This year at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show, I noticed a few different builders using bamboo as their material of choice for creating bicycle frames. While I was aware of the use of bamboo in bike building prior to going to the show, I was definitely surprised the testimonies to its strength and durability that I heard after talking to several people at NAHBS. It turns out that bamboo is actually a well-suited material for bikes due to its natural strength and vibration-dampening properties. And, best of all, it’s cheap and sustainable.
Here are some of the bamboo bike builders I came across at NAHBS 2017:
Craig Calfee has been in the bicycle building business for a while, specializing first in carbon frames, delving into producing bamboo bikes in 2005, and making history every step of the way. As one of the pioneers of bamboo frames, he took his operations oversees, bringing bamboo bikes to Ghana after noticing a need for them during a trip to Africa. People used bikes a lot, but there weren’t enough of them to go around, and bamboo was plentiful. He taught the locals how to build bamboo bikes so that they could provide themselves with means of transportation, but also sell their work and boost local economies. You can find out more about this ongoing project on the Calfee Design website.
Calfee’s latest project is the DIY bamboo frame kit. Anyone can order one of these kits, which includes the tubing, metal parts such as the head and seat tube inserts, rear dropouts, and bottom bracket, casting tape, tools, and instructions. Kits are available for almost any type of bike, from BMX to mountain to road models, and a plethora of different frame sizes and wheel size options.
“Build your yoga practice or build a bike,” states the Container Collective website. This might sound like an unlikely marriage of activities, but maybe it’s actually perfect. After all, I’d probably need some yoga to calm the frustrations I might encounter while trying to build my own bike!
The Container Collective is located in Lakewood, Colorado, on the outskirts of Denver. Russ Hopkins, whom I met and got to play bike polo with at NAHBS, is head of the bicycle end of things, and he hosts bamboo bike building workshops several times a year. Each weekend-long workshop includes instruction and materials to build either a frame-only or a complete cruiser, singlespeed, 5-speed, or 9-speed bike.
If you’re not feeling the DIY aspect, you can also order a custom bike from the Collective. And, if you’re in the area, they offer bike maintenance and service as well.
The bike pictured below, which was one of several of Container Collective’s bikes on display at NAHBS, features a Sturmey-Archer kick shift coaster brake rear hub. I got to ride it around briefly, which was the first time I’d experienced a hub like this. To shift between the two gears, you simply kick the pedals backwards and then pedal forward again. The bars on this cruiser encouraged a very upright and fun-ready ride position and the blue accents appeal to the eyes. I’ll take one, please.
Indeed, these bamboo bikes, as well as many of the bikes seen at NAHBS, are true works of art (no pun intended).
Barret Werk is an avid cyclist and woodworker from Hawaii. He builds everything from furniture and home goods to bicycles. Bamboo is prevalent on the island, so he started working with it in both his domestic projects and bike builds.
He also teaches courses on working with bamboo, including bike building classes at the Honolulu Museum of Art. He said he was shocked when he first started teaching, how quickly the classes filled. It’s much more expensive than any of the other courses the Museum offers, so he figured no one would sign up. It turns out that a lot of people want to learn how to build a bamboo bike.
Right now, bikes are a side project for Werk as part of his woodworking business, but he hopes to grow this side of operations in the future.
Those are just a few of the bamboo bikes that I got to check out at NAHBS. You can find more NAHBS content from this year and previous years here.
I’d first heard about this bike following the Philly Bike Expo, where it won the People’s Choice award despite not even being on the official list for the award. Then I hung out with Anna Schwinn in Minneapolis about a month ago and got to meet its builder, Erik Noren of Peacock Groove. I snuck a peek at the bike in the back of his workshop, where it was undergoing changes and additions for the North American Handmade Bicycle Show.
I’d heard the excitement in Anna voice when she talked about what she called “the most beautiful bike in the world.” I’d gotten to hang out with its builder, who’s intensity and passion for creating bikes was clear from the first minute of our conversation. And so, I felt a special sense of pride for everyone who made this bike happen when it won not one, but two awards at NAHBS this year.
Erik and Anna were first called on stage to accept the Best Theme Bike award, which was a no-brainer. It was such an obvious winner that this is the last year they will be judging this particular category at NAHBS, because it is believed that no one can top this bike. The way every single piece of this build ties in to the Prince theme is almost unreal—carved-out logos and the words “Much Too Fast” from his song “Little Red Corvette” on the disc brakes, white dove bar tape and a white custom saddle by Leh, lyrics to “Purple Rain” around the rims, one of Prince’s actual picks on the stem, and the matching Paul components that tie it all together. Behind the pretty exterior of the bike, there’s the fact that Prince was from Minneapolis, where Anna lives and Erik runs Peacock Groove, and the collaboration and communication between these two to make this deep custom bike happen was highly apparent.
