Founders Chad Kushner and Adam McDermott. “It’s nice working out of the old Venice Bungalow, somehow it never really feels like work,” Adam said.
Fact: Adam McDermott named Linus Bikes after his nephew, Linus, who is now under the impression that all Linus bikes belong to him.
In sunny Venice Beach, CA, the cruiser bike scene is just about as gnarly as the surf scene. Two guys that are contributing to the strength of the cycling culture there – and increasingly elsewhere, as well – are Adam McDermott and Chad Kushner: founders of Linus Bikes, everyday commuters and sometimes surfers, too.
McDermott was born and finished high school in Cape Town, South Africa. That’s also where he met Kushner. Both studied film and later landed in Venice Beach working as camera assistants in the film and television industry. After about three years, and some trips overseas to bike-friendly centers in Europe and Asia, McDermott began to consider founding a brand of city bikes that reflected the cycling culture in Venice Beach.
“Bicycles are the core of the community here,” he told me over the phone from the Linus shop headquarters in Venice Beach. “It’s central to life here. Whenever you’re going out and meeting people, you’re doing it all by bike.”
McDermott’s overseas experiences afforded him the headspace to reflect on where Venice Beach’s urban cycling culture excelled and what it still lacked.
“For me, it was the actual hardware, it was the bike. I felt that it needed a transformation for bicycle culture to take root here.” Co-founding Linus, he said, was an extension of his belief that “a simple, elegant, affordable bike would be a better platform to help breed bike culture in the states.”
For example, “Los Angeles is a really stratified and alienated city,” he said. “The bicycle is the best way to create community.”
Three to four years and many 60-hour work weeks later, the time and effort McDermott and Kushner have invested in their business is finally paying off. Linus bikes are sold in most major cities in the United States.
“We’ve been very fortunate with how we’ve been received,” he said, owing much of his success to timing. “I think it’s been a cultural shift. Bicycles are a recessionary product and people are living differently, living a little smaller; and, I think bicycles play into that.”
Densified urban centers where people can get to most of their daily needs within a five- to 10-mile radius can help to bolster the widespread use of bikes for transportation, McDermott said, and he sees cities moving in that direction. Right now, he’s content to witness the growth of the culture and increasing prevalence of people riding bikes, even in car-centric urban sprawls, such as greater LA.
“I feel like I see bicycles everywhere now. Wherever there’s a bicycle lockup, I’m always seeing stacks of bikes all over Los Angeles.”
“Even people who drive are more aware of cyclists on the road and are sharing the road with them.”
Naturally a daily commuter himself, McDermott divides his time between riding his Dutchi cruiser bike – for shorter trips around town and when hitting the beach – and his Dover five-speed, which he uses for those greater-than-five-miles trips.
Aesthetically-speaking, McDermott is partial to the style and line of the rarer to be seen, but increasing in popularity mixte frame – the Dover is also a mixte.
“I’ve always liked the mixte because it’s the most beautiful frame; I really like the line of a mixte,” he said. “I like how it rides and having the slanted top tube and the extra stand-over clearance. A lot of it is esthetics: The twin top tube that has a diagonal line that goes from the top of the bike to the end of the bike.”
It will come as no surprise that Linus offers four mixte options as part of its 2012 lineup: the Dover 1 and 5 and the Mixte 3 and 8, along with some non-mixties: Dutchi, Roadster Classic, Roadster Sport and Gaston.
Seeing people riding Linuses while he’s in the bike lane is one of the perks of the job.
“It’s really exciting to make something and see it become part of the landscape and become part of people’s lives.” After all, that’s what this whole Linus Bikes business is about, McDermott said. “We want bikes to become part of everyday life.”
Linus’s accessories line supports that lifestyle by proving bicycle add-ons that are functional and that also look good. Their line of bags is expanding, and the company now offers a smooth-edged silver headlamp that can be mounted on a bike’s handlebars, stem or forks.
You can find Linus bikes in stores across the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The company is also looking to expand to Russia, Japan, Brazil and possibly Korea, the United Kingdom and Argentina, this year.
Originally published in the March/ April 2012 issue of Momentum Magazine and on momentummag.com.