Inside Wildwood Cycles: Handmade in Victoria
Owned and operated by Jesse Hildebrandt, Wildwood Cycles has been designing and manufacturing custom steel bicycles and accessories in Victoria, British Columbia since 2013. We stopped by his workspace to learn more about his approach, the business, and to check out his personal steel hardtail designed for West Coast trail riding….
I wasn’t familiar with Wildwood Cycles until my friend Dave spotted their booth at this year’s BC Bike Show in Vancouver. However, and this comes as a compliment, I’m not that surprised that Jesse Hildebrandt’s custom-made steel bicycles hadn’t come to my attention sooner. The thing is, Jesse is a Red Seal Welder / fabricator by trade, and this experience shows in the products he makes—he’s just much more concerned about overall aesthetics and quality than keeping up with marketing and promotion. I respect his no-frills approach to the operation, especially since he fits it in around his schedule as a full-time welder in Victoria, BC.
On my way to Victoria to attend a Black Lives Matter peace rally last week, I popped by Jesse’s backyard workshop to learn more about the business, his plans, and to check out one of his West Coast-worthy steel hardtails. Scroll down for a Q&A with Jesse, including photos from my visit.
Tell us about your cycling background and what kind of riding you’re into today.
My background of riding started as a kid. I grew up racing BMX and then rode a lot of skateparks through my teens. These days I mostly just ride MTB around the South Island with the occasional bikepark trip. I still go for the BMX every now and again but my back doesn’t always appreciate it.
You’re a welder by trade, right? How’d you start making bicycles?
Yeah I’m a welder / fabricator, and working with metal was a natural interest when I was younger that led to going to school for welding. I think being passionate about bikes and riding is ultimately what led to wanting to make bikes myself. There’s something about creating a bike of your own and sharing it that feels pretty special.
You’ve been designing and manufacturing more than just bikes recently. Care to tell us a bit about those products?
I’ve been making several different products over the last year and selling them online. A cargo cage for packing gear on fork legs or on downtubes, a trail building tool, a gear deck for holding tubes on bottle bosses, a Micro Bong, and gear hangers.
How would you describe your design philosophy?
I just to not overthink anything too much. Keep things simple and effective and clean.
Your pink hardtail is quite unique. What’s the story behind it?
Thanks! The pink bike does get a lot of comments. I wanted to make a hardtail for the BC Bike Show this year, which ended up being that project. The seat angle is 77° and the head angle is 66°. I just thought I would try it out. The front triangle has fully internal cabling, so no fear of water getting into the tubes. I also put a triple boss on the downtube for fun.
You’ve been working on a new hardtail design, right? What can we expect?
The V2 hardtail is going to be super slack and maybe have some nice bends in the tubes. I will probably do some more stainless details on it as well. Stay tuned for more on that…
If someone wants to order a custom Wildwood Cycles, what does that process look like?
All custom work starts just with an email to firstname.lastname@example.org! We can discuss geometry and needs, paint and parts, or even just repairs. All custom frames start with a 50% deposit.
Any big plans for 2020 / 2021?
I do have big plans, but they take time and effort. I hope to have a new work space soon, and maybe even a door that you could walk through. I’m also working on design for a full-suspension but right now I’m just going day by day and building bikes one at a time.