BOZEMAN, Mont. – With the weather we’ve had the past few weeks, it’s hard to think of Montana as a bicycle mecca. But as MTN’s Chet Layman recently found out, for more than two decades bicycles have been shipped all over the world for a little shop on Bozeman’s Willson Avenue.
There is a hard and fast rule of bike racing – you must have a bike.
“When I was going to college here at MSU, I was racing and it was probably a bigger priority to me than college was,” said Carl Strong, owner of Pursuit Cycles/Strong Frames. “But I couldn’t afford a bike – I was a college student.”
But that didn’t stop Strong.
“I learned the basics of welding, machining and cutting materials,” Strong said. “Joining them and finishing them and stuff. So it made sense to try to make a bike.”
Thanks to a local shop, Summit Bike and Ski, Strong was able to give building a bike a shot.
“They bought me the materials through their accounts wholesale and provided them to me and I made a bike,” Strong said. “They bought the first bke from me. Steve Warren showed faith in me and then I just kept plugging away. Now it’s 26 years later and I’m still doing it.”
Now, Strong Frames and the newer Pursuit Carbon Fiber Frames are all over the world – but built here in Bozeman and designed by each rider.
“The experience of the design process is every bit as valuable as the actual bike,” said Strong. “I’ve always said ‘You buy the design process and the bike is the deliverable.’”
Strong said that 30-40 percent of their customers in a give year are returning customers.
“That’s a badge of honor,” said Strong. “That they’ve shown that level of confidence in us, but it also means over the years, the more customers you’ve served the more customers are going to come back to you. Makes life a lot easier.”
Strong keeps working at this craft and his riding.
“There’s no such thing as a perfect bike,” Strong said. “You just get closer and closer and closer over the years. You’ll never get there, you just keep trying to close the gap.”
While Strong admits he might be able to do this somewhere else, he won’t’ for not other reason than he doesn’t want to.
“We try to do everything that we possibly can locally,” he said. “It’s very important to us to be a Bozeman, Montana business. We want a 59715 address, we want a 587 phone number. You know, those things are important for us.”
Tour de France competitor and Bozeman native TJ Van Garderen recently ordered a bike from Strong’s shop. He said he wanted something to remember his town by while out riding.