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Bespoke spokes: This Calgarian is among handful of Albertans who build bikes from scratch

Bespoke spokes: This Calgarian is among handful of Albertans who build bikes from scratch

The COVID-19 pandemic not only spiked public interest in outdoor pursuits like cycling but also left some people waiting up to a year or more for new bicycles due to disruptions to manufacturing and shipping. But a Calgary man is among a handful of Albertans offering one alternate route: bespoke bikes, hand-crafted from scratch to fit the body and vision of each buyer.

Corey Kruchkowski was one of three Albertans whose hand-built bikes were showcased at a recent cycling event called Revolution 2.0 at Toolshed Brewery in Calgary, along with Edmonton-based Dale Marchand of RollingDale Cycles (who founded his company in 2016 and specializes in titanium frames) and Andy Tong of BicycleRepairHub.

Kruchkowski, whose company is called Kruch Handmade Steel Bicycles, says his waiting list stretches to July 2022.

“I think my particular brand is that they’re bold because they are created one at a time or in very small batches. I can be really change-agile and my bikes can reflect sort of current market trends.”

Kruchkowski starts by meeting with a client to go over their wants and needs, then implements the data into a software to see if it’s ergonomically possible. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Kruchkowski, who is an oil and gas worker by day, first got into building customized bikes a few years ago.

An avid cyclist who stands 6’5″, he used to struggle to find a size that fit at bike shops.

“When I had the means, eventually, I was able to order myself a custom-built bicycle that was made just to fit me … that was such an epiphany for me,” he said.

“People that love riding bikes, they’ll spend hours at a time riding them, and some people that are fairly extreme riders will spend days sitting on that bike. And so it has to be a good fit.”

Kruchkowski says most of his customers are bike lovers who come knocking with a vision, so planning is key.

WATCH | Corey Kruchkowski shows how he builds bikes from scratch in the video below:

Custom bicycles can fit your body and schedule, if you’re willing to wait

“They have every little specific detail that they want included and sometimes that can be challenging because I need to take that and create a model and then, you know, give that back for approval before I move forward with building the bike.”

That ability to customize every aspect attracts customers like Chris Turner, who purchased a Kruch handmade bike just over a year ago.

“I’ve always wanted to have not only a fully custom bike with regards to, you know, choosing every single part on the bike, but having a custom frame built for me,” said Turner, who also appreciates that the bike comes from a local builder.

“The great thing about building a bike with a fabricator is it’s a two-way conversation. You say, ‘Oh, I want this,’ and then maybe they take some measurements of your body, or maybe they look at a couple of bikes that have fit you really well in the past.”

Kruchkowski says once he’s hammered out the vision with his customer, actually building the bicycle is pretty straightforward — if, that is, you have a mechanical background and experience welding.

Kruchkowski, shown working in his shop, says it usually takes between 40 and 60 hours to build a bike. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

“Working with metal and building bicycles, there’s a real tactile piece to that and then a sense of accomplishment. I mean, you create this thing from just the components.”

It can take him 40 to 60 hours to craft a custom ride, including the time to track down parts from across North America amid the COVID-19-related disruptions to the supply chain.

His frames cost about $1,800, with options adding to the price. A commissioned, complete frame and fork might ring in at $2,100 while complete gravel bikes can range from $4,000 to $6,000 and complete mountain bikes  from $4,500 to $6,500.

Kruchkowski hopes to some day design and build  bikes full-time, but until then he’s built a variety of frames that customers can purchase this winter.

“I get a huge amount of satisfaction out of doing this. It’s really easy to get motivated to work on them because, at the end of the day, I feel like I’m doing something really positive.”

The ability to specify every detail on a hand-built bike attracts customers like Chris Turner, shown riding the Kruch bike he purchased just over a year ago. (Submitted by Chris Turner)

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