DETROIT, MI (BRAIN)—Most of Sky Yaeger's career in design and product development has required long and frequent flights to Taiwan, but her latest gig should keep her much closer to home.
Yaeger recently joined Detroit-based startup Shinola to head development of a new line of made-in-the-U.S. steel bikes. Shinola is a partnership between Dallas, Texas, private equity fund Bedrock Manufacturing and Swiss watch manufacturer Ronda AG.
Shinola is named after the early 20th century shoe polish brand — some may remember the term from the once popular phrase "You don't know shit from Shinola."
Shinola's mission is to develop a portfolio of consumer goods manufactured either at its Detroit headquarters or in other U.S. factories, including watches, leather goods, cola, shoe polish and bikes.
Yaeger came on board earlier this year to develop the first three models of classic lugged steel, internal gear hub city bikes, called Bixby and Runwell.
"It's a fantastic opportunity to work differently," she said. "It's fun to come at it from a different perspective." By that, Yaeger means sourcing as much as possible from the U.S., quite the challenge in an industry dominated by Asian manufacturing.
The prototype frames were brazed in Portland, Oregon, by custom builders Ira Ryan and Tony Pereira, but the production models will come from Waterford Precision Cycles in Wisconsin using True Temper tubing.
Wheels are built by Sta-Tru with DT Swiss spokes and nipples.
Other small parts like the decals, chainstay plate and head badge are also sourced from the U.S., while the rest of the components come from Asia.
The bikes are assembled in Shinola's 35,000-square -foot Detroit design and manufacturing facility, which is set up in a former GM building on the campus of The College for Creative Studies.
Shinola bikes will be sold through some IBDs, online at Shinola.com and at Shinola retail stores opening next year in midtown Detroit and New York's Tribeca neighborhood. Prices are $2,500 for the 3-speed version and $3,500 for the 11-speed model, both of which spec Shimano's Alfine hub.
The bikes will be shown in display cases at Interbike and at the show's Urban Yard. Yaeger most recently worked at Spot Brand to set up production in Taiwan. Before that, she designed and developed Swobo's first line of bikes, and spent many years at Bianchi USA.