Last Christmas I received an email from an old friend that could have easily been thrown away with the rest of the holiday trash. The subject line was certainly vague enough to end up in the junk folder: “Let’s do something fun together.” Chopper fanatics with deep BMX roots might recognize the sender’s name: Taj Mihelich. Before I jumped headfirst into the motorcycle business in 2005, I was an antiquated fixture in the BMX industry, and an avid recreational cyclist. Around the same time my friend Taj was laying the groundwork for a similar switch in his own professional and personal life, from that of celebrated BMX rider to designer and marketing brains behind a bicycle company called Fairdale.
The stylish city bikes, long-haul touring vessels and classic steel road machines rolling around in Taj’s head are glorious, and helped Fairdale carve a rugged, comfortable niche in today’s two-wheeled scene. I have been smitten by the fashion, function and overwhelming fun of the Fairdale brand since Taj showed me his first city bike five years ago, and vowed to own one of his steeds as soon as I could move some old iron in my garage. Taking the bait Taj dangled in his original email, I asked, “What do you think of a Biltwell/Fairdale collab?” Taj spoke to his design partner Jim Bauer at Fairdale HQ in Austin, Texas, for about ten minutes, then enthusiastically replied, “Hell yeah!”
To make better sense of this potentially incongruous proposal, some backstory is in order. Before Bill and I started Biltwell in 2005, we were guns for hire in the bicycle business—BMX and mountain bike brands mostly, and the occasional motocross company. Our services included designing colorways and graphics for products, specing complete bikes, designing parts and accessories, that sort of thing. Being motorcycle enthusiasts themselves, Taj and Jim were both fans of Biltwell and aware of our experience in their realm. With formalities put to bed, Taj, Bill and I started chipping away at our project: Building custom co-branded spec and livery for a Fairdale Weekender bicycle.
Much to Taj’s surprise, I chose Fairdale’s Weekender Archer model—not one of the brand’s more BMX-styled fun machines—for this project. The Weekender’s 9-speed drivetrain with SRAM X5 trigger shifter and matching derailleur with 11-36 cassette gives this steel gravel bike greater go-anywhere capability, without the bulk and burliness of an over-stuffed MTB. Fairdale’s Archer handlebar has up- and back-sweep similar to the bars on your grandpa’s three-speed, and harmonizes with the 80mm long clamp-on stem to create a comfortable cockpit for all-day chilling and grilling. If you’re not a hard-core cyclist, you’ll love the way this bike’s studded 700c gravel tires roll over tarmac, fire roads and even mellow singletrack trails. If you’re a chopper fanatic who just wants to burn a few calories on his way to Starbuck’s, the Fairdale + Biltwell collab has your name written all over it.
Only 100 of these limited-edition bicycles are available, and ten are already spoken for by Biltwell staff and friends. Each one is serialized with a hand-engraved aluminum badge on the down tube, and the rest of the graphics package is pure Barnacle Bill at his Macintosh best. Other features include a pair of 7/8-inch Biltwell Torker grips and a stunning custom diamond-stitched saddle with Fairdale and Biltwell co-branding. For the rest of the nuts and bolts, look here.
Fairdale is selling the Biltwell Weekender Archer directly through their website here. With only 90 of the original 100 limited-edition bikes available as of this blog posting, interested parties had better move fast. A super big thanks to Taj and Jim for helping Bill and me get this dreamboat off the ground. Thanks also to Eliot at the Fairdale factory for holding this project’s hand from start to finish.