Made in South Milwaukee: Cheata Bikes

Add this to the list of “cool stuff made in South Milwaukee.”

I had the pleasure recently of visiting the folks at Cheata Bikes Milwaukee, who have based their growing motor bicycle business in our fair city, at 2300 10th Ave.

Not sure what a motor bicycle is? Check out their website

Motor bicycles have been around for more than 100 years! The original motor bicycle has its roots in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Harley-Davidson entered the marketplace offering an affordable means of transportation in the early 1900s.

Whizzer, another U.S. company, began producing motor bicycles in the early 1940’s for World War II defense workers. Eventually Whizzer produced the Model F to sell to the general public.

Following WWII, a European company, Ducati, produced a motor bicycle called the Cucciolo. In 1948 Ducati sold more than 200,000 motor bicycles. These bicycles all had single-cylinder engines capable of about 35 miles per hour.

As time progressed, these bicycles lost their pedals, grew bigger and became more powerful—evolving into the motorcycles we see today.

Cheata Bikes brings the motor bicycle back full circle! Our Cheata Bikes facility is located in South Milwaukee in a historic turn of the century 8,800 sq. ft. building not far from where it all began at Harley-Davidson.

The building houses their corporate office, product development center and manufacturing facility, in downtown South Milwaukee.

The building itself has a great story. Built in 1923, it was home to the Doerman Shoe Mfg. Co., employing 150 people and manufacturing the popular “Great Scott” children’s shoe line until closing in 1956. It later served as a temporary home of the South Milwaukee Library, then home to operations for Bucyrus and Pyramax Bank.

Now, it’s home to motor bicycles.

Owner Ravi Bhagat tells me sales have been steadily increasing and are robust in 2017, with a marketing model that combines word of mouth with regular “sightings” at trendy locations like the Pfister, Iron Horse, Intercontinental Hotel Milwaukee and Hilton Garden Inn Milwaukee, and other restaurants and hotels locally, and even a design studio in California.

The idea: The more people see the bikes — which start at $1,795 — in action, the more they want ride one.

Here is what the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had to say last summer …

“Everybody wants to sort of stand out,” Bhagat said, “and these things really stand out.” 

Bhagat, 53, is casting a line into a small but potentially rewarding pool, applying professional machining and finish … to the sort of hybrid vehicles garage tinkerers have been building for decades.

After a couple of years marked by fits and starts, Cheata has set up production in South Milwaukee. There, in a former Bucyrus-Erie building Bhagat owns, a small crew puts together bicycles that feature both working pedals and a 49-cubic-centimeter, four-stroke gasoline engine. The motors and frames come from China, but the bikes are assembled with extensive local input.

The wheels are built and trued in South Milwaukee. An Oak Creek company machines the sprockets for greater precision. A West Allis firm does sheet-metal work. Performance Coatings in Oconomowoc finishes off the aluminum frames with multilayer paint jobs.

The result? Yet another really cool product with strong local ties — made in South Milwaukee.

5 Comments

Filed under South Milwaukee

5 responses to “Made in South Milwaukee: Cheata Bikes

  1. Lee Koch

    Is this company located in Milwaukee in a turn of the century 8,800 sq. ft. building near Harley Davidson, or is this company located in downtown South Milwaukee. Which is it?

  2. Russ Sobolik

    In my walks on the west side of the creek along 17th avenue, I notice many piles of yard wastes in the wooded sections. Is this the new composting sites for the city?

  3. Nels Monson

    Very Cool… And a great adaptive reuse of one of SM’s historic buildings. I’ve been hoping for stuff like this for a long time. Well done!

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