After winning Best Theme Bike, we all thought that was that for Peacock Groove and the Prince bike. The team disappeared somewhere to take pictures as a couple more awards were announced. And then, the Best in Show trophy came out, and Erik Noren was called back onstage as Anna shrieked with excitement.
I don’t know Erik that well, but from what I do know, he deserves every bit of that award. Congrats Erik, and go enjoy that bike, Anna. Oh, and happy birthday.Tweet Print
John Koutrouba is a “refugee from the corporate world.” Before he became a framebuilder, he managed a company that had grown from 40 to 400 employees. He left that gig, moved to Salt Lake City with his family, and took a long, hard look at himself and what he wanted to do. As he searched for a new job, he asked himself what it is he would do if he could do anything he wanted. He realized that the answer was building bicycles.
“Getting into framebuilding is shockingly easy,” Koutrouba says. “It’s having the conversation with your wife that starts with ‘I’d like to try something a little different this time’ that is hard.” He found a local framebuilder and picked his brain, enrolled in the United Bicycle Institute (UBI) and learned the basics, and now builds bikes with a passion that came across even through email.
“Every bike seems like the result of magic,” he says. “How many people get to go to work and do actual magic every day?”
At Sixth Law Cycles, Koutrouba’s goal is to solve problems for people. “From my perspective, everyone should ride a bike every day,” he states. “However, something keeps most of us from doing that.” He specializes in finding solutions to the common problems and excuses that stop people from cycling, such as fit and sizing, fitness level, or the idea that cycling is too much of a hassle.
“My value is not in creating a thing, but in moving you through the process of figuring out what it is you need, and then providing something that meets that need,” says Koutrouba. He tries to listen closely to his customers, and throws an unexpected, personal touch into every bike. “On my last bike, it was as simple as some really huge, wide handlebars,” he mentions. “When my customer saw the bike, he knew I had been listening.”
It’s this connection that sets Sixth Law apart from mass market companies, and makes small framebuilders like Koutrouba so special.
He mainly builds in steel, because it’s forgiving, easy to work with, and he can fix almost any mistake he makes along the way. If that doesn’t work out, at least steel is cheap, so it is an affordable material for experimentation and trying new things. “And so far at least,” says Koutrouba, “I haven’t run into a problem that I can’t solve with it. I suppose I haven’t run into anyone who doesn’t ride his bike because it isn’t light enough yet.”
I asked him if he has a favorite bike that he’s built, and he told me it’s always his most recent. “The feeling of amazement is always freshest on the last bike out the door. And frankly, I’m getting better with each new bike. My last bike is quite literally the best I’ve ever done at this point.”
This eagerness to learn and grow has allowed Koutrouba to add many new skills to his talent stack along with framebuilding. In addition to bicycles, he also works with people on a variety of different custom fabrication projects, such as outdoor furniture, bike racks, and even a sidecar for a motorized wheelchair to allow an aging dog to cruise around with its owner.
Eventually, his dream is to hire employees and put more people to work building bicycles. While it’s a far-off ambition at the moment, he might be closer than he thinks. While his bikes certainly use plenty of mass-produced parts, he uses local talent whenever possible. His bike for NAHBS, for instance, is a collaboration involving no fewer than six people he knows personally. “I can’t think of anything I own that involves me that deeply in a real community,” he says.
Yeah, bikes tend to do that.
If you’re headed to NAHBS this year, be sure to check out Sixth Law Cycles at the New Builder Table!
By Robert Annis
Veins are popping out of Tim O’Donnell’s forehead, and the dreamy brown eyes that once melted the hearts of many a Cincinnati teenager in his youth now narrow into a frustrated squint. After spending hours trying to wire the two small LED lights into the split top tube of a customer’s city bike, the Shamrock Cycles owner couldn’t take any more. Snatching the light, he angrily winged it toward the wall of his 600-square-foot workshop. But instead of splintering into shards against the wall, O’Donnell heard an unsettling “tink!”.
The bike’s fork, freshly returned from the painter, sat in a vice more than 12 feet away. The tiny LED bulb chipped off a small piece of paint. For the perfectionist O’Donnell, that small flaw might as well as been a flashing neon sign.
It was a one-in-a-million toss, O’Donnell said, laughing about it over a can of Hopslam in that same garage a few hours later. For many bikes, it wouldn’t be a problem, but this bike was earmarked for this year’s North American Handmade Bicycle Show, and it needed to be absolutely perfect.
