Americans are fast embracing cycling as a means of commuting.
But as more and more cities make room for bike lanes, the price tag that comes with the pedaling lifestyle is a hefty one. In fact, a conventional bike costs upwards of $1,000, while more specialized bikes can retail for more than $10,000.
Despite the popularity of cycling in the United States, 99 percent of the 16 million bikes sold across the country in 2013 were made abroad — mostly in China or Taiwan — according to the National Bicycle Dealers Association. But a Portland-based startup is looking to change that statistic by bringing back jobs to Oregon and creating affordable custom bikes all at once.
Circa Cycles uses a manufacturing process that can produce a 21.5-pound custom bike in just 10 hours or less, compared to the typical 50 to 100 hours of hand labor that other companies require to make an average bike.
Founder Rich Fox broke down the process of manufacturing a bike and then found ways to reduce the time required. “It goes together almost like a Lego set. It’s kind of like a combination of Ikea, and Lego, and Swatch, in a way,” Fox tells Fast Company.
The one-of-a-kind bikes are put together with a specialized glue used to construct race cars and airplanes. And rather than using a hand-painting process, Circa bikes are anodized at a Portland shop, allowing a customer to personalize the color. Fox uses all local milling and piping suppliers to ensure a fast turnaround.
Customers can also decide on size, handlebars, drivetrains and tires using computer-controlled milling (CNC) machines to produce customized designs in a short period of time. Frames cost $1,100 with the completed bicycle starting at $1,500.
“Typically, making a custom bike takes anywhere from three months, up to as much as five years,” Fox tells Fast Company. “So the idea that you can turn a bike around in less than 10 days — it’s pretty innovative to go from zero to bike that quick.”
While the price tag is still high, Fox hopes the more affordable option will encourage more cyclists to opt for an American-made bike. Ultimately, he hopes to bring more jobs back to Oregon.
“I moved to Oregon about 15 years ago and I really love it here, and I really wanted to contribute to the local community by creating something here to boost the economy,” he says. “I just wanted to make where I live a better place.”