Handmade to Play


Photograph by Misha Gravenor

custombikesCustom Bikes

While most bicycles, even from American companies, are manufactured in Taiwan, Gregory Townsend (above) offers something almost unheard of these days: road and fixed-gear bikes built by hand to your exact specifications. “It helps me to see a client ride their bike,” he says. “Tell me what you don’t like about the bike. Are your wrists hurting? Is your back hurting?” Working in his garage in Monrovia, he specializes in steel frames (“It feels more confident than carbon fiber”). From start to finish, the process can take as long as 18 months (he has a day job in information technology), but clients get to watch their ride take shape on Flickr.


customsurfboardsCustom Surfboards


The surfers—pros and weekend riders alike—who arrive at Dennis Jarvis’s 27-year-old Spyder Surfboards store in Hermosa Beach have come for the master’s touch. After shop staff discuss the options in rails and tails and the merits of one fin or three, whether to go colorless and clear (to save some dough) or bright and glossy, an order sheet with the dimensions of board and surfer lands in Jarvis’s hands. A few weeks later the buyer straps the new gun to the car’s racks and heads on down the road. » 2461 Pacific Coast Hwy., Hermosa Beach, 310-374-8276.



Most children’s playhouses are lumps of plastic formed into teeny storybook cottages. Gregg Fleishman follows a different course. The Culver City architect creates geometric “cluster structures” from rectangular panels of European birch plywood that interlock without glue or fasteners. Akin to three-dimensional puzzles, they’re something kids and parents both appreciate—fun but smart and attractive. You can expand as far as your wallet (each panel is $80) and space will allow. Fleishman applies the same principles to his “Comeback Cube,” which is big enough to be used as a garden shed, and to the ingenious plywood furniture on display in his studio. » 850 Main St., Culver City, 310-202-6108.

commuterbikeCommuter Bike
For years the best way to enjoy a handmade Foes Racing mountain bike was, say, bombing down Sullivan Canyon or the Mount Lowe trail. But something unusual has been rolling out of Brent Foes’s workshop of late: the Pasadena Crown City Commuter Bike. Named for its hometown, the two-wheeler shares some DNA with its hill country siblings (it has mountain-worthy disc brakes and what is, for this genre, a fairly burly aluminum frame to suck up road vibration), offering reassuring stability without tank-like handling. » 62 N. Sierra Madre Blvd., Pasadena, 626-683-8368.

They’re intended for cruising, but the boards from Rift Longboards are almost too pretty to use. Composed of oak, wenge, walnut, and other leftover lumber collected from local businesses, their arcing, intricately patterned inlays have the effect of pinstriping. The owners of Real Door, a wood shop in L.A., teamed up with Seamus Blackley, a CAA agent with a master’s in physics, to sell what they like to call jewelry for men. “There are a lot of guys out there who are lapsed skaters,” says Blackley, “and we want to build something really beautiful that can take people back to that.”