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Building a Better Bicycle: Bilenky Cycle Works

Mar 15, 2013

by Jeremiah Glazer

For thirty years, Stephen Bilenky has been combining art, craftsmanship and business as a fabricator of custom handmade bicycles. Bilenky doesn’t romanticize building artisanal bicycles; to him, it’s just about using elbow grease to make something of quality, just like in the old days of his gritty, working-class neighborhood in Philly.

Filmmaker Andrew David Watson attended college in Philadelphia and loves to tell stories from the city. Check out his Etsy video about Liberty Cycles.

1 Featured Comment

  • blainedesign

    Karen Brown from blainedesign said 6 years ago Featured

    "This is just life. Making things takes work and concentration and you just have to get up and do it." Will you marry me? This video is an example of the kind of story that just never makes it into mainstream conversation and to me it is the heart and soul of everyday life, most especially the life of a maker and fabricator. It stands as evidence of my most deep-seated hunch –– that there are unique and gifted craftspeople everywhere remaking the world for the better. DId I mention I liked the video?

88 comments

  • richardlithgow

    Richard Lithgow from RichardLithgow said 6 years ago

    That was a really nice video.

  • chloe292

    chloe292 said 6 years ago

    Fascinating! There is a niche out there for everyone with a passion =)

  • EdelweissPost

    Patrick from EdelweissPost said 6 years ago

    This makes me happy to live in one of, if not the best biking cities in the country. Biking is one of my passions, and the Minneapolis bike trail/lane system is so elaborate, large and well-maintained, I couldn't imagine living anywhere else. Ok, except maybe Portland ; )

  • tmozerova

    Tatiana Mozerova from TatianasTienda said 6 years ago

    Such a great story and wonderful video!!!

  • MegansMenagerie

    Megan from MegansMenagerie said 6 years ago

    Just amazing :)

  • Fanie

    Fanie Grégoire from Fanie said 6 years ago

    I am really amazed by this kind of craftmanship. This is the kind of work I would love to do, I'm amazed by it! And how great that he's been doing this for so many years. Over 30 years, phew! I've been recently rediscovering the joys of biking in my city and there really is a new movement right now, in Montreal. Which makes me very happy, biking is a wonderful hobby! :-) The images of this video are also very beautiful and I love the editing, great job!

  • amysfunkyfibers

    Amy Gunderson from amysfunkyfibers said 6 years ago

    So cool to see handmade at work. I can tell that the artist is content and happy- great article!

  • jessgreenleaf

    Jess Greenleaf from GREENLEAFblueberry said 6 years ago

    I'm glad there are individuals out there building custom bikes. I bought mine from a retired firefighter who hand builds bicycles as a hobby. He got the color of his firetruck matched, so my bike is a true fire engine red! Yay for bikemakers.

  • janeeroberti

    Jane E Roberti from janeeroberti said 6 years ago

    I live in a big biking town - Fort Collins, CO - and am a cyclists and metalsmith. So I love everything about Bilenky Cycles. Thanks!

  • BambuEarth

    Amber from BambuEarth said 6 years ago

    raw. honest. pure. thanks for sharing your craft. ♥

  • tasticlife

    tasticlife from tasticlife said 6 years ago

    So cool. I want one!

  • mkasonen

    Merle Kasonen from Mekadorn said 6 years ago

    Thumbs up! More bikes and people like this skillful master in the world!

  • vintagejane

    Stacey McCaffrey from vintagejane said 6 years ago

    Amazing craft and creativity! Thanks for sharing!

  • vintagejane

    Stacey McCaffrey from vintagejane said 6 years ago

    Amazing craft......thanks for sharing!!!

  • SheppardHillDesigns

    David and Celeste from SheppardHillDesigns said 6 years ago

    Great video ~ love the resurrection of the old bikes.

  • matildecanepagonzale

    Matilde Cánepa González from matildecanepaArtnow said 6 years ago

    wonderful video!. Nice work with bicycles. congratulations

  • CafePrimrose

    Amanda Gynther from CafePrimrose said 6 years ago

    Wow! So cool!

  • FrejaMoon

    Freja Moon from LikeFreja said 6 years ago

    cool!

