Michigan bike shop ramping up brand
By DAN NIELSEN
Traverse City Record-Eagle
AP Member Exchange
TRAVERSE CITY– A new bicycle brand is rolling through Traverse City. Bearclaw Bicycle Co. has sold 74 bikes since its inception a couple of years ago, and now is poised for a burst of marketing intended to increase sales.
Bearclaw is an outgrowth of the Einstein Cycles bicycle shop which Jason Lowetz launched in 2011.
“It was just me, my baby strapped to me, and sometimes my wife,” he said of those early days running the business.
Fast-forward six years and Einstein Cycles now employs Lowetz’ brother, Daniel, and two other workers, Dustin Collingridge and Dan Curnayn. Sales and rentals keep the quartet busy. The shop now is running smoothly, Jason Lowetz said, and he has more time to devote to creating bikes.
Bearclaw takes aim at the high end of the market. Lowetz has designed the frames with a few twists specifically aimed at conditions found in northern Michigan. But the bikes will serve well anywhere, he told the Traverse City Record-Eagle.
Lowetz and Einstein leaped into the fat bike craze early on. Fat bikes are defined as bicycles with tires at least 4 inches wide, said Lowetz. They seemed a natural fit for Michigan because such wide tires make riding in snow, sand and other loose material easier. Einstein has seen brisk sales of several brands of fat bikes, along with traditional mountain and road bikes.
“The fat bike thing had really grown,” Lowetz said. “We started thinking that we could make fat bikes of our own, better.”
He designed a carbon frame, had it fabricated, named it Balthazar and began selling the bikes a couple of years ago. Sixty Balthazars so far have sold. Lowetz also has designed two titanium-frame bikes, the Beowulf and Thunderhawk. Pricing for each of the three bikes begins at $3,500.
The bare frames are manufactured elsewhere. After they arrive in Traverse City, Lowetz and his crew at Einstein add wheels, tires, cranks, gears, bearings, headsets, brakes and other components to create a finished bicycle. Different parts can add substantially to the final price. He designed Bearclaw frames specifically so they can ride atop a variety of tire widths.
“That’s the big thing with our bikes — the wheel options,” he said.
The Balthazar frame can accept tires up to 5 inches wide, the Beowulf 3 inches and the Thunderhawk, a road bike that can be used on single track, just over 2 inches.
Different tires allow each frame to be tuned for different conditions including trails, pavement or gravel roads.
Local buyers so far account for 90 percent of Bearclaw’s sales. A few bikes have sold to people visiting town, a few to buyers who found their website.
Daniel Lowetz is ramping up Bearclaw marketing efforts. Jason Lowetz hopes to sell 200 Bearclaw bikes this year. He plans to begin with a sales focus on the internet. He’s also considering getting the Bearclaw bikes into other bike shops across the Midwest and beyond, but realizes that would add another layer of management complexity.