Bike Friendly Oak Cliff invited bike builder Tom LaBonty to give workshops during its Cyclesomatic celebration in 2012.
Artist Brennen Bechtol of Elmwood, who also is a bike mechanic, took LaBonty’s workshop and learned how to build a simple cargo bike. That was the beginning of what would become Oak Cliff Cargo Bicycles.
The company, which formed last year, recently has built custom cargo built bikes for clients including Toms shoes.
Bechtol started with one handmade cargo bike, the one he made right after the LaBonty workshop. He made it with an old Schwinn he had in his garage and wheelbarrow parts. He started riding that prototype around the neighborhood. It had a little sign that said “for sale,” but that’s about as far as he took it regarding a business plan.
That’s where Jonathan Braddick came in. Braddick, who lives in Kings Highway and has a background in marketing, noticed the “for sale” sign and realized cargo bikes could be a business.
“I said, ‘Hey man, I can help you sell these things,’ ” Braddick recalls.
They started taking the cargo bike on social group rides and handing out business cards.
One of their first big orders was for a coffee bike, essentially an espresso bar on two wheels, for a friend in Colorado. Since then, they have crafted their $10,000 coffee bikes for two other clients, including the one for Toms. They recently have partnered with Rachel Spire of Grapevine-based Regeared, who makes art out of bike parts and also is a carpenter. Spire now is creating all of Oak Cliff Cargo Bicycles’ wooden components, boxes for coffee bikes and, essentially, the “cargo” part of the cargo bike.
For example, their Bonnie Wagon, which has three wheels, includes a wooden box with bench seats for children. Bechtol and Spire recently built a Bonnie Wagon for a client in Fort Worth who wanted a way to pedal around her neighborhood with little ones in tow. That one sells for about $1,800.
The Oak Cliff Cargo Bicycles studio is off Fort Worth Avenue, very near the Western Heights Cemetery where Clyde Barrow is buried. So naturally, they have a cargo bike named after ol’ Clyde. It costs about $1,100 and is for hauling stuff, not children.
There’s also the Stevie, named for our neighborhood’s great bluesman, which costs $750 and has a platform over the front wheel, perfect for deliveries.
“We’re making handcrafted, affordable, Dutch-style cargo bikes,” Braddick says. “And we’re keeping a lot of stuff out of the landfill.”
That’s because about 40 percent of all the materials used in each cargo bike they make come from old bikes and recycled metal and wood. The box for the first coffee bike, for example, was crafted from old shiplap pine that Bechtol found on bulk trash day in Oak Cliff.
“We try to reuse as much as we can,” he says.
Braddick and Bechtol also welcome clients to bring their own bike frames or other parts to be reused in an order if they wish.
Braddick says Oak Cliff Cargo Bicycles is turning profits. Bechtol works fulltime, and at press time, the company was seeking a fulltime contract welder.
For more information contact Oak Cliff Cargo Bicycles at 214.205.4205 or oakcliffcargobicycles.com.
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