1×10: Jessica Vreeswijk Kudla and Christopher Kudla, Normal Bicycles

Welcome to 1×10, where we ask 1 inspiring human (ok, 2 this time) 10 questions about how they are using cycling as a force for good. Read on to learn more about co-founders Jessica Vreeswijk Kudla and Christopher Kudla of Normal Bicycles (instagram), makers of beautiful and fast wooden bicycles, using sustainably-sourced wood. Jessica is a bike mechanic and runs the business and Chris is a frame builder and chief engineer. They will be at the NAHBS in Sacramento so if you’re there, come stop by, say hi, and check out their lovely wooden bikes!

1. How / why did you fall in love with cycling?

Jess: There is this feeling of calm, freedom and excitement all bundled together that I get when I jump on a bike that just makes life feel good. All stress and worry melts away and I can focus on just moving.

Chris: I started cycling a lot in my early 20’s and fell in love with getting out and discovering new places that you wouldn’t normally drive to or notice in a car.  I’ve always liked road and gravel riding because it’s a great way for me to leave the stress behind and just enjoy the bike and my surroundings.

Together we have some of our most creative discussions and ideas while out on long rides.

“Together we have some of our most creative discussions and ideas while out on long rides.”

2. Favorite bike?

Jess: My wooden bike, of course!  I have one of our original prototypes set up as a gravel bike spec’d and sized just for me.  

Chris: I have a bunch of favorite bikes! We get to build a lot of cool bikes with amazing components, but my one secret favorite bike is the first wood prototype that I originally built. I think I rode it twice before putting it on our test machine to find its ultimate breaking strength, but it’s the point at which a bunch of ideas, calculations, and CAD models came to life.

“I think I rode it twice before putting it on our test machine to find its ultimate breaking strength, but it’s the point at which a bunch of ideas, calculations, and CAD models came to life.”

3. What’s the most memorable ride you’ve done, and what happened?

Jess: We do a lot of overnight rides and they all have memorable parts but I think my favorite memory is when we were riding rented bikes on a path on Vancouver Island and we saw a bear. Remembering what we learned in school about bears, we spent the next 15 minutes singing loudly and making lots of noise. I am always overly excited to see wildlife so this was a treat.

Chris: We rode a section of the Great Allegheny Passage a few years ago that ranks pretty high for me.  We took the train from Pittsburg out to Cumberland, MD and rode back. I love the feeling of being dropped off somewhere new and knowing you’re going to get back by your own power. We didn’t plan much for the trip, so we found ourselves riding to the train station at 4am, discovering the eastern continental divide, and having one accidentally extra-long day of cycling. It was a great ride and I hope we can get back to do the entire trail in the future.

“We didn’t plan much for the trip, so we found ourselves riding to the train station at 4am, discovering the eastern continental divide, and having one accidentally extra-long day of cycling.”

4. Who do you admire in the cycling world?

Jess: Emily Batty!

Chris: We have an organization here called GoBike Buffalo working for cycling advocacy in our city, and I really admire everyone involved in that group. You’ll find them teaching kids about safe riding and bicycle repair, meeting with city planning officials, or painting lane share markers on the streets. It’s a tough, uphill battle and they do an amazing job.

“You’ll find them teaching kids about safe riding and bicycle repair, meeting with city planning officials, or painting lane share markers on the streets.”

5. Top tip for a new rider, or a cyclist about to take on a new challenge?

Feel the fear and do it anyway!

6. Favorite trend or innovation in cycling?

Jess: Wireless shifting

Chris: I love the simplicity of the 1x drivetrains and I don’t know if I can ever go back to having a front derailleur now.

7. What are you doing to use cycling as a force for good?

Everyday we have the opportunity to share our passion for cycling as a sport, recreation and mode of transportation. More people on bikes can only be good for world. And we have the opportunity embed our commitment to environmental and social responsibility into our business model. We source sustainably-forested wood, prioritize recycled materials and actively promote components manufactured in the US.

“We source sustainably-forested wood, prioritize recycled materials and actively promote components manufactured in the US.”

8. Thinking about the work you’re doing, what do you see as the potential change for people or the planet? If you are successful, what impact will you have?

The cycling industry has so far escaped the environmental scrutiny that other industries have faced. In our small way, we hope to raise awareness that consumers do have options. Whether it’s choosing a renewable resource (wood) frame or selecting US-made components, there are options and choosing those options impacts the industry overall.

“Whether it’s choosing a renewable resource (wood) frame or selecting US-made components, there are options and choosing those options impacts the industry overall.”

9. What’s your biggest challenge/obstacle to success?

We always more ideas than we have time or resources to bring to life.     

10. How can people help? Where can they learn more about your work?

We think the best way for people to help is by getting out and riding and by supporting their local cycling groups whenever possible, whether it’s a cycling advocacy group, a local bike shop, or an independent frame builder.

Jessica Vreeswijk Kudla and Christopher Kudla are co-founders of Normal Bicycles, makers of beautiful and fast wooden bicycles, using sustainably-sourced wood, in Buffalo, NY.

Edited by John Kim. When he’s not out for a ride, John uses his expertise in Corporate Social Responsibility to help companies do well by doing good. Find him at virtcyc@gmail.com or VirtCyc on twitter or instagram.

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