Editor’s note: Each year we cover dozens of the most beautiful bikes in the world at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show and other local shows. But what happens to them after the display booths are disassembled and the lights go out? After all, bikes are built to be ridden, not to sit around and look pretty. So we followed up with some of the bikes and builders we’ve covered in the past to see how these works of art are holding up.
Josh Prater and Andy Payne with their custom Shamrock Cycles bikes.
By Robert Annis. Photos by Michelle Craig, 2PedalsPhotography.
It’s hard for Hoosier cyclocross racer Josh Prater to get in his interval work during training; people are always stopping him to compliment him on his bike.
It’s an enviable Catch-22 for Prater and hundreds of others like him who ride beautiful handcrafted bikes from some of the nation’s top bike builders. If you’re lucky enough to make it to the North American Handbuilt Bike Show in Denver this February, you’ll see some of the shiniest, most gorgeous bicycles ever displayed to the public.
But what happens when the show ends and those bikes make their way to their eventual owners? They get ridden, and ridden hard. That’s the way it should be, according to Tim O’Donnell, Shamrock Cycles’ owner and master builder.
“I think it is better dressed for day-to-day s***,” O’Donnell said. “People need to see bikes for what they are, a tool. Not some piece of high f***king art.”
Ironically, O’Donnell’s Best City Bike award winner from last year, below, is on display at Indianapolis’ Flat 12 Brewery, but only until someone ponies up the $6,000 price tag.
Andy Payne owns a striking matte-black steel Shamrock road bike that won raves at the 2012 NAHBS. After the show, the Super Record components and carbon wheels were stripped away in favor of a much more utilitarian SRAM Force and Apex set-up. The matte paint job is harder to keep clean than more glossy finishes, but Payne admits, “I’m not much of a bike cleaner anyway.”
Even covered in a layer of dirt, the bike attracts lustful glances from other cycling aficionados. Payne says he gets compliments on the bike nearly every time he takes it for a spin, but one popular comment makes his eyes roll.
“People say it’s too nice to ride everyday, but to me, that’s crazy,” Payne said. “I’m not going to spend $4,000 on a bike and never ride it. Tim told me to ride the hell out of it, and if anything breaks, he could fix it.”
Prater’s maroon Shamrock Cycles steel commuter rig – which also doubles as a cyclocross racer – has been ridden thousands of miles since it was the hit of the 2010 NAHBS. The intricate head badge, lugs and fenders still draw stares from jealous riders, but a slightly closer inspection reveals more than its share of dings and missing paint chips.
“I’m not really attached to material objects, so paint chips don’t bother me,” Prater said. “It’s just going to get worse. I even scratched it before my first ride so I could get it out the way with.”
It’s telling that Prater’s favorite story about the bike isn’t the time he piloted it to a fourth-place finish at last year’s USGP race in Louisville, but when it fell out of his truck en route to a race.
“We were going more than 60 miles an hour on the highway,” Prater laughed. “I saw it bounce out of the truck, hit the freeway then amazingly bounce back into the bed. The only thing it did was bend the stem and put one of the wheels out of true.”
Prater told O’Donnell at their first meeting he wanted an all-around bike that was not only capable of racing tough CX courses, but comfortable enough for multiple-day riding adventures, like his recent 500-mile back and forth jaunt to Nashville, Tenn. The verdict?
“It’s the best bike I’ve ridden,” Prater said. “I try to ride it enough so as not to waste all the effort Tim put into building it.”
Payne expresses similar sentiments.
“I’m never going to get rid of it,” Payne said. “This will be the workhorse (of my bike collection) until I can’t ride anymore.”