Urban Velo

Vicious Cycles / Metal Guru Shop Tour

vicious_cycles-20 Carl Schlemowitz founded Vicious Cycles in 1994, and has been building custom steel frames in picturesque upstate New York ever since. Like so many many other framebuilders in the northeast Carl’s first inspiration to build came from Fat City Cycles, in his case it was spending the mid-eighties atop an early Fat Chance mountain bike. Vicious Cycles is primarily a mountain bike brand, and mountain bikes are how I first met Carl back in the early 2000s, with path’s crossing through mutual friends and tradeshows since. Having regrettably missed the pigroast invites of years past it was a treat to finally stop into the New Paltz, NY home of Vicious Cycles.

Vicious Cycles was an early 29″ and single speed adopter, making their frames, unicrown forks and signature paintjobs a mainstay of the east coast mountain bike scene. After some twenty years in the business Carl is now opening up the shop to students, offering week-long framebuilding or frame painting classes through his Metal Guru program. Carl works with other guest builders to offer classes and workshops outside of his particular expertise, widening the offerings to those looking for particular facets of continuing education. I’ve heard positive reviews, and seen a great final result, from the Metal Guru program.

Workspaces are as individual as their owners, it’s great to catch a few moments behind the scenes. Learn more about Metal Guru lessons in bicycle manufacturing at metalguru.viciouscycles.com.

Via Bicycle Philadelphia Photo Gallery

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Via Bicycle and proprietor Curtis Anthony are Philadelphia cycling fixtures. There’s no telling how many used bikes of all vintage have found new life under Curtis’ watch since opening in 1982. The first floor is a working repair and used bicycle shop, the upstairs floors a veritable museum of American cycling open by invite only. Mention the password, get the tour. Listen and learn.

It was a priceless couple of hours spent looking at old stock and hearing the history of various bits from Curtis on a visit two months back. It’s a tight space, with a remarkable number of historic bikes and ephemera crammed into upper floors, above a bike shop already housing most anything you could imagine from the past ~25 years of cycling parts. The reverse of geologic formations, the really old kit is in the rarely visited third story. I’m grateful for the time I had to see the treasures Curtis has collected over the years and only wish we each had a week to spend up there — Curtis dropping history, myself playing the role of a wide-eyed schoolboy. The below images barely scratch the surface of Via Bicycle, a taste of one of the more incredible spaces full of bicycles I’ve yet visited.

Engin Cycles Shop Tour Gallery

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Drew Guldalian and his Engin Cycles brand have risen to the top of the custom bicycle market over the past decade. Housed in a large garage space behind his bike shop, Wissahickon Cyclery, the Engin Cycles workspace is as I imagined it from my interactions with Drew over the years. Meticulously organized and clean as it gets, the workspace matches the finish and attention to detail of the bikes leaving with the Engin headbadge. There is a lot of experience at work here with a full shop and framebuilding operation in one location, a rare combination that no doubt contributes to complete bikes being that much better. While past bikes from Engin may have sported steel tubes and braze work, from here on out Drew is putting his focus on making the best titanium bikes out there. Engin Cycles is not for the bargain custom buyer, this is a no-expense spared operation to make the best bicycles possible. It is clear that Drew takes this goal seriously every step of the way, producing the kind of bikes most of us can only dream of someday owning. Always great to see a bike being born and get another perspective on frame construction from a veteran of the craft.

Be sure to click through for a gallery of images of Engin bicycles we’ve shot at North American Handmade Bicycle Shows gone by.
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Circles – Shop Visit

DSC_0762I first met Shinya Tanaka, the owner of Circles at a trade show years ago, and ever since that first meeting I’ve been looking forward to visiting his shop in Nagoya, Japan. Nagoya isn’t a tourist destination, it’s a hard-working city with just under 9 million people in the metro area. It’s home to Toyota motors and miso nikomi (which I’ve heard described as Japanese soul food). What makes Nagoya special are its people, and Shinya is one of the best.

At first glance you might only notice that Circles is a cool bike shop. It’s filled with many of the latest parts and accessories, and there’s a busy service area that’s also visible from the café. A closer look will reveal a carefully selected stock of merchandise that speaks to Shinya’s business philosophy. He prefers steel bike frames because they’re durable. Beginners can crash them and not worry that they’ve compromised their investment. High end bikes from the likes of Cielo, Hunter, Retrotec and Breadwinner are available, but Shinya steers first time buyers towards bikes like Surly.

Upstairs you’ll find the wearables in a separate boutique, called Circles Tailored, that looks and feels like a conventional clothing store. Not only are there amazing offerings from select, high-quality cycling brands, there are a number of items from non-cycling companies who offer suitable products. Think base-layers from Scandinavia and skiing gloves (Shinya was once a competitive mogul racer).

