Earth shoes, Flower Power, and lots of hair!
Rodriguez bicycles was established in 1973 by Angel Rodriguez (2nd from left in photo) and Glenn Erickson (left most kneeling person in photo). The sales and service shop was (and still is) called R+E Cycles. A lot of people assume that R+E Cycles is a regular bike shop, and just happens to sell Rodriguez and Erickson bicycles. Actually, R+E Cycles is Rodriguez and Erickson cycles, and is the only place to buy them as well as the manufacturer. The photo to the left shows what the staff looked like in the late 1970’s as the shop began to grow. Angel and Glenn began building bicycles and tandems under their own names, sponsored a racing team, and soon had one of the most respected shops in the city of Seattle.
It didn’t take Angel and Glenn long to attract the attention of business publications in the bicycle industry. Here’s an article from a 1976 issue of Bicycle Dealer Showcase magazine.
To the right, Angel Rodriguez shows off a Rodriguez ‘bicycle built for three’ frame in progress.
Y2K panic, America is attacked, but Lance Armstrong kicks butt anyway!
The year 2000 was preceded by a period of medai hype fueled fear of some sort of world wide computer collapse of mythic proportions. Well, that didn’t happen, but what came next was worse. After the World Trade Centers were brought down by terrorists on September 11, 2001, sales in our store came to an abrupt halt. Soon, the country went into a recession. Fear of flying was causing cancellations for Boeing airplanes. Boeing is a huge part of the economy out here in Seattle, so airplane cancellations turned into bicycle cancellations.
By 2003, R+E Cycles needed to go through yet another transformation. The shop had shrunk from 22 employes down to 6, and my business partner retired and moved away. We needed to reach out to a national audience if we were going to grow the company again. We did this through expanding and improving our website, redesigning our entire line of bicycles, and re-tooling to make our prices more competitive. We’re a ‘do-it-yourself’ kind of company, but we managed to put together a website that attracted a much larger audience from outside Washington. Soon we were hiring again and building bicycles to ship all around the country and even the world. By late 2003, our focus on service even attracted the attention of The Seattle Times who called me for a quote when a new bicycle Superstore was opening down the street from us.
We also put in a coffee shop (Pedal a Latte’) to serve our staff and customers. This really helped with ambiance inside the store. On Fridays we started a program where we made lunch for the staff. Eventually this policy was extended to Saturdays as well. The team spirit of the shop, and customers too, was lifted to a higher level. I wanted to make R+E Cycles the best shop in the industry to work at. I’ve found that keeping employees is very efficient.
We teamed up with bicycle traveler Willie Weir to design and market (as a model) the bicycle we had built for him back in 1996. This helped boost our reputation as a travel bike company throughout the decade. Email sales really took off with the Willie Weir Adventure (our UTB) bicycle.
In 2005 we acquired Bushnell Cycle design, and hired Master Frame Builder Dennis Bushnell. We were able to patent his eccentric bottom bracket design, and grow the production and sales of the eccentric from just a few hundred each year to thousands. With Dennis came several established wholesale accounts that filled the frame and paint shops with frames to be shipped all over the country.
In 2006 we also re-tooled the frame shop to produce bicycles like no company has ever done before! This is a transformation that brought the price of our bicycles down to the price of bicycles produced overseas, while at the same time improving their quality. It was important to us that Rodriguez Bicycles become the best value in the bicycle industry. Without the efforts put forth in the winter of 2006 by the folks here at R+E Cycles we would either have to produce our bicycles overseas, or charge twice the price that we charge for them.
Back on Top!
Before long, Rodriguez Bicycle company (R+E Cycles) was back on top as a business leader in the Bicycle Industry. It wasn’t long before we started attracting the attention of business publications like the Puget Sound Business Journal. Here is their front page article about our effective production of bicycles in the United States. Lance Armstrong had made cycling popular again, and off we went! Like Lance himself, we accelerated in the industry. We expanded our high-end road bike offerings to include some of the lightest road and tandem bikes in the industry.
We couldn’t let Angel’s efforts be for nothing by letting Seattle’s first ‘on-street’ bike parking area go to waste. Through this decade, we worked with the city (it took several years) to give our ‘on-street’ bike parking area a complete overhaul. We got a new heavy duty bike rack (ironically shaped like a car), fresh paint and new respect for how hard Angel must’ve worked to get the project done in the first place. Here’s what the shop looks like now.
2012 To the Future, and Beyond!
My name is
Dan Towle and this is my 19th year as the owner of Rodriguez Bicycles (R+E Cycles). That’s two years longer than Angel owned the company! While writing this page for the site, I realized: things that seemed like they happened yesterday actually occurred decades ago. I had to do the math to believe 19 years!
Rodriguez Bicycle Company remains a Seattle cycling institution as well as a leader in the cycling industry. We have persevered through some of the worst times, and pioneered in the areas of bicycle fit and manufacturing for almost four decades now.
This year we have a fully redesigned website written in CSS. As I write this, the catalog is almost done and the new website just went live an hour ago. We’re teaming up with Glenn Erickson (yes the same Glenn Erickson) to offer Erickson Custom bicycles, thus putting the E back in R+E for 2012. We’re very excited to offer all of the innovative products that we make here, and hope that you choose us as your bicycle company.
This is a historical tour, so let me get historical here. When you choose to buy a bicycle, you are actually choosing to buy the staff of that shop. This is the best staff in the history of R+E Cycles, and I think the entire industry. Everyone here has been here a long time now, and this is their career of choice. If you want a bicycle, there is no better time or place than Rodriguez Bicycle Company in 2012.