ALAMEDA -- Most people buy bicycles through local dealers or large retail outlets. Rarely does a buyer purchase a bike directly from the factory.
Not so for customers of Greg Barron's Rideable Bicycle Replicas. For the most part, these buyers will purchase a "homemade" bike, one built on the company's Eagle Avenue premises by Barron and his staff of four (with occasional help from younger brother Adam Barron, a welder by trade).
"I carry a couple of other lines from different companies, but the vast majority of the stuff that I sell I actually make here," Barron said. "We use parts copied from the original castings (from those of the actual old-time bikes)."
Visitors to Barron's shop will see the extent that the Rideable Bicycle Replicas crew goes to manufacture quality bikes that remain as true to their history as possible, with frames, forks and wheels made on-site.
Rideable Bicycle Replicas features four high-wheel models, ranging from what Barron calls a "reasonable facsimile" to what he dubs "90 percent accurate." Prices range from $899 to $3,000.
"There are advantages and disadvantages to all four bikes," said Barron, who has ridden the high wheelers since age 12. "The more comfortable bikes lose some accuracy to history. But they can be very comfortable, depending on the seat; you're not hunched over like you are on a road bike. Once you get over the apprehension of being seated five feet in the air, you're highly visible (to motorists) and you can see well ahead of you. People actually get a kick out of you; they cheer, they whistle. I don't think I've ever gotten a bad reaction from these bikes."
Barron has supplied specialty bicycles for movies, television, circuses, museums and other events in different parts of the world. But among individual customers, who might be a "typical" buyer of these bikes?
"There's no target market," Barron said. "If I could nail down my one demographic, I would market it like crazy. But it's definitely a discretionary-income item."
"Boneshakers" and other specialty bicycles are not for everyone. But those purchasing from Ridable Bicycle Replicas are more than likely to be dealing directly with the manufacturer.