Major Taylor students visit legendary bike shop on recent field trip
Written by MTP ride leader Dave Cuerpo. Photo: MTP ride leader Dave Cuerpo, MTP students and Cascade volunteer Phil Singer
An enthusiastic group of Major Taylor Project students from Cleveland High School had the opportunity to visit and tour R+E Cycles, a legendary custom bicycle in the University District. MTP ride leader Dave Cuerpo took some time to share about the experience with us.
Our field trip to R+E Cycles wouldn't have been possible without the help from our dedicated MTP volunteer, Phil Singer. Phil recommended the field trip and has been a customer of R+E Cycles for over 20 years. He owns at least two custom built Rodriguez road bikes and knows the owner, Dan Towle and the fantastic crew at R+E Cycles.
Upon arrival at R+E Cycles we were welcomed and greeted by owner Dan Towle. Before showing us the bike shop, Dan briefly explained the long history of R+E Cycles and influence it had in the Seattle bicycle community. Perched high on the ceiling of his shop were several vintage custom bicycles built by R+E Cycles over the past 30+ years showcasing it's history. He explained that steel was the overall best material to custom build their brand of Rodriguez and Erickson bicycles. Dan showed us some of his latest and lightest custom steel road bikes (Bandito and Outlaw) models which were lighter than most of the best carbon racing bikes available. We all thought they were amazing works of technology and art!
Dan brought us to the basement of the bike shop "where the magic happens" and all phases of bicycle manufacturing occurs. He walked us through each step from when the customer orders the bike, to custom fitting, tube selection, assembly, welding, frame alignment, painting, etc. R+E Cycles currently operates with two frame builders and one painter/artist. They are currently running at full capacity building several dozen custom bicycles a week.
An interesting fact about R+E Cycles is that they are currently the only custom bicycle manufacturer that utilizes a laser guided frame alignment system. Dan showed us how it worked and how it aligns frames with zero tolerance.
A highlight of our trip was learning about the Browning Smartshift system which R+E Cycles now has the rights to further research and develop. Dan explained they are working on an electronic version of the Browning Smartshift system and demonstrated a prototype he had setup in the shop. They hope to produce and make the system available to customers by the end of the year.
This was a fantastic field trip for our MTP students to see and learn hands-on about the hard work and craftsmanship it takes to produce these extraordinary bicycles. This is one example of the many opportunities we strive to provide to the youth in our programs.
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