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Bikes April, 5 2012

Budnitz Bicycles Model No. 4 – An Interview with Paul Budnitz

Today we can announce the new Budnitz Bicycles Model No.4, their big-city bicycle designed to fit in small spaces. It’s a perfect travel bicycle and a blast to ride. The arched stainless-steel cantilever frame and space-efficient 24″ racing tires move lightening fast and love to eat up curbs, potholes, and road shock. It’s compact size means it fits easily anywhere — in city apartments, elevators, trunks of cars & airplanes. We make a skinny tire version, too.

Paul Budnitz puts design first. He proofed that with his previous company, Kidrobot, and now proofs it again with his new bike business. The Budnitz Bicycles Model No. 4 launched today in their online store, priced at 3600 USD.

We talked to Paul about their new bike model and how it is different from their other models.

Your original bikes have been described as the Aston Martin of bicycles.. how would you describe No. 4?

Model No.4 is a small bike made for the big city. It’s also crazy beautiful and wicked fast handling on city streets.

I’ve been riding a bike in New York City since the mid 90’s, and my full-sized bicycle can be inconvenient. Big bikes are hard to get up stairs, they don’t fit in small apartments or stairways easily, and they don’t always handle as fast as I want in heavy traffic.

No.4 is just the opposite — it’s compact size means you can ride it right into an elevator and store it in the corner. It fits in the trunk of a NYC taxicab, too.

The other big thing about riding in the city is, there are a lot of curbs, potholes, gravel, to look out for. A skinny-wheeled race bike just doesn’t make much sense.

No.4 borrows it’s geometry from BMX bikes, which means it turns on a dime, can jump curbs, and will rolls over just about anything. But it also has an adult-sized cockpit so it’s comfortable. You don’t feel like a kid on it and it’s proportions are beautiful, it just looks elegant as hell, so you look fabulous riding it. That’s really important to me. I look at my bicycles like a classic car. You should feel beautiful riding one.

Read the rest of the interview after the jump.

What makes Budnitz Bicycles different from the sea of bike labels?

The problem with most high-end bicycles is that they’re made for racing, not for riding in the city. Riding a high-end race-bike in New York city is idiotic, it’s like driving a Formula One car to a deli. It’s uncomfortable, it handles poorly, and you look like an idiot getting off it wearing a suit. Riding a mountain bike in New York or San Francisco or Tokyo is more like driving a tank in traffic.

Our bicycles are super fast, comfortable, extremely light weight and they look really, really good. We use titanium and stainless steel for our frames, which don’t chip or rust and can literally look good for a lifetime. We also use top-end components. Our bicycle use carbon belts instead of chains, which are super light and won’t your pants dirty.

Elegance is also very important to me. Our bicycles are handmade, clean, simple, and modern. No giant logos. Our badges are computer-cut out of titanium.

The last thing that sets us apart is that we only sell direct to our customers through our web site. You can’t get our bike in a bike shop, because we prefer to talk to our customers directly. This way we’re sure everyone gets his or her perfect ride.

What parallels do you draw between Kidrobot and the Budnitz bicycles? How do the lessons you learned at Kidrobot apply to BB?

One similarity between these two companies that I have created is my insistance that design comes first, and everything else in the business turns around that. Every object I created with Kidrobot had to be just right, or I wouldn’t release it.

I’ve no interest in making things that suck, the world has enough ugliness in it as it is. I believe that we transform the world by making perfect, beautiful things. My bicycles are the same way.

A big difference is that Kidrobot is an art toy company and is all about making a lot of beautiful things that are limited edition. So we design something and quickly they are sold out, and then we make something else. That process is what makes the brand so interesting, and the products so great.

I approached Budnitz Bicycles from the completely opposite angle. Could I make bike designs that are so perfect that will never really need to change? So the bicycles are numbered. No.1 is the perfect commuter bike, No.2 is the perfect cruiser. Five or ten years from now I don’t expect the models to look very different. Each model has been refined and refined before we put it up for sale.

Last thing that different about us is that we’re making bikes we intend our customers to keep for a lifetime. We even have a policy where we replace your bike at no cost to you if you’ve insured it and someone rips it off. Basically, we pay your deductible and give you a new bike.

Describe a typical day-in-life of a Budnitz No.4 bike.

Mine lives in the corner of my tiny two-room apartment in the West Village.

Today No.4 went down the elevator with me, into the street, and I weaved in and out of traffic to an appointment up in Chelsea. Back up another elevator and it’s there leaning on the wall of the reception area when I’m ready to leave. A few people were hanging around staring at the bike at that point, and I had to point them to our web site so they could buy one.

Back to the street. Lock it up in front of Momoya on 7th Avenue so I can have lunch. Send some emails and this interview from my iPhone.

(One good thing is that our bicycles have locking systems built into them, the wheels and stem and other parts lock with a key, so I can lock it out on the street while I’m inside – as long as I’m not stupid about it – and nobody messes with it. A cop once told me that crackheads are afraid to steel bikes that look too unique. They’re hard to fence.)

At this point I toss the bike in the back of a cab and ride up to the Guggenheim. Later in the afternoon I’ll ride through Central Park, then bomb the bike path down Broadway to Soho, and back home to get ready for dinner. No.4 goes back in the corner, out of the way, looks like a work of art leaning against the wall.

If the No. 4 had a theme song what would it be?

Fast, Beautiful & Out of Control by LCD Soundsystem.

You can purchase the new No. 4 Bike now here.

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