New York City has a reputation for being, well, a little impersonal. With about 10 million people concentrated in a region smaller than Rhode Island, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd.
Doug Breismeister, proprietor of his eponymous brand, doesn’t want you to feel adrift in a sea of bicycle-mounted humanity. His made-to-order custom bicycles and attention-garnering paint jobs betray this sentiment.
Breismeister’s beat is his frame building studio in Brooklyn, but as an active rider he escapes the asphalt of the city on longer rides into the suburbs and what little remains of green spaces on Long Island over a variety of broken city pavement, gravel paths, dirt tracks and debris-strewn bike lanes. His iconoclastic, all road bicycles suit the varied surfaces and demands of his home turf.
A sterling example of this type of category-defying steed was the bike that won the Best Gravel Bike award at this year’s NAHBS in Hartford, Connecticut, which Breismeister also brought with him to his third appearance at the Philly Bike Expo. With fillet-brazed Columbus Max tubing, compact double crankset with a wide range rear cogset, disc brakes, and 650b wheels shod with 47c wide tires, it can handle any surface thrown at it. With its use of disc brakes, the coolest thing about this bike is that it can also fit 700c wheels, albeit with slightly narrower tires (35c).
A builder for seven years now, Breismeister’s journey in the cycling world has taken him from a depressed stint as an art student in New York, onto a 3,000 mile bicycle journey to Oregon where he enrolled at Evergreen State College and started racing road and mountain bikes. Following his passion has worked a charm for Breismeister, whose blissful journey on two wheels eventually took him to Santa Cruz, California, hub of the NorCal builder’s scene and in the shadow of fillet-brazing standard-bearer Tom Ritchey.
“When I was in Santa Cruz, I fell in love with fillet-brazed bikes, in particular Mountain Goats, Moots and Ritcheys,” said Breismeister.
As a denizen of the Pacific Northwest for so many years during the 1990s, Breismeister’s role as a road, cyclocross and mountain bike racer cultivated a love of green spaces and the great outdoors. It’s clearly gotten under his skin, because when he returned to the Big Apple in the 21st century, his sojourns into the greener suburbs made him see the need for bicycles that could handle both urban jungle and suburban paths with equal aplomb.
“The all road bike is the most versatile beast out there,” he says.
As category-defying as Breismeister’s bikes seem to be, he does retain a dose of tradition through his exclusive use of steel tubing, and custom-painted top-tube mounted Silca pumps that were a mainstay of every custom builder’s offerings during the 1980s. And in addition to the all-road designs that have won him awards, Breismeister also offers representative bikes of more traditional categories like road and cyclocross.
The paint? Well that’s out of the eighties as well, with Miami Vice-like pastels, and fade jobs with matching or appropriately constrasting painted stems and seatposts. Ben Falcon Paint handles these distinctive paint schemes, whose retro gaud stops well short of being tacky or undignified.
It’s a marker of personal style for the 6’3″ Breismeister, who wears a bright pink t-shirt to promote his brand. It’s also a reminder that all bikes are personal, not just for the customer, but for the builder as well. If certain unique tastes and personal touches are not reflected in the builder’s creations, then maybe those bicycles haven’t been adequately shaped by the builder’s – the artist’s – passions.
And it is this passion that both sustains Breismeister’s craft, and wins him praise and support from others. He acknowledges the kindness of past landlords that have hosted his frame shop, who have extended him very low rents because they themselves were in the metalcraft business, or simply because they saw that he loves what he makes.
“I guess every frame builder probably says this, but I build because I’m passionate about it,” he says. “It’s a privilege to be able to do this.”