Germantown Avenue seems like a comparatively quiet street when considering the rest of Philadelphia. Trolley tracks and cobbled paths remain from the years gone by, there is a lot that houses a food truck and what appears to be a small farmers market. It’s June in Philadelphia, and the summer heat is already reducing movement to only the purely necessary. The blue awning that reads Wissahickon Cyclery catches a slight breeze as we enter through the glass door where we are greeted by the relief of the air conditioner. The shop’s owner Drew Guldalian is engaged with a customer looking to purchase their child his first bike. The shop itself is neatly organized, products meticulously organized on the wall and shelves, a dozen or so bikes hang on the racks, but this quaint, locally owned shop is more than meets the eye.
Wissahickon Cyclery, while a bike shop, it is also the home of Engin Cycles. When Guldalian graduated college his car was already packed and he was off to his first job within a few hours. As quickly as Drew began his post-college career he was ready to end it. “After about 6 month’s I was over it.” Guldalian remembers, “ I called my dad and was just like, I can’t do it, my boss is an asshole.” Having been raised by parents who were both self-employed Guldalian found little resistance when he said that he was quitting his job. Having graduated with a business and culinary arts degree Guldalian wasn’t sure what his next move was going to be. “I knew I wasn’t going to open a restaurant, and the only other thing I liked was bikes.”
Upon returning home Guldalian contacted his grandmother and asked about there old rug washing business. In the space where Wissahickon Cyclery now resides was once the family’s rug washing business. If you snake your way through the mechanic’s area and out the back door there are two sizeable structures that were used to wash and dry large rugs. At age 23 Drew Guldalian plunged head first into owning a bike shop with a little help from his grandmother. Working 7 days a week, living off ramen noodles, Drew established himself in the completive bike market that is Philadelphia, but after 10 years and starting a family he was looking for more. Wissahickon Cyclery had been selling custom frames from brands like Moots and Independent Fabrication and Guldalian thought that this might just be the way for him to be more lucrative. He began welding his own frames and after some practice and some test models, Engin Cycles was born.
After a few years, Guldalian took a few of his bikes to the North American Handmade show that year in San Jose, CA and came home with the Best Mountain Bike Award. “All of the sudden I have a hundred orders for bikes and I’m looking at two years worth of work.” Guldalian began to expand his workshop area, purchasing CNC machines and lathes so that he was able to create everything on his own. When you walk into the Engin Cycles workshop space it is an impressive layout. There is a machine working continuously on new chainstay yokes, there are jigs and drills and separate stations for each section of the bicycle. A new road bike is positioned in the frame jig waiting to have its rear triangle welded on.
While Guldalian began working in steel, he now exclusively builds in Titanium. Guldalian builds between 15-20 frames a year but he does have some stipulations for taking on new customers. First thing is that you have to be willing to meet in person and second is that the bike comes complete, no frame only orders. Guldalian explains that meeting customers in person is important for both he and the customer. “I had to take a step back after the initial success of the business and just focus on making the best bikes that I can” Guldalian explained how he had to shift his focus. “It was overwhelming and I was working like crazy.” Guldalian accepted that he may lose some of his clientele but he was willing to do that in order to build bikes to the best of his abilities.
While custom titanium bikes are not for everyone, it is hard not to step back and admire the craftsmanship and the beauty of these bikes when you see one on the trails. If you would like to see more from Engin Cycles we got a chance to take Drew’s personal bike out on his home trails (read more about that here) and you can always visit Engin Cycles on the web.