By Mary Ellen Psaltis
A defining moment for Bill Stevenson and his life-long relationship with bicycles happened not long after he got out of the Army. He was looking for a job. As life would have it, he received two offers at the same time and decided to take both. One was a 25 minute walk away and the other was a 45 minute trek. Since Bill couldn’t afford a car, he bought a bike. It was a Western Flyer (an awful bike, he told me) for $25. Long walks became quick bike rides; Bill became a bike enthusiast.
For years, Bill had been a car and motorcycle mechanic, so it was a natural extension to work on bikes. In the early ’70s he went to work downtown at The Bike Stand, which became an Olympia institution.
Through the years Bill worked for Ross, a bicycle company that was known for pioneering mountain bikes, which included living in Taiwan. The biking industry took him to Allentown, Marin County, Los Angeles and Paso Robles. Eventually, he decided to leave behind the wearing demands of corporate life and return to Olympia.
In 2014, Bill and his son Shawn committed to crafting hand-built steel custom bike frames on a full time basis. Their business is Stevenson Custom Bicycles. His Olympia garage is filled, floor to ceiling, with tools and equipment. Within the walls of this relatively small space, the Stevensons have the talent and ability to design a bike that fits your body and your riding needs – most likely for decades.
It’s really a bike of your dreams. Bill, who comes from a family of architects and engineers, creates full-size technical drawings of your bike. It’s a thing of beauty. And, soon enough the two dimensional drawing becomes a three dimensional bicycle. Such a personal, well-built bike, as Stevenson said, “will last a long time.”
A new addition to their business is a bike-sizer. You sit on the bike look-alike for proper measurements. One customer flew all the way from the East Coast to ensure the bike was perfect for his extra tall body. Stevenson Custom Bicycles builds their own frames, but you will find they have parts to assemble your whole bike.
Stevenson doesn’t just build bikes, he’s deep in the Olympia bike community. He is the president of the Capital Bicycling Club, a group that sponsors rides and means to connect with other riders and events. You can find Stevenson leading cycling enthusiasts through spinning classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Eagles, where you BYOB (Bring Your Own Bike), but you can leave your trainer there. (The trainer is the stand to hold your bike during this stationary exercise.) These intense workouts emphasize technique as they keep riders in shape when the weather is less forgiving.
Need to brush up on your own maintenance? The Monday Night Repair Class will eventually cover almost every maintenance procedure and then demonstrate the ways to handle them. Classes are free and you can bring all your questions. My bike-riding son took the series twice. He loved it.
You might call me a fair weather rider, but I love the freedom and peace of riding my bike. I pump up my tires before each ride and pray they stay that way. After your initial investment of buying a bike, the rest is easy. There’s no gas or insurance to buy, and you can learn basic maintenance. I do turn my bike over to a professional for an annual check-up and maintenance.
On most weekends, Bill and Shawn are riding a tandem that he built back in 1978. You can be sure it’s well maintained.
Check out the Capital Bicycling Club or learn more about your bike by attending the Monday classes.
Riding is a joyful experience, and Stevenson Custom Bicycles is ready to take your riding experience to new heights.
If you have a bike to donate, Build-a-Bike Project can help.