I asked Nick, the owner of a specialty bicycle company called Fyxation, “Where did the name come from?” A gleam came into his eye as he replied; “I’ve been riding bikes since I was a kid.” BMX led to bicycle racing, which morphed into the more esoteric worlds of design and engineering. That led to a lifelong career that “goes beyond passion; cycling is a bit of an obsession for me.” He let the implication hang in a breath or two of silence: ah! A fixation.
In 2013 Fyxation moved into the ground floor of the Bike Federation building on 36th and Pierce, making it one of the youngsters in a new generation of start ups and established business that now call the Menomonee Valley home. Why the Valley? “Honestly,” Nick said, “I could have gotten an equivalent space cheaper in Glendale, where I live.” Proximity to the Hank Aaron State Trail and the collegiality offered by Team Sports—which owns the building—the Bike Fed and the nearby Urban Ecology Center tipped the scales.
The decision to move to this location was made while the now adjacent 3 Bridges Park was still in the planning stages. Nick remembers thinking that it would be “nice” to have a park next door, but it was really the trail that inspired him. However, he hastens to add, “The first time I rode on the bike path through the park—while it was still just dirt—I was blown away! I could clearly see that this would be an asset not just for the neighborhood but for the whole city.” He suggests that the view from the easternmost bridge, which connects the park to the Domes, will become the new “iconic vista” of downtown Milwaukee. I’ve admired that view myself!
Nick is also an avid fly fisherman and considers it a plus that the park has made the Menomonee River newly accessible. “There will be days when you’ll find me down there at lunch with my fly rod,” he said enthusiastically.
Fyxation was begun in 2009 with a design for a tire, the Session 700, which the company describes as “a durable yet stylish urban focused bicycle tire.” At its new location the company has expanded its line. It now offers an extensive line of bike frames, components and accessories. Its specialty is custom-made bicycles.
Nick also introduced me to an employee named Mauricio, who designs and fabricates leather accessories right in the shop. Mauricio, a recent immigrant from Costa Rica, is proud to display the U. S. flag above his leather tooling station. The flag had been flown in Washington, D.C. He received it in 2000 after a one-year high school exchange program as an honor for being the youngest student to represent Central America in the AFS (American Field Service).
Nick and Mauricio both are proud of the amount of local sourcing that goes into the leather products. “We special order our tanned hides from Law Tanning right here in the Menomonee Valley,” Nick told me. It was news to me that the Valley still had a tanning company! Later, I drove past the address of Law Tanning on Pierce Street. The nondescript red brick building has no sign on it.
Come to think of it, the Team Sports building has a Bike Fed sign outside, but neither Team Sports nor Fyxation is identified. Nick explained that Fyxation is primarily a manufacturing company. While they get the occasional walk-in customer—and they do get internet traffic—they sell most of their products to retail bicycle shops. Nick did say that he has a Fyxation sign that he hasn’t gotten around to putting up. “I’m waiting for good weather,” he added with a chuckle.
Aren’t we all?
This post is one in a series that relates to my Menomonee Valley Artist in Residency. For more information about the residency and links to previous posts and photographs, go to MV AiR.