My name is Eric Estlund, and I build and own Winter Bicycles in Eugene, Oregon.
Like most guys I have a long term love affair with bikes but I’ll focus more on the specific experiences that lead to my frame building. I raced a bit in high school and spent long hours in the saddle training, commuting and riding with friends. At college I started to get involved with bike mechanics, mostly as part of bike advocacy. I ran an on campus co-op that loaned out gear, helped with repairs and really tried to promote cycling as a lifestyle. At the same time I was working towards an art degree in metal sculpture. While I wasn’t building bikes, the main focus of my degree was on the intersection of hand craft and “art”. As my personal life became more bike focused, my academic life started to explore the relationship between form and function. Over the next six years those two interests began to merge. I spent time as a bike mechanic, worked bike retail/ fitting, and developed a mechanical base. I continued to work in bike advocacy as well as urban cycling education. I also worked as a high school art and experiential education teacher, and started to pull my love of bikes and love of making stuff together. Watching kids learn about themselves, their community and each other was very rewarding- and it was great to be able to help that transformation with a variety of tools.
Taking a UBI class solidified my interest in combining bikes and craft. I went in to the class with the full understanding I would build more bikes and used it to really focus on the process. As fate would have it my wife and I moved to Eugene shortly after for her job and to be closer to her family. Before we hit the road I arranged an interview with Bike Friday. Two days after we arrived in town I had a full time gig as a brazer for a domestic bike company. I went from zero to a thousand braze-ons a week in 13 days. Nothing teaches you to braze like brazing.
Bike Friday was very generous to me, and in addition to bouncing around learning different skills there, I started working on my own side projects after hours. About a year later I started Winter Bicycles part time and exhibited at my first show. I chose to name my company Winter because I wanted to express the idea of using a bike year round and having it become part of your daily life, be it for utility or sport. I like the concept of not having an “off season.” By the following year I was spending enough of my time with Winter I decided to make the leap to full time and have been at it since.
I see my primary job as listening to and translating customer wants and needs. While we all love the object, much of the value of the experience is in the design process, building customer relationships and seeing our collective ideas produce something unique.
In addition to complete builds and fully integrated bikes, I also sell individual parts. I build the occasional replacement or conversion fork, racks for non-Winters, and I seem to be developing a pretty comfortable following of custom stem buyers. Some of you may have seen the double headed stem I built for a gentleman with two different arm lengths. I really enjoy these unique challenges. I also have been doing more and more special projects and small batch work for other bike companies.
I build in steel with fully lugged and fully fillet brazed bikes, as well as working in hybrid and bi-lam methods. At a recent show someone asked me if one of the bikes was an “art bike.” While I appreciate the comment, my answer was “no.” I strive to make clean solid performance bikes that fit the needs of their riders. My bikes are meant to be ridden first and foremost, but I don’t mind if they look good doing it.
- Eric Estlund