Category Archives: Bike Industry

Episode 9 – Stevil Kinevil

Steve Smith, better known as Stevil Kinevil, has been working in the bike industry for over two decades. In that time he’s been everything from a warehouse shipper to bike messenger to pro circuit mechanic to product tester. For the last 10 years of that he’s been chronicling his exploits in bikes, art, music, and drinking … first on Swobo’s How To Avoid The Bummer Life blog and now on his website All Hail The Black Market. Stevil’s experience gives him a long perspective on how the bike industry and bike world is changing for better or worse.

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Photo by Forrest Arakawa

Davey Oil: The Radical Activist Pushing Family Bikes in the Mainstream

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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.

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Bill Davidson: Seattle’s Legendary Frame Builder

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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.

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Lauren Trout: The One Woman Show at Saila Bicycles

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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.

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Mike Flanigan: Frame Builder History with ANT Bike Mike

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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.

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