Now that several years have passed since the sun set on the Golden Age of Portland Bike Builders it might be hard to recall just how big a deal it was.
There was a time (from 2007 to 2013 give or take) when Portland was inarguably the epicenter of America’s framebuilding renaissance. People moved here to learn the art and craft of making bikes, builders crammed together in workshops, handmade bikes were welcomed into places like the Portland Airport, the Sentinel Hotel ballroom, the lobby of Wieden + Kennedy, and the City Hall atrium, and we even hosted the world’s largest handmade bicycle show.
But as Portland changed, so too did its framebuilding scene. Interest waned and that exciting cultural moment passed us by. Today just a few of those builders remain.
Through it all, one of the brightest stars was a quietly confident young builder from the Buckman neighborhood named Sacha White. In custom bike circles he was nothing short of a rock star. Even to people who only saw his Vanilla Bicycles creations on the internet, they seemed to have a mythical quality about them. There was something about the clean aesthetic of the bikes, the reverence for details, and undeniable quality that set them apart from everything else.
White started making bikes under his Vanilla Bicycles moniker in 1999. By the time I met him in 2005 he already had a multi-year waitlist and a level of attention even he couldn’t explain. Two years later he launched Speedvagen and welcomed other accomplished artisans into his shop to make the Vanilla ethic more accessible. Today the Vanilla Workshop remains a leader in the handmade bike world.
The shop’s latest creation is the Vanilla Classic, a bike that attempts to push boundaries while staying firmly connected to its roots.
Here’s what the company says about it:
“2020 hasn’t had too much going for it, but it has produced a renaissance for the bicycle. This rebirth has moved us to celebrate our origins.
In 1999 Sacha created Vanilla Bicycles, based on the simple idea that it is what the builder does with their material, that makes a truly rarified bicycle experience. Craft, style, obsession, and live on the spot design decisions, where every single part on the bike was considered, launched Vanilla to the forefront of the custom bicycle world. This created overwhelming demand and a multiple year long waitlist. With the waitlist came collectors and bikes that would get dusty, not muddy and ridden as intended.
Our bikes are built to be ridden!
Speedvagen was created in 2007, to take the same handcrafted approach of Vanilla and apply it for cyclists that want to ride hard. Sacha surrounded himself with talented fabricators, obsessive painters, edgy designers and world class mechanics. The Vanilla Workshop grew from this passionate collaboration, quickly creating the Speedvagen we know today: a bike stripped of bullshit with only the details that matter to our people.
As we look to the future, it is important to celebrate our past, and in the spirit of taking it to 11, this November, we release a modern racing machine, wrapped in the original colors of our Vanilla DNA.
A throwback to the flavors of the early 2000’s, mixed with what is now possible when today’s shop is having some fun.”
This beautiful bicycle will be limited to a run of just 44 bikes — 11 each in Race Red, Curtes Silver, Alpers Blue, and Classic Vanilla Cream (a third of the lot is already spoken for). The bikes are fillet brazed with superlight Speedvagen Custom tubing and a special Dura Ace groupset with a hand-polished finish.
The Classic is fully custom so you’ll have to ask how much it’ll cost to own one. And just a hint: If you have to ask, it’s probably more than you can spend.
For full parts spec options and other fun details, check out Speedvagen.com.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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