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Hand-built bikes using slow-food model

by Jordan Green

| jordan@yesweekly.com @Jordan GreenYES

When Steve Hollingsworth was growing up in Ohio, he learned about bicycle craftsmanship from an Amish man who maintained a shop in his barn.

“When I was growing up, I loved going to [bike shops] because it was okay to go there and hang out and learn,” he said. “Now bike shops have turned into dealerships. You’re expected to buy something and leave. I want to build a community of people who feel comfortable here. It’s going to be a service-oriented shop where people can ask questions, with a library and wi-fi so people can look stuff up on the internet.”

Hollingsworth has been obsessed with bicycles since he was a freshman in high school, when he bought his first hand-built bike, a Trek Singletrack 950, in 1996. “Google was the great university,” he said. “I stripped it down, repainted it and customized all the parts.”

Since then, he’s attended Barnett Bicycle Institute in Colorado to learn standard bicycle maintenance, and he takes advantage of as many free classes offered by manufacturers to understand how to work on their bicycles.

Eight months ago, Hollingsworth moved from Winston-Salem to High Point. He fell in love with a shop that had formerly served as a studio for the furniture market on West English Road, and began leasing the building. He plans to open to the public next spring. In the meantime, the shop serves as a workspace to fill orders for Hollingsworth’s hand-built wheel and frame business, and is open by appointment.

There are hundreds of components from which to choose in the creation of a customized wheel, which is comprised of four basic parts: a hub, spokes, a rim and nipples, which fasten the spokes to the rim.

“I’ve been working with a guy from Georgia, who wasn’t satisfied with the wheel set that he got from the manufacturer,” Hollingsworth said. “The wheel set we made was more robust, lighter and less expensive than what he was getting. You’re not paying me for a mass-marketing campaign.”

Customers generally spend $2,200 to $2,500 on custom-made bicycles.

“A custom bike is an investment,” Hollingsworth said. “It shouldn’t be your first bike.”

The craftsmanship that goes into the bicycle justifies its price, he added.

“You can use that bike for the rest of your life,” Hollingsworth said. “The materials we use, your kids’ kids can use it.”

Restored bicycles are more affordable. Right now, he’s working on a 1950s-era Dunelt made by Raleigh that he  picked up at a yard sale. He’s restored the original gold finish, but the original Sheffield steel has been replaced with new spokes and rims that are lighter. The finished bike will retail for $200 or $250.

To build a local market, Hollingsworth said he understands that he needs to promote a cycling community in High Point. He plans to donate 10 stylized, hand-built bike racks to local businesses when the shop opens in the spring, and make a cycling map of High Point.

Green Door Wheel Works currently hosts a weekly 10-mile ride that Hollingsworth describes as “super easy” and “talking speed.”

He picks a different local business, such as a bakery or microbrewery so that riders relax at the end of the ride and spend some money.

“I found a really nice community of people here,” Hollingsworth said. “There’s so much vision and talent. There’s a lot of cultural capital that’s waiting to be expressed.”

WANNA go?

Green Door Wheel Works is open by appointment only. Call 336.886.5430 or e-mail greendoorwheelworks@gmail.com.

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