Sweetpea Bicycles: Part One and Two

My latest column in the Oregonian is about Natalie Ramsland – kick-ass woman building ass-kicking bikes for women.  If you’ve been around the Everyday Athlete for any amount of time, you probably already know that I’m a fan of Sweetpea (not to mention Natalie).

Portland is filled with great framebuilders and they’ve all got their own distinct flavor, their own special appeal.  They build bikes that are infused with parts of their personality. Every custom frame that comes out of a shop is the physical embodiment of a story, a scientific set of data, a feeling or set of feelings, a unique process and, ultimately, of the vision of two people: framebuilder and customer (and sometimes the cyclist’s significant other, but that’s another story)

Custom frames are about involvement, investment, participation.  Art.  And function.  And process.

What I really love about the way that Natalie builds bikes goes beyond the meticulous attention to fit and dedication to serving an under-served population of cyclists, though that’s what I explore in my column.  What I love about her approach is that she actually infuses bikes with joy. She builds them with a purity of intention and an outright enthusiasm that translates into steel.

Her bikes are happy – and you can see it. Her bikes are friendly – and you can feel it.

Women don’t just like Sweetpea bikes because they know that Natalie will understand and address their unique fit needs, they love them because they’re approachable – just like Natalie.

Because you shouldn’t have to know what a lug is to feel comfortable standing up and saying, “I want a comfortable bike. I want a bike that really fits me. I’m tired of making do.”

Sweetpea has garnered a lot of press in a pretty short amount of time – and there’s a good reason.  Natalie is challenging an industry that has prided itself on a certain level of exclusivity – an industry that has previously treated women as a convenient sub-market, second to middle-aged men with lots of money.

She’s not just saying, “I can make bikes for women.” she’s saying, “Making bikes for women is the single most important thing that I can do with my life.”

That’s a big difference – and it’s worth acknowledging.

It’s also worth noting (as I do in the article, though this deserves to be an announcement unto itself) that she’s just about to take a big step toward getting even more women onto bikes that love them back: keep your eyes on the Sweetpea blog for further information about the soon-to-be-released size run of the Little Black Dress – the first bike in what they’re calling The Lust Line (when you just. have. to. have it. now.)

picture-11

A Sweetpea coming to life.

That's a hot Wilton vice, Natalie.

That's a hot Wilton vice, Natalie.



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2 comments

  1. I did the Snoozeville populaire Saturday and got to see Cecil’s Sweetpea rando bike with new brass fenders several times throughout the day. Natalie makes beautiful bikes.

  2. I am in tears here and I am really trying to translate that.

    I was JUST talking about this the other day to Bill. I came home from work, went for a ride on my stepdaughter’s bike (which I do fairly regularly), and then did all my evening stuff – kids, dance, housework, whatever. I went to bed and as we fell asleep, I said, “I love to bike ride. And I want my own bike. I hate shopping for a bike and I have kind of accepted that the bike will just find me.” Bill patted me and murmured. He’s nice, but he doesn’t get it. I mean, I go to bike shops, I answer ads, I LOOKED for a bike last summer. And it’s not right and I can’t tell you why and I am frustrated and feel stupid and I am not a super serious rider, I just want MY OWN BIKE. So I ride my mountain bike (which I love, but it’s not a road bike) and I ride my stepdaughter’s touring bike (which is ok, but it’s not mine) and I make do. But after reading this, I have stopped thinking that my bike will find me. I need to find it. Or I need to find someone who can make it happen.

    The issue of bikes for women in HUGE. I mean HUGE. And I am so very glad for people like Natalie. And I am so glad that I feel validated. I feel energized to look again.

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