RANS Bikes: End of an Era
PHOENIX BIKE WRX: A New Beginning
By Jerrell Nichols
On February 2 of 2015 my wife and I took over the operations of RANS Bikes from Randy Schlitter. We moved the business from Hays, Ks to Montezuma, Ks and began the journey of learning the processes of building, selling, and distributing bicycles. The business agreement/contract at that time outlined a royalty payment to Randy based off of a percentage of sales. Randy was good to us in letting us grow into the business without needing to come up with the large amount of capital that would have been required to purchase the business outright. Within the last year we have sat down with Randy and visited several options for the future. After much discussion and various contract iterations we agreed upon a price that, once paid, would buy us the remaining inventory, the right to the designs and any overseas tooling that still remains. This agreement does not include the purchase of the RANS name. Again, Randy has been good to us. We are happy to count him as a close friend!
This brings an end to us building RANS branded bicycles. However, it does NOT mean that we will quit building bicycles! As mentioned above we are buying all remaining inventory. This inventory consists of mostly crank forward frames. We believe (as do many a crank forward cyclist) this to be one of the best frame designs ever created, a testament to Randy’s genius! They will need to be rebranded of course. In that process we have ambitions to include some modifications to some of the existing frames (think belt drive, e-assist, custom paint). The Phoenix and Alterra 700 will continue to be built in house.
We have learned over the past six years that while it is an honor to be at the helm of a brand with such a legacy as RANS it comes with the burden of trying to support products some of which are almost as old as we are! This has significantly detracted from the development and production of new designs. While it’s almost impossible for me to say no when a call or email comes in with someone needing a replacement part or help with some assembly/repair issue it can take hours and hours out of the week that needs to be spent elsewhere. I am suspicious that a lot of people would be surprised to know that our crew here consists of my wife Kara, myself, and our teenage son. My sister helps remotely with web design and Kara’s dad comes in part time to help with assembly. I currently do almost all the CAD, machining, and welding, Dylan is learning and continuing to do more and more. My age and health are telling me that these 80+ hour work weeks aren’t going to be able to be continued forever. The labor/skill pool we have to draw from in a small community like ours is very small to non-existent. This isn’t because there aren’t any skills or that people are lazy, it’s because everyone is already busy. The act of moving the business to some place more populated would most likely deal a fatal blow to our finances.
We believe that we can survive and even thrive by implementing a number of changes. We will no longer be able to provide support for old RANS models, this is painful to say but there’s no other way. It should be noted that between the bike shops, TerraCycle, and your local job shops there’s few problems that can’t be fixed. We feel a strong obligation to our local community as well and get asked to share our skills and equipment to help them out of a bind at times. Sometimes a torn strap needs to be sewn, an air conditioning condenser welded, or a special part machined. Completely non-bicycle related parts repaired/created by a bicycle factory indicate that bicycle parts can also be repaired by independent job shops, it works both ways. Another change is to no longer take pre-orders. We will create the product and once it’s built it will be listed for sale. This will eliminate lead times that get very frustrating and stressful when they are too long. There will still be some limited options for custom paint but build and spec will be up to us. This has been additionally frustrating with the shortage of components (this is hopefully temporary). We have many times over the last year had to buy what was available and what worked but wasn’t necessarily what was listed as standard spec. This “build before listing” method also allows for some creativity along the way. We continue to expand our abilities and technologies that make things possible that were previously out of reach for us. When we find our bandwidth all used up taking care of old models and trying to fill existing orders that are suffering long lead times it becomes impractical to pursue even slight modifications/improvements. We also have to free up some of Kara’s time. She is the kindest, most eager to help person I know. She loves people and people love her but she is a mother as well, the most important of her titles. It pains me to see her spend so much time on the phone patiently helping people through problems that could be quickly resolved by an internet search or a visit to the bike shop. The vast majority of the support calls that come in are component related, nothing to do with the frame design. It is infinitely easier to diagnose a problem when the object is in front of a person than it is to diagnose it over the phone. Your local bike shop is your friend here. We will limit live calls/voice messages and respond to text and email.
The traditional method of running this business has left us coming up short. While it is intimidating to deviate from the “norm” we feel it’s worth putting the changes listed above into effect. If it enables us to build a better product at a higher rate of production while affording a bit more personal time, the risk will be worth the reward, for all involved.
A heartfelt thanks for all the support in the past, looking forward to the future with optimism!
New Contact Information effective 9/1/2021:
PHOENIX BIKE WRX
109 W Texcoco St
PO Box 542
Montezuma, KS 67867
PHOENIX BIKE WRX is a small family run bicycle manufacturer in Montezuma, KS. We build recumbent and crank forward bicycles in 7005-T6 aluminum or 4130 steel. Jerrell is the master TIG welder. The first plan of action and the most important is the CAD drawing. This takes a lot of thought, so the finished product is correct. Over time different ways have been tried to jig and weld the frames. The setup we use currently works well. A T-slot table is used for a flat surface to lay the jig on. The jig is made from plywood and cut to precision by a local craftsman, using a CNC router.
A Bend-Tech plasma machine was purchased to create the precision cuts for the different angles on the bicycles. This has proven to be a good investment for our business. Dylan, our son loads the material into the machine and cuts them out as well as jigs up the pieces on the T-slot table. Jerrell tack welds the frame in the jig. His finish work is done after removing the bike frame from the jig to a clamp on the table.
The welded bicycle frame is now ready to be prepped for paint and painted. The frame is handed over to Dylan for this next step towards the finished product. The painting we use is a powder coat. It takes an oven to bake the powder on once the prepping process is done. The oven we use is an oven built years ago by Randy Schlitter!
PHOENIX BIKE WRX Warranty Policy
Bicycle frames will be covered by a limited warranty for five years from the purchase date by the original owner, except under the following conditions.
- Damage resulting from neglected, modified, overloaded (over 275 lbs. rider & cargo) improperly adjusted or poorly maintained bikes, or bikes used in competition or commercially, or damage resulting in mistreatment or accidents.
- Damage due to improper assembly or repair.
- Flaws in the surface, aesthetics, or appearance of the bike, including though not limited to decals, anodized, plated, painted or powder coated finishes; brazed-on parts; cable-stops, pump pegs, etc.
- Normal wear and tear.
- Damage resulting from rust or corrosion.
- Damage resulting from the installation of aftermarket items, including fairings, racks, kickstand or any other fixture to the bike not specifically sold by or authorized by Phoenix Bike WRX as acceptable for use with the specific model or model year of bike.
- Damage during shipping.
- Dated bill of sale required.
BICYCLES LIMITED PARTS WARRANTY
PHOENIX BIKE WRX guarantees all parts on all models of Phoenix Bike WRX Bikes for a period of 90 days from the date of purchase by the original owner, subject to the same conditions of the Frame Warranty above.
Our Shipping Policy
Bicycles shipped from PHOENIX BIKE WRX are fully insured with the shipping company. You will receive a tracking number via text or email when the shipment has left our facility. Once the bicycle has been delivered by the shipping company and a notice of delivery has been received via text message and/or email, PHOENIX BIKE WRX is no longer responsible for the shipment.