NAHBS 2016, Pretty Pictures, part 2

More bikes and builders. More goodness. So much goodness.


Sean Walling – Soulcraft

“Merchandises like he worked at the Gap” award







Sean Walling has been part of the NorCal framebuilding scene for a long freaking time. Not Bruce Gordon-long, but still. Walling did learn the craft from Gordon, and Ross Shafer at Salsa (long before Salsa moved to Minneapolis). Soulcraft was an early proponent of the drop-bar dirt bike, probably due to the fact that the original 700×43 Rock and Road tire was so easily accessible. First with the Groundskeeper (which became a more racy cyclocross bike) and now with the Dirtbomb (yes, the band inspired the name), you can get your monstercross on here. That custom painted Pass and Stow rack is aces. More info: Soulcraft




 Erik Noren – Peacock Groove

“You can buy this domain for 12 monthly payments of $158” award







Eric Noren has been that guy at NAHBS for year. He builds bikes that attract attention. Lots of it. But this isn’t a put-on by Noren, in my experience, it is just who he is. This cargo trike is the latest in a line of flashy bikes, but this one is eminently functional as well. A 500 watt motor provides some serious extra go-juice, and the oversize batteries also power turn signals and 4-way flashers. An eight-speed Alfine hub acts as a jackshaft, sending power to a rear differential from a go-kart. The shift lever on the downtube is the parking brake lever. While this thing was very well finished, and very flashy, it was also very simply executed. More info: Peacock Groove





Todd Ingermanson – Black Cat

“Head badges? We don’t need any stinking head badges” award






Black Cat is probably best known as a mountain bike builder, but drop bar bikes are well within Ingermanson’s wheelhouse. This one is an understated champ of a bike, using Black Cat drop outs, a clean meeting of graphics and logo, and a SRAM 1×11 drivetrain. More info: Black Cat Bikes





Brad Hodges – W.H. Bradford Custom Bikes

“Droppers for everyone!” award






Talk to me about bikes for more than half an hour, and I’ll bring up dropper posts and how I want one on all my bikes. The dropper is what pulled me to this bike first, but there are a lot of sweet details that shouldn’t be missed. The fork is a Whisky with custom machined bottle mounts installed by the carbon wizards at Ruckus Composites. The dropper lever is tucked up nicely next to the left brake lever, and  Porcelain Rocket did another primo job on the bags. More info: W.H. Bradford




Curtis Inglis – Retrotec and Inglis Custom bikes

“Clown car” award





I’ll admit it, I lust pretty hard after our former-web-guy Jeff Lockwood’s Inglis-built road bike. This one is similar, although it adds a set of disc brakes, and probably a bit more tire clearance, both good things by my accounting. This is another one of those bikes that seems some flashy at first, but is really very understated when you look closely. More info: Retrotec and Inglis Cycles




We’ve got a few more odds and ends from the show to talk about, check in again tomorrow.



Event Report : Iron Cross XIII

This was the thirteenth year for Iron Cross. Some might want to lump it into the gravel event category, but that would be insulting. Ultra Cross might be a better term, even if the old Ultracross national series seems to have faded away. With something like 7000 feet of climbing in 64 miles, it wouldn’t be an easy pavement ride. But throw in a half-mile “run up” that averaged 28% grade, miles of forests roads with piles of rocks hidden under leaves, a few stretches of technical rocky singletrack, 50 mph descents, and a wintery mix of sleet and snow and you have a hard, hard day on the bike.

iron cross 2

A sizable group of people thought this was a recipe for a good time, and 200 of them showed up for a 9:00 a.m. start in downtown Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Besides being well known as the home of Little League baseball, I also grew up there, so this was a bit of a homecoming for me.

Fall in Pennsylvania is as beautiful as anywhere on earth, and race photographer A.E. Landis captured the scene much better than my race-addled brain was able to handle. Check out his full gallery.

iron cross 4

iron cross 3

I wasn’t out there to mix it up at the front, and was lucky enough to run into BMC Trail Crew enduro guy Derek Bisset. We rode together for the first half of the race chatting about his new job as an engineer at Stan’s NoTubes, fixing old houses, and whether we should work to get in front of a group before we hit the singletrack. Once we reached the hardest climb in the race, I started to feel the effects of staying up until 3:00 a.m. with a high school friend. Derek swiftly pedaled away up the forest road as I dropped into my lowest gear and rode waves of nausea and cold sweats.


