Bike Craft in Portland

7 Essential Bike Buying Tips

So, you’re finally going to buy a new bike. Exciting, but where do you start? Buying a bike can be an overwhelming and intimidating adventure, unless you’re armed with these very basic tips.

1) Know how you want to use the bike.

Do you want to go fast and zip around town? Carry everything? Bike tour? Mountain bike? Race cross? Sit upright? You’re not going to find a bike that has it all, so think through what is most important to you. Also, what are the shortcomings of your current bike? Think about your dream improvements – they’re out there – and be ready to clearly convey this to the shop staff right away so they can steer you in the correct direction.

2) Go during off-peak hours.

All bike shops want to sell you a bike, they truly do. But how much time they have to devote to little-ole-you depends on how busy the shop is, so go during off-peak hours. Generally this tends to be early to mid afternoon on weekdays.

3) Bring your list.

Write down what you want and what your questions are so you’re prepared. It’s easy to get flustered when surrounded by all the pretty bikes – and lose track of your goals. Do not leave the shop until all your questions are answered and you’ve conveyed everything you want to say. Do not be afraid to ask questions. You should have lots of questions. See #7.

4) Don’t buy the bike today.

Your bike should be a wise investment that lasts you for many years to come. Three years from now you should be miles into your ride thinking “Dang I love this bike!” Don’t rush into the process. First visit shops to test ride, take your time and explore. Visit many shops, try bikes on a whim. Ask around, conduct online research and get second and third opinions. It is perfectly acceptable to test ride a bike more than once.

5) Make sure the bike fits you correctly.

I wish this one didn’t make the list, but unfortunately it does. The majority of bike shops are doing a fantastic job of providing friendly service to get people on the right bikes, but I’ve heard too many stories of mis-sizing to let this one slide. Have the shop adjust your seat before you hit the road on a test ride. If it’s not comfortable, it’s not right for you. Adjust the seat some more and try a different size. If they don’t have your size, ask if they can get it. Do not buy the wrong size just because you want that bike. It’s not unheard of (nor common) for a shop to try to push someone onto the wrong size because it’s a bike they need to get rid of. To be fair, it is also not unheard of (and probably too common) for buyers to fail to analyze their own comfort before buying a bike.

6) Factor in accessories.

If you are new to owning a bike, it’s important to take into consideration your essential accessories. Your budget should include a high quality lock ($45), a helmet you’ll enjoy wearing (min. $35), front and rear lights (min. $30), a quality rain jacket that truly does the job ($100) and a home-use bike pump ($35). This could easily add up to $250-400 but these are long-lasting items you simply cannot do without.

7) You are in charge: do not be intimidated.

Bike shops can be intimidating for the uninitiated. Knowing what you want, research, your questions list are excellent tools to arm you with confidence. Don’t let shop staff make you feel nervous or uncomfortable. Remember: you’re the buyer, so you’re in charge. You should set the tone for how this transaction will go down. And when you’re relaxed, comfortable and excited, the result will be your dream bike and a bike shop filled with new friends. Or, hopefully something very close to that.

Happy bike shopping, and show us pictures of your new ride!


Maker Profile: Sacro-Bosco

Sacro-Bosco: Portland

Interview with William Cress

Website >>

Why make wooden wheels?
My first experience of wooden rims started when I purchased an old 1890’s track bicycle. The rims were beautiful, over 100 years old and still in fair condition. After reconditioning the hubs, cleaning and re-truing the wheels – My business partner Eric Brockman and I threw on some retro looking tubulars and we were hooked. I decided to try and replicate the wheels that we had on this bicycle. After a lot of research and development, the seed for the Kestral flyer wooden bicycle rim was born.

During my research for building my replica rim I found that there were few companies still making wooden bicycle rims. CB Italia (from Italy), with whom Sacro-Bosco is proud to also carry their full range of products alongside our own customs rims. Ghisallo (also from Italy) represented in the US by Wheel Fanatyk. There are also some small French, Swiss and Japanese operations. Nothing really to speak of made in the USA. I wanted a US made product. This was the start of Sacro-Bosco.

Sacro-Bosco is loosely translated in Italian as “Sacred Wood” named after the garden at the Viila Orsini in Bomarzo Italy. The garden poking fun at the egotistical iconography of the Este and Medici families is very applicable to modern events of today.

Since the dawn of cycling, bicycles have used wooden rims. It was the mainstay for bicycle rims until the 1930’s and remained in use on the track until the 50’s. This was mainly due to woods strength and lightness until the arrival of high strength aluminum alloys.

Wood has some interesting properties that modern composites and metal rims find hard to replicate. One of these properties is its innate ability to flex and retain its shape. In many ways this can lead to a perceptively more comfortable ride on bumpy roads and long distance rides. The other property is braking performance in rain. Heat has a hard time penetrating wood and therefore transfers to the pad making it dry quickly – resulting in increased performance. The other properties are very obvious: wood is unrivaled in its beauty and novelty, as well as being green.

