FBQ #22 Cycles J Bryant

Posted September 30, 2012 @ 10:35pm | by S. Cutshall

Dusting off the FBQ Series (Frame Builder's Questionnaire) to feature a local -to me, here in Portlandia- fella by the name of Joshua Bryant.

I've seen a couple of his creations, I have even been to his shop a few times (for some work on my own bikes), I've even been mauled by his eager dogs- and I like what I see.  More than that though, I like his aesthetic... French Constructeur: a fully integrated approach to crafting The Steed itself.

I present to you, Joshua Bryant in his own words...



1.   How old are you?


2.   Where were you born?

Macon, GA

3.   What's your earliest memory of a bicycle or something bicycle related?

I remember my dad teaching me to ride without training wheels.  It was on our driveway, riding a spider-man themed, banana-seated bike.  I fell over on the rough asphalt and got pretty scraped up.  I wrote it off and thought I'd never get near the damn thing again.  About 9 months later, I was being lazy and didn't feel like walking down the block to my friends house so I hopped on and pedaled off, un-scathed.  I've been "lazy" ever since.


4.   What was your first cycle?

The aforementioned bike. I believe.  I did have a big wheel before that.

5.   How about first "high-end" cycle?

Mongoose MTB... Back when Mongoose had a bit of brand integrity.

6.   Did (does) your family (parents, siblings, etc) ride also?

My dad got into MTBing about the time he bought mine at around age 11.  He and my mom had 3-speed cruisers that didn't get much use.  He's since been pretty active with the sport, riding pretty regularly and doing triathlons now that he's retired.

7.   Did you like to tinker with bikes back then?

Oh, heck yeah.  I remember the first time I needed to do something "advanced" for a repair on the mongoose.  The front hub needed repacking, and my dad and I opened up the hub, and greased the bearings and put it back together.  Later that year, I had to replace the pawls on the cassette as it had begun freewheeling in both directions.  Alone, I took apart 2 different hubs and got this one to work with what I could cobble together.  I think I was about 12 then.  I've always liked to build things and tinker.


8.   Did you ever work in a Bike Shop... if so, where/how long?

I did from about age 16 to about age 20.  This was in Macon at one of the 2 shops that existed then.

9.   Have you ever done any organized racing?

No.  I've never really been über-competitive.  I just want to go out and challenge myself and have fun with friends doing the same.  I didn't see why any of us needed to be winners or losers as long as we were riding fast and having fun.

10.   How about cyclo-touring?

Not as much as I'd like.  My honeymoon was the first time I had done anything other than overnight.  We biked and trained through Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, and Hungary. My bike got stolen in Eastern Hungary on this trip and that's part of the reason I started building, though I had a passionate interest for about 6 years prior.


11.   What job(s) did you have before frame building and also-do you have any other job currently besides frame building?

I've been in the food and wine industry for the last 10+ years.  Before that I was a bike messenger for a few years.  Currently I work in specialty retail as a manager.  We sell beer, wine, cheese, charcuterie and housewares.  Food is my other passion in life and this job allows me an avenue to express my passion and to learn about business and managing a team of individuals with different interests, passions, and experiences. But as I'm getting busier and busier building, this job is taking more and more of a backseat to building.

12.   When did you start building?

I built my first frame back in 2007, to replace the frame that was stolen in Hungary. I've been practicing and building frames as I could ever since.


13.   Who would you say is your greatest influence in designing & frame building?

Well a few actually.  Past builders that I have great respect for are Alex Singer, René Herse, Jo Routens and others.  Modern builders that I admire are JP Weigle, Mitch Pryor (MAP Cycles), Toei in Japan, and a few others.  I admire these most because they all build in the style I concentrate in, but there are so many other talented builders that are either diverse builders or builders that focus on a different style of bike.  Folks like Richard Sachs and Tony Periera to name a couple.  The list could go on...

14.   Did you apprentice... if so, with who?

No, I taught myself by watching the Paterek videos and making a lot of mistakes and trying to learn from them.  From the beginning, I've pushed myself way beyond my comfort zone and I think I've grown tremendously as a builder because of it.

15.   What's your idea of the "perfect cycle" regardless if you built it or not?

A bike that disappears underneath allowing you to focus on the journey.

16.   Shooting a guess... how many frames would you say you've built?

I'm currently working on frames 9 and 10.  I've also built a lot of racks and did a lot of random practice brazing both lugged and filet.

17.   Any cycles out there that you secretly wished, "Darn, I wish I'd built that!"?

Not bikes, but certainly details from certain makers.  Especially the Herse stem design.


18.   Your idea of the perfect client?

Honestly, the one that enjoys the process and the experience, that knows what he or she wants, while simultaneously being open to suggestion from my experience both as an avid rider and a builder.

19.   What defines a nightmare client in your experience?

One that really can't afford the right bike up front.  If they are going for a custom and spec'ing cheap products that will have to be replaced soon instead of investing in ones that are more long-lived.  It's really the short sightedness of the situation.  I've deliberately not closed a couple potential  sales with potential customers like that, hoping that they either find another bike that will suit their purposes better at this point or at some future point understand the ammortized-cost of better quality goods a bit more.

20.   Any words of advice to up & coming frame builders?

Well as an up and comer myself: Don't. At least not professionally. Unless you have extreme business savvy as well as a penchant for customer service and the ability to build top notch bikes.  Oh and you'll also need a shit-ton of money in the first several years.


