City bike makers building a market

By Patrick Anderson
PBN Staff Writer

The custom bicycle frames being built by hand at Circle A Cycles in Providence combine the old and the new. More

To continue reading this article, please do one of the following.


City bike makers building a market

FRAMING THE CONVERSATION: Rhode Island has been home to a resurgence in the custom-bicycle-building industry. Above, Brian Chapman, a builder with Circle A Cycles who has also started his own line of custom frames called Chapman Cycles.
CUSTOM WORK: The New England Bike Builders Ball attracted 13 exhibitors, including Vermont’s Mickey Denoncourt, above, to the Providence Biltmore recently.

By Patrick Anderson
PBN Staff Writer

Posted 11/26/12

The custom bicycle frames being built by hand at Circle A Cycles in Providence combine the old and the new.

Old in that the idea of manufacturing bicycles to order using traditional techniques like torch welding dates back to at least the first half of the 20th century. New because the road, mountain and single-speed frames coming out of the Charles Street shop feature light, modern steel and an aesthetic that often departs from the two-wheelers of the 1930s.

And because until recently, when a resurgence in custom-bicycle building began gaining momentum across the country, finding someone manufacturing bicycles professionally this way was nearly impossible in most cities.

“The concept of bespoke bicycles is not new, but there are a lot more now than there were 20 or 30 years ago,” said Brian Chapman, a builder at Circle A who has also started his own line of custom frames called Chapman Cycles. “When I first moved here I didn’t know there were any custom-frame makers around. There are now legit businesses almost everywhere.”

Although unlikely to put much of a dent in Rhode Island’s unemployment rate, custom-bicycle making is become another strong point in the state’s design-centered boutique manufacturing sector.

There are at least four commercial bicycle-frame makers in Providence and close to a dozen across New England. There are also at least two paint shops that specialize in bike finishing and a local apparel maker that has designed hooded rain capes for cycling.

At the New England Bike Builders Ball this fall at the Providence Biltmore, there were 13 exhibitors displaying frames and other goods, along with 400 attendees.

In many ways, the popularity of custom bicycle frames mirrors the evolution of other high-end, niche products from craft beer to clothes and home furnishings.

But one aspect of custom-bicycle building that distinguishes it from other high-end goods is the degree to which, even more than clothes, it is tailored to each customer.

Next Page
No comments on this story | Add your comment
Please log in or register to add your comment
PBN Hosted

Only a few seats remain for PBN's Manufacturing Awards Dinner and Ceremony, Thursday, April 24th, at the Bryant University Bello Center. Don't hesitate. Register today!
  • Business Women
    Accomplished. Confident. Wicked Smart. Nominate women you know who deserve speci ...
  • 40 Under Forty
    It's the 10th Anniversary of 40 Under Forty, and PBN is planning a special event ...
  • Healthiest Employers
    Enrollment now open for the 2014 Healthiest Employers Program. Please take a mom ...
Purchase Data
Book of Lists
Book of Lists cover
PBN's annual Book of Lists has been an essential resource for the local business community for almost 30 years. The Book of Lists features a wealth of company rankings from a variety of fields and industries, including banking, health care, real estate, law, hospitality, education, not-for-profits, technology and many more.
Data icons
Data can be purchased as single lists, in either Excel or PDF format; the entire database of the published book, in Excel format; or a printed copy of the Book of Lists.
  • Purchase an e-File of a single list
  • Purchase an e-File of the entire Book of Lists database
  • Purchase a printed copy of the Book of Lists
    Latest News