Handcrafted Cruisers: Artisan Bicycle Manufacturers
Maybe it’s the rise in gas prices or the national healthy lifestyle movement. Or perhaps it’s due to an increase in overall environmental awareness. No matter the reason, an international cycling boom is afoot. While bike sharing programs in major cities like New York and London provide easy access to public bikes, commuters who’d rather support independent brands and cruise the streets in their own style opt for artisan, handmade bicycles.
While deployed overseas in the military, competitive cycler Aaron Dykstra found himself sketching bike frames, yearning for his riding days in Roanoke, VA. Upon returning to the United States, he studied the art of frame building under master Japanese builder Koichi Yamaguchi. Soon, Six-Eleven Bicycle Co. was born. Armed with his tools, his torch and his own two hands, Dykstra cuts and miters every tube, matching each bike to its intended owner.
At HERObike in rural Alabama, cycles are more than just a way to get from one place to another; they are a vehicle for lasting, positive change. This non-profit company makes eco-sound bicycles – as well as DIY bike-building kits – out of locally grown bamboo. “We wanted to use what we already had in the community to create jobs,” says Pam Dorr, executive director of parent organization HERO. Through its bike business, HERO has so far implemented four full-time jobs and trained more than 75 students in the field of small-scale, green manufacturing.
Like its watches, wallets and journals, Shinola’s bikes are made by hand in the USA. “Our bikes stand out because of the unique styling, the attention to detail and the handcrafted care and skill of our USA frame makers and our in-house assembly,” says Sky Yaeger, director of bicycle product development. The company is based in Detroit, but each frame gets its start at Waterford Precision Cycles factory in Waterford, WI. This legendary facility was once used to mass-produce Schwinns, but now it thrives due to its personalized, small-scale approach to frame building.
More than just two wheels, a seat and a set of handlebars, cycles are a tangible reflection of one’s own personal values. What kind of statement do you want your bike to make to the world?