You probably won’t be waited on by Shinya himself if you visit, he’s typically in his third-floor office working on his components and distribution company, Sim Works. Or he’s spraying frames in the on-site paint shop. But rest assured, you’ll be helped by one of the finest employees in the world. I’ve met nearly all of them, and they’re a passionate group. Shinya’s philosophy has roots in traditional Japanese apprenticeship culture. While his employees might not have to spend three years learning to make sushi rice, they do have to be highly educated and immersed in cycling culture in order for him to achieve his goal of creating a bigger, better cycling community in Nagoya.

Check out circles-jp.com

Kato Cycle – Shop Visit

mrkatoKato Cycle was started in Nagoya in 1946. The family-owned, full-service shop features the latest and greatest on the showroom floor, from carbon road bikes to steel fat bikes. But for many people, myself included, the highlight is upstairs. There you can find bikes and accessories from what many people consider cycling’s heyday. The bikes and frames on display (and on sale) read like a history of bicycle technology. And you’ll find a smiling Mr. Kato up there, proudly presiding over his collection. If you speak Japanese, or have a translator with you, he’ll be happy to tell you about his time in Italy, riding L’Eroica and buying armloads of bicycle merchandise. Check out www.katocycle.com

Blue Lug – Shop Visit, Part 1

Blue LugUrban cyclists in Tokyo are incredibly lucky to have access to shops like Blue Lug. Founded by friends Toshi and Wakako, who shared a love of Japanese track bikes, the operation has grown to include an array of ventures including two locations in Tokyo (one in Shibuya, the other in Setagaya), production bicycle frames, custom framebuilding, custom painting, bag-making, a café and more. Every aspect of the business is carried out with precision and a keen eye for detail, as well as with a level of creativity and artistry that’s nothing short of remarkable.

Check out www.bluelug.com

Click here for more photos in Part 2.

Above Bike Store – Shop Visit

DSC_0599Above Bike Store is our friend Shinya Suzaki’s business, located in Kawasaki, Japan. The operation includes the bike shop, a custom paint shop called Swamp Things, the Starfuckers brand, and one extremely cute bulldog. To say it’s a good shop would be a gross understatement.

Shinya’s philosophy is to promote cycling, first and foremost, and to sell bikes and merchandise second. He offers a custom, personal experience for his customers, including one-on-one time where he rides with them and helps them get the most from their bike. The shop is full of smiling faces, creating a relaxed atmosphere where you can browse their unique bikes and many of the latest and greatest parts and accessories. If you’re in the Tokyo metro area, you’ll definitely want to visit the shop.

Check out www.abovebike.com

SSCXWC 2013 Photo Gallery

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Following a weekend of debauchery including some bike riding, the Single Speed Cyclocross World Championships went off this past Sunday in Philadelphia. Qualifiers for spots in the men’s and women’s race categories included the previous day’s Bilenky Junkyard Cross, a locals led “feats of strength” ride, or last-chance goldsprints. The football fans in the audience may be familiar with how the weather turned in Philadelphia that afternoon, dumping some 2-3 inches of snow on the course in a couple of hours. The 11am “Everyone’s a Winner” category started with clear skies and wet trails, ending but 45 minutes later in heavy snow. By the time the men’s and women’s classes was hitting the course it was just short of a whiteout, with the women getting the worst of it. It all led to a party in the woods with some bike racing happening in between. The top competitive finishers were taking things seriously to turn the laps they did, it’s just that most everyone else on the course was more than happy to embrace the loose rules and heavy heckling in the name of a party. Adam Craig and Vikki Barclay took home the championship tattoos, everyone else went home a winner. Next year it’s Louisville.

Bilenky Junkyard Cross 2013 Photo Gallery

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Costumes encouraged, partying mandatory, rules optional. Bilenky Junkyard Cross is a less-than-formal bike race through the junkyard behind Bilenky Cycle Works in Philadelphia. The 8th annual event was held this past Saturday in conjunction with the Single Speed Cyclocross World Championships, acting as a qualifier for the main event. Ripping through the aisles of the junkyard, over a car and through a van riders raced in heats of about 15 a piece to vie for spots in the men’s and women’s SSCXWC main event. A near perfect event, though you may not want to jump your ‘cross bike over the junked car.

Issue #40 – Available Online

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Contents Include: 2013 World Hardcourt Bike Polo Championship, Bike Bike 2013, HD Witness, Something About Cleveland, Pedal Threading, Via Bicycle, Product Reviews and I Love Riding in the City.

Download it for free, purchase it from the Apple Store or order a printed copy online.

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