Six-Eleven Bicycle Co.
Brett Winter Lemon
In a downtown Roanoke basement, in what was once a Harley-Davidson motorcycle repair shop along Campbell Avenue, the affable Aaron Dykstra builds bicycles for any custom cruiser—from the 6-foot-7-inch teacher who just couldn’t find a comfortable ride, to the serious cyclist wanting to tackle long distances. He is a tailor for two wheels building bespoke bike frames to fit you.
Dykstra, 29, grew up listening to the romantic narratives of mountains and quaint villages told by his late grandparents, who toured Europe by bicycle just after World War II. That inspired Dykstra to take a job in a bike shop in Roanoke as a teenager. Joining the U.S. Air Force at age 17, Dykstra was eventually deployed to the Middle East, where he sketched out bike-frame designs on paper. “Working with fighter jets all day really motivated the mechanical side of my brain,” he says.
When his enlistment was up, Dykstra headed to Brooklyn, New York, where he took a job as a mechanic at a small, but busy, bike shop, commuting to work on two wheels. Then it was off to Chicago, where he worked for a cycling advocacy group. This was followed by a stint on a bicycle racing team.
In 2008, Dykstra and his wife, Michelle Davis—also of Roanoke and an accomplished cyclist herself—returned to Roanoke, and that’s when Six-Eleven Bicycle Co. was born in the basement of the couple’s Grandin Village home. About that same time, Dykstra spent several weeks in Colorado studying the art of frame building under master Japanese builder Koichi Yamaguchi. “The minute I picked up the torch,” Dykstra says, “I knew I had made the right decision.”
Today, that dream continues. Dykstra spends long days and about half the night at his well-organized shop, often putting off dinner until 10 p.m., while customers wait as much as a year for him to invest 100 hours or more on each steel bike.
Dykstra stamps every two-wheeled treasure with a circular seal of the ROANOKE SHOP, modeled after the name plate that also provides the inspiration for the couple’s business name: the No. 611 J Class steam locomotive, a masterpiece made in Roanoke in 1950 and admired by the Dykstras for its craftsmanship and streamline styling. “Roanoke is a manufacturing town,” Michelle says, “and we wanted to make sure that people knew that was a part of our identity as well, not just our bikes, but Roanoke as a whole.” Frames cost about $2,100.
View All the Made in Virginia Awards 2012 Winners:
Six-Eleven Bicycle Co., Roanoke
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Release Reels, Reedville
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Gearharts Chocolates, Richmond & Charlottesville
Hubs Sweet Heat Peanuts, Sedley
Pinnell Custom Leather, Crozet
Chamblin Design Jewelry, Richmond
Ignatius Hats, Petersburg
Wasmund's Single Malt Whisky, Sperryville
Legend Brewery Brown Ale, Richmond
Foggy Ridge Cider, Dugspur
fineCONCRETE by elbwrm, Charlottesville
Hoskins Creek Farm Tables, Tappahanock
Saba Knife Co. Cut Out Knife, Charlottesville