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.
I love seeing frame builders gain notoriety through supporting grassroots cycling teams. Not to say that Aaron Stinner wouldn’t be as popular today without building the Mudfoot racing cyclocross frames, but it certainly helped.
Aaron is lucky enough to have a decent sized workspace set up in his garage and he’s even luckier to have a great ride just seconds from his front door. As his queue stacks up, Aaron continues to crank out road, cross and MTB frames for customers, who happen to be mostly from California. Many of which are looking to race on a steel frame, made in their home state, rather than buy overseas production.
Stinner Frameworks is still new in the grand scheme of things, but if Aaron continues at the current momentum, he could vary well be the next big thing…
Paul Sadoff is a character. His personality has a patina. One that’s formed over years of racing pedigree and loud music. The name of his company was derived by the B-52’s billboard hit but before Paul would name his brand Rock Lobster, he had to have built a MTB first. “I couldn’t call it Rock Lobster if I didn’t have a MTB” Paul said when asked about the origins of his namesake… Then he built a MTB and the world changed for the frame builder.
The logo was even derived from MTB riding. Those blocks holding the letters represent rubble falling down the trail as you’re riding…
His frames have always been some of my favorite in the industry. These no-nonsense bikes are straight-forward, tig-welded masterpieces. Yes, utilitarian art – I’m standing by that phrase. Paul builds each frame in an industrial building within the Santa Cruz city limits. His own space is literally littered with cycling memorabilia from the past twenty years (even longer?) and is a gold mine of interestingness.
From track to TT, each of Sadoff’s frames bear some uniqueness and have a story to tell. Even the various crash-replacements…
While I was in town for the Giro #SantaCruzEffect, our group of 10 journalists swung through Rock Lobster to see Paul and his space. It was probably one of the most rushed Shop Visits I’ve done to date, but I managed to gain some understanding as to how Paul works and what makes Rock Lobster tick… Check out a narrated Gallery for more!
Erik Noren. There can be only one. This man makes me laugh more than anyone else at NAHBS. Every year, the man behind Peacock Groove outdoes himself and wows the crowd with his tribute bikes. Some are Voltron-themed, others pay homage to the Evil Dead, while others are just so damn rad! Peacock Groove is unlike any other frame company I know of…
While I expected to see Erik in the throes of production for NAHBS, I didn’t expect to see his long-time side project “The Plus System” underway. While I won’t go into too much detail on what the Plus System is, I will say it’s a line of in-house designed and manufactured headsets, available with a Peacock Groove frame. There’s more to come on that – at NAHBS, for now, let’s look at some photos from Erik’s well kempt work space.
While we were visiting Peacock Groove in Minneapolis, I popped over to see Alex at A-train‘s space, which is on the same floor as Peacock and other builders. While he wasn’t working on an A-train frameset (he was retrofitting a road bike with belt drive rockers), I got to check out his space and shoot a few photos. It’s not much, but hopefully next time I’ll get to photograph Alex working on some of his wonderful brazing.
Check out a few more below.
Brent Foes is no stranger to metal fabrication. He began working in the automotive industry, designing trucks and other off-road vehicles for brands like Ford and Nissan before he opened Foes Racing in 1993.
Since then, Brent’s been pursuing the perfection of the long travel system (LTS) mountain bike at his shop in Pasadena, California, where, over the year’s he’s had race machines under some of the fastest pros in the world.
His bikes are no-nonsense trail machines. Most of the work is done on-site and Brent welds each frame himself. At Interbike last year, Foes unveiled a 27.5 XC machine that weighed 23lbs complete. That’s light for a full sus MTB, much less one that’s made in the USA.
Last week, I had the opportunity to tour the Foes facility before picking up a bike to demo, meet Brent briefly and see the man at work. It was an incredible experience and one that I’ll outline in the Gallery!
If you’re in the market for something different, contact FOES for your next build!