Take a good look at the picture above. That’s Derek in the red vest, me in the black vest (Saturn team kit dude is just a random). Normally you’d never see me leading Derek off road but, due to my dropper-post equipped mountain bike, I got a few chances to pass Mr Enduro in the rocky stuff, something that never happens when we are both on mountain bikes.

Some time after we finished the big fire road climb, we got to the “walk-up”. In a true cyclocross race, there is usually a short “run-up”, either a steep hill or a set of steps than can’t be ridden. This unrideable section was a classic East Coast hiking trail that ended with a scramble up a rock face that was steeper than it looks here.

iron cross 5

At the top I got a high five from a guy in a mask and some beer from some guys in a van. That was more than OK.


It snowed on and off during the second half of the race. It was never enough to really do anything other than make the road and the riders wet, but it certainly didn’t feel great on some of the fast pavement descents, all of which seemed to be freshly paved.

irong cross 6

I finished in just under six hours and was very, very glad to be in a downtown area that was ready with hot food and cold beers. I’ll be back next year. You should come. Here’s the website, where you can also get the full results.

I was expecting to have a review bike to ride, but after a lot of waiting for a ride than never made it to me, I scrambled the day before to create something suited for the race from stuff at hand.


The frame is a custom Black Cat I reviewed for out sister publication, Dirt Rag. It usually has at least 2.3 tires, a 120 mm suspension fork, and a singlespeed drivetrain. I swapped the tires to a WTB Nine Line 2.0 up front, and some equally-as-skinny Bontrager tire on the rear that seems to be out of production. I also when with a longer stem and the skinniest handlebar in my stash, which was still 730 mm wide. A single-ring drivetrain with a 30-tooth ring and 11-36 cassette was surprisingly good gearing for the event. I never had the energy to spin out the hard gear for long, and the low gear worked well for all the climbing. I’d probably opt for a double if I really wanted to race but for my “just in it to finish” fitness, this was fine.


I also tried out these Easton grips, something I wouldn’t normally comment on. I often deal with hand pain and numbness on rides, but can’t stand non-round or soft grips. These 33 mm diameter grips were plenty firm and seemed to give me more to hang onto than the typical 30 mm grips I usually prefer.


I once again skipped the lycra and felt comfortable the whole ride, unlike some people who suffered with the cold. Up top I started with a hooded Bontrager wool base layer. I never used the hood, but it was easier than carrying a hat just in case I needed it. Next up is a Giro Wind Guard wool-blend jersey. It has an odd waffle texture inside that seem to do an amazing job keeping this top comfortable in a wide range of temperatures and exertion levels. I topped it all off with a Giro Wind Vest that was small enough to tuck into a pocket if I got too hot.


Since none of my upper layers had any pockets, I wore a pair of Specialized SWAT bib shorts with three rear jersey-style pockets and a pair of small pockets in the front of each leg. The pants are Gore ALP-X Windstopper pants. These Gore pants would have been too hot if I was really racing, but they were supremely comfortable and were appreciated every time I was ripping downhill and not shivering.

Socks are Bontrager mid-weight wool, and shoes are Giro’s excellent Alpinenduro. Waterproof with light insulation and a Vibram sole, the Alpineduro kept my feet warm and dry even when taking bad passing lines though standing water. I reviewed them here and stand by that review 100 precent. Bern passed me a new FL-1 helmet to test at Interbike and so far, so good. Stay tuned for a full review in the first issue of 2016.


This last picture features Mike Kuhn. He promotes this race, and a host of others, including the Trans-Sylvania Epic mountain bike stage race. He does a good job but, even so, when you put on a race as hard as this one, I imagine you have to have his apparent look of “are these people mad at me for what they just paid to put themselves though or are they going to thank me?” pretty often. I heard few complaints, so I bet this was another instance where the look turned into a relieved smile.


Una Pizza Bike Show packed them in again

Una Pizza Handmade Bike Show-15

Photo: Maurice Tierney

The third Una Pizza Bike Show was held on a pleasant Sunday afternoon December 14, when 250 or so bike and pizza lovers gathered in the small industrial space in the South of Market Area in San Francisco.

