The work of building custom bicycles is a lot like that of a bespoke suit tailor, even if we associate it with welding and metal work. The crucial part is still, as it is for the tailor, the measuring and the communication with the customer. It's the hard work of getting the right fit.
When Thomas Callahan of Horse Cycles builds a bicycle for someone, he measures their arms, their legs, their height and talks with them about their riding style and how they’ll use the bike. And then of course about what they want it to look like; the paint job. He then takes all this and turns it into a rolling work of art and a prized possession.
Callahan says he would go insane building the exact same bike over and over again. Creating custom bikes is more interesting and challenging. “It’s like talking to the same person all day versus talking to multiple different people,” he says. And, “Paint is something I really enjoy.”
Which is clear. Each Horse cycle receives a stunning paint job. Callahan has a background in fine arts and his knowledge of color theory comes through in each frame.
In his Brooklyn shop, Callahan has been cranking out custom bikes for the last seven years. He has one employee who works part time as well. It’s hard to say exactly how long a bike takes to build, because he’s always working on so many at a time, but it’s about four weeks.
Horse Cycles uses U.S. and Italian-made steel for their frames. Steel provides pretty much the most comfortable ride for a city-ridden bike because it gives more than aluminum (aluminum snaps, steel bends). Combine this with its incredible durability and you’ve got a frame that can take a beating in urban riding conditions and last a lifetime as well.
At the shop there’s a pretty constant flow of friends and customers who come to hang out with Callahan. And there’s a shop cat - Charles - that sort of rules the roost.
Callahan is working on expanding beyond bicycles. He's partnered with a few other local brands like Mer Bags to offer soft goods. He’s building a motorcycle and has been rehabbing old hatchets as well. Horse is also partnering with a national brand to build production (non-custom) bikes.
But building custom bikes will always be at the core of the Horse empire.
“They just hold so much more value in my eyes,” he says. “I can take pictures of these bikes and put them up online and I don’t feel like I’m putting up the same shit over and over.”