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 Bike Industry, Frame Builders, Interviews, Messengers
Tagged austin cycling, austin texas frame builder, bike messengers, custom bicycles, lauren trout, new england frame builders, saila bicycles, seven cycles, 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 Bike Industry, Frame Builders, History, Interviews
Tagged alternative needs transportation, ant bikes, ben serotta, boston frame builders, chris chance, custom frame builders, fat city cycles, geekhouse bikes, iglehart, independent fabrication, mike flanigan, new england frame builders, peter weigle, richard sachs, seven cycles, whitcomb cycles
Frank The Welder. Photo by Bear Cieri.
Frank Wadelton, aka Frank The Welder, is a legendary figure in American frame building. He’s worked at Yeti, Spooky, Mongoose, and many others and had a tremendous influence on mountain bike design. These days he builds under his own name, Frank The Welder. This short film from Jake Goss provides a great glimpse into Frank’s life and career history.
Posted in Art, Cyclocross, Everything Else, Frame Builders
Tagged cycling documentary, frame builder history, frank the welder, frank wadelton, ftw inc, mongoose, mountain bike history, new england frame builders, spooky, turner, yeti
Firefly founders (L-R) Kevin Wolfson, Jamie Medeiros, and Tyler Evans. Photo from Firefly Bicycles flickr.
When Firefly Bicycles came onto the scene in 2011, the cycling world quickly took notice of their colorful anodizes graphics and clean titanium welds. The three founders, Jamie Medeiros, Tyler Evans, and Kevin Wolfson launched Firefly after jumping ship from Independent Fabrications when the company announced plans to move its operations to New Hampshire. In the years since launching, Firefly has established itself among the upper tiers of custom frame builders. I spoke to Kevin about the company and their frame building philosophies, their backgrounds with I.F. and beyond, American frame building’s deep roots in New England, and more.
Angles & Poise, a bike blog focused on the high-end and boutique end of cycling, put together a neat infographic tracing the history of the New England frame building world. The timeline starts back in 1972 with Witcomb and Serotta and goes all the way to present day with companies like Firefly, Tomii, and Chapman. Click the picture above to see the full version. Fingers crossed they give the same treatment to other regions of the country with a high concentration of frame builders!
Posted in Art, Bike Industry, Everything Else, Frame Builders, History
Tagged angles and poise, boston bike companies, custom frame builder, firefly, new england frame builders, richard sachs, serotta