Archives of stories on Portland Framebuilders
On the 10th anniversary of her Sugar Wheel Works company, Portlander Jude Gerace has decided to move on. But the good news for Portland’s bike industry is that Sugar has been bought by Breadwinner Cycles.
Later today, Breadwinner owners Tony Pereira and Ira Ryan will announce their plans to welcome Sugar’s existing employees, tools, and inventory into their space on 2323 North Williams Avenue. Jude will stay on as an advisor for three months to help with the transition. [Read more…]
Portland’s framebuilder scene has changed a lot since its heyday more than a decade ago. At one point it felt like a new builder would arrive on the scene every month. Builders were the toast of the town and were invited to display their creations everywhere from City Hall to City Club and even the Portland Airport.
The boom has passed and the number of local framebuilders has shrunk back to just a handful. The builders that remain are mostly the ones that seemed to have always been here. Sacha White is one of them.
White’s Vanilla Bicycles were some of the most coveted bicycles on the planet. “What Tiffany is to pearls, Sacha White is to bicycle frames,” was how he was introduced to a group of business leaders at an event in 2007. Now known as The Vanilla Workshop, a collaborative approach to business White launched in 2015, he and his team of bicycle artisans continue to set standards in the industry.
The Vanilla Workshop’s Richard Pool recently got in touch to share their latest “Ready Made” offering from the Speedvagen family. White stopped making only one-off, custom bikes long ago. Like other builders, he realized it’s impossible to scale-up and get more of your bikes on the road when you make everything by yourself with your own two hands. White found a niche doing small-batch builds. Vanilla’s Ready Made bikes are semi-custom. They start with a stock geometry and design and build a run of sizes. Customers can then choose a parts kit, paint and which braze-ons (attachment points for racks, pump, bottles, fenders) they’d like.
Their latest Speedvagen Ready Made model is the Disc OG. Here’s more from the company:
“The Speedvagen Disc OG is presented without preciousness. There are no frills, the Disc OG is a dedicated hand crafted tool for road riding and racing. It’s a workhorse. Following our Speedvagen method of stripping away all that isn’t necessary we landed on a bike that is ready to rip and easy to work on, or upgrade later. The frame design uses our own Speedvagen tubing, signature seat mast, hour glass seat stays, head tube and race ready stock geometry, perfect for long days in the saddle or sprints to the line.”
The bike comes with a standard build kit that can be upgraded and customized to your wishes. The base price for a complete bike is $5995 and it takes $500 to reserve one. Wait time is just 2-3 months, a relative blink of the eye compared to the 3-4 year wait back in Vanilla’s custom days.
More details on their website.
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The Camp Fire that ravaged through the small town of Paradise, California burned through the shop of a former Portland bicycle builder.
Mitch left Portland for Chico, California in 2012 to be closer to family. He had recently opened a shop nestled in the woods in Paradise. I haven’t heard directly from Mitch yet, but friends say his new home and shop were completely destroyed in the fire. He lost everything — parts, supplies, machines, tools — and escaped with only the clothes on his back.
As Portland’s largest bicycle company, Chris King Precision Components is in a unique position to be an industry leader. With the success of their mini-summit of bike builders and industry movers and shakers that wrapped up with a big open house event Saturday, the 42-year-old company seems to be embracing that role.
The halls of the Chris King factory were jam-packed for the “Open House” show on Saturday. Among massive industrial machines and assembly rooms that put together some of the most respected and sought after bicycle components in the world, hundreds of bicycle lovers got an close-up look at a very special selection of bicycles and the builders who create them.
For the man behind the brand, Chris King, the gathering must have felt bittersweet. A framebuilder himself, King decided to cease production of his Cielo brand just over one year ago so his company could focus more closely on its core business: designing, making, and selling bottom brackets, headsets, and hubs. King, who still spends about three days a week in the shop, is obsessive about quality and his company makes nearly every piece of their products themselves (yes, even the bearings). Manufacturing products in the United States is hard enough without having to constantly react to the whims of product managers and marketers who seem to push a new wheel size, head-tube size or axle configuration every season.
The ride for Renovo Hardwood Bicycles is over.
The website is gone. No one responds to emails. The building at SE 8th and Ash that has housed its factory since 2008 is for lease. And there’s a lien notice posted to the front door.
According to the notice, Kenneth Wheeler of Renovo Designs LLC owes $34,864.53 in rent that hasn’t been paid since May.
This is a sad ending to a company that was once one of the bike industry’s shining stars.
Wheeler launched Renovo at the 2008 North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) in Portland. With experience and success making hardwood lighting fixtures and airplanes, Wheeler figured out how to make bicycle frames with a CNC machine. When I first visited his shop in February 2008 he proudly watched his CNC machine at work and said it would be done with the frame in five minutes. Not only were the frames beautiful and relatively easy to produce (or so it seemed), Wheeler said they tested stronger than high-grade aluminum.
He was clearly on to something.