There is a high concentration of “rec-tech,” recreational technology, in the valley; manufacturers of skis, snowboards, backpacks, fly fishing gear, and ski bindings have found a home in this outdoor playground, and now there’s also a bike frame manufacturer in town.
Wes Vann just carved out a space for himself and his brand, Wildflower Bicycles, in the Driggs Industrial Park north of town, where he shares walls with fellow rec-tech’ers CAST and 22 Designs. Originally from Wisconsin, Vann went to school for process and chemical engineering, raced bikes in college, and served as his team’s mechanic.
“I always had an interest in bikes and how they worked,” he said. “This seemed like the best application for my engineering brain.”
Vann started his business in a friend’s shed but quickly outgrew the space. He got in touch with the City of Driggs to ask about a workshop rental, and serendipitously a sublet with CAST had just opened up. Building bikes from the ground up doesn’t require a big workshop; Vann can fit a milling machine, a TIG welder, an oxy-acetylene set up for brazing auxiliary bits onto frames, some jigs, a vise, and manual cutting tools into the small space.
As a full-time bike wrench at Fitzgerald’s Bicycles, he’s building bikes in his days off and has a few orders on the docket, including frames for friends and local cyclists.
“It’s fun to be involved in every step of designing a bike and doing the whole fabrication process. It’s neat to go from concept to final product,” he said.
Right now Vann is designing and welding chromoly steel frames, but wants to work with titanium as well. A handmade bike from a recognized brand can cost thousands of dollars, but a Wildflower frame has a smaller price tag of $1,200 including painting, which is done by a powder coater in Rexburg.
Before building a custom bike, Vann has a customer fill out a questionnaire detailing his or her style of riding, preferred geometry, body measurements, and even old injuries and persistent aches.
“You can adjust to injuries and make a bike for someone that fits them comfortably over a long haul,” Vann said. “My goal is to design a bike around all that.”
The frames he most enjoys building are hardtail mountain bikes and gravel/adventure bikes.
“Fortunately my favorite frames are the ones that suit the terrain around here,” he said. “Teton Valley is a great place for product testing.”