Builder Spotlight: Renold Yip / Yipsan Cycles

What does true flexibility in a modern utility bike mean to you?

Why do people use cars? To carry their laptop or to go to lunch – the car is convenient. Bikes don’t offer that unless you have a huge backpack; that’s not good for carrying things or enjoying your bike – you need more practical flexibility. We don’t want the rider to have to plan so far ahead – to not have to worry about all those factors. A bike is an accessory in life; we don’t have to build our life around a bike. There shouldn’t be a reason I can’t go here or carry that.

What inspired you to enter the Constructor’s Design Challenge competition?

A couple of years ago I had a city bike that won a couple awards at the North American show. Oregon Manifest contacted me – I thought it would be cool to be part of OM. That award-winning bike was built for a customer; I wanted to build one for my wife, and OM gave me a good reason to. It’s not so much a competition per se – more of a good hangout and a chance to see other builders and their work.

How far along are you in the design process?

I have ideas but haven’t actually started the bike – I need to start about now. It’s going to take more time than I think. The key is that the bigger challenge is how to integrate things like kickstands and a lock – the design is not too difficult, but the fabrication will be a challenge.

The competition stresses fresh and modern – how will that affect aesthetic decisions?

I don’t think my bike will be very fresh or modern – rather, I see it as the functionality that will drive the look. It will have a traditional look – not just a visual stunner that’s awkward functionally. I’m making smaller changes for how people use bikes in the modern day.

At its heart this is a competition – how do you feel about the competitive aspect? Will it drive innovation?

I’m trying not to make competition aspect too important. I want to check off the requirements and build something I’m happy has come from my hands. I don’t see it as “If you don’t win an award you’re a loser.” This is more personal than trying to use an award as a marketing tool.

With bikes, innovation seems to be incremental – shaving weight, finessing shifting – but this competition is asking for BIG innovation – do you think that’s possible?

(Laughs) How do we measure big? It’s gotta have two wheels and a drive train. Is a shaft drive innovation? For a commuter bike it’s meaningful – it’s encased, no maintenance – but you can’t change everything. We’re not building bikes for dummies. I don’t see dramatic changes; it’s more about changing habits – teasing people into using bikes as transportation. Aesthetic cues and functionality help, but no major changes are necessary to do that.

In a way, indie builders are the R&D lab for the cycling industry for utility bikes. Where do see yourself and Oregon Manifest fitting into this innovation?

In the past 6 or 7 years city bikes have created a theme for cycling – an upright and relaxed position, racks, etc. Without cues from small builders this wouldn’t have happened – big builders would still be focused on sport cycling. If the average person sees someone commuting on a racing bike, they might think they can’t do that. I want to intrigue people to ride to work – and hopefully that benefits the whole industry.

Where is your workshop? Describe it in one short phrase.

I work in my garage in Fort Collins, Colorado. It’s pretty homey – well, it’s my home, anyway. I only use hand tools – no machining or lasers – so it all fits in here.

What do like best about building custom bikes?

I like the personal aspect of this most. My customers can become my friends – it’s such a long process that we can’t help but get to know each other. I often assemble the whole thing and see the customer ride off on it. Even if I weren’t doing this I’d enjoy meeting these people.