The reason? A casual gathering of some of the world’s best bicycle frame and parts makers, in the adopted city where Una Pizza Napoletana owner Anthony Mangieri has called home since 2010 after relocating his pizzeria from the East Village in New York City. Soulcraft Bicycle owner Sean Walling works with Mangieri to organize the event, the third since March 2011. Mangieri is the one-man pizza maker, staying busy in the center of his workspace while all around him his servers and assistants are hustling to keep everyone smiling and well fed.

“I mostly enjoy seeing the place busy and people all talking, laughing and eating,” Mangieri said. “Folks enjoying the handmade work of the builders, you know? Also, it’s a good chance for many of us to reconnect and catch up.”

Gallery: Badges and Bicycles

Photos: David Klayton

Mangieri’s expectations for the event are simple.

“First, that the pizza comes out well and I feel mostly good about the pizza,” he said.

“Second, that all the builders feel at home and welcomed, and that Sean feels that it is worth it for him and fun. I feel a large connection with the builders for many reasons, including—as Bruce Gordon says—”people who actually make their own shit.” It’s hard to make a living as an American artisan, be it bikes or pizza if you do everything basically by yourself.”

Several attending frame builders agreed with Mangieri.

“Good food is always a draw and the people,” Santa Rosa framebuilder Jeremy Sycip said. “It’s a great group of people to hang out with and help each other promote our bikes.”

Rock Lobster’s Paul Sadoff was talking with customers, friends and fellow builders throughout the day.

Read our report from the 2012 Bike + Pizza Show.

“The best part of the show is being able to hang out with framebuilder friends who I don’t get to see often enough,” the Santa Cruz builder said. “Also, it’s great to see the master of ceremonies, Anthony. He’s a class individual and knows what it is like to always be in pursuit of higher standards in your personal craft. I also like the pizza ! In terms of promotion I’m sure that it does not hurt to be at the show but it is not my biggest reason for being there. I like the whole idea of a show that does not involve hotels, trophies or convention centers with bad air.” Fellow Santa Cruz builder John Caletti chimed in.

Gallery: People

Photos: Maurice Tierney

“It’s fun to see the other builders and friends, hang out and catch up,” Caletti added. “It’s great to see the appreciation, enthusiasm and support for unique, quality, custom, handmade bikes. The pizza is delicious and SF is a fun spot.”

Some makers, like Steve Rex and Blue Collar’s Robert Ives, came from as far away as Sacramento. Others, like Paul Components owner Paul Price, came from Chico.

“The pizza and vibe are great,” Price said. “The venue is tight but that just makes it better. There is a lot of love there, for bikes and friends alike.”

Walling also conceived a Meet Your Maker ride series, rounding up the same friends and fellow makers on organized group rides open to the public all around the Bay Area. The intent is to provide another casual environment for builders, customers and potential customers to share saddle time and get acquainted. I asked a few builders if Meet Your Maker or the Una Pizza Bike Show has it led to a spike in sales.

“I’m not really sure if the event or the MYM rides has really affected my business just yet,” Sycip explained. “But it’s a way to get my bikes seen and just like most trade shows, it takes a little while for the name to get out there. So I think the more events like this and rides we do, the better for the brand and more people become aware of hand made bikes and the people who make them.” Price agreed.

“It’s really hard to quantify but I know it’s a positive,” he added. “I like to meet new customers, or potential customers. I love bikes and it’s always fun to see the different builds, what people do with our products, and of course we get to ride together which was a stroke of genius. Sean Walling deserves a lot more credit than he gets for getting the thing of the ground and being the unofficial official non-paid secretary, janitor, and fireman.” Caletti added his two cents.

“It’s hard to say if these events impact my sales, but I’ve got some new friends, better camaraderie with other builders and a few more people out there are familiar with me, my bikes and what I do,” he explained.

“I’ve enjoyed the great rides with my peers and customers, and potential customers,” Retrotec’s Curtis Inglis said. “It’s nice to get out on bikes with all your peers and really have time to chat and get to know people better. I’ve known some of the other builders for over 20 years and we’re just now really getting a chance to hang out due to these types of events.”

There’s also been some discussion about a NorCal builders show in Sonoma County. I asked Walling to elaborate.

“We’ve been talking about this for years,” he said. “As we all get older and more crotchety, fewer of us have the time, energy, or desire to travel to shows like we used to.  So if things fall into place maybe we’ll get it together for a show this summer.”


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