Wheelin' and Dealin'

Bozeman's bike industry entrepreneurs.

Maybe it’s the water or the way the mountains smile down like pleased parents on Bozeman’s children, but something in southwest Montana continues producing outdoor industry entrepreneurs like Tyler Jarosz, owner of Twenty6 Products, and Stefan Benier, owner of Bear Army Bikes. Both gentlemen used their love of bikes and Montana’s inspiring landscape to turn their passion into productivity, and as Bozeman’s cycling community continues to grow, business is booming.

Metal to the Pedal
Tyler Jarosz calls Montana's special something the “vast optimism of the Big Sky,” and credits it with helping him establish a bicycle-parts manufacturing business. He draws support from other transplants (he’s originally from Wisconsin) and inspiration from his favorite mountain-biking trails like Shafthouse, Curly Creek, and Emerald Lake. The seeds of Twenty6 Products were sown in the 8th grade, when Tyler went to work at a Wausau, Wisconsin bicycle shop, started racing in the highly competitive Wisconsin Off-Road Series, and took a class trip to Whitefish for some snowboarding. In high school, Tyler discovered the joy of machining, and after graduating from Northwest Technical College, headed for Bozeman. He honed his skills at Gallatin Valley shops, eventually renting machine time from his boss to experiment with building parts himself. Twenty6 Products was born of those experiments. On summer weekends, Tyler finds himself competing in enduro, downhill, or cross-country races, but by Monday morning, he’s back at his Mendenhall Street shop, producing high-end bicycle components prized by the local cycling community. “People ask for Tyler’s parts,” says Steve Bretson, designer and owner of Alter Cycles, a Bozeman custom-build shop. “And I use them in my builds. His pedals, for instance, provide a larger platform with a thinner profile.” Tyler’s pedals are light and durable, while providing superior traction, and his stems, seat-post clamps, and bar-end caps are available in a variety of colors you can mix and match. Customize your ride at twenty6products.com.

Custom Creator
Surely, there are advantages to being 6’7”, but finding a bicycle that fits correctly isn’t one of them. So what’s an avid rider to do? Well, if you’re Stefan Benier, owner of Bear Army Bikes, you build your own. Stefan spent his teens working at a Truckee, California bike shop (sense a theme?) and later attended the United Bike Institute of Ashland, Oregon before studying under multiple award-winners at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show. Finally, he migrated to Bozeman where Big Sky Country slowly worked its magic as he “pursued righteous singletrack, bottomless powder, and a mechanical-engineering degree.” Stefan built his first bike, dubbed Shadowfox, after someone stole his ill-fitting, store-bought beater from behind his place. He morphed from enthusiast to bike-building junkie when that first apprehensive attempt tracked true. Like Tyler, Stefan is happy to credit the support of Bozeman’s entrepreneurial community. While Stefan can wax visionary and speak of futuristic green bicycles built of bio-based composites, he’s also a down-to-earth machinist who fabricated his adjustable frame and fork jigs from scratch. The guy’s mission statement could easily read “Turning hunks of metal into extensions of human beings,” and since he’s a custom-bike builder, his creations are crafted to individual tastes, abilities, and bodies, as opposed to standard units built on assembly lines. Check out his creations and get one for yourself at beararmybikes.com.