Friday, February 27, 2009

Of Bikes 'n Beer

While wandering through the booths at this year’s NAHBS, you might notice a matching bicycle and six-pack of Small Batch 417 Indiana Pale Ale at Shamrock Cycles. Tim O’Donnell explains, “It happened over beers . . . like most good ideas.”

He and a customer were discussing the paint scheme of the Galway 650B Mountain Bike. O’Donnell suggested that the colors of the Irish flag, but, “(The customer) was telling me he wanted more earthy colors,” considering that it is a mountain bike and riding out on trails. He glanced over at the case of Breckenridge Brewery beer and said that the colors of the packaging were what he was thinking.

O’Donnell packed the six-pack in the box with the frame when he shipped it to the painters and had it matched.

O’Donnell is fond of the Galway, a fillet brazed frame. He says, “It’s a fun bike,” and likes the idea of a 650B wheel because “it’s not too big, it’s not too small . . . it’s the Goldilocks of wheels.” O’Donnell builds the bikes that he likes, ones that are meant for everyday use and is “not interested in making big or sexy bikes.”

“Every frame builder I respect is here . . . it’s overwhelming,” he said.

This is O’Donnell’s first year at NAHBS and he’s excited about the show, even more so because “it’s in my own backyard.” Shamrock Cycles is a local builder and can be found in Broad Ripple, one of the cultural districts here in Indianapolis. He has been building bicycles for five years, with Shamrock Cycles producing between 15 to 25 bikes a year.

When asked about trends in handmade bicycles, he replied, “Handmade bicycles are the trend.” He went on to explain that not that many people cared for handmade frames twenty years ago, but now builders are popping up everywhere and doesn’t see this trend ending soon.

The only thing that could possibly affect this would be the current economic situation, but O’Donnell isn’t overly concerned. He explained that slowing sales are to be expected, and he himself has been affected. One of his customers has recently postponed having a frame built for his wife. However, he’s not worried about how this will affect the industry as a whole, “(Builders) probably won’t be able to do this full-time anymore, but that won’t stop them from building altogether.”

words and image : Naomi Szczesiul

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