Stephen Bilenky has been making bicycles in North Philly for the past 30 years. His company Bilenky Cycle Works started out as a repair shop, and then soon after morphed into a custom manufacturer of great looking and highly functional bicycles. The operation was recently the focus of a mini-documentary which beautifully illustrates the commitment of American small batch bicycle fabricators. The film illustrates the commitment and skills that it takes to make high quality bikes like these. And while a Bilenky bike carries a significant price tag, one can easily see that these people are not exactly in this to get rich. Things like these bicycles take time, effort and know-how – money seems like it is the last thing Stephen Bilenky is interested in.
While it seems that there are hundreds of small batch bicycle makers across the U.S., when you take a closer look at things you can see a movement that began decades ago likely because these guys wanted to do things better. Interestingly, the past few years have seen a resurgence in companies like Bilenky Cycles Works based on the same type of thinking from consumers: quality. There seems to be a critical mass of a certain type of consumer that is interested in quality and is willing to pay for it. Though, I have to admit, that the recent resurgence of small batch manufacturing has been mostly based on the same few categories of products like bicycles, small leather goods, jeans etc. I’m eager to see manufacturers take a leap and expand the circle to other types of products.
With that said, I don’t want to take anything away from people like Bilenky who have fighting this fight for decades and continue to turn out heirloom quality goods. While everyone can’t afford a handmade bicycle, it is good to know that there are people out there that are willing to keep these types of places busy. [Vimeo via Andrew David Watson]