WPI on Wheels: Alumnus Opens Custom Bicycle Shop
Like many of his peers, Tony Maietta '04 came to WPI expecting to leave well prepared for a career in engineering. He could not have known that his college experience would also inspire him to pursue the craft of bicycle framebuilding. Just a few years later, Maietta finds himself making custom bicycles in his Shirley, Mass., Maietta Cycling workshop for cyclists throughout the world, while also working in research and development for Fitchburg, Mass., cutting tool manufacturer Simonds International.
The path toward this dual career began with the misfortune of losing a beloved mountain bike to theft as a WPI student. Unable to buy a new bike, Maietta reached out to fellow WPI cycling and crew team members, hoping that someone would have a cheap or free replacement for him. One teammate responded positively, but said that his bike was across town at a business where he was interning. When he arrived to pick up the bike, Maietta discovered that his friend was working for bike maker Toby Stanton. This was a watershed moment for Maietta.
"My father and I had built furniture from scratch, produced stained glass lamps from scratch and assembled picture frames from scratch, but this was a moment where I first realized people also built bicycles from scratch. I was hooked immediately," he said.
The next day, Maietta returned and offered to work for Stanton as a volunteer. In the months that followed, Maietta honed his skills and eventually decided to take his work public in 2006. Since then, his recognition has increased and he is now an established figure among the growing group of American custom bicycle builders.
A few recent accomplishments include sending a bike to his first international customer in Italy, a surprise visit from Senator (and avid cyclist) John Kerry (who declared Maietta's workshop "really cool"), and participating in his second North American Handmade Bicycle Show, the annual gathering of the industry's elite. At that show, he received attention for an innovative design integrating a GPS unit into the bike, allowing the owner to track their
riding effortlessly or to locate the bike if it is ever lost.
Each of Maietta's creations is tailored to meet the customer's specific needs, beginning as a set of lightweight tubing, which is then cut and welded to best fit the customer. As a result, a custom built frame will inevitably be both more efficient and more comfortable than even the best production bicycle. Maietta, who had always enjoyed art, is also known for his creative paintwork.
"Some customers want a specific look for their bike, but others turn it over to my imagination. I really enjoy that," said Maietta.
Maietta also enjoys the entrepreneurial aspects of his business and appreciates how his work as a framebuilder improves his engineering and vice-versa.
"It's really a symbiotic relationship. Because I create products myself with my own hands in the bike business, I have a better understanding of how to design products for Simonds that will be successful on the production floor, and because I have a degree in mechanical engineering, I understand the principles at play when I design and build a bike frame. WPI's motto - Theory and Practice – truly plays a role in my life every day."
View Maietta Cycling online.
- Submitted by Kesler Roberts