Budnitz Bicycles creates the fastest, lightest, and most beautiful city bicycles in the world. Working exclusively in titanium and cro-moly steel, these handmade bicycles last a lifetime and are a blast to ride. We are fascinated with Paul Budnitz and his success. He and business partner, Jeremy Kent, shared their thoughts with 5 STYLE on Budnitz Bicycles, the key to success and environmental consciousness.

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What led you to design your own bicycle?

Paul: I didn’t own a car for close to 18 years, and living in New York, San Francisco, and Berlin cycling was my primary form of transportation. I used to show up at parties, art openings, even fashion week dressed in a suit, riding a bicycle that was usually built out of old parts I’d scrounged or found at flea markets.

I’m a bit obsessive about what I own, and when I finally became successful enough to buy a new bicycle, I realized there was nothing on the market I wanted to own. Most high-end bicycles are made for racing, and aren’t really suited for city riding. After riding literally hundreds of bicycles, I became obsessed with creating the perfect bicycle for daily use. That led me to study bicycle science, test ride hundreds of bicycles, and really do a deep dive into materials, geometry, frame construction techniques, and components. 

My first titanium bicycles were made for my personal use, but so many people wanted to buy them out from under me we eventually started Budnitz Bicycles to bring them to the world.

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Paul, you have created many influential companies. What’s the key to success?

Paul: I’m not afraid to ask stupid questions and look like an idiot.

Most people approach life by playing to their strengths and design their careers around what they are good at. I’m just the opposite — I know where my talents lie, but I’m more fascinated by what I don’t know. That leads me to ask lots of questions of people who have really deep experience in something I know nothing about. I can famously come off as a lot dumber than I am, but I’ve discovered I learn more by listening. 

The result is that I get to use my own talents, and also my weaknesses to my advantage. As an example, if I know that I’m a terrible administrator, I make sure that my companies are well run by asking for help. The net result is the same (or often better) as if I were great at organizing day-to-day work. It’s really a powerful approach.

The Buddhist concept of aggression is doing anything that goes against how things really are. My approach is fundamentally non-aggressive because I don’t really have a problem with things about myself and others that aren’t the way I wish they were. That leaves me free to let go and create.

 

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Jeremy, what’s the next step once you have the idea for a new design?

Jeremy: We work to create lasting designs so we really take our time in the process. We also take immense pride in building machines that are not only truly elegant but function to perfection. 
 
For example, we have a new model debuting this spring whose design Paul began several years ago. After each prototype was created, we completed rigorous field testing under a wide variety of conditions until we felt the final iteration was nothing short of perfect. For this model, our Build team went even a step further to develop new technical specifications in partnership with a talented mechanical engineer from Stanford University (California). We’ve now arrived at something truly special. So, only in May will we begin to accept orders from our valued clients.

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The bicycles exude luxury. How and why did you come up with such a minimal prototype?

Paul: It’s partly materials — titanium is light, strong, compliant, and just happens to be beautiful. I really sweated every part of the design of our bicycles, and every component. When something didn’t exist (like our titanium riser handlebars or street pedals) I’d manufacture it myself, with an eye on function and elegant design.

It’s also true that nowadays luxury is more about “nothing added” than big logos and bling. That’s suits me, and the refined design of our bicycles and other products.

 

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Do you think that minimalism could lead to environmental consciousness?

Jeremy: I witness more and more people realizing that owning just the highest quality items that you truly need and love is a better way to live. It frees you up to enjoy life, spend time in nature and with those you love.
 
Paul: Actually, my life philosophy has to do with owning few very well made things, and using them as long as possible. Our bicycles have a 100 year guarantee. The idea is that instead of filling your closets and garage with a lot of junk, you own just what you need and invest in those things. That’s environmental sustainable for obvious reasons — we use less, longer. But the more important side effect of this is that you get to fall in love with the things you own, and eventually be heartbroken when you lose them. Heartbreak is the privilege of love.

 

Discover more and shop at

BUDNITZBICYCLES.COM

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