  • JashleyCreations

    Jon Ashley from JashleyCreations said 6 years ago

    Great video! I bought a Fisher Mt Tam out of high school- hand made and fillet brazed. Now they're all made overseas, and now the magic is somewhat lost as robots churn out the new designs. I'm so glad to see that Stephen and his crew are keeping that handmade craftsmanship alive. It's more important than ever these days. Keep up the good work, Bilenky!

  • brokenasphalt

    Chris from brokenasphalt said 6 years ago

    Absolute Passion.

  • DeepSilence

    Sonja Bikić from DeepSilence said 6 years ago

    Interesting video.

  • blainedesign

    Karen Brown from blainedesign said 6 years ago Featured

    "This is just life. Making things takes work and concentration and you just have to get up and do it." Will you marry me? This video is an example of the kind of story that just never makes it into mainstream conversation and to me it is the heart and soul of everyday life, most especially the life of a maker and fabricator. It stands as evidence of my most deep-seated hunch –– that there are unique and gifted craftspeople everywhere remaking the world for the better. DId I mention I liked the video?

  • Parachute425

    Terry from Parachute425 said 6 years ago

    True craft. I love seeing people with a passion for what they do. Thanks for sharing. Will pass it on to my biking friends.

  • meanjeanarts

    Jean from Meanjeanarts said 6 years ago

    Fantastic video! Love his down-to-earth attitude and his passion for salvaging and re-purposing instead of just discarding. It seems we've lived so long hearing "It's cheaper to buy a new one", which doesn't take into account the cost (financial, environmental and esthetic) of discarding the old one. These bicycles are unique and colorful works of art. Live long and prosper.

  • 118jan

    Janette from AmericanDollClothes said 6 years ago

    A wonderful video and I love your passion for what you do! Thanks so much for sharing it with us.

  • LivingVintage

    LivingVintage from LivingVintage said 6 years ago

    Cool! Go Phillly.

  • ThreeBarDGifts

    Monica from ThreeBarDGifts said 6 years ago

    What a great story and video! So good to see a real craftsman keeping an artform alive. Nice looking bikes too!

  • natureguild

    natureguild from natureguild said 6 years ago

    For a girl that owns 4 bikes, this kinda guy rocks. His words "this is just life and you have to just get up and do it" really speak to me. Thanks for sharing this story with us all

  • natureguild

    natureguild from natureguild said 6 years ago

    an honest craft giving great results

  • ACESfinds

    Alison Herr Scates and Chuck Scates from ACESFINDSVINTAGE said 6 years ago

    Wow, what a wonderful story. It is so nice to see someone at peace with their work and life. I also really enjoyed the video. I felt like I was able to peer into the shop and look around the way I would want to as if I were there.

  • aressa

    aressa from OriginalBridalHanger said 6 years ago

    Congrat!

  • HomeStudio

    Stef and Mark from HomeStudio said 6 years ago

    Awesome! Thanks for sharing.

  • UnderMilkWood

    UnderMilkWood from UnderMilkWood said 6 years ago

    really enjoyed looking into this art-form, thank you!

  • iwantpizzanow

    Kate from DrawertoDrawer said 6 years ago

    Beautiful and practical- the best of both worlds!

  • babybirdbaby

    Marina from anhaicabagworks said 6 years ago

    Bilenky makes such beautiful bikes and the love they have for the craft is so obvious in all they do. My SO is a bicycle frame builder and his workshop is under our house, getting to creep in and watch him work is my biggest inspiration for my craft and reminds me of what dedication and love can build.

  • PaperAltar

    PaperAltar from PaperAltar said 6 years ago

    Inspirational - congratulations Stephen, to a life well lived ! We have our own local inspirational crew 'The Troy Bike Rescue'. Cheers !!

  • FoxieKitchen

    Jonas Zibler from FoxieKitchen said 6 years ago

    Really cool story. I love bikes all the way!

  • rebourne

    Marni from rebourne said 6 years ago

    So proud of Philly's own bike builders. It's so cool to have a fabricator that has employed friends of mine, right here in our city. Also not to be overlooked are Haley Trikes, also built here in Philly by a guy named Stephen. My cargo/family trike was built by his hands 3 miles from my house!

