A self-described serial entrepreneur, Alan Scholz has built his life and businesses around his love affair with bicycles.
CEO of Green Gear Cycling and maker of Bike Friday in Eugene, Scholz has converted his passion into dozens of innovations for cyclists worldwide. “I’m out on a ride, going 40 mph downhill, and I’m thinking of how to design a bike so others can experience the thrill,” he says.
Scholz, 61, opened his first bike shop at age 17 in the garage of his parent’s North Dakota home. At 19, he borrowed his mother’s sewing machine and stitched together a carrying bag that would fit on his bike. He peddled the resulting product, the Burley Bike Bag, at the Eugene Saturday Market as a young father, but had difficulty getting his infant daughter there safely on his bicycle. So he invented a safe and durable child trailer—the Burley Lite.
The success of these products led to the creation of Burley Design Cooperative in 1978. Worker-owned, the company manufactured rainwear, cycling touring bags, cross-country ski wear, yurt covers and tandem bicycles. The Burley child trailers proved highly popular with young families and, according to Scholz, are the most widely copied bike trailer in the world.
Today Scholz and his brother, Hanz, co-founders of Bike Friday, custom build bikes that are a bit weird looking. The wheels are undersized, but Scholz insists that the rest of the bicycle is conventional. The smallwheeled bike is designed to fit in an airline-friendly suitcase without incurring additional fuss or fee. “When all the math on the world’s energy, materials, water and land is done, the healthiest, happiest future society should look a lot more like a bicycle society than an automobile one,” says Scholz.