Garrett Kautz started Strawfoot Handmade out of a desire to make clever bags and accessories for his friends. Five years on, Strawfoot produces a collection of bags out of natural or repurposed materials. Strawfoot also makes the occasional limited availability product such as gear bags for Niner and leather BB gun straps for Blackburn Designs (for cyclocross biathlon relay race for the Rangers camp). The designs within his collection are simple but surprisingly functional. Materials are natural or domestically made whenever possible and fasteners are steel or brass as opposed to plastic. Every piece in the collection is designed for durability and to gain character with age and use. I spoke with Garrett in his backyard several weeks ago (as he juggled his toddler on his lap) to get a feel for the operation… READ MORE ->
Posts in the category Interviews
Gevenalle, or Retroshift as it was known in the Beforetimes, was forged in the cold, muddy pits of Portland cyclocross to address a need for durable, serviceable, cross-specific componentry. Years on, founder Adam Clement continues to charge forward with the fourth version of his iconic shifter and brake lever system as well as a suite of similarly thoughtful and functional drivetrain components designed to keep racers racing in the most extreme course conditions in style…
Having apprenticed under Paul Sadoff for years at Rock Lobster and gotten his formal building education at UBI with Albert Eisentraut as his instructor, Jeremy SyCip got his start with a heck of a frame building pedigree. In recently downsizing his operation from a massive space in bustling downtown Santa Rosa to his home garage, Jeremy SyCip has embraced efficiency with fewer machines, less time in commute, and less time walking across the factory floor between building operations. I spoke with him about getting his start and some of his more recent projects in this shop at the SyCip Family Compound near Annandale State Park… READ MORE ->
Like most great bicycle tools, the first repair stand was born our of necessity. The first prototype for the first production bike stand was welded together in the back of a hardware store in St. Paul, Minnesota. Fabricated to place the drivetrain of the bike at a comfortable working height, the stand was a huge improvement over working on a bike upside down on the floor. Five decades later, the descendants of this stand and the specialty tools developed in parallel are so pervasive within American cycling culture that it is almost inconceivable to see a shop or race pit without them.
The story of Park Tool is the story of establishing and supporting the American bicycle dealership as a professionally independent entity. Now in its fifth location (if you include the original hardware store), Park Tool produces 3500 individual parts for over 400 individual tools to support component and bike companies as well as bike shops and, more recently, consumers. Owner Eric Hawkins, son of co-founder Howard Hawkins, sat down with me to discuss the origins and current educational emphasis of the friendly blue tool giant of the industry… READ MORE ->
Paul Price, AKA the founder of Paul Component Engineering, was always going to make stuff. Cool stuff. Having gotten his start building and selling skateboards in middle school, and making and installing his first set of cantilever brakes as a teenager, it seems like he was predestined from childhood to one day build a candy-colored component empire.
But it’s evident from speaking with Paul that he doesn’t take his empire for granted for a second, being one of the lone survivors of the slump in the component market that knocked out many of his domestic competitors in the nineties. He’s constantly evaluating himself and his product and always looking for new opportunities for new cool stuff, reserving a whole CNC machine in his factory for new product development at all times. “I ride most mornings. Come up with ideas. Can we make that? Do we know how to make that? There are days where I go for a ride, come up with an idea, get into the shop, and we’ll have a functional part by the end of the day. I think it’s pretty special that we can do that.”
When I visited his factory for a tour, we talked about the stories behind two bikes from his personal collection- bikes he built during critical times in the component company’s history… READ MORE ->
Blackburn emerged in a landscape where bicycles were beginning to be recognized in the US for their capabilities as dedicated vehicles of transportation rather than solely recreationally or race purposed. Capitalizing on the opportunity to support the emerging need, Jim Blackburn started the ball rolling to create gear that allowed riders to carry what they needed while getting out there on their own.
The resurgence of the Blackburn brand over the past several years can, at least partially, be linked to its brand manager Robin Sansom. Arriving at Blackburn with a healthy industry pedigree and a soft spot in his heart for cargo bikes and touring, Robin has worked to rectify the current brand with the legacy established by brand founder and spirit animal Jim Blackburn, through the Ranger Program and in product such as the Outpost Bag line.
A few weeks ago, I sat down with Robin in Santa Cruz to discuss the history and the context of the emergence of the brand as well as its current direction. READ MORE ->
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit a lovely nest of the small domestic bike industry in Northern California. My first builder to visit was Curtis Inglis, winner of this year’s Best Mountain Bike award at NAHBS with his tangerine fat bike. Raised in a family of roadies, Curtis fell in love with mountain biking later in life after getting out of the Air Force. Within a year of his first ride, he found himself as the new builder for Retrotec, a then fledgling bike brand out of Chico, after its first builder had left. A few years later, Curtis would shacked up with his friends the SyCip brothers in San Francisco. Whereas Curtis had been mostly self-taught, Jeremy SyCip was armed with formal building education and years of apprenticeship. It was there that Curtis honed his skills as a builder, learned how to build in straight tubes (initially a challenge) to establish his Inglis brand, and took control of Retrotec.
Twenty-four years on, Curtis has found a good rhythm in his one-man shop in Napa, at the heart of his which is his tube rolling machine, the vehicle by which he creates all of his obsessively curved, cruiser-style Retrotec frames. READ MORE ->
Compelled by his desire for a custom 29er singlespeed, Todd Ingermanson took up the torch 13 years ago to attempt to build his own. After several years apprenticing with Rick Hunter, he broke out on his own with Black Cat Bicycles and is now building and hand-painting custom to order frames out of his home workshop.
There are two very striking things about Todd’s shop, one being its scale and efficiency. There is no redundancy in machinery; there is a single very nice manual mill, a lathe, and a welding cart. It’s very clean. Everything that isn’t a machine is on wheels. It’s evident that this level of refinement is driven by the second very striking aspect of his operation: its location perched on the side of an extremely steep incline in Aptos, California (my rental car struggled to get up to it). During my visit, Todd and I spoke about his operation, his approach to frame-building, and his Manifesto.