For many of us, reminiscing to the warm spring days of childhood can be a tour adorned with dreamy bike rides through old neighborhoods or feverish races in back lot trails. But at some point, sadly, those plywood jumps crumbled, the mudholes dried up, our skinned knees healed, and ultimately, we bought cars and began our lifelong battles for parking. Well, at least some of us did. Others, such as the Oakland-based founders of Broakland Bicycles Jason Grove, Jason Montano, and Steve Radonich made biking their passion, zipping past the norm and into the bipedal future of urban transportation.
Handmade in Oakland, Broakland bicycles are fixed-gear bikes professionally designed to be sold for both the track and for everyday commutes. Reviving the triple-triangle frame made famous by GT Bicycles, the boys at Broakland have unleashed a uniquely Bay Area flavor of bike, complete with custom paint jobs by local graffiti artists. The old-school style and unquestionable quality of the work entrusted into these bikes dial them into that nexus where "great" separates itself from "good." But what really makes these cycles so special is the way the three unique personalities of Broakland's classically East Bay designers shine through in their finished product.
BIKES BY THE NUMBERS
Jason Montano, also owner and chief mechanic of upbeat Oakland bike shop Montano Velo, is the numbers guy. He tweaks the fork rakes, offsets, bottom bracket drops, head angles, and seat angles, even if you don't know what those things are. He hasn't owned a car in eight years.
He's as unlikely to be behind the wheel of a car as he is behind a desk. He's more likely to be out riding his beauties or working on bikes at the shop. He admits that he doesn't fit the classic model of a businessowner. "I don't wear a suit," he said. "I am who I am. But if I couldn't live doing what I'm doing, I wouldn't do it."
So far, so good. The shop's been open for four years and is doing well. And the Broakland line, unveiled a little over a year ago, has been garnering great reviews.
BIKE BUILDING AS SCIENCE
The ridiculously talented craftsman of the Broakland crew is Jason Grove, who is also the man behind Emeryville's El Camino Fabrications. A welder who developed and refined his skills at the Seattle aerospace juggernaut Boeing, and he's been building bikes for almost 18 years. Armed with his TIG welder, Jason prudently fashions the Broakland frames from high-grade aluminum and titanium tubing, utilizing a technique that fills the tubes with argon during welds to ensure extra durability and a longer shelf life.
His solar-powered shop, which doubles as his studio apartment, is impressively clean. He claims that clean air helps the welds gel. Confucians claim that a clean house creates good energies that help the mind think. In that vein, Grove prides himself on putting good energy into his product. "It's all about good karma," he said. "And I think that goes into these bikes and makes them better for it."
THE ART OF THE BICYCLE
Broakland's jack-of-all-trades is Steven "Stevie" Radonich. He's the energetic hype man who makes sure that the bikes are as stylish as they are functional. Stevie, rider and art consultant for Broakland, has brought in East Bay graffiti artists Soul from the TDK crew and widely-known Goser to create custom paint jobs for these rides. Sleek marble, quintessential custom flame paint jobs, or graffiti-style lettering topped off with a beautiful finish elevate these high-end bikes beyond transportation or sport: they ascend into the realm of art.
The prices on these masterpieces start with the Street Fighter model, a traditional track bike that runs about $1,350, including a base paint job. Things get pricier as you continue to trick them out.