While most NAHBS builders were starting to worry about finishing bikes before the March 10 show start, O’Donnell was in an even bigger pickle. His annual pre-show at Triton Brewing Company in his adopted hometown of Indianapolis was just two weeks away and a full two weeks before NAHBS, meaning he was being squeezed twice as hard. O’Donnell’s normally tidy garage had boxes of components lying around, and the show bikes in various states of completion are scattered throughout. While the last steel tube of this year’s bikes had long since been brazed, O’Donnell was now at the mercy of forces beyond his control.
Luckily some bikes were finished relatively quickly. O’Donnell’s S&S Coupler- and SRAM eTap-equipped travel road bike was wrapped early on, with local artist Kate Oberreich hand-painting paper airplanes over the frame, and Indy painter Rocky Thomas spraying on the clear coat.
Customer Greg Dyas’ stainless steel gravel road bike was the second to be completely finished, and both O’Donnell and Iverson took a few moments afterward to look it over with a sense of well-earned accomplishment. The polished stainless contrasts nicely with the burgundy paint accents, custom leather bar tape and Brooks Cambium saddle. It’s a perfect microcosm of all the things O’Donnell does well and is renowned for in the craft-builder world.
Cooper Ambjorn had been pestering O’Donnell for a glimpse of the gravel road bike she commissioned, so he took photos of the bike under several layers of foam wrapping as a joke. Nearly completed, the bike was just waiting for components, namely the new Rotor hydraulic groupset that was supposed to arrive in January. It was now the middle of February, and still no parts.
The week before the Triton party the parts finally arrived from Spain, allegedly diverted from a European continental team. It was then up to O’Donnell and his trusty lieutenant Fred Iverson to install the groupset. Only there was a problem—neither they nor anyone they knew had ever done it before.
“During the unboxing, there’s this big mass of hoses for the shifter and brakes that’s a bit overwhelming,” Iverson said. “Call it fear of the unknown really. But once we took time to read over the directions and understand what was asked of us we were able to settle down and figure out how this system liked to be installed. SRAM Hyrdro prefers that you set the shifters and then cut out the slack of hose at the caliper; Rotor does the reverse.
“When you install any drivetrain on a custom steel bike, the most difficult part is trying to route it the way I want to. There was a pucker moment with the crank and the internal routing of the rear hose for the shifter. Rotor uses a BB30 spindle coupled with a BSA-threaded Bottom Bracket, and we weren’t sure was it was going to fit with the rear hose. Luckily it all fit with little room to spare.”
It’s believed Ambjorn is the only non-professional rider in the U.S. to have the Rotor drivetrain at the moment.
But it’s the city bike that’s monopolized O’Donnell’s days and haunted his nights, with the builder estimating he’s spent double the time on that bike than any other NAHBS bike this year. The urban camo paint scheme might be a bit of a fright for the traditionalist O’Donnell, but he was proud of the innovation he managed to fit into customer Rob Simon’s 56-cm frame: a Schmidt front hub laced to a H plus Son rim, Shimano Alfine Di2 with custom shifter, a Sinewave Revolution power converter, Antigravity 12v charger pack wired to the LED bullet lights and a USB power port.
“(Simon) asked for a really cool city bike and gave me carte blanche to make it happen,” O’Donnell said. “I did about two months of brainstorming before I even started physical work on the bike. It turned out to be a bit of a beast. Doing all the wiring so that it was both reliable and as discrete as possible forced me to do it over and over again. I had to think five moves ahead of time. Hopefully (Simon) loves it.”
Unlike previous NAHBS when O’Donnell had to invite a significant portion of the contacts from his iPhone, the run-up to this year’s show was significantly more low-key. After installing the Rotor drivetrain and doing a run-through on Simon’s city bike, O’Donnell and Iverson were finished with a week to spare.
The Triton Brewing preview party was a massive hit, with more than 200 of Indianapolis’ most frenzied bike fans ogling his latest bikes and a few favorites from previous shows. As he and his crew packed up the bikes to be prepped for shipping to Salt Lake City, O’Donnell also picked up something else—a deposit check from a new customer.Tweet Print
The North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) is coming up next weekend, March 10-12. We’ve been taking a look at some of the new up-and-coming builders that will be at the event this year in a series of preview articles. In Part 1, we saw bikes from Australia and Russia, and in Part 2, we learned about the students of the Cal Poly Frame Builders club. In this NAHBS preview edition, we focus on a couple of the builders who are local to the Salt Lake City area, home of this years show.
Salt Air Cycles, based out of Salt Lake City, Utah, was founded in 2014 by Matthew Nelson. His background is in architecture, but he caught the framebuilding bug about 7 years ago as an avid mountain biker and bike commuter. In 2011, he took a course at the United Bicycle Institute (UBI), and walked away with his first creation, a fillet-brazed steel cyclocross frame, and the motivation to build more.
