Brian Ruben ’09 remembers the day he and two fellow Trojans spotted their future.
“We were walking home from class and saw somebody riding a fixed gear bike,” Ruben said. “The kid riding it told us it cost about $2,000, and a light bulb went off: ‘Why should such a simple looking bike cost so much money?”
Ruben is now chief bicycle officer with Solé Bicycles, which sells stylish, quality bikes starting at $399. The Venice-based company sold 5,000 bikes last year and will open a shop at USC Village this fall.
Entrepreneurial spirit on two wheels
Solé got his business rolling with the help of a $15,000 grant from the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at the USC Marshall School of Business. Along with fellow Trojans Jake Medwell ’11 and Jonathan Shriftman ’10, Ruben built Solé around simplicity and style. Their first order of 200 bikes sold out in a couple of weeks, all by word of mouth.
Solé blazed a trail in back-to-basics bicycle building at a time when carbon fiber and 33 speeds sent bike prices racing way past the $3,000 mark.
“We’re doing it differently,” Ruben said. “In the past you had to go to a shop, some guy would sell you a bike you probably didn’t need and you’re paying their markup. We cut out the middle man, we make the process fun.”
No better place for bikes
The Solé store at USC Village won’t be anything like the common cramped bike shop where only advanced cyclists feel at home.
We want it to be more than a retail location. We want it to be an event space …
“The space will be designed-focused,” Ruben said. “We want it to be more than a retail location. We want it to be an event space, art space, gathering place for students. That’s how we’re going to create that store that tells our story.”
Laurie Michelle Stone, USC associate senior vice president for real estate and asset management, said: “Solé is not just a typical bicycle vendor — they engage with the community and we love that about them. After seeing their Venice Beach store and the fantastic bicycles they offer, we knew Solé would be a great fit.”
USC Village will offer residents secure indoor parking for about 1,200 bikes. Another 500 bike slots will be available for customers of shops and restaurants. And nearby Figueroa Street will soon join the city’s fast-growing 593 mile network of bikeways, a place to pedal the company’s planned Trojan model, tentatively titled the Coastal Cruiser.