Oregon might be the Napa Valley of handmade bicycles. This week, The Elite Bicycle opens up the workshop of Winter Bicycles, a small, Oregonian shop that makes custom bicycles designed for all-weather riding.
“I can work with you to help design your perfect daily driver city bike, your health conscious trainer, or your specific event competition machine.” These are the words of Winter Bicycles‘ Eric Estlund, one of the handmade bicycle manufacturers featured in The Elite Bicycle.
With Estlund’s artistic background and experience in numerous aspects of the cycling industry, he’s able to create elegant and sophisticated bicycles for every season and every occasion. Whether they’ve been inspired by the warble of a songbird, the personality of a European town, or a time-honored cycling tradition, each Winter bicycle has a purpose and story behind it.
Here’s the story behind one of their newer, custom series bikes, the “1918“:
In 1918, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year, the guns along the Western Front fell silent; the Armistice of the Great War began. Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WWI, and to commemorate the event, Estlund has designed a bike that embodies the spirit of the war-era bikes.
Unlike a number of the combatant armies which fought in the 1914-1918 War, the US Army did not have a designated bicycle corps for front line troops. However, some 30,000 military bicycles were paid for by the US government to supply various uses in their Signal Corps, Intelligence section, as well as in Despatch, Liaison, and personal transport.
The model used, the Columbia Military, was chosen for its “sturdiness of construction and utter trustworthiness,” and it is the Columbia’s pattern which Estlund has recreated—double bar top tube (originally to cope with the shocking roads of northern France), seamless tubes, Sturmey Archer hub gear, the machine and matching mudguards painted in the olive drab of the US forces, with a matte finish. Modern materials would make the double bar redundant but authenticity counts and, as one commentator remarks, “they look killer.” Estlund has added a sweet nostalgic touch: on either side of the head tube, in the fork crowns, he has placed two pennies, one dated 1914, the other 1918. (See the pennies.)
By looking at any one of his bikes, it’s easy to see how Estlund’s creativity and dedication to the craft allow him to design and build a custom bicycle to fit each customer’s riding style, taste, and environment. He said that he “recognized early on the freedom and excitement of riding not just competitively but also recreationally. It became part of how [he] chose to explore [his] world.” And it is with this frame of mind that Winter bicycles are forged.
This brief portrait of Winter Bicycles was adapted from its full chapter in the new book The Elite Bicycle.
The Elite Bicycle brings together intimate portraits of the world’s greatest bicycle artisans, examining the philosophies, the meticulous workmanship, and the eccentric personalities behind cycling’s most prestigious brands. Their materials and methods could not be more disparate, yet their pursuit is the same: the perfect bicycle.
In chapters featuring some of cycling’s greatest craftspeople, The Elite Bicycle offers up a conversation with the men and women who make the most coveted bicycles. Lavish, oversize photographs and personal interviews invite readers into their workshops to show the melding of old-world craftsmanship with space-age materials in fascinating studios and factories that fabricate superb machines.
The Elite Bicycle is both an homage to the bicycle maker and a collector’s piece in its own right, celebrating the stories behind the greatest bicycles and components in the world.