No doubt you read the news earlier this year: Portland was unseated by Minneapolis as the best cycling city in the U.S. Had Bicycling magazine considered cycling’s effect on local business, Portland would probably still be enjoying its ride at the top.
Estimates put the number of bike commuters in Portland at over 20,000, so it’s no surprise the city’s brimming with a bevy of cycling-related entrepreneurs. Granted, I was surprised at just how many. Peruse BikePortland.org’s web site and you’ll get a glimpse of this growing segment.
We’re home to some of the industry’s top component makers (e.g., Chris King Precision Components) and wheel makers (e.g., Corsa Concepts), but also to a burgeoning bicycle craft movement. That’s evidenced by the growing popularity of BikePortland.org’s BikeCraft holiday bazaar.
Whether you’re a casual biker or an everyday commuter, you’ll find plenty of locally made cycling accessories to make your ride more functional, safe and stylish. Here are a few ideas to get you started. Check out BikePortland.org’s web site for more inspiration.
Rachel Dominguez-Benner claims she doesn’t know how to hem a pair of pants. Hard to believe, considering the craftsmanship she applies to all her handmade Bike Cozy products: tool rolls, toe cozys and shoe lace wranglers.
One of six owners of A Better Cycle, a used bicycle shop on Southeast Division, Rachel started her Bike Cozy business as a hobby, fashioning cycling caps for friends. Now, when she’s not punching the clocks at A Better Cycle and the Paper Zone, she’s busy behind her Viking sewing machine.
Rachel’s canvas tool kits are a must-have for every rider, with tools like a tire boot, patches, glue, wrenches and tire levers tucked into the carefully stitched pockets. Her toe cozys make the Puddletown commute more bearable. Fashioned of waterproof cordura, they slip over the toe cages to keep your feet dry—and cozy, of course. Then there are her shoelace wranglers, which she’s designed to keep your laces in line, free from your hungry chains. Brilliant!
Empty tool roll rolled up (left) and color assortment (right).
Photos courtesy of Bike Cozy
Rachel’s handiwork has generated sales around the world: England, Germany, Ireland, Spain and Taiwan. She has a personal goal to sell to every state in the U.S. and is well on her way.
Her talent is taking her tool kits in new directions now, too. A PR firm in New York City recently caught wind of her business and put in a special request for 60 kits to hold bartender tools.
What’s next? Look for a larger tool roll and stylish shoe cover to launch later this fall. In the meantime, buy her Bike Cozy products online or at A Better Cycle in Hosford-Abernethy or Community Cycling Center in Vernon.
Three years ago, Brian Engelen was moved by the rash of cycling accidents and fatalities around town. In response, he started making fun, reflective stickers and selling them at BikePortland.org’s craft show, hopeful they’d help prevent future cycling tragedies. The response was terrific.
Cut from 3M Scotchlite retroflective material made in the U.S., Brian’s stickers are lighting up bikes, helmets, fenders, backpacks and water bottles around town and around the world. Since starting his Beaverton business two years ago, he’s sold hundreds of thousands of the reflectors. Now, hospitals, schools and municipalities are peddling them at community outreach events.
Decorate your rim with these reflectors. Photos courtesy of Fun Reflectors
The stickers add more than an element of safety to every ride. They add style, too. There are over 35 designs to choose from, including fish, flames, flowers, aliens and lightening bolts. The most popular style: the skull and cross bones.
You’ll find Fun Reflector online and at several stores around town, including Clever Cycles in Hosford-Abernethy, River City Bicycles in Buckman, Bike Gallery in downtown, Metropolis Cycle Repair in Eliot, Citybikes Annex in Buckman or Powell’s Books in the Pearl District.
Photos courtesy of Lemolo Bags
Eli Grey credits his mom for teaching him how to sew. Little did he (or she) know that his magic fingers would culminate in a part-time, paying gig crafting some of Portland’s most stylish and functional bicycle bags.
Lemolo takes its trade name from a Chinook word meaning wild, strong-willed and from the backcountry. It’s fitting for Eli who says he grew up in the country riding mountain bikes. Today, he relies on his bike for most of his commuting around town.
