Introducing SGC Celaris Bikes. Handmade in Windsor Ontario
Posted on 08 April 2017
SGC: Aerospace engineering meets the bicycle
As many readers of our blog know, we at Curbside are pretty well travelled in the bike industry - both domestically and internationally. Today, as in the past, our international travel often focusses on sourcing products. These products we distributed across North America, which resulted in a great deal of domestic travel. And, a lot of this travel also consulted with new bike stores who wanted to jump into the city bike market.
Made in Windsor. Just down the street!
Our domestic travel began to change the more we realized that domestic solutions were required. Dutch bikes were heavy, costly, and often archaic in geometry, materials, and design - but they were very high quality. Thus, when domestic companies like Linus appeared we became their importer only to discover that these bikes - while inexpensive and fashionable - lacked any real answers around quality. It became very clear that the Dutch bike industry and companies like Linus really had no experience with the dense wintry cities or the potholes of the Northeast. They were also made in China.
Curbside-borne brand Simcoe came out of our search and we feel it represents the best city bike you can buy under $1000. But, a brand like Simcoe is made in Taiwan (the same factory that makes Cervelo), and while that's perfectly fine we've always been captured by the idea of a bike made for North America and made in North America.
Robert Coyle. The genuis behind SGC.
We mentioned earlier that a lot of our domestic travel involved consulting with new bike stores. One of these stores was Windsor City Cyclery, a bike store that models what all other bike stores should be. In a small depressed town like Windsor, these guys have demonstrated that a city bike store can excite the widest customer demographic about cycling. That probably isn't too revolutionary to our reader, but it is revolutionary in our industry. Most new store concepts are built on very niche performance adrenaline bikes, almost all run by males for males. Another story.
The great thing about Windsor is that there is a ton of tools and talent that is in a state of off-shored redundancy and only all-too-happy to get back to business. Across the river, in Detroit, our good Canadian friend Zak Pashak started Detroit Bikes, a great little company producing a made-in-USA city bike, and in Windsor our friends at City Cyclery put together an even better story: SGC Bikes.
Blowup of the monocoque inner and outer stress skin. Brilliant.
Unlike Detroit Bikes, which attempts to build a fairly derivative budget city bike on US soil, SGC seeks to not only build the bike on North American soil, but build it for unique North American problems. In other words, this isn't just an exercise in on-shore manufacturing, it's on-shore manufacturing plus a profound series of answers around materials, shape and geometry.
A lot of bike design is itself pretty derivative. Perhaps that's because bike engineers typically come from bike backgrounds. The city bike, for instance, has always been steel, rather vintage-looking in character, and in the case of Dutch bikes almost unchanged for nearly a century. But, what does the future look like? For years we've meddled with this question. We've carried Biomega bikes designed by Apple superstar Marc Newson, the space-frame Moulton designed by automotive engineer Alex Moulton, and more recently the Butchers & Bicycles cargo bike designed by engineers from Vestas Windsystems. The SGC is part of this quest, but the difference is that we got to collaborate in this quest.
Inner monocoque frame, just like an airplane wing
Robert Coyle, owner of SGC (and whose artwork "Flight Song" features at Toronto International Airport) brings something the bike industry has never seen: aerospace engineering.
The continual difficulty that you'll see repeated throughout our website often concerns the materials manufacturers use for bikes. For instance, if you build a bike from aluminum it (a) is lightweight, (b) won't rust, but can (c) easily dent. That's not good. Conversely, if you build a bike from steel it is (a) very strong, (b) heavier, but can (c) easily rust (if not finished properly). Also not great.
Laser-cut stainless-steel frame components. Very light, very strong.
So, how to build a bike that is light, extremely durable and inherently rust-resistant? (By inherent we mean in-the-bone and not something that relies on finishes). SGC answers this questions from a radically new approach to materials, but more importantly, construction.
Most bikes are made of tubes welded together because places like China have scaled costs on such iterations. That's why most bikes look the same. And this issue of construction and scalability is a question that faced SGC as well. But, because they can produce in Windsor, the answer they produced is brilliant.
The SGC frame is basically an airplane wing. The outside is a stressed skin made of lightweight, ultra-durable, rust-resistant stainless steel. Underneath there is a hollow monocoque space-frame - also made of stainless steel and hand-folded by real Canadian labourers. The entire assembly is bonded with aerospace glue. The result is a frame that weigh under 3lbs - which is significantly lighter than most aluminum frames out there, and about a kabillion times stronger.
Now, while we feel SGC might need to work on some of its branding and final polish, this bike - if it succeeds (and that depends on you!) - marks a truly evolutionary moment in frame construction. Nothing like this has been seen before despite the fact that this technology is more than proven (airplanes). While we feel the design will continue to be tweaked over time, owning one of these bikes is not unlike owning a first edition Brompton or Moulton - two companies that also share a rich engineering tradition. And, two companies that spent more time getting the product perfect before they figured out how to market this genius thing they made.
So: made in Canada. Made for Canada, and keeping hands and hearts busy in Canada's automotive city. It's a sign of changing times. From a store in Windsor that's created a local renaisssance in city biking to manufacturing real North American city bikes. That's poetic. That's a rust-belt revival we want to believe in. See the bike here.