Stephen Bilenki wasn’t sure what to think when he received an email from the US State Department on May 23 asking if he could make a bike – in less than two weeks.
This was a big request for Bilenky Cycle Works in the Olney section of Philadelphia, a small business whose customers may have to wait at least six months for a bike, and sometimes up to 18 months, depending on how they are customized.
Moreover, the budget was only $ 1,500. Prices for the 75 motorcycles that Bilenky makes annually start at $ 4,500.
But when he learned the name of the potential rider ̵
Bilenki, 67, and his three employees pulled it out, completed a custom frame made of Columbus steel, and painted it until Remembrance Day over the weekend. The goal was to prepare the bike as a gift from President Joe Biden to Johnson, an avid cyclist, at the G7 summit in Cornwall, England. The summit starts on Friday.
The bike is painted blue with red and white decorations to commemorate Britain’s Union Jack, the signatures of the two world leaders on the crossbar and the American and British flags on the head tube. He was sent on June 4. The matching, custom-painted helmet took longer and was due on Monday.
One of the challenges of the State Department’s request was that the engine have as many US-made components as possible.
The wheels come from Velocity USA in Michigan. The hubs, cranks and headphones are from White Industries in California. Sram from Chicago supplies gear levers and gear levers. The saddle comes from Selle Anatomica, also in California.
“It’s been a crazy 10 days,” Bilenki said.