Cleverchimp LLC is now Clever Cycles LLC. The latter company has absorbed the former. The formalities are complete; we’re opening a bike shop here in Portland. We’re now a two-family business instead of one. Or rather, we’re now two families very busy opening a new business. Before long this site will look quite different. Stokemonkey will continue to be developed and supported; the Cleverchimp name will likely shift from being a company name to a brand name of products that Clever Cycles develops.
Dean and Rachel Mullin live a ten-minute ride away from us. They have four children, three dogs, a cat and a dozen chickens. They’re down to one car now that sits idle mostly. Like us, they’re an all-bicycle, all-the-time kind of family. After working through the usual succession of typical solo bikes to trailers, tag-alongs, tandems, and sprawling mutant permutations thereof, they acquired a ZEM, and found it rather heavy. Their search for an assist motor put them on the Stokemonkey/Xtracycle path. They bought two. Rachel had meanwhile identified the Bakfiets as a missing piece of the puzzle between the too big, 300-lb ZEM and sometimes too small or light Xtracycles for big family transport. A few weeks after we spent a warm afternoon on a slightly tricky Stokemonkey installation, Dean proposed “Let’s open a bike shop!” It turns out he was serious.
I had always imagined Cleverchimp diversifying away from just assist kits into a bike shop, but not so fast. Not fast at all. Dean’s a lot more decisive than I am. All four of us complement each other pretty well. We all want our children to see and understand what we do for a living, to understand that turning 16, or 21, or 42 doesn’t mean you need, or need aspire to a car (if it will even be an option in 2020, 2025, or 2045), and to build a business they can someday run, if they choose.
We’re doing something that’s either unprecedented, or whose previous attempts to do in this era, in this country, have failed in silent obscurity. We’re selling bicycles designed squarely to replace car trips, or render cars entirely spurious within town, even for larger households, as a matter of pleasurable, enlightened self-interest instead of frugal compulsion, hairshirt eco-guilt, or body-sculpting fantasy. Exclusively. Bikes you can haul your sweetie to the movies with, that he can haul you back home on, and that you’ll both haul your kids to the grocery on. There’ll also be folding bikes for their ability to permeate the smallest interstices of your mobile life, be it under the table at a posh restaurant, through the aisles of local shops, between the seats of a train, or in the trunk of a shared car or cab. Soon there’ll be more hub gearing, generator lighting, center stands, mudflaps, bells, and steely plain-clothes cargo goodness than under maybe any other roof on this continent. I’ll save details for future posts, but longtime readers of this blog should have a pretty good idea. We live it. Actually, you ain’t seen nothing yet. We’re always learning.
We assure ourselves often that “if it can work anywhere in this country, it can work in Portland.” We can’t go anywhere without being halfway mobbed by interest in our rides, and nobody in town sells this stuff. Whether or not it works as a business, we won’t regret introducing vital new material strains of bike culture to Portland. We hope to help restore Portland’s streets to the child’s play and slow conviviality they were designed for, to return the advantage to city businesses without parking lots who sell bulkier stuff than haircuts, to revive the enchantments of place and distance within our city by opening the eyes, ears, nostrils and lungs of those who traverse it, to take back family vegetable gardens and fruit trees from retrofit driveways and garages, to reclaim our bodies for the complete locomotive functions they are evolved to serve, and to proclaim, daily, that free and dignified people of all ages and stations in life needn’t strap themselves into cages weighing tons to go places, carry things, live long, and prosper.
Our shop will open during the month of
May June (drat contractors!) at 1516 SE 9th Avenue, right off Hawthorne, across from the Lucky Labrador brewpub. A grand opening will follow us getting up and running more completely.