I don’t know whether it is customary for U.S. Presidents and heads of other states to exchange gifts at the G7 or other international summits, but at the 2021 G7, President Joe Biden decided to give a special gift to avid cyclist PM Boris Johnson — a custom-built bicycle, fabricated by a small family-owned business in Philadelphia.
Stephen Bilenky and his 3 employees at Bilenky Cycle Works make custom bicycles, which are priced in the $4,000 to $10,000 range and generally take 6 to 18 months to manufacture. They were approached by the State Department on May 23 to make a special bicycle, with special graphics … in just 2 weeks and for a price tag of $1,800.
www.inquirer.com/… notes how Bilenky reacted to the strange request –
But when he learned the name of the eventual rider — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson — he decided to go on with it. “This is an opportunity” to raise his shop’s profile, he thought at the time. “Controlled chaos” followed, said Bilenky, who has been in business for 37 years.
Some more info about the bicycle from the Bilenky Cycle Works website www.bilenky.com/… –
The US-UK Friendship Bike (aka “the Boris Bike”) based on Bilenky’s classic ’80s “Clubsman” sport/touring model (renamed in the 2000’s to the gender-neutral “Tourlite”) is a lightweight roadster with SRAM AXS shifting.
It was fillet brazed, hand finished, and constructed with a mix of Columbus and Dedacciai tubing, design and fabrication assistance from Mars Cycles and wheels built by Bryan “Fuzzy” VanArsdale.
It features components from these companies: Ahearne (handlebar), Selle Anatomica (saddle) Velocity USA (rims) White Industries (hubs, cranks and headset) Spurcycle (bell) King Cage (water bottle cage) Thomson Bike Products (seat post, stem) Jen Green (custom head badge), Schwalbe (tires), and Bern (helmet).
Stephen Bilenky launched his bicycle company with the British-inspired Metro 5, his reimagining of the historic English 3 speed. Early in his framebuilding career, Bilenky was mentored by Birmingham, UK builder Jim Gittins. So, the “Boris Bike” circles back to British roots.
Bilenky is a firm believer in the transformational effect of bicycles and bicycling. Says Bilenky, “Perhaps this gift can help push the goal of understanding and peace.”
Bicycle enthusiasts here will appreciate the fabrication and components description above better than the rest of us.
Bilenky states that a limited edition reproduction will be available for purchase soon!
Here are some more images of the bicycle –
Made with Craftsmanship and Love.
Here is a short interview with Bilenky. Who does he remind you of?
More about Bilenky Cycle Works, a very special company –
In case you are wondering how the British reciprocated this gesture, Boris Johnson gifted Biden a framed image of a mural of Frederick Douglas from Edinburgh.
The mural was created by Edinburgh-born artist Ross Blair (who paints under the name TrenchOne) using emulsion brush and spray paint.
I took the photograph on an evening walk during lockdown just as the sun was setting. The mural is very close to the building where Frederick Douglass stayed while he was in Edinburgh. I shared it on Wikipedia so that more people could see it and enjoy it.
This is just one example of how Biden and his team are rebuilding relationships around the world, much of which was left in tatters by the previous occupant of the White House.
We may not like Boris Johnson much around here, for good reason, but diplomacy is about building bridges, even with those you dislike. The gift is not just a gift from Biden to Johnson, but it is a gift from the American people to the British. No doubt, it will be cherished and remembered.
As Biden says, Diplomacy is back. America is back. To that we add that dignity, competence and love are back.