Aspen builder turns to bikes in recession
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN, Colorado – What’s an Aspen home builder to do when he can’t build homes during a recession? Build bicycles instead.
Billy Taylor started building “townie” bikes with a passion in October when work slowed down. He hasn’t stopped since.
Taylor has now assembled some 70 bikes, most of them extremely colorful and all of them retro-chic.
“It was sort of a hobby that turned into an obsession,” he said.
Taylor generally takes vintage 10-speed road bikes from the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s and retools them into single-speed bikes designed for leisurely rides around town. His rebuilt bicycles are generally Fujis, Peugeots, Raleighs and Centurions, the workhorses from an era when cycling’s popularity exploded.
Most of the bikes that Taylor has customized were tucked away in garages or attics and some were exposed to the elements in backyards. He has rescued them at garage sales or by answering newspaper and online ads. As word of his hobby spread, some people offered him their old bikes.
He strips off the crank sets, the brakes and cables, and de-greases the drive mechanisms and bearings. Usually he must strip the finish off the frames as well and repaint them.
Some real gems have found second life thanks to Taylor’s hands. He rescued a 1968 Royce Union with a rusted frame. A unique bike by Browning, the gunmaker, also transformed into a retooled classic.
More often then not, it’s not gems Taylor starts working with. He turns an ordinary old bike into something extraordinary. A run-of-the-mill Centurion, for example, was transformed into “the Lance bike” that he hopes will pique the interest of seven-time winner of the Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, who has a home in Aspen and trains there.
It’s got a shiny yellow look “since he’s always the man in yellow,” Taylor said, with a black-and-white wrap for the top tube.
It takes anywhere from four hours to a full day to build a bike. “My very first one, I spent way too much money,” he said. He quickly learned to be more frugal.
Billy’s son Michael helped unearth his dad’s passion for bike building. Michael spotted a Raleigh fixer-upper and had a vision for a townie bike. Billy used his skills as a homebuilder to help make it happen.
The first big test of whether the bikes would sell came three weeks at ago at a sale at the Limelight Lodge in Aspen. To the Taylors’ relief, there was a “mob scene” with people lined up to check the custom rides at the start of the sale. They sold 10 bikes. Most models are priced at $590 or $690. Those requiring new wheel sets go for $890.
A portion of proceeds from each sale go to the Buddy Program, which the Taylors have supported for a long time.
The Taylors also plan to sell the bikes online and are setting up a Web site.
Snow usually comes and goes in this part of the state. A forecasted storm is expected to stick around for a while. Forecasters are calling for snow to persist throughout the weekend in the high country, with a prospect of a couple of feet of powder by the time the storm starts to diminish on Monday.