I get by with the help of local businesses
October 07, 2009
Pictured above is the beautiful new bike I gave to my wife today for our combination anniversary and her birthday (her birthday happened to fall on a Saturday 9 years ago and so we got married on her birthday). Jeff McNamee started this team with the idea that we have a lot of local builders making cool stuff and though I was aware of several frame builders, it wasn't until I completed this bike project this morning that I fully understood it: there are loads of cool goods made in Portland and local environs.
It all started last month when local bike scene blogger Jonathan Maus of Bike Portland mentioned on twitter that local women-specific framebuilder Sweetpea bikes was starting to build off-the-peg semi-custom bikes in one of three sizes. Each frame has the similar-sized geometry averaged from previous full custom Sweetpea bikes. The program was announced with a 8 week lead time to get a bike (which is much quicker than the 2-3 years most framebuilders make you wait for full custom). I emailed Natalie at Sweetpea on the off chance she had one of the first prototypes or unsold first run bikes around. Lucky for me, she had one small frame in orange that could be built up just in time for the big day. I placed the order with an Ultegra build since the newest Ultegra has a simple adjustable throw for the brake levers, making them easier to use for my wife's small hands.
placing the order, I shopped around for some cool add-ons to help make
the bike more useful. I knew I wanted fenders and a rack on it, and I
thought wood fenders might look cool, so a bit of Google searching
later and I happened to find Paul Sykes making wood fenders in any size
and in numerous types of wood finishes, at a good price. I contacted
him by email and phone and I learned he was nearby in Portland. He was
nice enough to not only hand make a new set in bamboo just for me, but
he also took a break from his work and helped me install them yesterday
in his shop space.
The rack was one I noticed at the annual bike trade show Interbike, a simple and svelte stainless steel rack from Tubus. And though they are not local, the downtown location of the Bike Gallery was luckily a local seller of this German brand and helped tweak the mounts just right so it worked perfectly on this bike (at no extra charge, to boot).
I've always liked
the Queen Bee bike bags ever since I saw them show up on Bike Portland
a year or so ago. I thought they'd lend a nice final touch to the rack
(my wife currently uses some ugly technical bags to transport her
computer to work) and when I noticed they had a sale, I called to see
if I could pick up a set when I pick up the bike, rack, and fenders.
They said they were sold out of most designs but went the extra mile in
building a set just for me in a design they were out of, and they
rushed it in time for me to pick them up on the way home last night.
The bags are really nice, a soft leather-like fabric makes up most of the bag. The sides are buttoned by default and unbutton to extend the bag out, while at the same time have a reflective fabric to increase your visibility when expanded. There are carry straps hidden inside as well as a hidden pocket. They're pretty amazing things while looking great as well.
Today I put it all together and snapped a bunch of shots of it before giving it to her to ride and enjoy. She seemed to love it.
I put a lot of effort into providing great customer service in my own business, and I'm constantly disappointed when large companies treat me like crap. Getting this bike together required four different local companies to go the extra mile for me and they all did, going above and beyond even what I'd consider great customer service. Natalie at Sweetpea was nice enough to rush a build of a custom bike in just a couple weeks. The mechanic crew at Bike Gallery were as always, incredibly gracious and helpful. Paul at Sykes Fenders made me a custom set of fenders in just a few days and even helped me put them on the bike. The whole crew at Queen Bee came together to rush a new set of bags in just one day to help me finish off the bike.
I know I'm lucky to live in the Portland region, with its numerous bike-related businesses, but sometimes I forget and take it for granted that just outside of my backyard is some of the coolest, best looking, and best performing stuff available.