From skewers to Klampers, it’s no secret that Paul Component makes some really sweet parts to go along with your equally bling bike. Don’t even get me started on their annual limited edition run of colors because those look even better in person, as in just shut up and take my money now gorgeous.
Paul has been making stems for quite some time but people have been relentlessly bugging them lately about making a 35mm long, er, 35mm short stem to go with their new mountain bikes.
So Paul listened.
Here comes the zero degree, 35mm Boxcar stem. It may look similar to other stems but each of the Boxcars is painstakingly made in Chico, California with 20 different end mills, drills, saws and taps to within .002” tolerance out of a solid block of American made 2024 aluminum alloy. A human hair is .015” FYI.
The result is a 118-gram beaut including all hardware. Speaking of hardware, the fasteners are stainless steel T25 Torx.
The 35mm boxcar is available now in black, silver, polished, and the current limited edition color which is blue at the moment. Prices are $123 for the anodized versions and $135 for the polished ones.
After the first day of introductions, a shakedown ride, a whole lot of names to remember and even more Sierra Nevadas involved, came the second day of Paul Camp in Chico, named and organized by none other than Paul Price of Paul Component Engineering.
I know, there are a lot of Paul’s in the previous sentence.
The plan for the day was to ride bikes. Precisely, custom handmade bikes made specifically for this one ride.
I was set up on a 27.5 drop-bar mountain bike built by Robert Ives at Blue Collar Bikes in Sacramento. Painted in bright candy red and adorned with just about every anodized blue component Paul makes out of his shop.
The bike was gorgeous as it was playful and surefooted to commandeer… very much like Ives himself, who was a welder at Ventana and Ibis before dabbling between his own bike company, a day job as a metal fabricator, and being super involved in a Pitbull rescue in town.
“I want to build bikes that people can go out and get rad on,” said Ives when I asked him about his design as we slowly pedaled closer to Bidwell Park.
Once we quickly treaded through the trails we rode on the previous day, it was game on. Although the post-ride strava revealed we didn’t climb a whole lot, I was getting reacquainted with rock navigation 101. It wasn’t that the trail was really gnarly, but let’s just say I was rusty while everyone else was in tip top shape.
Whatevs, I was riding with a badass group of frame builders and their bikes. This must be the rideable version of NAHBS.
After a quick descent on the double track and ripping through the shrubbery (read: poison oaks), I made it to lunch.
It was a picnic by a Big Chico Creek. After what seemed to be an eternity of riding with no overhead covering, it was a much welcomed break.
But we had more to ride.
“Stop at parking lot P on the way back,” said Travis, one of Paul’s employee.
We did as we were told and out of nowhere, boom, came the view of the canyon. Definitely not huckable, but the size of the canyon was unexpected. It was amazing and for a second I wished I was at that sweet looking swimming hole at the bottom of the canyon.
I spent the last few miles in and out of paved bike paths and parallel singletracks.
Further down at the front of our dirt peloton, Adam from Sklar Bikes was giving Burnsey of Oddity Cycles and Maurice from Dirt Rag a quick tow. I quickly snapped a photo on my camera and that essentially summed up the entire laid-back rad nature of Paul Camp.
Minutes later, Curtis from Retrotec ditched his bike and dashed into the water at Five Mile while Paul tried to hustle all of us back to the hotel. We weren’t done just yet!
When I was racing in the 2nd NorCal High School MTB League (yup, just dated myself) there was a kid in the expert class with a baby blue Soulcraft.
I remember him well. Not only because he was insanely fast and his dad carried the bike for him to the start line like a boss at the 2003 state championship to avoid the thick sticky mud in Nevada City, but he had some v-brakes I have never seen before.
In the times where XTR M-950 and Avid Arch Ultimate were rampant, this kid had Paul Motolites. Cool like that one Macintosh user when everyone was about having an Intel Inside machine.
That was my first encounter of Paul Components. And now I finally got a chance to peek inside Paul’s shop, as well as the Paul behind the company, Paul Price.
After starting from his home garage in 1989, the company is now situated at a former Texaco petroleum distribution facility next to a bike path that was once a railroad track.
“From petroleum to bikes, I think that’s good karma there.” said Price as he led a dozen journalists around his shop.
To the uninitiated, it’s merely a nondescript warehouse with a bunch of machines running. Looking deeper, however, it’s evident that it’s more than your average machine shop. It’s a testament to Paul’s deep passion for cycling: From the giant CNC machine humming away in the distance, the freshly machined cable barrel adjuster, the collection of vintage bikes high up on the wall, and to the manual machine in Paul’s R&D shop where he paid $500 for from a high school, they all speak volumes on the journey and dedication behind the brand.
Some might say the dude’s goofy, but I think Paul’s a total badass and knows exactly what he’s doing. So here’s an inside look of what goes on inside Paul Component Engineering.
Office bulletin board at Paul. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Metal stock was once cut by hand but it's now automated. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Here comes a freshly cut block of 2024 aluminum to be turned into a stem. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
All the metal from manufacturing is collected and recycled. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
precursor to the cable adjuster. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Paul likes his shop to be tidy so they machined a few of these tool holders for a few stations at the shop. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
This machine was making Cross Levers when I was there. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Inspection. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Paul stopped one of the CNC machines for us to take a peek. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Raw aluminum bar (top) to finished quick release levers. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
A painting of Mt. Diablo by Paul's mom who is an artist. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Some of the tools at the machine shop. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
A batch of hubs waiting to be drilled for spoke holes. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Few of the vintage frames on the wall. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Paul fabricated this fixture on the left to prevent dings while polishing their Boxcar stems. Over at the right is a smaller polisher for smaller parts. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Walnut shells and corn cobb are used as polish media in this vibratory polishing machine. Photo: Stephen Lam/ Element.ly
Paul showing off his personal machine shop full of old manual machines where he tinkers and makes prototypes. Photo: Stephen Lam/ Element.ly
A $500 manual machine Paul bought from a high school shop. Photo: Stephen Lam/ Element.ly
Paul dabbled into framebuilding at one point and this was one of his creations. Photo: Stephen Lam/ Element.ly
Parts ready to be assembled. Photo: Stephen Lam/ Element.ly
Long-time tooling engineer Jim at work. Photo: Stephen Lam/ Element.ly
Memorabilia and old parts next to Paul's desk. Photo: Stephen Lam/ Element.ly
Paul's desk... where the magic happens. Photo: Stephen Lam/ Element.ly
The 2017 limited edition blue in all its livery. Available in 6-8 weeks. Photo: Stephen Lam/ Element.ly