An interview with Bruce Gordon

By Jeff Lockwood, photos by Maurice Tierney

Hometown: Chicago, Illinois

Current location: Petaluma, California. It’s paradise here.

How did you get started building frames?

I was in graduate school as an art major, and dropped out in 1970 or 1971. I Moved to California and started working in bike shops. Albert Eisentraut was teaching bike building classes, and I signed up. Joe Breeze and some other influential people were also in the classes. I enjoyed making stuff, and eventually became part owner and vice president of Eisentraut, Inc. I wanted out after a few years, and moved to Oregon in 1976 and started Bruce Gordon Cycles. I’ve been doing that ever since.

What’s the best thing about your job?

This is all I’ve ever done for most of my life. I’ve been doing it since 1974. I really like bicycles. I like thinking about them, and I like building them… and riding them, of course.

What’s the toughest part of your job?

I hate the bike business and the bullshit that goes on with the whole thing. I’ve hated marketing my whole life, and there’s a lot of stuff the bike industry doesn’t want you to know. Through creative marketing, these companies twist truth, make you think how they want you to think. I like making bikes, but I dislike the fact that this is a country that, in my lifetime, really makes nothing. When I started, fancy bikes were made in Europe and then in Japan…we’ve gone further from making things in the United States. Most people don’t even interact with someone that physically makes something with their hands. As a result, they don’t really have a concept of something that’s really well-made. We live in a country where if someone tells you it’s the best, then it’s the best.

What was the first frame you built?

1974 when I was in Albert’s class…it was a road bike that I still have. I have a collection of about 30 bikes I’ve made that have state-of-the-art parts of the time…all my prototypes.

Where is your favorite place to ride?

I ride mostly by myself out here in Petaluma. I can ride from my house, all the way to the coast, along rolling pastures. I love that. What are your interests aside from bicycles? I like to travel. I have a few old English motorcycles. I also have an old MGB from the 1960s. And I like making stuff. I’ve made some weird vehicles for Burning Man.

What would you like to be known for in the bicycle world (or outside it)?

To bring more manufacturing and bike parts back to the United States. Things have changed dramatically since I started in 1974…we now have 14lb. carbon road bikes, full suspension downhill bikes, and all sorts of other exciting, innovative stuff. All this stuff started from small, independent American guys. If we were going to wait for the Taiwanese or the Chinese to invent the mountain bike, we’d still be waiting. I need to do better marketing on my part…I need to get the message to people that there’s a lot of good stuff being made in America, but if we don’t buy things made here, there’s not going to be anything left to buy here! I’m hoping to set up a system where you can actually make stuff in the U.S. and be cost-competitive, but you have to remove a lot of the middlemen.

 

 

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