Eli spends anywhere from one to three days sewing his cordura bags. They’re a notch above your standard messenger bag with precise stitching, high-quality hardware, intentional colors, and unique features. There’s a Portland backpack, a basket bag, panniers with signature roll tops and flaps, and a very hip, hip pouch. Eli does custom work, too.
Eli Grey at work.
Order Lemolo bags online.
When he’s not out teaching wilderness survival skills, Shaun Deller makes some very cool cycling caps. Styled from recycled clothing he sources mostly at Goodwill, the wool and cotton hats bridge fashion and function. All of them feature a unique bill, which lend a retro air to their multi-panel construction.
Shaun learned to sew in art school. A fibers class introduced him to the sewing machine and he was hooked. His first venture: ultralight backpacking gear. From there he eventually graduated to cycling caps, testing the waters on eBay and at local bike shops. His days as a bike messenger in Baltimore, MD helped shaped his line, with the intention to emulate the classic, unbranded styles of yesteryear.
Today, Shaun divides his crafting time between his outpost on Deer Island and in Portland proper. His hats travel greater distances though—as far as Japan, England and Germany. The caps are currently available in six styles: Wheely, 3-Panel, 8-Panel, Alpine, Alpine Reversible and Skull Cap. Shaun takes custom orders, too. It’s not uncommon for someone to contact him about making a cap from their grandfather’s favorite flannel shirt or the like.
Buy a Deller cap online or around town at River City Bicycles in Buckman, Citybikes Annex in Buckman, Bike Central in Old Town-Chinatown or Cyclepath in Eliot.
Thanks to his wife’s noisy bike fenders and a clingy shower curtain, Paul Sykes now has a business making beautiful wood fenders. Determined to halt the rattling from the bike’s cheap, plastic fenders, Paul grabbed a piece of wood he’d been using to hold back their shower curtain. As luck would have it, it was the perfect size to work as a fender and had been bent just so from the shower steam.
Today, Paul sources the wood for his fenders from leftover furniture and construction projects as well as from local lumberyards. His current palette includes woods like white oak, bamboo, mahogany, zebrawood, maple, douglas fir and cherry. He can take custom orders, too.
Paul’s fenders provide riders a sense of aesthetic utility. Besides deflecting rainwater and road muck, they add a timeless flair to their hosts—often commuters and specialty bikes. Paul calls them “bling for your bike.” Proof he’s on to something: A très chic bike store in the heart of Paris contacted him recently about selling his fenders there.
Harth Huffman’s experience as a middle school teacher has served him well. That’s because it takes a lot of patience and attention to detail to teach middle school students—qualities he’s brought to his side business fashioning some of Portland’s nicest merino wool cycling jerseys.
The company’s name comes from the Japanese term “wabi sabi,” which is a concept centered on keeping details fresh, simple and unpretentious. In short: understated elegance. Harth’s pursuit to design a better wool jersey was inspired by his belief in letting a garment’s design and construction stand on their own, eliminating the need for garnishment and logos.
An avid recreational and commuter cyclist since the 90s, Harth couldn’t find a wool jersey he liked. So two and a half years ago, he set out to make a better one. Today, his jerseys are known for their quality and precision fit with features like reinforced stitching, elastic reinforcements at the shoulders, rear pockets designed not to sag when filled, and an interlocking knit that prevents runs if the fabric is torn.
Photo courtesy of Wabi Woolens
The fit is key: When washed the wool will shrink, locking the fibers and creating a denser fabric that is more weather resistant. This fall, Harth will launch a new jersey that’s machine washable but won’t shrink.
Wabi Woolens has a loyal following in Portland, across the U.S. and in countries like France, Scotland, England and Germany. Serious cyclists and die-hard wool fans write to tell Harth of their tales wearing his jerseys on 600km rides lasting 19 hours. Despite his aversion to branding, he is pleased with his jerseys’ reputation as the “Rolls Royce of wool cycling jerseys.”
Buy Wabi Woolens jerseys online or at Sellwood Cycle Repair in Sellwood-Moreland.