Behind the Scenes at the Willy Wonka Factory of Bike Parts

Tucked away in Chico, California, is a treasure trove of brand-new bike parts and rare vintage bikes.

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AJ Powell

Paul Price is the Willy Wonka of bicycling, with a lot less singing and dancing (that is, until you get a few beers in him). Price is the founder, owner and operator of Paul Component Engineering based in Chico, California. If you’re a cyclist and you aren’t familiar with Paul Comp, you’re living under a rock. The company was the first in the United States dedicated to making only bicycle components. Price started the company in his home in 1989 making quick releases. His first polishing drum, in order to prevent from rattling his entire house, was sat on the subfloor through a hole in his closet. It was a bit of a ragtag production.

Since then, the company has grown tremendously and developed a rabidly dedicated cult following — and it still manufactures all of its colorfully anodized components in Chico. It’s a small operation with a handful of diehard employees still helmed by Price. Beyond the solid base of parts the company manufactures, Price is constantly tinkering and prototyping — trying restlessly to improve the bicycle. Many of his prototypes hide in nooks and crannies of the shop — some affixed to a broad collection of rare bicycles. His best parts grew from prototypes into best sellers: Neo-Retro cantilever brakes, quick-release skewers and flip-flop hubs. We visited the shop to get a glimpse of where the magic happens and to get a small bit of insight into the man behind the brand.

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