While working in a bike shop in the early 1980s, Steve Rex was introduced to custom small-scale bikes.
Using his bachelor’s degree in economics was going to have to wait — Rex wanted to become a frame builder. He took machining and welding courses at Sacramento City College to learn the trade and made his first frame in 1987. He opened the Rex Cycles storefront in Sacramento in 1991, which he ran until retiring as a shopkeeper last year. He now makes frames out of his home workshop.
To build a custom bike, the first step is determining the customer’s fit specifications. As Rex designs the bike, he keeps in mind the way it’s going to ride with the customer on it, then cuts tubes, welds them together, paints the bike and installs the parts. Delivering the bike is especially gratifying. “I like it when people are happy, and they’re usually happy when they get their bikes,” Rex says. He plans to work as a bike builder for another 10 years.
“I’ve worked myself into such a crazy little niche that it’d be hard for me to do anything else,” he says. “I’ve worked for myself for so long. But really, I love bicycles. Bicycles are a beautiful thing. They’re good for us personally, they’re good for society, so it’s what I keep doing.”