  • PattiTrostle

    Patti Trostle from PattiTrostle said 6 years ago

    Really nice! Enjoyed the video!

  • HabitNation

    Rebecca and Daniel from HabitNation said 6 years ago

    This is what America is about. I love hearing about people like you, Stephen. You are making things happen, it's a movement.

  • TinsAndThings

    TinsAndThings from TinsAndThings said 6 years ago

    Loved the brightly coloured bikes in the video! I was lucky enough to inherit my mom's '73 Raleigh a few years ago when she retired from biking at age 80 (she's Dutch -- so biking is in her blood), and I just adore the old 3 speed. Have a small pic of it on my About page, but maybe I should upload a full-sized one! :)

  • jackieperez1970

    Ana Perez from iPunto said 6 years ago

    Loved this video.

  • noodleandlouvintage

    jenn from noodleandlouvintage said 6 years ago

    so SUPER! love every single bit of this.

  • JulieMeyer

    Julie Meyer from JulieMeyer said 6 years ago

    Nice filming and editing. The bikes are fantastic too. Now if winter could just lose it's grip here in Mpls, I could comfortably get my bike back out!

  • hyun67

    jody scott said 6 years ago

    Very cool !

  • ikabags

    IKA PARIS from ikabags said 6 years ago

    Formidable ! Love !

  • ThePaigemaestro

    Lee Hazlett from ThePaigemaestro said 6 years ago

    biking is not a hobby... it is a lifestyle.

  • AstaRem

    Asta from CozyCappuccino said 6 years ago

    I like bicycles. and admire people who are making them with their own hands.

  • elizabethtriggs

    Elizabeth from LeadOnDogs said 6 years ago

    Stephen, you fit the motto of Bicycle Victoria so well. "More people cycling more often". With your bikes it would be a joy!

  • abenakcreation

    Virpi Irene Bendandi from ABenakCreation said 6 years ago

    Wonderful! Lost art -- I truly appreciate those who keep these skills going and passing them on. Bicycles made with love and pride. Cool!

  • jonking74

    JOHN KING from JOHNTHEBLACKSMITHuk said 6 years ago

    Great Work keep it up and hand the skills on to the next Generation....

  • dawnhouser

    dawn from jotjoy said 6 years ago

    what an incredible homage to his art and craft.

  • lcarlsonjewelry

    Liesl Carlson from lcarlsonjewelry said 6 years ago

    Thanks for sharing!!!

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat from mazedasastoat said 6 years ago

    "I love work, I could sit & watch it all day!" LOL

  • glendalee

    glenda puhek from glendalee said 6 years ago

    Yup…that's the stuff.

  • MisterJoeSprinkle

    Joe Tee from MisterJoeSprinkle said 6 years ago

    Great feature! Seems like we have more and more cyclists here in New Orleans. Awesome story!

  • jnorvelle

    Jayne Norvelle from jnorvelle said 6 years ago

    Very cool!

  • glendalee

    glenda puhek from glendalee said 6 years ago

    Yup.…that's the stuff.

  • andiespecialtysweets

    Jason and Andie from andiespecialtysweets said 6 years ago

    Great story! Very inspiring.

  • regollc

    Michael Rego from REGOllc said 6 years ago

    Just Beautiful!

  • Jugosa

    Jugosa Poliakov from Jugosa said 6 years ago

    Great story

  • ThePolkadotMagpie

    Polkadot Magpie from ThePolkadotMagpie said 6 years ago

    Love this feature. Keep making!

  • SamSammie

    Sam from SamieSam said 6 years ago

    Watching you work is so much fun! Bravo.

  • KatieMarieHorn

    Cat Horn from CatMHorn said 6 years ago

    what an amazing video! And beautiful bicycles. I couldn't agree more that "making things takes work and concentration and you just have to get up and do it." His work philosophy is truly wonderful and it shows in the creations that come from his shop. And Cheers to Philly bike culture, I would love to have one of his bikes for myself. Thanks for sharing!

  • jewelinesales

    jewelinesales from jewelinesales said 6 years ago

    Love this workshop and all that it does! Love what your doing is what really matters in the end.

