Manufacturing Means Business for American-Made Worksman Cycles

By Jeffrey Bonior
A limited edition Worksman Cycle Cruiser Bicycle. | Photos courtesy Worksman Cycles

The company has been making bicycles and tricycles in America since 1898.

Worksman Cycles could not be a more befitting name to describe America’s oldest bicycle manufacturer.

Worksman Cycles President Wayne Sosin is pictured with South Carolina Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette during a tour of the company’s factory.

Founded in 1898 in New York City by Russian immigrant Morris Worksman, Worksman Cycles makes beach cruiser-style bikes for recreational fun and is a major supplier of tricycles used by many of America’s major industries.

Unlike most bicycles on the market today, Worksman bikes and trikes are still manufactured in the United States. Although the bikes contain some foreign parts — sadly, much of the supply chain has moved entirely overseas — Worksman still makes its products stateside, at facilities in South Carolina and New York.

“We make the frames, we weld the frames, we powder coat the frames, we assemble the wheels, we weld the rear axle sprockets that are actually made in the U.S.,” said Wayne Sosin, president of Worksman Cycles. “The handle bars are USA, the stem is USA, the steel fenders we use are USA-made.”

Worksman’s long history of producing quality products has served it well, since it caters to somewhat of a niche market. In addition to manufacturing bicycles for recreational and industrial uses, it also creates unique bikes for people with special needs.

And while Worksman sells a much sturdier version of the classic recreational cruiser than imported models found at many big box stores, it is the company’s specialty industrial tricycles that keep it competitive in the United States.

“Manufacturing is our main business. If the Boeings, Fords and GMs stop making products in America, I am going to have trouble staying in business myself.” Wayne Sosin, Worksman Cycles

“Recreational bikes are a smaller part of the business, but they wouldn’t exist without the industrial bikes,” Sosin said. “It’s about 40 percent of our business, but we are able to buy right because we do make the industrial tricycles. So, instead of buying one container of tires for recreational bikes, we are buying 10 containers. It allows us to cut the economy to scale and be treated the right way by the manufacturers we buy from.”

Wondering what exactly is an “industrial bike?” Chances are you have seen one of these three-wheelers before — including one driven by the Good Humor Ice Cream Man. The heavy-duty tricycle carried the freezer box that held the ice cream as the ice cream vendor pedaled through the neighborhood.

“That’s what put us on the map so many years ago,” said Sosin, who has been in the cycling business since 1979. “The Good Humor trike put us on the map.”

From there, Worksman Cycles began expanding into manufacturing more tricycles for commercial and industrial use.

Perhaps you’ve bought a hot dog in New York City from a tricycle vendor. Or watched a delivery man make his rounds on a Worksman trike equipped with an ample storage container.

If you’ve been inside an American manufacturing plant, you’ve probably witnessed a Worksman Cycle ferrying employees and tools from various work stations. Companies like Ford, General Motors, FCA (Fiat-Chrysler), Boeing, Alcoa, Mercedes, Toyota and more are keeping the Worksman legend alive.

“The American economy is critical to us,” Sosin said. “We sell our tricycles to the biggest factories in the country. If they are not doing well, we are not doing well. So, if Ford is not producing a lot of cars and they shutter plants, guess what? I’ve just lost a customer. We’re very much attuned to the importance of the American manufacturing economy.

“Manufacturing is our main business. If the Boeings, Fords and GMs stop making products in America, I am going to have trouble staying in business myself. We do export a lot now, but our backbone is American industry.”

After nearly 120 years of manufacturing its cycles in New York City — the company’s first factory stood on the footprint of the site of the original World Trade Center — Worksman opened a new facility in 2017 in Conway, S.C., where most of the bike building now takes place.

Worksman Cycles makes its bikes in South Carolina and New York.

“Our new building in South Carolina is a much-needed one-story building with about 100,000 square feet,” Sosin said. “It’s on five acres so we have room to grow.

“But we did maintain a base in New York City. We do some welding and machining there, and we do make our food vending carts in New York. Our hot dog carts are kind of a New York-centric market for us, so we’ve maintained a presence there as well.”

Worksman Cycles employs 65 people between its two locations. The longtime factory workers at the New York facility who could not relocate to South Carolina either remain working at the New York plant, retired or found other jobs with the help of Sosin.

“In the last 25 years, people have been brought up seeing companies not being loyal to their workers,” Sosin said. “We were brought up with people working the same job for their whole lives and feeling stable. This generation — and it even goes beyond millennials — has seen their parents get laid off from a good job because the job moves to Mexico or China or the company got bought out and sold or the stockholders wanted to make more profits.

“So, they are growing up in a time when they have no loyalty to the companies they work for and why should they? The companies aren’t loyal to them.”

Sosin tries to do his best by his workforce and is always thinking American-made. Although several of the parts that make up Worksman Cycles are imported from Japan or Taiwan, he is still able to source his steel for the bike frames through an American distributor.

“I would buy all the parts of the cycles from Made in USA companies if I could but it’s sad,” Sosin said. “There just aren’t that many of them left anymore.”

But despite sourcing difficulties, Worksman continues to produce indestructible cycles that sell in the $400 range for a cruiser bike up to $1,200 for a factory trike, which is a huge savings on a $12,000 golf cart in use in many manufacturing facilities.

So, it’s no surprise that Worksman Cycles keep showing up in places you might not expect to see a pedal-powered means of transportation.

“We’ve had clowns giving out balloons on our tricycles, tricycles used during the halftime of basketball games riding on the court,” Sosin said. “We had NASCAR drivers kind of doing a goofy race on tricycles. We’ve even been to the Super Bowl. The most recent Super Bowl at the new Mercedes Benz stadium in Atlanta had our tricycles. They bought 25 for their maintenance staff to get around the facility.

“Anybody can buy a bike from us. We sell wholesale to companies and even hotel complexes. We do business with the Four Seasons hotels. They deliver room services on our tricycles. A lot of major resorts use our bikes. It is very environmentally friendly, and hotels want to set the right tone for their guests so seeing somebody ride by and doing room service on a tricycle is very charming.”

Worksman Cycles sells its products to an eclectic mix of customers, including major manufacturers, big hotel chains, the military, and even sports venues.

Worksman Cycles can also be found in national parks, military bases, airports and, of course, many factories. Worksman at one time delivered truckloads of its cycles to Jerry’s Bike Shops in Detroit, which in turn supplied transportation for Henry Ford’s sprawling River Rouge manufacturing complex that had 16 million square feet of factory floor space and employed more than 100,000 workers daily.

“Listen, I’ve been on my soapbox for years,” Sosin said. “You know how easy my life would have been if I went over to China and imported all bikes? I look back on it and I am obviously committed to what we are doing here, but if I was really a smart businessman, I would never do this. It’s insane.

“But on the other hand, I sleep well at night, I am proud of what we have done, and we’ve proven it can be done here and If people start making their components in the U.S., we are going to by them. There are more people interested in buying Made in America products than people think.

“There are so many great stories and things that have happened over the years and people I have met. It’s been a cool ride.”

Worksman Cycles can be ordered and even built to order online. You can also find Worksman Cycles at independent bike shops across the nation.

Editor's Note: Blogs like this one are intended to highlight companies that support American jobs and that make great products in the United States. We rely on companies we feature to provide accurate information regarding their domestic operations and their products. Each company is individually responsible for labeling and advertising their products according to applicable standards, such as the Federal Trade Commission's "Made in USA" standard or California's "Made in USA" labeling law. We do not review individual products for compliance or claim that company products comply with specific labeling or advertising standards. Our focus is on supporting companies that create American jobs.