What keeps you interested in the custom building industry?
I like to think that there is an interesting intersection between engineering, art and design. Custom building represents this intersection to a tee, weather it is our own design or those of our customers. Despite the fact that many of today’s builds have their roots in the industrial revolution – it amazes me that so many of the ideas, patents and innovations of the past are being adapted and reinvented for modern design.

Where do you look for inspiration? What’s out there that is inspiring you these days?
For me inspiration comes from industrial stream lined design – ultra high tech and vintage. I find that interesting applications of new cutting edge materials alongside old materials alike, very exciting. There is nothing like a beautiful machine that is also a work of art presented in some new fantastic way.

What type of wood do you use? How have you determined which wood is best?
The test of time has determined what suits wooden rim building best. Over a hundred years of experience combined with modern materials and methods come together to make the modern wood rim. Hardwoods such as white oak, hickory, elm, ash, beech and maple lend them selves for shaping and steaming. Other wood types can be tricky and just not suitable as rim material either due to its strength or steam bending properties.

When Sacro-Bosco first started, we produced the kestral flyer in Portland from locally sourced wood as much as possible. We used 3-5 laminations tapered and staggered so that you could not see the seam. All of it steam bent, shaped and finished by hand. Because it was laminated we could use differing wood combinations in the lamination process to create interesting visual striping when desired. We now have most of our wood sourced by an Amish Ohio shop – for our Amish rim line. Rather than lamination we use a single piece of wood finger jointed together in the way rims have been made for over 100 years. As you can imagine, Amish wheelwrights have generations of experience and are very green in their methodology – all handmade. Here we mainly use white oak and hickory and ash, though, as with all custom work, we can use most hardwoods.

Tell me about one of your favorite projects.
Our newest project is going to be a front and rear springer cruiser with dual bars and bronze plated 29er, but we didn’t quite get it finished in time for the show. We have just started a collaboration with Liam Murray of Woodelo out of Ireland. He produces fantastic wooden performance frames. Also, Penny is our custom copper plated bicycle made for us in collaboration with Bella Donna. Simple Italian inspired frame, combined with our wooden wheels creates a beautiful and simple ride-able city bike. Simplicity is the key and in many ways and very hard to obtain – both in the building process and in the ride itself.

What are you most looking forward to at OR Handmade Bike Show?
The builders from Oregon are the creme de la creme of hand built frame makers and I am excited to see the innovative ideas and designs that they create. The functional art that they produce is always top notch and ahead of the curve when it comes to design.

The Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show is October 20-21 in Portland so we’re profiling the many talented makers who will be showcasing their skills in person at the show.

10am to 5pm on Saturday and 11am to 4pm on Sunday | Vigor Industries 5555 N. Channel Ave. in Portland.

[additional show info]


Maker Profile: Thursday Cycles

Thursday Cycles: Pocatello, ID

Interview with Jon Norstog

Website >>

Jon Norstog thinks of himself as a designer who happens to build his own designs. He likes the rough-and-tumble style of durable designs and has never had a BMX bike come back broken. “I like to build for competition and extreme riding because these are uses that call for strong design and a good sense for what a bicycle is going to do when it is pushed hard. I also try to find the narrative – the story behind the design. I want the whole story before I even think of cutting any steel.”

What keeps you interested in the custom building industry?
Probably the people, the clients. I like dealing with an individual, learning enough about that person to give her or him a bike that allows them to take their riding to the next level.

Where do you look for inspiration? What’s out there that is inspiring 
you these days?
I get a lot of inspiration and ideas from BMX. For instance, I learned how to use the stays and seat tube as the “core” of a frame on a BMX bike, while building just the right amount of flex into the front triangle. I use a similar approach on road and mountain bikes – generally I make my own stays so I can get them right. I like a bike with sharp, BMX-like handling and generally build bikes that are “point-and-shoot” on the trail.

The other thing I learned from building BMX bikes was how to build a lightweight frame that will hold together. I’ve never had a BMX bike come back broken.

Another inspiration for me was Keith Bontrager’s designs from the late ’80s and early ’90s, before he sold out to Trek. And Dave Kastan’s short-tailed design for the Mosh BMX bikes.

It looks like BMX is one of your specialties. What’s your history with BMX?
I started racing BMX at the old Duke City track in New Mexico. Mainly I just wanted to learn for myself what makes a good BMX bike. It’s a real kick! I enjoyed the sport so much that I kept at it, and have won five or six state geezer class cruiser championships. I’m one of the riders you have to watch out for at a national.

Tell me about one of your favorite projects.
I really enjoyed building the “Muttonmaster” bikes. They were originally designed for sheepherding on the Navajo Reservation, but a lot of them have found use as all-around urban bikes. They ride nice and can carry a prodigious amount of stuff.

What are you most looking forward to at Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show?
I hope the Rhythm Dogs play so I can sit in on trumpet.

The Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show is October 20-21 in Portland so we’re profiling the many talented makers who will be showcasing their skills in person at the show.

10am to 5pm on Saturday and 11am to 4pm on Sunday | Vigor Industries 5555 N. Channel Ave. in Portland.

[additional show info]


Hilarious: Halloween on a Bike

Go By Costume!

When Superman flies through the air, his cape flutters dramatically behind him. Ride your bike in costume this Halloween and create your own Superman Effect.

