By Rick Coates
Joseph VanLoozen of Levering has always been fascinated with bicycles.
While growing up in Redford Township outside of Detroit he was always
riding and fiddling around mechanically with bikes. While in high school
shop class in 1978, he began experimenting and developed what would become
the prototype for the Very Big Bike.
A few years ago he formed the company VanLoozen Brothers Bicycles with his
two brothers and a couple of nephews and has teamed with high school
friend Scott Southers of BSM Technologies to develop the Very Big Bike.
VanLoozen made his way north right out of high school not thinking about
starting a bike manufacturing company, just looking to escape the big
I knew I wanted to be up north so right out of high school I bought 10
acres in Lake City in 1982 and made my way to Emmet County in 1991, said
30 YEARS IN THE MAKING
The concept for the Very Big Bike started in high school but became a
reality because of the economy.
What I did was build a Schwinn upside-down tall bike in 1978 in shop
class and felt there was something there; it just took me 30 years to
figure it all out, said VanLoozen. When I would ride it in parades
people would ask me where they could get one, but I just was so busy
working I didnt have time to launch a bike building business.
Instead VanLoozen built a successful landscaping business around Emmet
County and supplemented his income during the winter months doing
carpentry and heating and plumbing work.
Well, the off season work started drying up four years ago with the
economy struggling, said VanLoozen. I decided to pursue turning this
bike concept into a marketable product. So these last three winters I have
spent working on bringing this product to market from the engineering and
product safety to the legal end, and even getting a patent on it. And now
this year we are ready to distribute them.
Besides looking interesting, what are the benefits of the Very Big Bike?
These bikes ride just like other bikes except you are riding higher up,
basically at the same level as an SUV, so you have great vision and it
makes you more visible to cars. In our test riding around the country we
got a lot of thumbs up from truckers, said VanLoozen. These bikes handle
well on pavement, gravel roads and even trails. These bikes are going to
be better suited as a cruiser or town bike as there is no real sense in
having that gravity factor in the woods. We like to call them a social
bike, this bike is all about having fun.
VanLoozen and his partners are still in the early stages of the project
and the current model is a fourth generation. They feel they finally
perfected the bike last fall.
We produced five of them and have been traveling all over to bike shows
and events and have been getting rave reviews, said VanLoozen. We
already have several orders and we have just started the marketing
Production will take place both in the Detroit area and in Levering.
At Scotts production plant we will manufacture the bikes and then we
will assemble and ship them from Northern Michigan, said VanLoozen. We
are able to produce 40 bikes a week and could double that without
expanding our facilities. What I am proud of is that this project is
employing both people up north and in in my hometown of Detroit.
VanLoozen and his partners are already planning for the future and are
working on new prototypes.
We plan to develop more models in the future; this is a seven speed and
currently we are working on a fixed gear bike. This current model is for
people 56 or taller and the seat has a quick release so you can raise or
lower it. We are going to make a smaller big bike soon and we also have
people requesting even taller bikes.
Currently, VanLoozen is lining up retailers locally and around the country.
There is a lot of interest for retail. We hope to have these available
for rent around Northern Michigan and hopefully that will happen this
summer. When we have two or three of these bikes out at a time we get
people asking where they can rent or buy them so I think there is a rental
market out there.
The Very Big Bike 40-P1 (For The People) model is currently available in
four colors (red, yellow, blue and black) and retails for $1,400 fully
assembled. VanLoozen is also offering just the frame and fork set for
$750. For additional information or to see videos of people riding the
bike or to purchase one go to www.vbbike.com or call them at