We recently talked with Gorilla Bicycle Works owner Billy Hagerty about his lifelong love and commitment to the bicycle industry, his tireless work ethic, and how his roskildes are more comfortable than running shoes for long days in the garage.
A little bit about Billy
I've been working on bicycles professionally for 20 years now. Everything from working in shops to working for the International Pro Cannondale team doing elite races like le Tour de Beauce - Canada’s biggest elite road bicycle stage race, Tour of Utah, and pro race service in cyclocross racing.
I’ve always been drawn to bicycles and have wanted to be in the industry in some way. I think overall it's been just a part of who I am.
The value of the grind
I’ve always just worked hard and put in long hours—sometimes working until midnight to get a job done for a customer who needs it the next day.
There's no shortcut. It's all grind. Work hard in spite of what you're getting paid, in spite of whatever. That's the ethic I've applied to all of my work. And I’ve carried that forward into my own business, which I’ve had for three years now.
The gorilla explained
The business is very much about personal identity. The gorilla comes from a nickname given to me by a friend. I had my brother sketch the gorilla face the way I wanted it and then another friend fashioned that into the logo. The branding couldn't be more spot on, because it’s so personal.
Where it all began
I used to deliver newspapers and saved up my money to buy a bike. Then I got into BMX racing, which was really great for me because I was a shy kid.
I carried that love for bicycles throughout my life. I did a year abroad and the first thing I bought was a bicycle so I could ride around the city of Dijon, France, instead of taking the bus.
For the love of bikes
I think what drew me to the bicycle is the same as it is for most people, honestly. It’s the first sense of autonomy when you’re a kid… wind in the hair… freedom. You suddenly can go greater distances with your friends. There’s a strong positive connection there.
The secret to success / Billy’s tips
I've always had good mechanical intuition. And if I don't know something, I will work harder than anyone to not only figure it out, but become proficient at it.
Here’s what I believe: work hard, be honest and forthright, and just do a really good job—every single time—and you’ll naturally become that go-to person. I think this has served me well and I hope it will continue to do so in the future as I try to grow this shop.
“One of the most important DIY things to consider as a cyclist is chain maintenance. A rusty or very dirty chain will result in poor performance.
One thing that I always tell everyone. Make sure to lube your chain appropriately. Make sure you use the right amount of lube, coating each roller and link, work it in and spin the crank arms, and then wipe, wipe, wipe to get all the grit out.”
Versatility and utility
I cared more about fashion when I was younger…past life stuff. Since I've been a bicycle mechanic, I've cared pretty little about that. I spend most of my time in a t-shirt and shorts or jeans, usually covered with Tri-Flow and my own blood. So now versatility and utility are really the prized things. This is why I like Duckfeet.
I wear the roskilde boot with shorts and a t-shirt and I think it works. Plus I can work out in the yard with them and get them wet…it’s all ok. Then, when I have to, I can throw on a nice pair of slacks and they look great.
Billy’s POV on his roskildes
- They’re super comfortable and accommodate feet that really spread out under weight, like mine do. I stand on covered concrete all day, so comfort longevity is absolutely key. They’re more comfortable than running shoes for me. I did have to add an orthotic to make them perfect, but that’s normal.
- The soles are really soft and very quiet. It’s like sneaking around in a pair of moccasins. They remind me of the Hush Puppies my mom used to get me when I was young.
I love the ethic of sustainability. The fact that they’re responsibly handmade by adult craftspeople and that they are designed to be re-soled is fantastic