21.   What do you find most funny or peculiar (in a kind way-not brutal) about the cycle-buying public... what don't they get or aren't they seeing?

Not really sure about this.  Maybe an ego'd lack of understanding about bike design.  I remember overhearing a conversation at a recent Oregon Handbuilt Show:  An attendee was remarking to his friends about a handlebar bag and how it puts so much weight forward of the axle.  At first glance he's absolutely right, but then add the weight of the rider and the amount fore of this somewhat arbitrary point is but a small percentage of total weight of the rider and bike. It's a bit short sighted and not fully thought through.  Nothing wrong with that, it just shows a lack of personal experience with the specific design.  It's the hubris that went along with it.  I'd hate to think that folks like that are influencing their less-experienced friends in a negative way.  It's mostly a male phenomenon though, but I hear a lot of things like that from time to time.

22.   What do you think of mass-produced bikes (without naming names)?

Depends on the mass-production.  There is pretty quality stuff out there that is "mass"-produced and there's much cheaper stuff out there.  As an overall thing, I appreciate its existence in the market.  Very few folks would say "I think I want to start riding a bike, it's a good thing I have several thousand dollars lying around to spend on a custom machine."

23.   What cycle don't you have anymore that you wished you did?

That's a tough one.  I've owned some neat bikes, but now that I build bikes, I could theoretically build any of them...  Maybe that Spider Man banana seated bike for nostalgia?

24.   What cycle do you currently ride most, even if it wasn't built by you?

My made-by-me 650b Randonneuse.  I commute, run errands, ride brevets, camp and generally explore my world on this thing.


25.   When did you last ride your bike and for how far?

Yesterday and about 25-30 miles.  I don't really try and keep track.

26.   What's your idea of the perfect ride?

I've got two: 

The First:  Taking a tandem tour with my lovely wife.  Picking our way through Mediterranean Italy, Sicily, Corsica, Mediterranean France, Catalan, the Pyrénées, the Basque, Northern Spain, and Portugal.  Eating and drinking and lounging in picturesque settings, picnicking and dining out.  Generally trying to satiate our overwhelming sense of wanderlust and joie de vivre.

The second:  Getting together a team of my good riding buddies and going out on some mountain challenge that lasts a long day or through the night.  One that has us on a range of emotions and in the end we come out rewarded and much stronger both physically and as friends because of the experience.


27.   Could you ever see yourself being Car Free... just using mass-transportation and your bike to get around?  

I was until last year.  It was pretty easy to just never have owned a car and dealing with the limitations.  It's nice to have the car to pick up heavy things or to get out of town with our dogs and just go camping or swimming or visiting friends.  I wish that the US would invest more in mass transit.  We're a big country and having alternatives that were long sighted would be amazing.

28.   Why do you think so many folks have romanticized bicycles & bicycling?

It makes you feel like a kid and it's important to have a sense of youth in life.  I feel strongly that folks live longer if they feel younger.

29.   Any (other) passions or hobbies in your life?

Travel and food, wine, cocktails or other sensory pleasures.  I fancy myself a bit of a hedonist.

30.   If you could say one thing to Lance Armstrong what would it be?

Given what's going on in friends' personal lives this week: (and not in a judgmental way) Why did you leave the woman that helped you through cancer?  

Ask me a week ago and it would probably be:  You've raised a lot of recognition in America for the sport of cycling... What are you doing now and next to help people grow personally in the sport, if anything?


31.   In a pinch... McDonalds or Burger King?

The only time I eat either is on a brevet, so whatever's open at 3am.

32.   What kind of shampoo did you last use?

Aveda something or other flavor.

33.   Favorite libation: wine, beer or fire water?

All.  If I could only choose one, definitely wine.

34.   Even though there seems to be a real tradition to it-what do you think of folks who spend more time setting up their cycle with just the right color saddle, bar tape, bags, hoods, etc than actually riding or at least commenting on the ride?

Whatever their passion is.  For me personally, I want to enjoy the experience.  I don't begrudge folks that geek out more than ride, it takes all kinds to make life interesting. They're also the ones that push the envelope of style in bikes because they're the ones that have the time to be loudest, posting and commenting on pictures of beautiful bikes and calling attention to things that industry folks might gloss over.  I wish I had more time to geek out on stuff like that, so in a way, I envy them.


35.   Did you go to college... if so, what was your major?

No.  But I wanted to get into graphic design, advertising, linguistics, engineering and some form of psychotherapy.  In a way, owning a business allows me to pursue many of these and I don't have any college debts.

36.   Your favorite music while working (if any)?

I don't like to put things into genres.  I feel too old for that and I don't have any time to geek out on it these days like I did in my younger years.  I like music that has soul and edge and passion, no matter the genre.  I generally gravitate towards good ole rock-n-roll.


37.   If you had it to do all over again... would you be building cycles?

If asked another way: If I won the lottery, what would I be doing?  I would absolutely be doing this.  Plus product development for touring/randonneuring parts, as I feel like racing components that innovate for the sake of innovation have too much of the market share these days.

38.   What's your favorite lunch food during a work day in the shop?  

Jeez, you mean I get to take a lunch?

39.   When it's all said & done-what kind of legacy will you hope to have left behind?

I'd like to be known as a force that changed the face of cycling somehow.  If not that, a heckuva nice guy that built some great riding bikes.


40.   How can folks get in touch with you to order a custom cycle?

Give me an email or call or even write a letter.

Joshua Bryant

Cycles J Bryant, LLC


4614 SE 52nd Ave

Portland, OR 97206



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