Friendly people, US-built frames, and doorstep trails
When we met Durango Bike Company founders Jeff Estes and Wendy Aber at Sea Otter this spring, they invited us to swing by their Durango headquarters if we were ever in town. After a few false starts, we finally made it up Durango, Colorado this month for a weekend of high-mountain riding- and decided to take them up on their offer.
Located as close as physically possible to Durango’s popular Horse Gulch trailhead, we arrived to find the entire front wall of Durango Bike company open to the sunny Friday afternoon, with a regular stream of customers and curious passers-by stopping in. Each was greeted by the outgoing Jeff, explaining how and why the company’s aluminium and titanium frames are made in the US, the finer points of fatbike geometry, or chatting about recent rides.
While some operations are outsourced to (relatively) nearby Phoenix, Arizona, the Durango facility is powered by seventy-eight rooftop solar panels (seen just below the clifside trail above). Jeff and Wendy are dedicated to domestic and sustainable production, with a strong desire to remain flexible and to keep jobs in the first world. The company’s builds reflect that ethos, with most deliveries featuring components from Thomson, White Industries, and Industry Nine.
Rows of Durango bikes and frames line the walls – from freshly welded Moonshine enduro frames to well-ridden prototypes – while bikes from Jeff’s past as a semi-professional downhiller provide historical context. A vertical mill machines bearing seats into raw frames and several fixtures arrange custom-formed Alcoa tubes for welding. Nearby, Jeff & Wendy’s sixteen year-old son helps to prepare a customer’s frame for delivery while saving up for his first car.
With an hour to spare before dinner, Jeff sneaks out for a quick ride a sliver of the 60+ miles of riding at DBC’s door. Despite the loose, steep trail to Raider’s Ridge, the Moonshine climbs quickly and smoothly- suggesting that Durango’s painstaking pivot placement has paid off. But it’s on the recently-built Snake Charmer descent that the 160mm bike is truly in its element.
The couple’s enthusiasm is contagious. Both are clearly thrilled to be living in Durango, riding and building bikes- and it’s hard to come away anything but excited for them. They are also, quite justifiably, proud to be doing business in keeping with their environmental and social principles. Anyone visiting Durango would do well to drop by the showroom, if only to rekindle the dream of moving to the mountains and living one’s fantasies.