Rocker-turned bike maker who make the bike gifted to Boris Johnson by Joe Biden


A man who crafted the bicycle Joe Biden gifted to Boris Johnson has been revealed as a rocker-turned bike maker dubbed the ‘father of modern hybrids’.

Stephen Bilenky created the ‘all-American’ vehicle and custom helmet for £1,000 ($1,500) for the State Department last month.

The 67-year-old said he had just ten days to finish it with his employees at Bilenky Cycle Works in Olney, Philadelphia, and it was ‘chaos’.

Yesterday the President gave the Prime Minister the bicycle and helmet as a ‘gesture of friendship’.

In return, Mr Johnson gave Mr Biden a photo of an anti-slavery campaigner to mark the pair’s first meeting.

Stephen Bilenky created the ‘all-American’ vehicle and custom helmet for £1,000 ($1,500) for the State Department last month

The 67-year-old said he had just ten days to finish it with his employees at Bilenky Cycle Works in Olney, Philadelphia, and it was 'chaos'

The 67-year-old said he had just ten days to finish it with his employees at Bilenky Cycle Works in Olney, Philadelphia, and it was ‘chaos’

Mr Bilenky revealed today he received an email from the State Department on May 23 asking him to create the product in less than a fortnight

Mr Bilenky revealed today he received an email from the State Department on May 23 asking him to create the product in less than a fortnight

Mr Bilenky revealed today he received an email from the State Department on May 23 asking him to create the product in less than a fortnight.

He admitted it was a tough ask for his small business, which takes from six to 18 months to make most items.

The agricultural engineering graduate said it was made harder by the budget being just £1,000 ($1,500) when usually his bikes start at £3,100 ($4,500).

Mr Bilenky said he was persuaded to create the bicycle when he found out it would be going to Mr Johnson.

He told the Philadelphia Inquirer it was ‘an opportunity’ to increase his shop’s reputation and ‘controlled chaos’ followed, adding: ‘It was a crazy 10 days.’

He also wrote on Facebook: ‘You may have seen that President Biden gifted the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, an American made bicycle today.

‘The bicycle was handmade and painted by none other than PBE Founder, Bilenky Cycle Works.

‘A modern take on the Sterling Metro 5, which started Bilenky in his custom bike making career.’

He added: ‘The ”Boris Bike” comes full circle back to its British roots as Stephen Bilenky started his frame building skills with an English builder from Birmingham.’

He admitted it was a tough ask for his small business, which takes from six to 18 months to make most items

He admitted it was a tough ask for his small business, which takes from six to 18 months to make most items

The bike maker was previously a member of the musical group The Notekillers, which he started with two high school friends in 1968 originally as Dead Cheese.

He said: ‘Our roots were psychedelic, blues and rock; that San Francisco stuff, and then we expanded.

‘We had double drumming at one point, then saxophone and multiple players like Blood, Sweat and Tears.’

He added: ‘We would do a ‘Be-In’ in a large common backyard that was called ”Cheese Nation”.

‘Like Woodstock. That would be ’69, ’70, ’71. Eventually it all fell apart and people went separate ways. By 1979 it was just the three of us.

‘Music had changed a lot. We weren’t polished like the new wave bands, we were more like a cross between Free Jazz, world music and Black Sabbath.’

The band separated for a few years before Mr Bilenky returned to play bass in 1977 – with them performing at clubs and colleges in the city.

They would practise six days a week in the basement of his father’s hair salon – where he also ran a repair shop ‘Bike Doctor –  but were not a hit with the public.

The Notekillers released a record and played in New York City with other bands such as The Feelies and The Bush Tetras.

During a hiatus from the band between 1981 and 2001, Mr Bilenky created his bike shop and set up the Philly Bike Expo.

With the help of three workers, he finished Mr Johnson’s custom frame – made out of Columbus steel – and painting by Memorial Day.

They drew on the Union Flag of Britain as well as the Flag of the United States on the head tube and the signatures of the PM and President on the cross bar.

Boris Johnson presented Joe Biden with a picture of a US anti-slavery campaigner to mark the pair's first meeting at the G7 summit in Cornwall yesterday

Boris Johnson presented Joe Biden with a picture of a US anti-slavery campaigner to mark the pair’s first meeting at the G7 summit in Cornwall yesterday

The bike was shipped on June 4 – in time for the presentation yesterday – but the helmet took longer and was sent on Monday.

The State Department had insisted the bicycle be made out of as many US-made products as possible.

The team found the rims at Velocity USA in Michigan, the hubs, cranks and headset from White Industries in California.

They also got derailleurs and gear shift levers from Sram in Chicago and the saddle from Selle Anatomica, California.

The firm has won numerous awards in the past few years, including being praised in magazines such as Bicycling Magazine and Tandem Magazine.

The President met the Prime Minister in Cornwall on his first overseas visit since entering the White House.

Mr Johnson gave Mr Biden the framed image of a mural of Frederick Douglass, a former slave who became a leading figure in the 19th century abolitionist movement.

Douglass travelled to Ireland and Great Britain in the 1840s on a speaking tour.

The image, painted by Ross Blair, is part of a mural trail around Edinburgh and the photograph was taken by Melissa Highton – a UK-US dual national.

First Lady Jill Biden was given a first edition of Daphne du Maurier’s The Apple Tree.

Downing Street said the choice was to reflect Du Maurier’s Cornish links – she lived in the county and drew inspiration for many of her works from the surroundings.

Carrie Johnson received a leather tote bag made by military wives and a presidential silk scarf.

Frederick Douglass (pictured) was a former slave who became a leading figure in the 19th century abolitionist movement in the United States

Frederick Douglass (pictured) was a former slave who became a leading figure in the 19th century abolitionist movement in the United States

The image, painted by Ross Blair, is part of a mural trail around Edinburgh and the photograph was taken by Melissa Highton ¿ a UK-US dual national

The image, painted by Ross Blair, is part of a mural trail around Edinburgh and the photograph was taken by Melissa Highton – a UK-US dual national

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