As you can probably tell, I’ve been really stoked on what Chumba is doing here in Austin, Texas. During MTB season earlier this year, I caught up with Vince, who was riding the first prototype Ursa 29+ MTBs. At the time, Chumba’s production was in Oregon, but in recent months, they’ve moved all production in house, using USA-made tubing…
Good Things Don’t Change at Mercian Cycles
Photos and words by Jim Holland
Sometimes good things don’t change, Mercian Cycles is one of those things.
The current workshop has sat in the same spot since 1965, watching as modern industrial buildings crop up around it and other older workshops disappear. Underneath the steeped, church like ceiling, little has changed and the intermittent clang of tubes and scraping of files ring out as they have done for the last 50 years whilst one by one, men make bicycles by hand.
Frames are still brazed free hand on an open hearth, as they have been since day one, amongst the very last practitioners of this method, Mercian believes it to be gentler on the tubes, which contributes to the longevity of the frame. Die hard Reynolds stalwarts, they don’t often stray from Birmingham steel and have a good stock of 531 for the true nostalgist.
One of just a handful of England’s traditional shop based builders that remain, the torches are still firing brightly and the benches are seldom dormant as the orders keep pouring in, one of them mine, I’m counting the days.
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Embracing the Aroma at the Buffalo Trace Distillery
Words and photos by Kyle Kelley
Last winter, while I was home in Indiana for the holidays, my parents and I decided to head across the Ohio River to Bourbon Country for a visit to Buffalo Trace. Unlike many of the other touristy distilleries in Kentucky, Buffalo Trace is not fancy and they sure as hell don’t pump perfume into the air to mask the smell of the sour mash.
I pretty much wait all year to get this email. It’s short and simply reads;
“The bikes are ready. When can I expect you?”
This shop’s been on my radar since I first came to Kauai, four years ago and yet, this trip was the first one that brought me through its doors. Kauai Cycle is a small shop, located in what many consider to be an island paradise. For those visiting, but not wanting to schlep a bike on a plane, they do high end road and MTB rentals.
My favorite part about visiting shops like this are the little details, which you can check out in this short but sweet Gallery. Also, how good is that shirt?
Thanks to Jonny and Chris for taking me out on a MTB ride last Sunday. Mahalo!
The idea of “free” these days usually comes with a catch, yet when the Levi’s Commuter Workshops popped up in Brooklyn, LA and London, free really does mean free. A free desk to work at, free bike repair / wash areas, free coffee, free wifi and yes, free tailoring. So what’s the catch? No, really, there isn’t one.
Pace Sportswear has been around longer than any other cycling cap manufacturer in the United States. So long that even Italian brands like Campagnolo used them back in the early 80’s. The day I arrived in Los Angeles, Sean from Team Dream took me by Pace to see their operations.
I know cycling caps aren’t exactly saving the world, but when you think of domestic production, employee people and keeping an industry alive, it directly affects the US cycling industry.
If and when I ever do caps, Pace will be my choice.
I’ve been to Baum Cycles before, a few years back but in that time, both Darren and myself have made a few big moves and while Baum is still in a large bit of expansion, it’s fun to see what the future is holding for the Geelong-based frame builder.
Geelong has long been a center of manufacturing in Australia and even though the major factories have since left, Baum is alive and pulsating with energy.
The biggest change at Baum is the new physical queue. Literally, every customer, from the second they get a fitting and make a deposit, has a cubicle that rolls on a rack. If the customer holds up the queue, their spot gets bumped back and when your cubicle is at the end of the rack, it’s time to get built.
This gives not only Darren and his employees a physical reference for work, but it allows them to keep their customer’s parts and papers in order. Darren then took it further and established a color-coordinated production chart. These colors indicate what needs to happen and when. The specifics I’ll leave a secret, because, you know, Darren worked hard on it!
Unlike their color-coordinated system, Baum has always been very open with their final product. Their new factory space, albeit a work-in-progress, will open the inner workings of their facility up to potential and current customers.
I visit a lot of frame builders and Baum always impresses. Check out the Gallery for more insights into how Baum is keeping industry alive in Geelong, Victoria.
Since 1866, Brooks England has been making bicycle saddles in the UK. While their original facilities were located in Birmingham, the current factory is nestled in the industrial town of Smethwick.
We’ve all probably owned a Brooks saddle at one point in our life and can attest to their longtime comfort and character that develops from heavy use. Before a saddle ever touches a seat post, they begin as just raw leather and steel. The process by which they make the transformation to a bicycle saddle is complex, yet streamlined in their bustling factory.
Dozens of employees make Brooks England tick and each has their special task. While they will transfer stations every few months, a unique marker on the saddles can tell you who was doing what, when. This catalog of information spans decades and is what makes Brooks so unique. If something goes wrong with a batch, Brooks can asses the situation and make their end product better.
For me, the most interesting part of the process was talking to the workers and watching them move through their tasks with efficiency… In an age when Great Britain has shipped much of its industry overseas, it’s great to see heritage and craftsmanship are still alive at Brooks.
See more in the Gallery, as I walk you through this process.
This morning, after no sleep and a long day of traveling, I landed at Heathrow with the sunrise. In fact, I’m pretty sure it was the sun, peeking through the neighbor’s window, hitting me in the face that kept me from getting an iota of sleep.
I hopped on the Express train and made my way to the hotel, before taking a stroll with the PEdAL ED team around the neighborhood.
Holding onto consciousness, in an almost sleepwalking state, we swung through a few shops, all of which I’d like to spend more time combing through the details and doing proper Shop Visits at, but in the interest of time, I’ll have to go with these random details.
Kinoko was amazing. One of the nicest shops I’ve been in and the Rapha Cycle Club was quite the experience… I’m here with Brooks England, for their Eroica event and our days are pretty packed, but I’ll do my best to document our journey.