North Philly’s Bilenky Cycle Works Makes Some of the Coolest Bikes Around
Get to know one of their models — a sleek steel-framed mountain bike called the Hedgehog.
Stephen Bilenky, owner, founder and designer at North Philly’s Bilenky Cycle Works, has spent decades honing the craft of bike-building. Today, he and his small team produce high-end custom bicycles, one project at a time. (Bilenky recently executed the U.S.-U.K. Friendship Bike given by President Biden to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.)
Pictured here, the Hedgehog ($7,000 at bilenky.com) is a steel mountain bike — a modern take on the models that came out of California and rose in popularity in the 1980s. “It’s a mountain bike somebody would use for serious racing, off-road adventure, technical riding,” Bilenky says, “but it’s executed in a way that’s flamboyant and attractive.”
The bike has 12 gears in the back cassette and one in the front, enabling cyclists to shift with one hand. The orange FOX suspension fork absorbs shocks and provides an extra boost when careening over tree roots or rocky trails. Hydraulic disc brakes give instant stopping power with little hand pressure.
The Bilenky mountain bike is built for two tire types: skinny tires for racing and fat tires for technical trail riding. The curvature of the tubes at the back of the bike keeps the space between the chain stay and the seat stay wide enough for bigger tires.
The organic, sustainable laminated bamboo handlebars are sourced from New Zealand and keep the ride more comfortable. A lever affixed to them adjusts the saddle height via the dropper seat post, helping riders more easily navigate complicated terrain.
Bilenky is known for fillet-brazing his bicycles (a metal-melting construction process in which a bike’s tubing is seamlessly connected). Several structural tubes are equal parts sculptural and purposeful: The curvy top tube is high in the front and low in the middle, rising again where the seat attaches to allow riders a quick dismount in any situation.
Published as “Hot Wheels” in the September 2021 issue of Philadelphia magazine.