NAHBS 2012: Ira Ryan Cycles of Portland, Oregon

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NAHBS 2012 may have been a week ago, but we’ve got a ton of profiles of handmade cyclocross bikes and builders from NAHBS still to come. Check back often for more eye candy and new cyclocross products, and view our recent NAHBS 2012 cyclocross coverage.

by Kevin White

It’s no secret that Portland, Oregon, has a thriving bicycle community. The city consistently ranks among the top of the “US most bike-friendly cities” lists, bicycle commuting numbers are up and starting fields at the local cyclocross races are often 100 participants deep. It’s no wonder that the state is turning out some great handmade bicycle frames, and several of the Oregon builders were on hand at this year’s NAHBS showing off their work. We caught up with Ira Ryan, one of the Portland-based builders who, in addition to bringing an example of his custom cargo bike offerings, had on hand a fully race-ready cyclocross bike just completed for Catherine Moore (Bicycles Outback), the 2011 Women’s Texas state cyclocross champion.

Ira Ryan Cycles, based in Portland, Oregon has been building custom frames since 2005. © Kevin White

Ryan began racing as a junior and put in over a decade as a bicycle mechanic beginning at the age of 16. In 2000, he moved from Iowa City to Portland and spent several years as a bicycle messenger before turning his attention to the world of custom frame fabrication. Ryan described the experience: “I had raced on bikes, worked on bikes, toured on bikes and been a mechanic. I had done everything. I reached a point where I wanted to build a frame and so I went to Sacha White of Vanilla Bicycles and asked him his advice.” White agreed to teach Ryan the craft and Ryan’s first frame was built in 2005 in the Vanilla workshop. “I feel like I brought to the table my mechanical knowledge,” remarked Ryan. “Building the frame was one thing, but knowing how all of the parts work together to make a bicycle is such a big part of it. I feel that I got as much from working as a mechanic for decades as I did from taking three weeks to build my first bicycle frame.”

The Avid Shorty Ultimate brakes set wide give the bike a classic ’cross look. © Kevin White

Fast forward to 2012 and Ryan is now producing about 25 to 30 custom frames a year ranging from city bikes to cyclocross bikes to road racing machines. “Every bike is a completely different creative process and it’s nice to be able to have a fresh set of problems to solve,” said Ryan. While about 20 percent of the bicycles coming out of his shop are for city use, many with mounts for fenders and racks, Ryan admits an inner racer’s sensibility. “I’ll build elegant and beautiful city bikes with disc brakes, but being able to make a light weight race-purpose ’cross bike … I love to have that as a design challenge.”

During the year, Ryan still finds time to race and continues to grow and support a cyclocross team that bears his name. Other projects include frame building for the Rapha Continental race team and a new collaboration with Tony Pereira of Pereira Cycles and Rapha to produce a limited edition production road bicycle called the Continental. It will be available in six sizes and will come completely outfitted with pre-selected components. If that isn’t enough, Ryan is also getting married this August just outside of Oakridge, Oregon, with a mountain bike wedding he terms, “a shredding.”

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