Davey Oil in front of his family cargo bike shop in Seattle. Photo by Josh Cohen.
If you ride bikes in Seattle, you likely know a bit about Davey Oil. As co-owner of the family cargo bike shop G&O Family Cyclery he’s played a critical role in Seattle’s family biking boom. As a longtime bike activist, he’s worked for and been involved in Bike Works, Cascade Bike Club, the Bikery, critical mass and more. Having straddled the fence between the radical activist side of the bike movement and the insider-politics advocacy side, he has a valuable perspective on the growth of cycling-as-transportation in the city. I sat down with him at a coffee shop next to the Family Cyclery for a wide ranging conversation about his roots in activism, the rise and fall (and re-rise and re-fall) of Seattle critical mass, the mainstreaming of bike politics locally and nationally, the advocacy world’s struggles with diversity, the family biking boom, and much more.
Posted in Interviews, Bike Industry, Advocacy
Tagged bike works, bike activism, cascade bike club, cargo bikes, family biking, bike equity, davey oil, g&o family cyclery, seattle cycling, cargo biking, longtail cargo bikes, cycletruck, critical mass, seattle critical mass, diversity in cycling, family bike boom, the bikery
Bill Davidson in the new Davidson-Kullaway shop. Photo by Josh Cohen.
A few months ago, custom bike builders Bill Davidson of Davidson Bicycles and Max Kullaway of 333 Fabrication officially joined forces after many years of quiet partnership. One of the cool features of the new Davidson-Kullaway custom frame shop in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood is a picture window in the wall that separates the customer area up front from the workshop in the back. It allows customers to watch the pair at work building beautiful bikes. When I arrived at the shop last week, I did just that. Kullaway was behind a translucent screen welding up a frame. Davidson, looking like a blue collar scientist in his denim shop smock, was standing over a milling machine cutting tubes. Eventually, they noticed me standing there and Davidson joined me up front.
If you know anything about frame building, Davidson likely needs little introduction. He’s been in the business for over 40 years, which puts him in the company of just a handful of other American builders. When he got started in 1973 there barely was such a thing as a custom frame builder in the U.S. We sat down at his new shop to talk about his long career, learning to build bikes in the 70s, the evolution of the frame building business, his new venture with Kullaway, and more.
Posted in Interviews, Bike Industry, Frame Builders, History, Racing
Tagged bill davidson, max kullaway, seattle frame builders, custom frame builders, frame builder history, davidson custom bicycles, 333fabrication, davidson-kullaway bikes, mark pringle, george gibbs
Lauren Trout of Saila Bicycles. Photo from Saila Bicycles’ Facebook.
There’s something appropriate about a relatively unknown frame builder working under the name Saila (that’s alias spelled backwards). But though she’s not a household name, Lauren Trout’s got nearly a decade of experience under her belt building some of the world’s nicest titanium bikes. Those years rival or surpass plenty of big name builders with even bigger “personal brands.” Trout learned to wield a torch after getting hired as an entry-level finisher at Seven Cycles. She worked her way up to the production welding department where she spent years honing her skills building thousands of bikes. Last year she left Boston for Austin, Texas and went full time with her one-woman shop, Saila Bicycles. I spoke to Trout about her experience at Seven, striking out on her own, her long history as a bike messenger, the faddish explosion of custom companies, and much more.
Posted in Interviews, Bike Industry, Messengers, Frame Builders
Tagged bike messengers, seven cycles, new england frame builders, custom bicycles, lauren trout, saila bicycles, austin texas frame builder, austin cycling, women frame builders
ANT Bike’s Mike Flanigan with a Boston Roadster. Photo via ANT Bike flickr.
New England is a stronghold of American custom frame builders. Portland, OR may have more of them, but New Englanders have been at it longer. The U.S. custom frame building business traces its roots to the 1970s when Richard Sachs, Peter Weigle, and Ben Serotta learned the craft at Whitcomb Cycles in London. Of course, companies such as Schwinn and Huffy had been manufacturing bicycles in the U.S. for decades, but Sachs, Weigle and Serotta were among the first to bring the tailor-made style of bicycle building to the States. When they returned to New England in 1972, Weigle and Sachs started the short-lived Whitcomb USA. Serotta started Serotta Cycles. The three laid the foundation for many generations of builders to come in the region.
Flash forward to the late 80s, Fat City Cycles was in full swing and a young Mike Flanigan rolled into Boston from Texas and talked his way into a job in the paint department. Over his five years there he became a master painter and found the time to teach himself TIG welding. When Fat City was sold in the mid-90s, Flanigan and a few other Fat City refugees started Independent Fabrication. In the early 2000s, dissatisfied with the direction of his company, he left and launched his one-man, city and cargo bike-focused shop, Alternative Needs Transportation (ANT). Between Fat City, Independent Fabrication, and ANT, Flanigan has played an important role in shaping the modern frame building landscape. He also played a part in bringing city bikes to the American mainstream. I spoke to Flanigan about his deep history in the frame building world, Fat City’s major influence, the value and significant of custom bikes, and his recent closure of ANT bikes.
Posted in Interviews, Bike Industry, Frame Builders, History
Tagged seven cycles, new england frame builders, richard sachs, custom frame builders, independent fabrication, geekhouse bikes, mike flanigan, ant bikes, alternative needs transportation, ben serotta, peter weigle, whitcomb cycles, boston frame builders, iglehart, fat city cycles, chris chance
Glen Copus with a fleet of Elephants in Spokane. Photo by Ben Tobin via Elephant Bikes Facebook page.
For a man whose career has woven in and out of many major eras of bike history, Glen Copus has managed to fly under the mainstream radar remarkably well. He raced cyclocross in Santa Cruz in the late 70s and early 80s with American cross pioneers Laurence Malone and Dan Nall. He learned how to build bike frames from Keith Bontrager, one of the godfathers of mountain biking. Copus worked as a race mechanic in Europe for the US women’s road team in the 80s. He did production building for Serotta, Bontrager, and Rocky Mountain Bikes. He was in it and has the stories to tell. But one doesn’t get the impression that Copus ever wanted to be a bike industry “name” so much as he wanted to just go to the workshop, put his head down, and build amazing bicycles. When he launched his own bike company Elephant after an 18 year stint in metal fabrication, he chose the name in part to keep his own off the downtube. Today, Copus continues to build Elephant bikes out of his garage workshop in Spokane, WA–a mix of custom frame orders and small-batch production runs. In this interview, Copus discusses his long history in the bike world from shop rat to professional builder, life as a race mechanic, bike art versus commonsense craft, the business side of frame building, and more.
Posted in Interviews, Cyclocross, Bike Industry, Frame Builders, Mechanics
Tagged custom frame builder, serotta, elephant bikes, custom bike builders, glen copus, keith bontrager, rocky mountain bikes, bill woodul, santa cruz cyclocross, jeannie longo, laurence malone, dan nall