Longtime local builder of high-end, hand-crafted bikes

Profile: Sean Walling

Age: 37

Occupation: Bicycle frame builder and owner of Soulcraft Bicycles.

Background: Walling is married to Lainie Bebber. The couple lives in San Rafael but plans on moving to Petaluma soon. He grew up in San Rafael and attended a few junior colleges and Sonoma State, where he majored in history. Walling has been building bikes in Petaluma since 1988, when he started at Bruce Gordon Cycles. From 1990 to 1999 he worked at Salsa Cycles, then started Soulcraft with a friend when Salsa was sold and the new owners closed the shop. Soulcraft was named ?Hardtail of the Year? by MTBReview.com a few years ago (a hardtail is a mountain bike with front suspension only).

What do you like about Petaluma? ?I like that it feels like a small town, even though it?s growing. I can go downtown and every time I go there I see a couple of people I know, either at the market or the post office.?

What do you make? ?I make mountain bike frames, single- speed frames, cyclocross bikes, road frames, sometimes custom one-off designs for trade shows ? a pretty broad spectrum.?

You?ve been doing it for almost 20 years. Do you have it down yet? ?You never have it down. That?s the thing, if anyone asks for my advice, I always tell them: ?Always be humble about it.? No matter how good you think you are, you can always learn something.?

Who is your customer and how do you get him or her? ?It?s all word of mouth. I don?t do any advertising except sponsoring a race team [which includes Yuri Hauswald of Petaluma]. There are certain types of customers I don?t want to deal with. I don?t want to deal with people who have so much disposable income that they have this attitude that ?I?ll buy this because I heard somebody say it was good,? and then never ride it. I want people who actually use these bikes and actually ride them.?

What do you strive to create in a bicycle? ?A bike that disappears under the rider. And what I mean is, when you get on it and start riding, you will not really notice the bike. You are looking at the trail or the road, whatever it is you?re riding over, and you think ?I have to get over this hump or up this hill or around this turn,? and you do it, and you don?t think about the bike.?

Hobbies? ?My favorite thing is riding bikes, my second most favorite thing is making bikes.?

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