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Meet J. Livingston 

Custom commuter bike building gains momentum in Bend

John Livingston, left, and Eric Power bring J. Livingston bikes to the Bend masses. Courtesy of Eric Power.

John Livingston, left, and Eric Power bring J. Livingston bikes to the Bend masses. Courtesy of Eric Power.

When local Bend Velo bike shop owner Eric Power began his business in 2009, he knew he wanted to focus his shop on promoting commuter-style riding.

I travel to Portland quite a bit and I was thinking about biking more as a mode of transportation, as opposed to racing or mountain biking," Power said. We need to have more bikes on the roads instead of cars. I thought, 'How do we do that?' Well, Portland has this excellent model; you see people all over commuting to work."

The name Bend Velo was inspired by the common use of bicycles in Europe and their word for bike, according to Power. "Velo is basically slang for bicycle," he added.

Very soon after opening Bend Velo, Power was hanging out with his good friend and fellow bicyclist, John Livingston, when a discussion started on which bike was better: Power's expensive carbon fiber bike or Livingston's cobbled-together, steel-frame bike.

"Eric and I have been friends for a long time," said Livingston. So, when we started having this discussion about his expensive frame versus my old steel frame, I said, 'Yes, it's better, but it's not that much better.' He thought about it and agreed! It went from there."

The J. Livingston bike got its name from first using it in a lighthearted way, said Power.

When friends of John's and mine would cobble bikes together from a bunch of old bikes, I'd joke, saying, 'Oh, you're building a Livingston!' That got me thinking about a good name to call these very specific, custom, commuter bikes we were building. So, we've gone with that name and trademarked it."

It's a huge honor to have the bike given my name. Undeserved, but huge," Livingston said, laughing. I always get really proud riding to work, and even when it's 25 degrees out, I'll see a bunch of Livingstons downtown. People commute with them in all weather."

Customizing for taller women is something particular to the J. Livingston line, according to Power.

"We take a bigger men's frame and take out the top bar and alter it to a swoopy tube," said Power. "It's welded in a lower step-through style. If we've got a woman over 5' 8", we can fit it to her. Also, older women may need this modification."

The customer's personal input is important, according to Power and Livingston.

"People are passionate about these bikes," Livingston said. They get emotionally attached, you know, if they get that really good sounding bell. They love their lights, their fenders. And it's things like that that make you want to ride your bike more."

According to Power, Bend Velo is now selling, on average, about 15 J. Livingston bikes per month, but the true success of the business is in helping the community.

"We love that we're able to push this trend of people getting out of cars and getting onto bikes," he said. "Bicycles can solve so many of our country's issues—health issues, parking, environmental issues. You're not burning fuel; you're exercising instead of driving. My dream was to go down to the farmers market and see people there on my Livingston bikes. And I do. I go around town and people will literally stop me in the street and tell me how much they love their Livingston. They'll say, 'It's changed my life!' That's why I started this business."

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