I Never Knew I Had a Sweet Tooth Until I Visited Sugar Wheel Works!
Photos and words by Kyle Kelley
I was introduced to Jude Gerace and her shop Sugar Wheel Works exactly three years ago. I saw a few photos of Jude and what looked like a bicycle laboratory on Chantal Anderson’s Instagram, one of my favorite modern photographers. She had shot photos of Jude and her space for Levi’s Commuter, but there was no link to an article or any more photos, so I started Googling. I was immediately taken to my friend Anna Maria’s website Pretty Damned Fast and was pleasantly surprised with more photos and even an interview with Jude, conducted by Anna Maria.
Before this, I had never seen someone dedicate a whole bike shop to just building wheels, so I started following along. Since the original interview on PDF, I’ve seen a shop visit with Path Less Pedaled, a few other videos, and have read a handful of other articles on the Sugar Wheel Works, but still hadn’t made it up to Portland to visit in person.
This all changed a couple of months ago when I was invited to Portland for the Speedvagen Workshop Build-Off. Once all of my travel was booked, I started making plans to visit Jude’s shop, but with the Speedvagen party on Saturday and Sugar being closed both Sunday and Monday, I didn’t think I was going to make it. And without my friend Jen Abercrombie, I don’t think I would have. I was leaving Tuesday afternoon and had no way of getting there before hopping on a plane until Jen volunteered driving me all over Portland to say goodbye to friends, shoot Sugar Wheel Works, and finally dropping me at the airport. So really, everyone should thank Jen for this story!
When I arrived Jude was upfront answering emails and chatting with customers on the phone, Ryan and Nick were building wheels, and Ozzie the shop pup was cold chilling! I introduced myself to everyone, we talked shop, and then I got to work. Trying not to disturb anyone, I started snooping around the shop taking photos of everything that caught my eye, only once did it seem like I was noticed (you’ll see this in the photoset), everyone was just so focused on their task. I then noticed a spinning chore wheel, that allowed for different names to be assigned to different task daily, and that’s when I knew Sugar Wheel Works was next level and this is exactly why they only do wheels. If they would put as much time and energy into the complete build of a bicycle, it would take years to deliver. But I’m telling you right now, it’d be the most perfect bike the customer would ever ride. They’d probably also put all other bike shops in Portland out of business.
The organization and processes put into place by Jude, really allows for amazing wheels to be built. Everything is noted, the wheels go through a strenuous quality control process that starts with the builder, but then is audited by someone else. With second-round QC, everything from logo alignment to true goes through a final inspection, with the final step being a certificate of build with, component spec, spoke lengths, keynotes about the build, and finally the builders signature.
I really feel like I could write about Sugar Wheel Works forever, so I really think I should direct you all to the photos now because there are a lot of them and I’d hate for you to run out of time and not see them all. Just remember Sugar Wheel Works will always be sweet and never salty. There’s so much saltiness in the cycling industry already, I think we all have a lot to learn from Jude and her team at Sugar Wheel Works!