By Bill Cook
Barcroft Cycles grew out of a passion for recumbent bikes. I've always loved bicycles, but my lower unit complained bitterly when I rode uprights. Then, years ago, I saw a picture of a Tour Easy in Popular Mechanics. The recumbent style looked like the answer. I called Gardner Martin, who sold me a set of his excellent, now discontinued, Tour Easy bike plans. A friend and I built what we called the Gray Ghost, because we never got around to giving it a real paint job. It looked like a 1950s hot rod in its gray primer. I was hooked. I rode the Gray Ghost for more than a thousand miles, all the while dreaming up new designs in my head.
The Gray Ghost led to a welding class, a computer-aided design program, and to J. Gaerlan in San Francisco, who showed me how to build a jig. And to WHIRL, Washington's Happily Independent Recumbent Lovers. I worked at U.S. News & World Report with fellow writer and WHIRL's founding non-chairman, Vic Sussman. He introduced me to WHIRL's happy band of recumbent pioneers. WHIRL (and Larry Black's Mt. Airy Cycles, one of the first recumbent dealers on the east coast) are probably the reasons that the Washington, D.C. area is also the nation's recumbent capital. (Washington also has one of the biggest bike clubs in the nation, Potomac Pedalers Touring Club.)
On WHIRL rides I soon learned that Mark Colliton is an expert in bike design. He's the co-designer of the Rans V-Rex. We talked endlessly about what a recumbent should look like. He was a powerful influence on the first unique bike I built, the Barcroft Speed, which had a triangulated frame. But he preached the idea that a bent monotube could really be the answer. Together we designed the first one, the original Barcroft Dakota, which was resplendent in its purple paint job. Recumbent Cyclist News ran a picture of me on that bike in connection with my report on a week-long ride around North Dakota in 1996. U.S.News & World Report ran the same picture to demonstrate that the writer of its cover story on satellite communications was a propeller head. Mark and I built the next version of the Barcroft Dakota using mandrel-bent two-inch tubes. That bike became the basis for the present Barcroft Virginia and the new version of the Barcroft Dakota.
Barcroft Cycles became possible when I retired from journalism in May 1999. My long-time friend, Will O'Neil, and I have formed the company (legally, Barcroft Human Power Vehicles, Inc.) to build a limited number of high-end recumbent bikes. Will has been around exotic vehicles for a long time. He was one of the chief engineers for Lockheed-Martin's F22 Raptor fighter. Paul Collier, a riding friend from WHIRL and a super upholsterer, is joining our little band as chief wrench. Chris Burkhardt designed the innovative Barcroft Columbia tandem. Mark Colliton is now president of his own bicycle company, Bacchetta Recumbent Bicycles.
We hope to have some fun building premium-quality recumbents for discriminating customers. We are a direct-sales operation, so you deal with the owners/builders/wrenches. As a custom builder, we'll offer bikes equipped to fit the buyer's needs. If you want to measure your pedaling cadence, for example, we'll braze on a mount for your sensor. If you want special colors, we can do that, too.
Our terms are usual for custom bikes. We'll need half the price of the bike paid at the time the order is placed and the rest upon delivery. We can deliver in four to six weeks. Can we build one for you?
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