Crafting bicycles for life
For some, life on two wheels ended with their first car. For others, the bicycle is something bought for a couple hundred bucks and used for trips to the bar or breezy rides through the park. For serious cyclists, the bicycle is much more—an elegant form of transportation, a lifestyle, a finely engineered racing machine, or even a work of art. In that world of serious, long-distance cyclists you’ll find Mitch Pryor and his business, MAP Bicycles. In a year, Pryor hand-crafts 30 or so bicycles from scratch out of his north Chico workshop, serving clients all over the world. MAP Bicycles have appeared on magazine covers and in international events. To buy a custom, ride-ready MAP Bicycle, you’ll need to get on an eight-month waiting list. Learn more at www.mapbicycles.com.
What inspired you to start your business?
I started MAP as a challenge to myself. I was a bike mechanic, and after wrenching for about 10 years, feeling a bit limited and bored, I wondered if I could design and build a bike from scratch. Not having any metal fabrication skills, it was a big challenge and I went down a path of training that lasted four years. I went out on my own and started MAP in 2007.
How did you learn to build bicycles?
I worked for another frame builder for two years while I quietly built bikes for friends and friends of friends. Along the way I learned countless things from a number of people: frame-builders, machinists, fabricators and entrepreneurs. Not being afraid to try new things has been a great [lesson].
Why do you love bicycles?
It’s as simple as machines get, really, and one of the most efficient vehicles in existence. It amazes me that the bike has remained relatively unchanged for over 100 years. There’s something lasting and perfect about a bicycle and its only limitation is the rider, which I find intriguing.
What materials do you use?
I use steel. Modern steel alloys are very light and strong and I like the reparability and ride that steel offers over aluminum or carbon fiber. These bikes are meant to last a lifetime, and that’s a reasonable expectation with steel. I like the idea that the bikes I build will likely outlast me.
What type of cyclist pays more than $4,000 for a frame?
A lot of high-end, mass-produced bikes will fetch more than what I charge for a custom bicycle that I will stand behind for life. Generally, though, I don’t compete with the mass market. My bikes fall within a niche of cyclists who ride distance events, called brevets. Those riders rely on custom builders to get exactly what they need. Usually, what they want isn’t available off the peg.
What have you learned while building your business?
I’ve learned so much, but mainly I’ve learned that this whole endeavor is a process, and I look at what I do as something continually evolving. I’m on my own trajectory and don’t have a growth model, aside from my own growth as a businessman and fabricator. I want to remain connected to these challenges even if it means remaining small. It’s always been about the bikes.