In March 2017, we got to hear from Jefferson McCarley, General Manager at Mission Bicycle.
Mission Bicycle has been hand-building bikes in the Mission district since 2008. Their bicycles are made to order and optimized for city riding, and (almost) every detail can be customized, from the type of gears and handlebars to the multitude of colors available for every part… and every accessory and component in between.
You can check out their current bikes or design your own on their website, and stop by their store at 766 Valencia Street for the complete experience. If you visit, the team at Mission Bikes will help you pre-assemble your custom bike on the spot so you can pick the right components and colors, and get a feel of the finished bike.
If you want even more, set an alarm clock for March 31st at midnight: Mission Bicycle will unveil a crazy piece of engineering called Lyra on Kickstarter – a bike featuring integrated lights and GPS tracking! Read more below.
How did the company get started?
In 2008, our Co-founder Zack needed a new bike. He started shopping around and realized the bike industry was out of touch with the needs of urban commuters. He was being shown hybrids, the wheels and saddle had “quick releases” that made them easy to steal… and overall they were heavy, slow, and frankly, ugly.
With the help or friends and coworkers, our Co-founders (Matt Cheney and Zack Rosen) developed what is probably the first bike specifically made for urban transportation.
What’s so special about these urban commuter bikes?
First, our bikes are totally customizable, and without any logos.
Also, we started simply. With the lightest, cleanest, simplest version of an urban bike possible. A single speed, registering at 19lbs: it’s nice to be able to pick up your bike with one finger to carry it up a flight of stairs!
Next we added a geared bike, called the Sutro. With an internal 8-speed hub, you can climb up to Sutro tower on a bike with the same beautiful minimal look of a single speed. And without the headache of high-maintenance external gears.
Can you share a few facts and numbers?
• We build 400 bikes annually
• 30% are exported (outside the Bay Area + Internationally)
• The build time is 2 to 5 hours per bike
• Oh, and another impressive number: so far we’ve put 200,000 American-made spokes into American-made rims
• Mission Bicycle has 6 people on staff
• Our workshop is located on the 2nd floor over our storefront at 766 Valencia
What’s your story, and how did you join Mission Bicycle?
I ended up owning a bike shop in Puerto Rico, kind of by accident. I was riding around on an old garage sale beater, but other than that, I really didn’t know anything about bikes. On the first day of running my own shop, I didn’t even know how to change a flat tire…
I had the opportunity to see firsthand the impact of how commuting by bike impacted people’s lives on a daily basis. After moving to Chicago I got involved in transforming our gridlocked city and advocating for better biking infrastructure. In 2004 I moved to San Francisco. I explored my new city by bike, and it made me feel instantly connected. I volunteered for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and worked for AIDS Lifecycle, the fundraising bike ride from SF to LA.
My passion was around the bike as a means of transportation. But for the most part, my income came from corporate America. I worked for importers and a retail giant, which is where I learned about store planning, merchandising, forecasting, and inventory management.
I feel very grateful for the opportunity to combine my skillset and experience with my number one passion.
Why manufacture locally?
We live here. We love this city. We sleep better at night knowing that we’re creating jobs for San Franciscans and much of our money – from payroll to taxes – remains here in SF or in California.
Manufacturing locally also allows us to be obsessive about quality and customer experience, and that wouldn’t be possible if our bikes were assembled in Taiwan or China.
Headquartered in SF is great. Produced in SF – even better.
Why did you join SFMade?
Not only has SFMade been an invaluable resource every year since we joined in 2011, but you have welcomed us as a member of a community. It’s never mattered that we were small. SFMade has always made us feel like an important San Francisco Manufacturer (with a capital M!).
We feel connected to other manufacturers when we participate in workshops, talks, tours, and of course Ramp it Up!, and we have cultivated relationships with other makers. We feel less like we have to do this alone. We’ve got friends in high places, so when the going gets tough, just knowing that SFMade has our back has helped to propel us forward.
Anything new at Mission Bicycle?
Yes! For the last year two years we’ve been working on the next iteration of the urban bike.
The number one reason that people give for not buying a new bike is fear of theft. Adding GPS tracking will give us a new peace of mind not previously available as a built in feature.
We’re also adding integrated lighting as a standard feature on all our bikes. It’s so easy to forget to bring lights when you start our ride while it’s sunny. It’s also easy to leave lights on a bike and they end up getting stolen. Batteries need replacing both on the front and rear light… The result is: we get stuck without lights way too often. Dealing with detachable blinky lights may be one of the most frustrating things about commuting by bike.
So we asked the question: What if bikes came with lights?
On March 31st we will introduce the Mission Bicycle Lyra, featuring integrated lights and GPS tracking. And at midnight on 3/31 on Kickstarter, we’re adding free GPS tracking to the first 10 bikes.
-an interview by Martine & Pierre @ SFMade