Welcome to 1×10, where we ask 1 inspiring human 10 questions about how they are using cycling as a force for good. Read on to learn about Ira Ryan, builder/owner and 1/2 of the venerable, Breadwinner Cycles, in Portland, OR (Tony Perreira is the other half but this interview features Ira’s answers. Also Jude Gerace of Sugar Wheel Works is part of the Breadwinner family!! ) I first learned of Ira when I was looking into custom steel bikes about a decade ago; I ultimately went in a different direction but it’s always left me with a tinge of regret. Read more to learn about Ira’s most memorable ride, his favorite trends in cycling, and how Breadwinner Cycles (insta) are using bikes to be more inclusive, and more in his 1×10 interview. Photos by John Watson of The Radavist.
1. How / why did you fall in love with cycling?
It was my escape from my family as a young person and also catered to my need to push myself. It quickly turned into racing and with that a group of friends who were equally weird and creative.
“It quickly turned into racing and with that a group of friends who were equally weird and creative.”
2. Favorite Bike (that you own or covet)?
They are like tools and it’s hard to have a favorite since each riding experience is best on a different bike. I would say I love my Lolo road and Holeshot cross bikes the best but I spend more time commuting on my city bike.
“They are like tools and it’s hard to have a favorite since each riding experience is best on a different bike.”
3. What’s the most memorable ride you’ve done, and what happened?
I once rode from SF to Portland in 3 days as part of a messenger style rando race called the SF Raid. It was the first time I rode over 250 miles in one sitting and also the first time I slept in a ditch. The fact that I could trace my distance on a map from point to point was amazing to me.
“It was the first time I rode over 250 miles in one sitting and also the first time I slept in a ditch.”
4. Who do you admire in the cycling world?
The people who ride daily for commuting or sport and choose to make cycling part of their life instead of driving.
5. Top tip for a new rider, or a cyclist about to take on a new challenge?
Only use good gear and don’t fall into the consumer trap of crap. Good bikes, gear that works and keep it simple.
“Good bikes, gear that works and keep it simple. “
6. Favorite trend or innovation in cycling?
I like the versatility being built into bikes now. Bikes being used and repurposed to add racks, fenders and bags for commuting, touring and daily riding is great to see. The trend towards camping and outdoors is very good.
“Bikes being used and repurposed to add racks, fenders and bags for commuting, touring and daily riding is great to see.”
7. What are you doing to use cycling as a force for good?
We like to build bikes for the long term and we want to build our business with the same focus on inclusiveness and making everyone feel welcome. The tendency to focus on an ever narrowing market in the already narrow bike world isn’t going to get more people on bikes. We need to open up to all people who enjoy riding if we are going to see real change.
“We need to open up to all people who enjoy riding if we are going to see real change.”
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?
I see everyone as being on an arc for how they enjoy riding and cycling. The person who rides a second hand mountain bike today may one day be looking for a bike from us and often our customers enjoy cycling on many different levels. If we can build a bike for someone and it’s a vehicle for their enjoyment, that will snowball into riding more and different bikes. Obviously, we want to sell and build our Breadwinner bikes but more bikes is more bikes.
“Obviously, we want to sell and build our Breadwinner bikes but more bikes is more bikes.”
9. What’s your biggest challenge/obstacle to success?
Trying to grow our business in an industry that values consumption over quality is hard. Small business is hard and we are doing well but we’re a long way from our goals. Systemic change to promote bikes is a huge mission in the USA.
“Systemic change to promote bikes is a huge mission in the USA.”
10. How can people help? Where can they learn more about your work?
Ride bikes and realize that you cast a vote every time you open your wallet or buy something on Amazon.
Ira Ryan is the builder/owner and 1/2 of Breadwinner Cycles, based in Portland, OR. When not building beautiful bikes or slinging delicious pastries and coffee at Breadwinner Cafe, he can be found riding all around Portland, OR!
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 email@example.com or VirtCyc on twitter or instagram.
One Comment Add yours
Good read. Keep up the great work Ira.