Just eight months after the debut of his eponymous bicycle line, Paul Budnitz has once again put his legendary design abilities to good use with the release of Budnitz Bicycles' third model. Sporting massive 29-inch wheels, a silent Gates carbon belt drivetrain and the trademarked cantilever frame engineered to absorb road shock and improve handling, No. 3 is your dream city cruiser.
Sharing the same stunning silhouette and clean lines as its titanium predecessors, No. 3 takes a welcomed step towards accessibility with a lower price tag and a more badass vibe (though No. 1 and No. 2 still command waiting-list status at prices climbing over $5,000). We recently caught up with the former Kidrobot founder to talk about his latest designs, the transition from titanium to stainless and to learn just what it is about Budnitz Bicycles that keeps them in such high demand.
After launching your first two bikes, what's the most valuable thing you've learned and how did you apply it to the new No.3?
When I set out to design the new model No.3 as the ultimate urban bicycle, I had to think differently from what I'd already done with the earlier models. I asked myself, what will the new bikes have that the others don't? What would make me want to own all of my bikes?
If you look at our bicycle models as a whole, you'll see there's very little overlap. The idea is that there's a reason to own each of our bikes, and we have several customers that have one of each, in the same way I have an iPhone, iPad, Powerbook, they each serve specific functions. Steve Jobs continues to be a role model for me.
When we last spoke you mentioned the first two bikes were inspired by Aston Martins and Maseratis, how would you describe No. 3?
When I was drawing up the jet-black model No. 3 I had a picture of a vintage Rudge motorcycle on my wall. The Rudge is a pre-war British big-engine motorcycle that only came in one color—gloss black—with few logos and precise detailing. There's a whole Rudge culture. Riders were encouraged to take a lot of breaks, to stop every hour or so and look at the landscape and have a smoke. I just love that.
You see the visual influence in No. 3's jet-black frame and titanium badges. The "ride slow on a fast bike" concept is built into our company philosophy, too.
We've also got a new bicycle coming soon, the more minimal No. 4 was actually inspired by an oversized BMX bike that I saw my friend and collaborator Chad Phillips riding around a few years ago. It had smaller (but not too small) wheels and was just the perfect size for city living. You can ride No. 4 right into an elevator, or put it into a trunk of a cab or store it easily in a small apartment. But it's not a tiny awkward folding bicycle, it has fat tires and a full-sized cockpit. It flies. Someone saw me riding the prototype around Brooklyn a few months ago and called No. 4 a Stingray on steroids.
Why transition from titanium to stainless steel?
Models No.1 and No. 2 are still only offered in titanium, they were designed around it. Titanium is the ultimate bicycle material, ultra-lightweight and compliant. It's hard to beat. But only a few fabricators can work with it well, and it's costly.
Stainless is just a wonderful material, light and strong and gorgeous. It never rusts and has a fantastic ride. Using stainless also allowed us to bring down the pricing a bit on No. 3 without sacrificing quality, which as I mentioned was one of my goals. I want more people on my bikes.
What aspect of the new design are you most excited about?
Well, No. 3 is just the ultimate all-around bicycle. You can't beat big 29-inch wheels and two-inch tires for a fast, smooth ride, and it'll roll over just about anything. And it looks elegant as hell.
It's just so much fun to ride, you feel like a little kid—weaving in and out of traffic.
Which of the four frames do you ride the most?
I designed all these bicycles for a specific purpose, so I use them all. I take my original model No.1 for longer rides, because it's so crazy light and beautiful. No. 2 is what I use when I go riding for fun with my daughter. No. 3 is my go-to bike nowadays, because the big wheels are just so much fun—and also because it's new, and I'm still having fun playing with it. I keep a No. 4 prototype at my place in New York City, and I use that one for travel, too.
Do you think the pared-down design is what sets Budnitz Bicycles apart?
Yes, our design philosophy is "Nothing Added". The idea is create something perfect, something just right. This goes all the way down to the way the bicycles are engineered. If you don't add functions and things people don't need, you really can make a bicycle that will function immaculately, a frame that will last forever, and keep people excited about riding it. That's the goal anyway.