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Tony Pereira loves riding bikes. He’s not just a racer, a mountain biker or a randonnuer, he’s a cyclist in the purist sense of the word. For starters, he Zoo Bombs (a weekly Portland, Oregon institution with hundreds of riders on the motliest of bikes—too big, too small and too homemade—‘bombing’ (unsanctioned) down the steep West Hills into town). And he races, quite competitively (short track, cross and mountain), commutes, and rides in everything from the odd 200k and his own wedding procession to Midnight Mystery Rides and the Rapha Continental.
Riding with Tony is a lesson in fun. Often he’s first down a hill and usually the last one up, rushing forward and drifting back through the field like a yo-yo. Or changing a flat or doing wheelies, which he can do several hundred feet at a time, on a road bike. Or skidding and doing nose wheelies. He’s always smiling and grinning, manically and mischievously about, apparently, the simple fact that he’s on a bike.
Though he’s only been building bikes for three years now, in 2007 he won three awards at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show: Best Road Bike, Best Off Road Bike and Best Fillet Brazed Bike. He’s been featured in Mountain Bike Magazine, the New York Times and Bicycle Quarterly.
Tony has a small shop in South East Portland. Inside it’s narrow with tall ceilings and packed with equipment and tools and bikes and a Marantz. Tony has a thing for vintage hi-fi audio equipment that lets him loudly play hip-hop, jazz or classic rock and roll.
How did you get here? What jobs and experiences led to this point, was cycling a part of it?
For three years, starting when I was 12, my brother and I got up at 4:30am every day to assemble and deliver papers. We had fun riding our bikes, finding shortcuts and mastering our route, bunny hopping stone walls and out-running dogs.
At 16 I got a job at the local ski shop in Simsbury, Connecticut. This was a dream come true for a high school kid obsessed with skiing. I carefully tuned skis and fit boots—the beginnings of learning my gift for craft. After college, I moved to Utah where I got a job at Snowbird, another dream come true, and started working at bike shops in the summer. I started mountain biking in 1987.
After a few years of ski-bumming and riding I was lured away by my father with a job at his fledgling software company, Clear & Simple Inc. I was made Vice President in charge of the website duties and we were off and running. After leaving Clear & Simple I continued to work as a website developer but it was soul-less and boring, and when the tech bubble burst I knew it was time to return to bike shops.
Tim Metos, owner of Wild Rose, the shop where I worked, is one of the best guys I’ve ever worked for. Lots of racing and racers, lots of beer, enormous fun, the Rose crew taught me how to suffer, chase and enjoy every minute of it.
Why cycling and not shot-put or horseback riding? What is it about riding that you like so much?
Shot-put won’t get me the adrenaline rush that bike riding delivers. Horseback riding seems a lot like mountain biking, but without the speed or suffering; besides that, horses are expensive and take up lots of space and they really destroy trails.
I enjoy earning high-speed descents through physical and mental suffering. I’ve never been one for team sports, which may explain why I thrive alone in the workshop.
What inspires you to build? Why it, and not some other job? What’s different about your product and approach? Aesthetics, technique, customer service?
Too many modern bicycles are over-designed. I strive to keep my designs simple and functional. My style is highly influenced by the innovative builders of the mid 20th century. I also find inspiration from other artisans such as watchmakers, furniture makers and luthiers in their pursuit of perfection.
What is a Continental bike?
The Continental bikes that I built were designed to be comfortable, reasonably lightweight and durable. They are meant to be ridden hard for many miles—much like race bikes, but without sacrificing comfort or durability.
For more information visit: www.pereiracycles.com