Business is cranking at Vulture Cycles of Bend, handcrafting striking, custom bicycles to satisfy the growing demand for innovative, two-wheeled wonders of discriminating appeal.
Owner Wade Beauchamp has been building these sweet and sacred bike frames since 1997 when his love of cycling led him to push the envelope in artistic design and attention to detail. Using quality True Temper steel and titanium, Beauchamp’s creations are labors of love whose loyal customers, both local and national, receive artisan-style bikes they’re proud to own and ride.
“I can build more than just frames, forks and racks; I build relationships,” declared Beauchamp. “It’s all about what the customer wants, from simple to elaborate, using different trade skills and techniques.”
Beauchamp moved to Bend from Flagstaff, Arizona in 1998. Once settled in Central Oregon, he started working in manufacturing and learned a fair amount of machining and welding while working on bikes in his spare hours. It was a time when larger bike companies were moving toward cheaper aluminum frames and this opened a niche for smaller craftsmen to explore and profit from.
“I’ve always been interested in bikes and frame building,” he said. “A friend of mine had a late ’80s Moots Mountaineer and I built my own version of it as one of my first prototypes. Bend had a much better industry base back then and good job opportunities. The housing market was cheap and I came for the same reasons most people do – abundant outdoor recreation and a great lifestyle.”
After two years of working at Metolius Mountain Products, the industry leader in rock climbing equipment, he increased his attention to the custom frame business in 2003 and Vulture was off and flying.
“I had a lot of learning to do still and got a job at Snowline Manufacturing at the Bend airport. We were a subcontractor for Columbia and Cessna. At Snowline l worked on improving my welding skills and got certified for aircraft welding. That job ended in 2008 and I dove into Vulture full time. Throughout all the jobs, I still had my shop and built frames as much as I could for the time allowed.”
With the bicycle industry booming and technology driving the fevered interest in new product, Vulture Cycles is now focusing on developing its marketing and advertising strategy and making itself a strong, viable business.
“My greatest influence is mountain biking but I’m well versed in all styles: cyclocross bikes, commuter cruiser bikes, track bikes, road bikes, and every variation in between,” he said, cranking down a bolt on a frame. “In mountain biking alone there’s three different wheel sizes, single speed and multi-speed, hardtails and full suspension, and I can custom fit and fabricate anything within those categories. Everything I do is individually fit to the rider. There’s a lot of frame geometry that came be tweaked and altered from the norm.”
“The state of the market right now is amazing. There’s a lot more custom frame builders than there used to be and a lot of new technology from Asia. Bike prices have skyrocketed and people are into geek tech. But the cottage industry is rising because cyclists like to have a bike where they know the builder personally. Bikes today are so much better than they used to be. The corporations have had to innovate every year. You can choose between a factory built bike or a custom-tailored machine. With mine, every aspect and component is fit to their riding style and needs. I do everything from frame and fork to every single part including wheels.”
When matching a bike to a customer, Beauchamp feels it’s critical to properly place the rider between the wheels in order to obtain a correct fit, which may seem obvious but is often overlooked.
“That way you have a bike that’s as nimble as you can get it but also super stable,” he explained. “And that’s the biggest challenge, and so it’s important to ask the rider what kind of terrain the bike will be ridden on. I design mountain bikes differently for the East Coast versus West Coast style of riding. As a rule, the East is for shorter, more technical trails and the West is more expansive and so I give them a longer top tube and a slacker head tube angle with more travel in the suspension. The most crucial factor is the body geometry of the rider and I take into account weight, flexibility, age, and sex. I take a series of five different body measurements.”
For 2011-12, Vulture is excited to introduce new designs and strives for an unparalleled customer experience.
“Right now I build about 40-50 bikes a year and also do some contract work for other builders. Once a client’s deposit is received and it’s time for their bike to be started I’ll call them and we nail down the final details. I take pictures of it in the entire fabrication process so they can see it being built. Then it goes to the powder-coater and it’s shipped or picked up locally. Right now my backlog is about four to six months. I’m really working on streamlining my customer interface and hoping to do a better job of speeding up the front end of the process. Buyers can also add a custom paint job by my painters in Eugene or Grants Pass. The art and science of powder coating has advanced so much over the past five years. The selection of colors and the luster they can produce is incredible.”
The future of Vulture Cycles shines like one of Beauchamp’s polished handmade frames in the summer sun.
“I’d like to turn my marketing campaigns into working vacations and make it my goal to ride my bike more as a way of promoting and expanding the Vulture name and product line,” he said. “I don’t think I need to make any more frames to make a good living but hope to improve my quality and keep making better and better bikes right here in Bend.”
www.vulturecycles.com or 541-410-5982