The Mudroom

Higher Gear

Two Portland bike brands shorten the wait for handcrafted bicycles.

By Zach Dundas February 11, 2011 Published in the March 2011 issue of Portland Monthly

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A NEW BIKE whispers over industrial Northwest Portland’s rutted asphalt. The cycle’s buttery ride and price tag (more than $4,000) say luxury, but the vision behind it is as blue-collar as the neighborhood’s rusty factories.

Our cyclotopian city is home to many small-scale bike builders. But demand for artisan rides has a downside: getting a bike takes forever—up to five years, in some cases. Now a collaboration between the year-old frame-design company Beloved and the bike components manufacturer Chris King looks to capture hand-built mystique, while cutting waits and scaling up production.

Beloved and King, one of the cycling world’s most renowned parts makers, started collaborating last fall. Both seek to carve a niche between Taiwan-made mass production and one-off workmanship. Now a Beloved customer can order online, specify color, frame size, and saddle height. King’s builders will ship the thing within 10 weeks.

“We’re trying to take craft to a production level,” says James Selman, one of Beloved’s owner-designers. “Can we have one substantial company that builds bikes in Portland?”

Chris King’s Northwest factory employs more than 70 specialists to forge parts. In one corner, three of those workers now weld US-milled steel into Beloved’s Parisian-inspired, upright city bikes—including the Every Day, described above—alongside the sportier models made by Cielo, the house brand King relaunched two years ago after a long hiatus. A limited-edition Beloved designed for the bike-clothing company Rapha caused a splash this winter—in part for its $5,100 asking price. Selman sees higher prices as a natural by-product of cycling’s consumer coming of age.

“This is a bike you invest in to ride every day for years,” the designer says. “Bikes are in offices and professional environments now. And if someone decides to buy a special bike instead of a second Mini Cooper, so much the better.”

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