Profile: Ocean Air Cycles
“This bike is not a touring bike,” Rob tells us. Designed in the garage workspace of his Ventura apartment and made by framemakers in Portland, OR the Rambler is the brainchild of Rob Perks of Ocean Air Cycles. With an engineering background, Rob has designed a bike that he always wanted for himself. Something utilitarian that would make mundane daily commuting tasks and errands fun as well as having the ability to take on mixed terrain and even go on bike overnights.
The Rambler is a low trail bike whose frame is built around Paul Racer brakes and 650b tires. The Paul Racers are more than just a bit of bike eye-candy for Rob, but are a key component to bicycle (so much so that he sells his frames with the Paul’s included). They have superb stopping power, good modulation and can accommodate wide tires with fenders. The fork has a low trail design so they are optimized to carry front loads without adverse affects.
While we were in Ventura, we got a chance to spend a few days with Rob and throw our legs over some Ramblers. For me, it was the first time I’ve actually ridden a low trail fork bike even though I’ve been reading their advantages on the pages of Bicycle Quarterly for years. I got to ride a Sunflower Yellow Rambler set up as a porteur bike with swept back bars and front rack. Although I couldn’t do a proper apples to apples comparison with my other bikes, since we didn’t really have a chance to dial in the fit, I could get a flavor for the bike.
I noticed immediately the difference in how the front end steered, especially with the weight of my handlebar bag. The wheel didn’t flop around as much even at slow speeds and I could ride no-handed with the bike and a load. The steering was predictable but not a snoozefest. We took the bikes out for about an hour ride up and down the coast and even did a little urban CX carrying bikes over tracks and riding on some railroad ballast. While not exactly a long mixed terrain ride, the bike steered nicely especially during slow speeds over rough stuff. Rob regularly takes his Rambler out on nearby dirt roads and even some mountain bike trails, usually getting strange looks from other riders.
With the bike designed and his first batches coming in, it is a matter of pounding the pavement to sell the Rambler. Its a bit of a chicken and an egg scenario where he feels more people would buy the bike if there were more testimonials of people riding the bike, but for that to happen he needs to sell more bikes, etc., Rob and his wife Allison are starting to do the bike show circuit, trying to get the bike out in the public. To help support the framebuilding and market the bikes, Rob also creates some soft goods; sewing frame bags, making leather wallets and designing shirts and musset bags trying to source materials and labor in the US. It was obvious to us that Rob was passionate about his products From the short time we rode The Rambler, we could see the niche they fill – a USA made, all-rounder, with low trail, and 650b wheels for long rides, light touring and everything in between.
Times are a bit lean as he tries to sell more frames to make more frames, but he believes that if he can get people to ride his bike that they’ll be converted. When we left Ventura he was contemplating which bicycle shows to attend in the coming year to maximize his efforts. He had a few painted frames in his garage awaiting decals and some finishing work. In the next few days they would be shipped out to the first owners of Ramblers in the world. Like the roads the Rambler was designed for, the summit is always barely within sight, but the route is twisty and uncertain at times and all that Rob can do is pedal on one measured stroke at a time.
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