About Different Spokes

Adam Amundsen

about adam

I have been taking things apart and putting them back together as far back as I can remember.  As a child, I built forts, dog houses, models, more forts, and BMX bikes.  As I grew older, all of the childhood projects were put on hold so that I could focus on getting a college degree and becoming a grown-up.  In 2004, I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Washington School of Fishery and Aquatic Sciences.  As a reward to myself, I purchased my very first brand new bike, A $500 Giant OCR 3 road bike.  This thing was light, fast and so fun! Unfortunately, it was also way more complicated than my old BMX bikes.  With all new bikes, there is always a break in period, where the snazzy new bike loses some of it’s adjustment and starts to ride like the old rig you traded up from.  When my bike began creaking and crunching, I just assumed that I could fix it. No problem.

Unfortunately for my ego and the bike, I wasn’t able to fix it.  I was determined to learn about how my bike worked, so I walked down to the bike shop, dropped my bike off for a tune-up and applied for a job.  I was put on cashier detail for the first few months but every spare second I had, I was in the repair area asking the mechanics question after question.  Eventually, I had learned enough to be accepted by the mechanics and was moved in to the shop.  This is the point where my love of bikes really blossomed.  I loved working on them and I loved that people of all walks of life and economic standing could ride.

After working in Seattle for a few years, I moved to Portland and began working at Coventry Cycle Works, a local recumbent shop.  This shop really allowed me to blossom as a mechanic.  Recumbent cycles are exciting to work on because of all the non-standard configurations they come in and the way road and mountain bike parts are re-purposed to fit the recumbent bike.  I loved the everyday challenges of the cycles and and the satisfying feeling I got from customers.  Recumbent bikes are truly the great equalizer in the field of cycling.  They can be made to work for the hardest core endurance rider or for somebody who has partial paralysis, prosthetics and balance issues.

Unfortunately, perfectly tailored cycles don’t come out of a box.  They must be built one at a time with the end user’s needs, desires and abilities all taken in to consideration.  That is what gets me excited and that is why Don and I formed Different Spokes.  I want to build cycles like a tailor sews custom suits, and if I build yours, I guarantee it’ll look good on you.

Don Smith

about don

It was 1971 and my mom had just given me my first bicycle – a Murray Campus Compact.  This bike was a break from the normal 5 and 10 speeds of the day.  It came complete with rear rack, fenders, a cargo box large enough for textbooks and 20-inch wheels.  It also tipped the scale at a portly 42 pounds!

In my hometown of Yuma, Arizona we had no local bike shop in our neighborhood. Sears and Western Auto were where we bought everything from lawn mowers to bike tires and patch kits.  It wasn’t until our family uprooted and moved to Phoenix that I discovered a whole new world. Phoenix had Bicycle shops!  In Yuma, I had never seen a store devoted entirely to bicycles and from that time forward I was hooked.  It turned out that the neighborhood bike shop Try Me Bicycle was owned by my neighbor Mr. Baumgartner.  He and his son Leon patiently answered all my thousands of questions, and taught me how to maintain my bikes and stoked so began my lifelong love affair with the bicycle. Try Me Bicycle is still alive and well today.

In the early eighties I was in the an Navy Honor Guard during the Reagan administration.  Washington DC had a Portland-like bike path network back then. It seemed like a highway built especially for bikes. I enjoyed miles and miles with no helmet, no water bottle, and a plastic BMX saddle on my 26-inch single speed Laguna Cruiser.

After leaving the Navy, I enrolled at Arizona State University, where I rarely drove a car, instead preferring to go by bike.  It was at ASU that I met my wife and although she was not impressed then by my choice of transportation, she has become an avid riding partner as well. Our decision to move to Portland in the early nineties was primarily because of the bike scene. Ok… the blues scene and microbrews were an important factor too.  But the desire to live and ride among a rich bike culture was the main impetus. Since arriving we’ve ridden recumbents on scores of organized rides including many centuries, Cycle Oregons, and STPs.

Here in Portland I have had the privilege to serve as Executive Director of Disabled American Veterans for nearly 15 years. Portland DAV Chapter 1 is a proud supporter of adaptive recreation programs both locally and nationally. We help foster the development and self-sustenance of non-profits and other organizations involved in adaptive recreation. DAV has enjoyed long and successful partnerships with organizations like Team River Runner (paddle sports and recreation), Project Healing Waters (fly fishing & tying), and the DAV Winter Sports Clinic just to name a few.  It was here at DAV that I discovered adaptive cycling.

Fifteen years ago there wasn’t much of an adaptive cycling industry. Yes there were fledgling efforts here and there but you’d never find a shop devoted solely to adaptive cycling.  Today the availability and selection of adaptive cycling products are numerous and much higher in quality. But they are still scattered across the planet and rarely available all in one place. The process of sourcing and properly selecting an adaptive bike is very arduous, potentially expensive and often unsuccessful for many aspiring cyclists.

It became obvious to me that there was a need for an adaptive cycling focused shop. This shop should be devoted to gathering the best adaptive offerings from around the globe under one roof with experienced folks to properly help select and fit the bike to the individual rider with and their unique requirements.  I set out to create such a bike shop.

As luck would have it I met Adam Amundsen who shared a very similar dream.  We then founded Different Spokes.  From the start we have been welcomed with open arms.  We now enjoy calls and referrals from therapists, doctors, rehab units, bike shops, veteran healthcare facilities, recreation groups and the list goes on.

Adam and I have created an original take on that first bike shop from my youth. Different Spokes is very much a manifestation of my life’s experiences in the wonderful world of cycling. We feel very blessed witnessing the life changing experiences that cycling brings. We are especially proud of the folks we’ve helped get back on a bike when they thought those days were long gone.

We love what we do.

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