Explaining Southern California's economy

Linus Bike moves east and sets up shop in Old Town Pasadena

Matt DeBord Visits Linus Bikes

Ashley Myers-Turner/KPCC

Linus Bikes opened a pop-up shop in Old Pasadena this month. KPCC's Matt DeBord paid a visit to the shop to check in on their unique business model.

The KPCC video team — a crack band of intrepid, talented, and skillful experts who will stop at nothing and brave any challenge to deliver high-quality filmed reports — and I traveled...oh, about five blocks up the street from our mothership to check out Linus Bike's new "pop-up store" in Old Town Pasadena. Sometimes, the stories come to you!

I've been grooving on Linus Bike since, about two years ago, I first spotted one of the bikes being piloted through the streets of Los Feliz. The rapidly growing, L.A.-based company's first location was in Venice. But now the operation has moved east, hoping to convince Pasadenans that a nifty combination of minimalist, old-school styling, versatility, and lots of cool accessories is the ticket to happy bicycle commuting, errand running, and, in short, a generally car-less life in car-crazy L.A.

I chatted with Cole Maness, who's in charge of the new shop. Afterwards I took the most basic, least expensive model, the single-speed Roadster Classic (and, frankly, the design I most desire) in black with a coaster brake, leather hand grips, and a bell, for a spin in the alley behind the shop. A word to the wise: When you take a bike out on the open road, be sure to don a helmet!

One of the main reasons I wanted to visit Linus Bike — apart from the chance to profile an interesting small business in L.A. — was to revive "Bike Challenge," a series that I had hoped to start earlier this year. Better late than never. My goal is to check out several more bike shops and bike-related businesses over the next month or so, so stay tuned!

The brand was founded three years ago by Chad Kushner and Adam McDermott, both South Africans with no real prior experience in the bike business. Now they're selling in 180 U.S. dealers and nine different countries. Business is good. And it's no wonder why. In a world where it's actually easier and cheaper to built a 21-speed mountain bike — for a ridership that may never taunt a mountain trail nor use more than three speeds — Linus offers a blissfully stripped down alternative. If you're looking for the distilled essence of bike, then Linus has a model for you. They range in price from $449 to $849.

The bikes are designed in L.A., but the components are built in China (final assembly is in the U.S.). Before you get too bothered about that, remember that tens of thousands of Chinese get around by bike. The Middle Kingdom is bike central. But the U.S. market Linus is going after is a bit more of a niche. The bikes themselves are based on French and Italian mid-century styles (if you've ever watched "The Bicycle Thief," you've seen an antecedent). So if you're the sort of guy or gal who considers Agnès B., rather than spandex, to be ideal cycling garb, Linus has a set of (two) wheels for you.

And by the way, the name "Linus" didn't come from Linus van Pelt, of erudite, security blanketed "Peanuts" fame, nor from Linus Pauling, a double Nobel Prize-winner (chemistry and peace). It's the name of co-founder McDermott's nephew.

Linus Bike, 59 Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91105

Follow Matthew DeBord and the DeBord Report on Twitter. And ask Matt questions at Quora.

blog comments powered by Disqus