Velo Cult to launch in-house frame building studio

Velo Cult to launch in-house frame building studio

Local frame builders Travis Cooper (left) and Joshua Bryant will
share their craft with the public at Velo Cult.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Since they moved to Portland from San Diego just over one year ago, Velo Cult Bike Shop & Tavern has proven that the old rules don’t apply when it comes to what a bike shop should be. Now, the shop that’s known just as much for parties as they are for products has announced the opening of a public frame building studio.

That’s right. A full-fledged studio where local craftsmen weld steel tubes into bicycle frames and shop visitors can watch every step of the process while they enjoy a cold beer (from one of 14 taps), get their bike repaired, or pick up some new parts. I’ve heard shop owner Sky Boyer talk about this for months and this Friday is the big launch party.

So far, two builders have agreed to ply their craft for the public: Joshua Bryant of Cycles J Bryant and Travis Cooper of Cooper Cycles (both builders are from the 1515 SE Ankeny shop I profiled back in February).

While he realizes it might not lead to the highest levels of productivity, Bryant says he’s excited to give this a try. “I’ll be able to come out and say hi when I’ve got a moment or two and want to chat with folks. It’s exciting and possibly great exposure as a result of being so accessible… I’m also just a little bit crazy enough to think this is somehow a good idea.”

The viewing area in progress. Visitors will peer through these windows into the studio.
(Photo: Velo Cult)

For Sky, this is an opportunity to embrace something he loves — custom made steel frames — while also helping up-and-coming local builders get some much-needed exposure. To learn more, I emailed Sky a few questions…

What exactly is this “frame building studio”?
We built a nice area for frame builders to work and for customer to watch. There is a counter top with bar stools where you can watch the builders through glass. Kind of like watching glass blowers. The frame builders will be operating their own businesses so I have no say in what they do. Both builders do mostly lugged brazing on randonneur style frames. There’s room for more in the future. The idea is to have frame builders in this space on shifts so that all times there’s someone for customers to watch. I’ve always been a big supporter of frame builders because I know how hard that business is. My reasoning for doing this is first and foremost for my customers and secondly so that the builders can get exposure.

Velo Cult owner Sky Boyer.

Why would a bike shop and tavern have such a thing?
Velo Cult is really my home away from home. My concept with the shop is to do what I would want to see in a shop. Frankly, watching frame builders is fun. Watching anybody build or fix is fun. At least it is to me. I feel that customers would likely feel the same for the most part. Have a beer and watch frame builders, sounds like a good afternoon to me.

Won’t it be annoying for the builders to have a bunch of people looking over their shoulders?
It will take a certain type of frame builder for sure. Being in a fish bowl has it’s drawbacks. The reasoning for doing this is worth it to some though. Most (pretty much all) frame builders are buried in their caves and don’t see the light of day until they crawl out and go to a custom frame show. At those shows they get photographed. It’s a lucky day when they can sell a frame at a frame show, really they just get exposure from dozens of blogs and hundreds of individuals with Facebook accounts. In this setting they will be behind glass and hopefully a hundred people a day will take photos and promote their brands.

What are your goals for this? How do you think it will help your business and/or shop community?
I would like to have more people riding custom steel bikes. I know I won’t make any money on people buying these custom bikes but still, it’s promotion for good frames. I’d like to see the frame builders get popular beyond their wildest expectations. It would be great if people found this to be a source of good entertainment and perhaps I could sell a beer or two. As for community, I hope that this and other things we do will help to boost up the Hollywood District which I feel it’s high time for. Hollywood district has some cool things happening now and I hope to be a solid part of that.

The official launch party for the frame building studio is set for this Friday (May 17th) at 7:00 pm.

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