Co-Motion Cycles is synonymous with tandems (though they’ve been killing it in the adventure cycle realm the past few seasons). When many builders and manufacturers shifted away from tandems to mountain bikes in the mid-eighties and 90’s, Co-Motion upped the ante in terms of design and modernization making the brand, and founder Dwan Shepard, the authority on the genre (he has taught the tandem seminar at NAHBS at least once). Lately, they’ve been machining frame parts in-house and developing and refining their own standards across tandems and singlets alike. More on this after the jump…
BIKERUMOR: Why did you first decide to build your first bike? Who did you build it for?
DWAN: Building a bicycle frame is not something I was strong enough to resist, although I did try. One of my workmates at the bicycle shop I was working at in 1982 suggested we go and see local frame builder Gary Hale, who was teaching a frame building class. I said I wasn’t interested because I was broke, but my friend persisted and I eventually relented. We met with Gary, who offered me a pay-as-you-go plan – I just had to be paid up before the class wrapped up in 3 months – class met 2 nights per week. I could not say no. I build my first frame for myself- a nice lugged road bike that I still possess.
BIKERUMOR: What is your origin story? How did your company get its start?
DWAN: Upon completion of Hale’s class, he offered me a job. Besides bicycles, we built trade show exhibits for a company called Mobius, in-store displays for Levi Strauss, a prototype blimp gondola, lens-grinding equipment and more. Gary was a superb prototype builder, but the scope and scale of the work damaged his bicycle biz, leading him to close his shop, offering to sell his equipment and lease on the small shop to me. I said “wait a second; you know I don’t have any money, I work for you!” I found an interested partner* in cycling pal Butch Boucher and together we accepted Gary’s offer, starting Co-Motion Cycles in January, 1988. We were young and willing to scrape for a meager living; eating shoe leather is a crucial step to success.
Hand-built bicycles were not exactly popular in the late 80’s in Eugene, Oregon, so it was vital to carve out a reputation in something that would bring business in from a broader area. We had both owned tandems and saw their potential, while every other frame builder scrapped for a slice of the burgeoning mountain bike market. Additional partner Dan Vrijmoet joined us in 1990 and showed us what hard work really looks like. Emphasizing our new approach to tandems with smarter geometry and refined craftsmanship, we succeeded in becoming one of the major tandem brands by the mid 90’s. That solid reputation helped us get our road bikes, travel and adventure bicycles into the limelight. There are always new things to work on, new challenges to take on, and no end to fun places to go on a bicycle.
*Butch departed for bluer skies in ’96. Dan Vrijmoet and Dwan Shepard continue to operate Co-Motion Cycles independently, with a crew of 15 talented bike nuts.
BIKERUMOR: Why did you decide to make a living out of it?
DWAN: No marketable skills. Ha ha.
BIKERUMOR: What gets you really stoked about what you do today?
Showing off a new bike never gets old. For us it’s exciting because we have so many customers around the US and other parts of the world who are looking to see what we’re going to come up with next. It’s really satisfying to see your work spread across the globe. But what’s really fun is the hard work of taking every bike up a notch, introducing new bicycles with new ideas, and seeing people use them to achieve their goals.
It’s really a group effort here at Co-Motion. Besides myself and co-owner Dan Vrijmoet, we have an amazing staff, many of whom have been here for quite a number of years. The collaborative effort from everyone here is outstanding. You can see it in the details of our bikes, from concept to completed bicycle.
BIKERUMOR: What’s the cool thing you’re bringing to the show this year?
DWAN: We’ve been doing a lot with adventure bikes, and we’re psyched to be showing a Pinion-equipped bikepacking adventurer based on our Divide model. It’s exciting to see Pinion finally ready to come to the US market- something we’ve been anticipating for several years now. We’re also proud of the fact that everything we bring to the show is a real thing with a known price, and it’s available from any Co-Motion dealer.
BIKERUMOR: What advice would you give someone wanting to do what you do?
DWAN: Give people a good reason to come to you. Lots of people can make a beautiful bike frame, but your bicycle or your business has to be special, and you have to make a connection with precisely that element to your name and to your reputation.