Independent bicycles start at $4,000 and can cost more than $10,000. The buyer gets no compromises. The bike fits him and not Lance Armstrong. Long femurs get a long top tube to keep the rider's knees directly over the pedals. Racers get stiffer bikes with greater road feel. Long distance tourers get long comfortable rides. They also get high performance bikes, which can take fenders and panniers, a combination not easy to find when bicycles are seen either as utilitarian transportation or fitness equipment. Color schemes can be whatever the buyer wants. An argyle example is in process.
Lloyd has been building bicycle frames in Somerville for a long time. Before 1994, he worked for Fat City Cycles. Fat City had about 25 people. “They had people who worked hard. They had people who didn’t work at all.”
"What ended up happening is we all got laid off.” Fat City was “in the hole. They owed like every vender in the world the maximum amount they could owe. They hadn’t paid rent in a while. When we got paid, everybody would clock out and drive over on our bikes to the bank and try to cash their checks as fast as possible.”
Lloyd and a few other “disenfranchised workers” wanted to keep making bikes. “We thought we knew what we were doing in terms of making bikes.” They found a machine shop in South Boston that they could use for $75 a month. The machine shop is still there. People build radio-controlled airplanes and hand cycles for disabled people there. Next-door is a fireworks factory, “for 4th of July celebrations where they launch them out of the Charles and stuff.”
Lloyd worked during the day as a bike courier and built bikes at night. At first, there was a welder from Fat City, but “she couldn’t stay on because we went for more than a year before we could pay ourselves, and she had a couple of kids.” After she left, Mike Flanagan welded and painted every bike.