Go for a comfortable ride. Assemble costumes that won’t get caught in your wheels or chain ring, or that you can tie up while riding. Find ways to keep your helmet on over or under head accessories (wigs, crowns, hats…). Costumes that obstruct your view are even more of a hazard while biking, so go for an outfit that gives you plenty of room to see the road.

Go all out! Riding a bike in costume is hilarious. You might be surprised how many people give you a high five, break down laughing or call out to you. Celebrate the beginning of autumn in hilarious style.

So, what are you wearing on Halloween?


Maker Profile: Helavna Cycles

Helavna Cycles : Tokyo, Japan

Interview with Koushou Kinugawa

Website >>

Koushou Kinugawa visited Portland on vacation in 2009 and is excited to return to showcase his steeds at the Oregon Handmade Bike Show.

Show his bikes yes, but also, he says, “travel, ride, eat local foods, and be part of that place, it’s precious and good experience for oneself. Internet is useful, but it can’t be the object: you can’t see outside of picture frame.” He’ll be doing it up right, staying at Ace Hotel and drinking plenty of Stumptown Coffee. Last time he was here, Koushou rode in Bridge Pedal and enjoyed Portland’s bike friendliness.

Koushou is a detailed craftsman. He spent several years making his frambuilding tools and setting up his shop. Though he had access to a supplier who could provide tools and equipment, he preferred to have Ninugawa original tools and created them himself. He feels that with technology so accessible these days everything is too easy. He wants to interject “heart, ones identity, originality” into his work. He likes a fusion of classic and modern styles that are simple.

Koushou spent three years studying frame building. “At first, I didn’t know tube-set needs drop outs, crown, lugs, small parts to complete the frame. I learned from mistakes. When first I rode this steel bike, feeling was great! I thought carbon bikes were tuned to be more than steel, cause I had a carbon bike (Cinelli, Mecano).”

In Tokyo, Koushou is certainly an innovator. Most bikes are imported and there are very few frambuilders. Koushou is excited by bike culture, bike commuting and creative cycling activities that are slowly catching on there.

Bike culture and recreation is increasing in Tokyo. People are starting to ride in groups on weekend jaunts to tour around, which in Japan is called “pottering”. Most cyclocross races are held in other regions, but in February Tokyo had it’s first race, inspired, Koushou says, by Interbike.

Koushou describes commuting in Tokyo as chaos. Since the earthquake, he has seen an increase in bike commuters and hoped people would shift from riding the subway to riding bikes. But due to what sounds like workplace permit restrictions, that is not happening easily. Most people commute 10-15 minutes from home to the subway on their Mamachari bikes, which he considers a waste of resources.

“It’s crazy and confused. whole system sucks! Most roads belongs to cars with few place for bikes; not shared. Also cars aren’t friendly (especially cabs) to bikes, some of are mean. Population increasing, but roads and sidewalks are still narrow like old days size – restored, but not updated. Rules for bike exists but not working, also need an update: people browse or phone during ride, plugged with earphones, cross red lights, goes on road and side walk, run thru pedestrian, and ride in the opposite lane. Some have no lights at night or no difference between their head and tail lights; these are huge numbers. From my view, these problems occur from Mamachari culture – bikes as disposable shoes.”

Keeping a car in this dense urban city is ridiculous, Koushou says, It costs about $6,000 a year just to own, park and insure a car. “Another reason to chose to ride. Well, Portland is very nice place for bikes and recreation. I know it didn’t happen all at once.”

Koushou has a lot planned for his trip to Portland, and is sounds like his priorities are in line: “Ride the bike trail beside the river, get coffee and foods, go to the zoo, Velo Cult and other shops, check out upcoming concerts, pottering around Portland.”

Helavna is named from “hera-buna”, a Japanese fish related to the carp. Koushou chose this name intentionally: “There is a proverb in Japanese fishing ‘Starts from funa, and ends in funa’. It means from beginners to expert; equally enthusiastic. My goal is to build a bike like this word for each person. So, please take a look. Thank you.”

The Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show is October 20-21 in Portland so we’re profiling the many talented makers who will be showcasing their skills in person at the show.

10am to 5pm on Saturday and 11am to 4pm on Sunday | Vigor Industries 5555 N. Channel Ave. in Portland.

[additional show info]


Oregon Handmade Bike Show

The 2012 Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show, presented by The Oregon Bicycle Constructors Association features exhibitions showcasing bicycle crafters from Oregon and beyond on October 20 and 21. These master builders will display their artistry in a celebration of the handbuilt bicycle. The two-day exhibition takes place on Swan Island.

The jam-packed schedule includes seminars and speakers discussing manufacturing, design, the bike industry and general bicycle culture. This incredible event is an excellent opportunity to get an up-close look at some of the world’s most finely crafted bicycles.

To learn more about the builders and their unique endeavors, check out our Maker Profiles that are appearing between now and the event.

Registration is now open for builders who would like to exhibit at the show.




10am to 5pm on Saturday and 11am to 4pm on Sunday | Vigor Industries 5555 N. Channel Ave. in Portland.


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