For a cyclist, there are few things more disconcerting than having no choice but to lock your transportation to something less than sturdy than what it’s made of. The mere thought of some schmuck riding off on your bike takes the fun out of anything.
We’ve all been there: “No, I can’t taste the ethereal hints of lavender in this wine; I think I just heard someone snap the sapling I locked up on.” Or “Go on, honey, I’m listening. I just need to keep an eye on the signpost I’m locked to. A strong gust of wind might knock it over.” The list goes on.
It’s easy to think of bike infrastructure only in terms of places to ride bikes, but the reality is that there’s not much sense biking from point A to point B, if you don’t have anywhere safe to put your bike at point B. Not to mention that if you didn’t have anywhere safe to lock your bike at point A, you can forget about point B altogether because your steel comrade is already for sale on Craig’s List or being stripped for parts in someone’s basement.
To make matters worse, most of the bike racks in the U.S. were designed to work with cable locks — a security method whose heyday coincided with that of the band Blue Swede. Why bother with cutting the lock when you can remove 75% of the bike without even touching it? Have fun riding that securely locked wheel home from the bar.
Founded in Minneapolis in 1995, Dero has been creating innovative bike parking solutions for the past 17 years, giving cyclists across the country peace of mind. So, while we still have no sense for wine subtleties, we’re huge fans of the work going on at Dero.
Frustrated by the lack of safe locking options, Rolf Scholtz decided to take matters into his own hands when he founded Dero. “When we started the company, there were very few U-lock compatible bike racks,” said Scholtz. “We thought there was an opportunity to create bike racks that were U-lock compatible and aesthetic.” Scholtz was spot-on, and as time has gone on, the need for bicycle parking solutions has only continued to grow along with the increase in cycling’s popularity in the United States.
As critical as it is to have a safe option to lock your bike to, there’s also something to be said for great design. What started with basic steel racks has turned into much more, as Dero has drawn inspiration from the aesthetic sensibilities of bike racks across the pond, creating some of the coolest, most functional racks we’ve ever locked up to.
At Dero, bicycle parking solutions encompass much more than just racks. The 17-person company cranks out shelters, lockers, bike sharing systems, and bike commuter tracking/ID systems. Oh, and did we mention the Fixit?
Designed as a solution for cyclists who don’t readily have access to a bike shop or tools, the Fixit is a public bike service station that enables riders to make a range of adjustments and tune-ups to their rig. With all the tools necessary to perform basic repairs and maintenance attached (and locked) to the Fixit, riders can easily do everything from change a flat to adjust brakes and derailleurs. With a recent remodel, Dero managed to make the Fixit more space efficient and reduce the cost by over 25%. There are now over 200 of these beauties across the country.
We pedaled over to Dero HQ in Minneapolis’ Prospect Park neighborhood a few weeks back for an inside look at Dero culture and innovation.
Housed in a large warehouse building, all of the employees share an office space, allowing the ideas to fly. An unassuming door on the back wall leads to a massive manufacturing space. Racks of all shapes and sizes are stacked on shelves 50ft in the air, as unfinished racks are sandblasted, painted and baked in the largest oven you’ve ever seen.
Focused on sustainability, all of Dero’s manufacturing takes place within 150 miles of the Twin Cities. All of the racks are made of US steel, of which 26%-96% is recycled material, depending on the model.
Mark Skoine, Dero’s Marketing Director, gave us the grand tour and filled us in on what it’s like to work at Dero. Skoine attributed Dero’s success to the company’s commitment to “excellence and happiness at work and at home.” An afternoon in the office makes it easy to see why Dero was named the 6th best place to work by Outside Magazine in August.
Office perks range from employee commute incentives (more than 60% of employees ride to work) to company ski trips and pub tours. The bottom line is that folks at Dero are happy and passionate about their work.
Skoine summed it up better than we can: “Smiling as you whiz by snarled traffic on your morning bike ride to work, knowing there will be a couple of dogs in the office begging for a treat. Or knowing that when ‘El Presidente’ gets wind of the order you landed he’ll launch into the “Big Order” dance gyration that makes the small hairs on the back of our HR coordinator’s neck stand up. That is happiness.”
— Patrick Murphy