Gravel - Cycle Oregon

Circling back to Portland bike builder Circa Cycles

Posted by on June 14th, 2018 at 11:07 am

Rich Fox in his Circa Cycles studio in northwest Portland.
(Photo: James Buckroyd)

Contributor James Buckroyd writes about products and the people who make them. He previously visited Misia Pitkin’s Double Darn cycling cap studio.

BikePortland first caught up with Rich Fox and Circa Cycles about four years ago, when the company was new on the Portland scene. Since then, there have been several interesting developments and we thought it’d be fun to circle back.

(Photo: Circa Cycles)

Circa has a unique engineering approach to bicycle design. Bike frames are made from a modular kit of parts – something like an advanced LEGO set. Each part has been highly engineered and produced in Oregon, and because of this, each aspect of Circa’s bikes are highly thought-out. Even personalization is applied via lasers, for a durable and a hyper-custom look, where each graphic is unique to the owner.

This is just the tip of the iceberg — what lies beneath is Circa’s deep purpose. Since its inception, Fox has stood behind a deep belief of bicycles being made in the USA. He wanted to re-think American bicycle production and counter Asian mass production by being locally-sourced with 100 percent of Circa’s frames being made right here in Oregon.

Over the past four years Circa has made some important business changes to stay relevant:

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➤ Custom Fits – Initially Circa offered a smaller range of standard sizes thinking it would be easier to achieve its goals. It turned out that Circa’s modular approach to bike design was perfectly suited to make custom geometry, providing a more valuable product for its consumers. Circa can now accommodate bicycle designs from 45cm (very small) all the way to a 59cm (large) sized bicycle. This size range is difficult to achieve by most large volume manufacturers.

(Photo: James Buckroyd)

➤ Full Design Workshop — “We found people wanted to be immersed in the process”, says Fox. The original consultation studio in NW Portland has been transformed to include Circa’s manufacturing shop. The goal was for customers see and feel the craft that goes into each bike, allowing them to be a part of the process from shopping for their bike, the fit session, and, finally, producing their bike.

➤ More Visual Options — Circa’s process allows for the customization of colors and graphics. Each customer can express a graphical story or completely unique look. Recently Circa developed a custom bike for local business owner John Connor that expressed the brand of MadeHere PDX stores (one of Circa’s dealers).

➤ Increased Range of Bikes — The original platform was based on a road bicycle, but Circa now caters to a wider market. Not to be a one-trick-pony, Circa developed more bike styles to appeal to different consumers. This increase in range fits nicely with the company’s modular approach to construction, where resources are saved and common parts used. An “all road” bike with fatter tires and a flat bar city bike have been added.

➤ Retail Collaborations — To spread the word, Circa has ventured out by partnering with more retail spaces and can be seen in MadeHerePDX Mississippi and Pearl District Locations and Crank Bicycles in southeast Portland.

➤ Rapid Prototyping / Production — The world keeps moving and technological improvements in engineering prototyping have helped CIRCA achieve faster turnaround times (typically under four weeks) and more custom options.

What lies ahead..

Circa Cycles generates a lot of excitement once people get a closer look. Part of the challenge for this company is getting hands and eyeballs on the products. Fox’s vision for the future is a stronger online presence to build the brand and get more in-person interactions to better expose the world to his creations.

The details:

Bicycle frames starting at $1995
Full bicycles starting at $3200
www.ridecirca.comThe studio is open for visits by appointment.

— James Buckroyd, @jbucky1 on Instagram and Buckyrides.com

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3 Comments
  • maxD June 14, 2018 at 1:56 pm

    I love the look of that precision milling and the finishes look amazing! Any idea why the largest size is a 59? That seems small to me. Why not include an XL option, up to 62 or so?

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    • Rich Fox June 14, 2018 at 5:20 pm

      Hi Max-

      Thanks for liking our work! We consider our 61.6mm stack height frame to be an XL and it should fit most riders in the 6’1″-6’3″ range. For folks beyond that or who have atypical proportions, we can also do custom geometry. You can see our stock frame geometry table if you scroll to the bottom of this link: http://www.ridecirca.com/mabel-frameset/

      Best-

      Rich

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  • Matt M June 19, 2018 at 1:04 pm

    Very cool idea! How big of tires are we talking about on the all-road frame? 650b?

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