Paragon Machine Works Tour
Paragon Machine Works is a manufacturer that a relative few on the consumer end are aware of, yet has been a part of the custom bicycle world for over 25 years. They don’t create the bike itself, but the bits that make it actually come together. Dropouts, brake mounts, cable guides, bottle bosses and frame bridges are just a few of the frame making parts that come out of their Richmond CA machine shop. Their parts are so ubiquitous in the high-end frame making world that if you’ve seen more than a handful of bikes from custom builders in the USA you’re virtually guaranteed to have seen something from Paragon Machine Works.
I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting as I rolled up on an unannounced visit back in September, but it wasn’t quite the breadth of machinery I witnessed within the barn doors. A giant lathe that accepts truck delivered bar stock, a half dozen CNC machines, polishing drums and all number of vaguely identifiable frame and component pieces —a playground of a machine shop.
The shop is housed in a building that once housed a giant kiln for firing ceramics, and still has the super sized gas meter outside to prove it. The operation these days is much cleaner, with cutting and cleaning fluids screened, reused and recycled and every bit of scrap collected and resold. Paragon emerged from the center of the mountain bike boom and has been an influential shop from the days of 60+ tooth Kamikaze chainrings on through today. While at one time there were various Paragon branded items they’re by and large gone at this point, though they do still offer some of the finest bottle openers known to man.
As a prime example of some of the specialty parts Paragon creates, take this capped, stainless water bottle boss. An old, effective method of preventing a steel bike to rust from the inside out is to completely seal the tubes during construction, capping the main tubes and filling any vent holes to stop oxygen from reaching the steel surface. Sealed water bottle bosses solve a classic problem with this time intensive method of rust prevention and are exactly what Paragon Machine Works is all about.
You can see some of what Paragon does first hand at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show in February, as they’re a long time exhibitor showing off their work to the next generation of frame makers. Otherwise, keep an eye out for their bits on any fancy frames you may come across, knowing that there a staff of lifelong cyclists and machinists working hard to make those small parts work as they should.