We’re launching a new feature today on The Bicycle Story called My First Bike. My First Bike explores the origins of professional frame builders by going back to the start and looking at the first bike they ever built. The inaugural My First Bike features Tony Pereira—Portland, OR-based frame builder, multi-time North American Handmade Bicycle Show prize winner, and master egg-poacher.
Give me the short rundown of your first bike: when was it built, where, materials, any special details about it, etc.
I built my first bike in 2003. At the time I was working in a bike shop in Salt Lake City and we were selling a fair number of 29ers. I liked the idea, but thought I could make some improvements, so my first bike was a 29er. I had been singlespeeding for a little while, so I made it a singlespeed too. The materials and construction were the same as what I use today: fillet brazed steel.
I started mountain biking in 1987 and started working in shops shortly after that. I remember seeing the early Ritchey, Fisher, and Salsa bikes and admiring the flow of the fillet brazing. When I started building I had a little brazing experience and was drawn to that technique because of those early mountain bikes.
I’m pretty much fully self taught. There were no other builders in Salt Lake, so I was left to my own devices. I discovered the Framebuilder listserv, so I had a community to turn to when I got stuck. But I mostly figured things out by trial and error.
I remember having an epiphany one day. I had built a few tall bikes, a crazy moped, and a cargo bike by hacking old frames apart and brazing and welding them back together. When I was building the cargo bike, I realized that I was on my way to building “real” bikes from scratch and I knew that I just had to do it. There was never any thought that it would just be a hobby. This was totally naive. I didn’t really know what I was doing and I had little idea how to run a business, but I was driven to make it happen. Luckily I had some great friends willing to help me work through my mistakes for the first couple of years. I’m forever grateful to them for helping me realize my dream.