With Wildflower Bicycles, Superior manufacturer aims to meet cyclists' needs
Owner Wes Vann works with customers to build bicycles that fit their riding style and needs.
Getting a bicycle to suit personal preferences has gotten easier in the Twin Ports.
Wildflower Bicycles is a small, custom bike manufacturer operating out of the Superior Business Development annex facility, the former Arrowhead Printing Shop.
Owner Wesley Vann said he launched the business more than two years ago while living in Idaho. He moved into the space in Superior in late October.
"I'd met a custom bike friend a number of years ago while I was traveling out in Arizona,” Vann said. “I was kind of chatting with him and learning what he did a little bit more. I've always been a tinkerer and quite an active cyclist, as well. Figuring out that there was a number of people making bike frames throughout the United States. After chatting with him for a little bit, I kind of decided that was something I wanted to pursue."
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In Oregon, he said he decided to take a course to learn the technical skills needed for building bicycle frames.
“I just started doing a little tinkering on my own, and it evolved to this,” Vann said.
Primarily, Vann hand builds mountain bikes and all-road drop bar bikes, but he said can build almost any bike his customers want.
"The bikes are built for riding around here,” Vann said. “That's the riding I do and I'm familiar with. I kind of design things around our regional riding opportunities."
When an order comes in, either through his website or by word of mouth, Vann said the first order of business is to gather information about what the customer wants and to get measurements to make sure the bike is a good fit for the rider. Then he sits down at the computer and begins to design the bike using a CAD program. The program allows him to adjust tube lengths, change geometry and mockup different components of the bike to suit the rider’s preferences and riding style. Measurements are added to make sure the bike is a good fit for the rider.
Once the design is complete, he sends it to the customer to determine if any changes are needed before the build begins.
With the design complete, Vann heads to the milling machines with materials in hand to make the cuts for the frame. He said because of the materials he has access to, it could be a heavier, thicker tube or a thinner, lightweight tube depending on the customer’s preference. He adds water bottle mounts using silver brazing and assembles the frame in a jake to hold it all together while he tacks it together for the final weld.
“It’s primarily tig welding that I’m using,” Vann said.
When the frame is complete, Vann said he sends it out to be painted before beginning the assembly process. Working at it part-time, he said he can typically finish a bike in about three weeks.
Vann said if small issues arise when the build is complete, he can fix it because of the relationship he's built with his customers.
And, it's a chance to own a bike that's made in America.
Vann said a lot of larger bike manufacturers have outsourced building, so it’s primarily the small manufacturers like him and slightly larger shops that still build bikes in the United States.
“If you want to support U.S. manufacturing, you go the route of a custom builder,” Vann said. It's a really good option for that."
For more information, go to wildflowerbicycles.com .