STUDIO VISIT: LOW BICYCLES
One man army. A term that popped into my head as Andrew described how he started his business. Practically every skill he employs to his sculptures are self taught. This motivation comes from his own passion and desire to strive for the continuous evolution of himself and his brand.
That brand being, Low Bicycles. Originally a one man operation, Andrew Low, the founder and CEO, dreamed of crafting high quality hand made aluminum bicycle racing frames. A dream, which came into fruition in 2010. Since then, Low Bicycles has been featured in magazines across the US and now regularly sells overseas in places like the UK and Japan.
I was excited to check out his workspace and see where these famous bicycle frames were created. Humbly located next door to the San Francisco bicycle co op, Bike Kitchen, sits a door with a large LOW// inscribed neatly on the glass. Behind that door is a microscopic 500 sq. ft space, which Andrew utilizes in a variety of ways.
A small calendar is used to schedule what the shops purpose will be for which day. For example, Monday and Tuesday could be welding days, while Wednesday and Thursday might be painting days. Every day had something written on it, even days most would reserve for a little r&r. Like a lego set he breaks down and builds his shop to fit his needs. An arduous task, but done efficiently in order to meet the increasingly difficult to reach demands of his clients. The day I came by happened to be a welding day.
I admit, I walked into Low Bicycles with fuck all on how exactly one goes about welding a bicycle frame. I imagined it was an incredibly difficult task, but one left to machines. As 90’s alternative blared in the background and sparks shot towards my lens, I came to a slow realization. “Building frames” was not the right term for what he does. Instead Low sculpts aluminum metal into works of art that he simply calls, “The right shape”. Judging from his personality, Low is both meticulous and gung ho. When asked when he finds time to experiment, he simply replied “Everyday is an experiment” and smiled.
Aluminum is not an easy material to work with. It’s pros are that it is far lighter, but only marginally less dense than steel. However, the rate of heat transferred through it is almost six times greater; meaning aluminum welds solidify much faster than steel. On top of that, Aluminum has an outer layer that melts at hotter temperatures and must be removed to obtain the high quality results that Andrew gets. All of which, ultimately meaning; mistakes can be costly and irreversible. With every fluid and potentially fatal sway of his welder, Low signatures every frame with a piece of his soul.
This is not to say that his work is inconsistent. Andrew’s process requires several stages of passes that I’d call quality assurance. One of which, entails a series of micro welds to smoothen connections and add multiple layer’s of foundation and strength. Low exhaustingly aims for perfection every time.
With larger companies spoon feeding the general public mass produced, machine grown merchandise, it’s no wonder why cyclists from around the globe are flocking to Low Bicycles website to order a frame. Behind the name brand, the fancy colors, and the sponsored cyclists, is a man devoted to quality. That quality is unquestionable and the proof is in the boiling hot, aluminum pudding.
To see the finished product and possibly order your own frame visit
Photos + Writeup: Arthur Alvarez