

Matt
Matt
7 years ago

Sacha Sacha SACHA! You must please us ALL, ALL of the time 😉
Will anyone be forced to buy one?
Maybe a poor comparison but there’s a car built by Bugatti. It’s called the Veyron and has 16 cylinders and can reach around 268mph. It also cost $1.5m. Practical? HA!
All of them sold.
It’s super easy to diss and snark, but no one is in control of you and your wallet but you.Think this is fekkin’ rad and can afford it? ORDER NOW! Think it’s overpriced and “I can make one for $100”? Then make one for $100 and HAVE FUN!
Apples and oranges.
Love the bike (the one you ride).

sacha white
7 years ago
Reply to  Matt

Thanks, Matt. I appreciate your positivity.

patrick
patrick
7 years ago

YES! Bring back the coaster brake. Its so unpunk its punk again!

Nate Meschke
7 years ago

Hey Sacha. It’s been a pleasure watching this bike come together! Not sure what has been more entertaining, this build process or reading the armchair commenters’ opinions.

Just want to say congrats! You’ve been designing/building for a long time and sometimes what is needed to keep us working at this industry for another 10 years is the inspired fun we find in projects like this one. This is simply a highly curated version of the kick-around bike that got most of us into loving bikes in the first place. Looks like pure fun to me. I’ll take one!

sacha white
7 years ago
Reply to  Nate Meschke

Thanks, brother. Well said.