  • sandrostumpo

    Sandro Stumpo from GalleryDiModa said 6 years ago

    It is nice to see handmade goods still being made. I am Ecuadorian and Italian. When you visit these places, quality, handmade crafts are the norm.

  • GroovyPirate

    GroovyPirate from GroovyPirate said 6 years ago

    absolutely amazing..

  • magicnaive

    naive magic from puremagik said 6 years ago

    This is so beautiful. The fact that he has been doing this for 30 years now, and just keeps on going, by just doing what he loves most. Lucky guy

  • gravelghost

    Emily Rodia from VIVIPARA said 6 years ago

    Beautiful Beautiful Beautiful - -

  • rosemeow

    Kim Myers said 6 years ago

    Thank you! Recycling, rebuilding, renewing, recreating. What an inspiration and what love this video expresses. Go Philly indeed! THANK YOU!

  • ourfrontyard

    Julie Schnebelen from OurFrontYard said 6 years ago

    Absolutely Beautiful Work!!! Wonderful Dedication!! True Artists!!

  • Melissajai

    Melissa Buford from Melissajai said 6 years ago

    Touching...an amazing story...He deserves the best just for being that kind of person/thinker.

  • Melissajai

    Melissa Buford from Melissajai said 6 years ago

    oh, sorry-I want to mention the video work by Andrew David Watson was very good ...that's what made it touching, I think. Love.

  • Joyraffe

    Joy said 6 years ago

    Awesome. My brother worked for Bilenky for years building bikes many years ago! Great to see this on Etsy,

  • customcrochetbyterri

    Terri Croswhite from customcrochetbyterri said 6 years ago

    ~ Love this, forwarding it to my son who also works for a shop that builds custom bikes in San Luis Obispo, CA. Thanks for the video ~

  • customcrochetbyterri

    Terri Croswhite from customcrochetbyterri said 6 years ago

    ~ Love this, thank you so much for the terrific video, and I am forwarding it to my son who also works for a shop that builds custom bikes in San Luis Obispo, CA.~

  • customcrochetbyterri

    Terri Croswhite from customcrochetbyterri said 6 years ago

    Love this, thank you for this terrific video that I am sharing with my son who also works for a custom bike building shop in San Luis Obispo, CA

  • oldandboard

    oldandboard from OldandBoard said 6 years ago

    Great video. Love the worthy souls line.

  • kimby32

    Kimby from KimbysKrafts said 6 years ago

    Excellent video! My husband is going to love it, he also takes old bikes he finds at the town dump and refurbishes them and makes them like new, and gives them to people that need them. Its great to know that there are others out there than can see the potential in things that others don't and create the art that you are creating now. Great job and happy 30th!!!!

  • solocosmo

    Jessica Grundy from solocosmo said 6 years ago

    Awesome video! :)

  • rejuicedbikespdx

    Johnnie Olivan from rejuicedbikespdx said 6 years ago

    Loving Bike News, Great Story!.

  • Ryanplz

    Ryan Wyrick from rareattitude said 6 years ago

    this video is beautiful. i have so much appreciation for stephen!

  • Circa810

    Thom Aten from Circa810 said 6 years ago

    Wonderful video, beautiful bikes and a great concept!

  • Kerguelen

    Laetitia from Kerguelen said 6 years ago

    Very inspiring video and story, thank you so much ! :)

  • greatfindstudio

    greatfindstudio from GreatFindsStudio said 6 years ago

    This is a wonderful story and collaboration, Thanks Stephen, Andrew, Tara, Etsy and all the people involved for bringing us artists and viewpoints we otherwise would not get to see. Very Inspiring and especially elegant bikes. I want one!

  • MrPimm

    Meghan P from BustinCaps said 6 years ago

    Awesome video and even better work! Congrats. Cheers!

  • icenidesign

    Andrew from DrewsNiceART said 6 years ago

    Now take that bike and pedal along the River Thames! See an Etsy artist cycling the famous stretch of beautiful river. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMfeDG2X1Jk www.andrewherridge.co.uk

  • durido

    Mojca and Marko Dolinar from DURIDO said 6 years ago

    I love bicycles and this video is a great inspiration.tanx.

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