Builder Spotlight: Dan Boxer, Boxer Bicycles

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

I participated in the event in 2009. With the types of bikes I’m interested in building, I’m aware of the French technical trials of the ‘40s and ‘50s. I was a new builder in 2009, and was very excited to participate in what appeared to be a technical trial. It was an opportunity to showcase my wares and share ideas of what I feel is a good transportation bike. I took third in the race – I wiped out and was bloody, so it was a spectacular finish. I thought the 2011 design criteria would be a little different, and the changes are good – it’s still an opportunity to show my different ideas about things. It’s actually a little different than I anticipated, so there’s an opportunity to stretch my skills and do something my clientele hasn’t seen before.

The design criteria are aimed at inspiring new solutions and flexibility – how is this influencing your thinking? Are you taking it back to square one?

I’m refining existing stuff, but leaving the door open for new things. Innovation is a crucial aspect of Oregon Manifest. It doesn’t interest me to rehash the same old thing. My 2009 OM bike was traditional; it looked like what we’ve seen for 60 years. For 2011 I’m looking at a different approach, presenting a slightly more innovative design.

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

My comfort zone for is to combine traditional design elements with the best of modern components and finishes. The Boxer Bicycles style aesthetic is well-defined. I don’t have a design background, so I don’t think in colorways; I appreciate it, but it’s not my skill set. I want to do a half-assed “modern approach” to the transportation bike. For me, fresh and modern means a utility bike that performs, is functional and is fun to ride.

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

Riders should be able to do what they want to do, carry what they want to carry, and go where they want to go – and have fun doing it. My clients typically ride a lot, like more than three days a week; they’re more than just recreational riders. They don’t want to feel like it’s a slog or a boring ride. I tilt toward performance, but want to maintain a high degree of utility.

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

As a person I’m fairly competitive – conceptually. I’m not a racer; my first race was Oregon Manifest in 2009. But I’m an avid randonneur, and on long-distance rides I’m competitive with myself: how fast can I do this? That’s where competition is interesting for me. Among builders? Well, an open marketplace is competition, but we can all come up with innovative solutions and come together to share them. My primary focus for Oregon Manifest is participating, bringing something cool to the event, having fun and doing well in the performance test. It’s about delivering on my promise.

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?

It’s possible – but I may not be meeting that criteria. My bike won’t be radical. The event hopes to stretch its participants, but there should be a proven track record before a product goes to market. Too many products come out that aren’t proven, and the newest/latest doesn’t interest me. I don’t think Oregon Manifest is about that. It’s not like we’re building concept cars; the riding challenge ensures they have to ride well, and not just be eye candy.

What about this design challenge is inspiring you the most?

I’m a new father; when I participated in 2009 I didn’t have a kid. Now I’m much more interested in carrying more than myself. That’s inspiring and directing my thought process the most. For a lot of people it’s a big barrier: “I’d like to do more things by bike, but I have this kid; how do I make that work?” I’m looking at how to include more than one person in the process.

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

“A home workshop, equipped for me, with my music.”

What do like best about building custom bikes?

The delivery of the bike. It’s the initial feedback – the look on someone’s face – that’s most rewarding. As far as day-to-day, making things with my hands, having a vision and fulfilling that vision by shaping metal and coming out with a straight frame. It’s a great combination of my different interests, and being able to do that and make some money is pretty dreamy.