Before Proudfoot Cycles existed, Jon Acuff was making pressure switches for an aerospace organization in California. It was an easy fit for him since his family had a strong history in engineering and manufacturing. Family lore says they held ties …
Before Proudfoot Cycles existed, Jon Acuff was making pressure switches for an aerospace organization in California. It was an easy fit for him since his family had a strong history in engineering and manufacturing. Family lore says they held ties to Uniroyal, and somewhere down the line there’s a relation to the Wright brothers.
After lending years of experience to his family’s legacy, Acuff felt the need for a change. “I wasn’t that passionate about building pressure switches,” says Acuff. He started to research what it would take to build a company himself, and bicycles were the obvious choice. Now, what started as a slow-moving process of building bikes in his spare time, has transformed into a fully operational, family business with a shop and retail space in Golden.
“We want to be known for performance steel,” says Acuff, the co-founder and engineer of Proudfoot Cycles. Frames start at $1,725 for a hard tail and a complete full suspension bike can run at $6995. They’re all hand crafted from steel. A departure from the mostly aluminum or carbon fiber frames in today’s mountain bike industry.
“Every material has its benefits and its drawbacks. When you’re trying to make something, you have to consider its manufacturing process,” says Acuff. Aluminum and titanium are generally lighter than steel, but the stress limits are smaller for aluminum, and titanium can cost four or five times as much to purchase.
“If you’re only saving 1/10th of a pound, or a quarter pound, I think for half the price, steel is really good,” says Acuff.
There are also a few production drawbacks of carbon fiber. A sliver of the mountain bike industry produces carbon fiber frames in the U.S., while the rest are outsourced overseas for production. The cost of carbon fiber material and the intensive labor costs of making it, help keep production out of the U.S.
Acuff and his family chose Golden because it seemed to be a good fit to raise their family, after moving from the Los Angeles area. It doesn’t hurt having product development to have the shop located at the bottom of North Table Mountain though.
Yeti Cycles has been a mainstay in Golden since 1999 and Spot Cycles moved here from British Colombia in 2006. Both Spot and Yeti outsource frame production overseas and then assemble their bikes in Golden.
“We have an incredible trail network and a very diverse selection of trails that they’re able to sample right out of the backdoor,” says Eddie Parks, of Golden Bike Shop. Parks has been working with Yeti and Spot in his role as a buyer for the shop and sees the benefits of local companies developing their bikes in Golden. “Our customers are getting a bike that’s developed and tested on these trails, instead of developed and tested on trails in California, or Oregon. (Their products) are good nationwide, but are incredible for us right here in Front Range, Colorado.”
Acuff employs one other manufacturer, Derek Young, who machines and welds the steel frames together. Young’s experience with fabrication dates back to his days in the Air Force, as an aviation maintenance technician.
“My eyes still light up when I see steel being forged, or welded,” he says.
Proudfoot’s philosophy of hand building bleeds down to Young’s techniques. “Although the drawings are a very important guide to making a bike precise and efficient, in reality there are variables that don’t always mesh with what the computer has created.” This is when Young’s experience comes into play.
Last year, Proudfoot pushed out roughly 50 bikes, a pace that Acuff is happy with for now. In the short two years of Proudfoot’s existence, they’ve already seen a bigger demand. Acuff and his wife Erin have been hitting the road a lot more and getting their bikes in front of people at bicycle shows and demo events. “That’s what’s been paying off,” he says. “Getting our name out there and getting people on the bikes.”
Acuff is somewhat of a visionary for what he sees possible with steel bikes. He thinks about incorporating other materials into the models to help boost production in the future, but quality remains the forefront ingredient for him. “People go through carbon fiber bikes it seems like now, every year or two,” he says. “That’s not the product that I’m looking to build.”