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.)