A Trip Down Bowery Lane
Never did you see such beauty on two wheels! It might be the simplicity of design and dreamy colours that first draw your attention to Bowery Lane Bicycles, but behind their pretty frames is a very unique philosophy. 99% of bikes sold in the US are imported from overseas, which makes Bowery Lane one of a very small handful of companies that manufacture locally. Every bicycle is handmade in New York City using locally-sourced materials and solar-powered machinery, and encouraging people to explore bike riding as an alternative mode of transport is more important to Bowery Lane than just providing customers with a new accessory. Lucky for us budding cyclists here in Australia, the bikes are now available for purchase on Monkey See. So how did Bowery Lane get started and just how do they differ from your run-of-the-mill bike company? We asked Bowery Lane co-founder Sean Naughton to give us the goss…How did Bowery Lane get started?
It began with two neighbours, Patrick Benard and Sean Naughton, coming together and looking for some way to get involved in the urban cycling movement that is happening in New York City and around the world. We just weren’t sure what ‘it’ was at the time, but over the course of a year and a half we decided to start a small bike company that would incorporate our philosophies and create something that was truly local and affordable at the same time. It is too often an oxymoron to be both, plus add a fashionable element to it, and we realised that our vision was something entirely unique.
What are the goals of Bowery Lane? To encourage cycling? To promote environmental awareness?
Absolutely! All of the above. Being a part of the cycling movement was the reason we started the company. When we talk about the ‘movement’ we mean the use of bicycles as an everyday means of transportation – for both getting from one place to another and for carrying what you need along the way. Whether it’s to work, getting your kids to school, meeting friends for a pint or bringing home groceries from the local market. These things can and should be done on a bike for so many reasons – enjoyment, personal health, the environment. Cycling and our environment are so closely tied that by encouraging one you help the other along.
Apart from being aesthetically beautiful, what are some of the features of a Bowery Lane bicycle?
It’s interesting that what most people find beautiful seems to us to be the simplicity in the bikes’ design. It really is a lack of features that people are drawn to. Most of our bikes are sold with coaster brakes and are single speed so there are no cables, guides, shifters or braze-ons. It’s just a pure, uncomplicated bicycle in classic colors. Such beautiful materials – steel, leather and wood – are basic to human craftsmanship and have been used for a very, very long time. In addition, the wood crates have always been an original signature of Bowery Lane Bicycles.
What are some of the differences between Bowery Lane bikes and regular, mass-produced bikes?
Each frame starts with tubing sourced from the US or Canada. The pieces are all hand cut and welded in a small shop in Brooklyn, right over the bridge from our homes in the East Village. We then personally bring them over in small quantities to a painting facility down the street and then build the bikes up ourselves. It’s amazing how many hands touch each and every frame before a customer takes a Bowery Lane Bicycle on its first journey. The process is imperfect and yet that’s what makes them so great.
If I were to ride a Bowery Lane bike around my city, what would some of the benefits be to me and my community?
It’s remarkable how good cycling is for the rider and his/her community. It’s faster and more fun than walking and cheaper than taking the bus or subway. Every time someone rides a bike, that takes one car off the road and therefore contributes to better air quality, less gas consumption and a quieter, safer city. Then you have the personal health benefits of cycling over sitting in a car, bus or train: it’s good for your heart, increases muscle tone and reduces stress. Everyone should be doing it!
Bicycle riding is really popular in cities like New York and gaining a lot of ground in Australia too. Do you think it could be the future of transportation?
It is absolutely an important part of the future of transportation. There is a worldwide migration of people to urban areas and cycling is going to be an ever more important answer to overcrowded highways, streets, buses and trains. We are now finally seeing cities make the necessary investment in the cycling-specific infrastructure needed to make roads safer for bicyclists. This in turn makes everyday people more comfortable with the idea of riding their bike. It’s starting in the cities but I can see it translating to the suburbs and rural areas alike. It will just take time and more politicians with common sense and vision.