The Constructeur

Founder, Sweetpea Bicycles

Feb 25, 2009
Outside Magazine

   Photo: Illustration by Harry Campbell

The Inventors

When it comes to developing plug-in electric cars, the Big Three rank well behind any three shade-tree mechanics. These are our favorites.

A battery-powered replica of a '32 Ford Highboy

Ed Matula
Redondo Beach, California

Tom Gamso
Cape Coral, Florida

One wheel in back means motorcycle laws and insurance rates apply

A recumbent bike with electric assist

Brian Sauer
Parma, Ohio

Do your favorite woman a favor: Buy her a bike made just for her. Like the custom ones from Portland, Oregon's Ramsland. After years of seeing women on ill-fitting rides, the former bike messenger took a frame-building course and started her own company. Here's how she builds a Sweetpea.

1. Racks
It's easier to design all-year riding—rack, mounts, fenders, and such—into a bike at the beginning. In other parts of the country, people save their nice bike for weekend rides. It's the opposite in Portland. I make the bike that's your favorite pair of jeans.

2. Components
A lot of men are just looking for somebody to build their preconceived dream bike. Many of my female customers are happy for me to help them through the parts decisions. Like the Chris King headset. Yes, that's fancy. But at the same time, it's going to last forever. She'll be able to will it to her grandchild.

3. Top & Seat Tubes
Women have more to gain from the complex art of bike fit. If it's done right, she's going to know that her bike suits her. It's going to be functional in ways that store bikes aren't. The joy is in exploring the finer grain, learning to turn a woman's dreams into metal.

4. Logo, Colors
I chose "Sweetpea," a term of endearment, because if you make a bike right, it's something you can love. We're making personal artifacts. Understanding people's stories is how I make the bike meaningful.

5. Lugs
I make all the welds and cuts by hand and use files to shape the miters. You can understand the process at the human level. There's no automation to building a frame. Everything gets considered, measured, touched, retouched.

6. Wheel Size
One of the ways I help tweak my bikes' feel is by changing the wheel size. Major bike manufacturers build bikes around wheel sizes. I?build the bike around a woman, using whatever size fits her best.