While becoming involved in the local racing scene, he honed his framebuilding craft, producing handmade bikes for his friends and family. He was still working full-time as an architect when he started Salt Air Cycles, but his brand quickly gained a small, loyal following. Soon after, he was able to leave his architecture job and pursue framebuilding full-time. He also sponsored a local cyclocross team that rides his lugged steel bikes.
Nelson builds almost any type of bike, except tandems and full suspension. “I take a lot of pride in being a versatile builder. As long as it’s steel, I’ll make it,” he says. Most of the bikes he currently makes are fillet-brazed, while the remainder are lugged construction. They’re “new world bikes, made the traditional way,” each cut by a saw and file, and assembled with a torch. He puts a lot of attention and detail into each frame, so that when it leaves his shop, it not only meets his standards, but also every expectation of the customer.
“My favorite bike is whichever one I happen to be working on in the present,” says Nelson. “Thus far, it’s been an incredible ride, with enough inspiration and gratification to fuel further growth of the brand.”
Until 2013, Ken “KC” Cerreta was enlisted in the United States Air Force as an aircraft machinist and welder for nine years. In 2013, he transitioned from the enlisted corps to the officer corps and is now a program manager who leads large scale Air Force acquisitions and manages development projects. It didn’t take long before he missed working with his hands. An avid cyclist, KC began his start as a frame builder in 2014 after he attended the North American Handmade Bicycle Show as a spectator. Having a background in machining and welding he researched what it would take to build a bicycle frame and by the end of 2014, his first frame was complete.
Now a Captain in the Air Force currently working on the F-16 aircraft and sole owner of Cerreta Cycles, KC continues to build wherever he is stationed, which is currently at Hill Air Force Base, just north of Salt Lake City. He specializes in fillet brazed steel frames and hopes to grow Cerreta Cycles to the point where it can become a full time profession.
“One aspect of why I feel builds distinguish myself from other builders is the attention to detail each frame receives,” says KC. “With a history of fabricating aircraft parts where the tolerances are very small, my frames are looked at the same way. To me, there is no room for error and that is how I approach each build.”
If you’re headed to NAHBS, be sure to stop by the New Builders Tables and give these guys some love. Also be sure to check out the rest of our NAHBS preview content, or take a look back in time to our coverage of the event from previous years.Tweet Print
While each of the new builders we’re covering in our NAHBS new builders preview series has been unique in some form, the Cal Poly Frame Builders certainly stand out in the fact that it’s not just one builder, or two, or even a few. Rather, it’s an entire club of frame builders, out of California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo, California.
The Cal Poly Frame Builders club was formed in 2011, but before that, designing and building bicycle frames was a part of Cal Poly’s longstanding tradition of learning-by-doing. In a class called “Singletrack Vehicle Design,” students learn the characteristics of bikes, such as geometry, braking, suspension, ergonomics, strength and stiffness, and how all these factors effect handling and ride quality. At the end of the class, students have the option to design and build their own bike. Some students enjoyed it so much that they wanted to pursue framebuilding further, and thus the club was born.
Now, the club has no affiliation with the course, and any student can join and learn how to build a bike. The club itself offers classes by fellow students and club members, as well as industry professionals. Members get plenty of time at the campus machine shop to work hands-on and learn the processes that go into building a bike frame, from design and use of software to actual fabrication. Each member of the club brings a unique skill set to the table, so it’s a team effort to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to walk away with a handmade bicycle.
“I think what makes our bikes unique and interesting is that every bike is essentially a prototype,” says Chris Fedor, President of Cal Poly Frame Builders. “Students can come into the club with no shop experience and still come out with a rad bike. As the students go through the design process, they get to learn every little detail that makes a bike unique. It is usually an interesting experience for many of us, because most of us are engineering students, so we get to apply the lessons we learn in class to a real life situation.”
Students can build any type of bike they want, with whatever materials they choose. Most stick with steel, because it’s easy to braze and weld. Some use aluminum, but Cal Poly doesn’t have a way of heat-treating the frames after they’re complete, so most of those don’t last very long with actual use. Eventually, they’d like to start making carbon fiber frames.
“We have the machining ability to do it,” says Fedor, “but since we are all also full time students (most of us engineering majors), time is an issue.”
Last year, the club finally realized its long-time goal of showing a bike at NAHBS, and this year, they’re excited about the track bike they’re producing using some of the latest technology in welding. Fedor’s next goal for the club is to graduate from the New Builders Table and have a full booth of bikes designed and built by students.
“While there are several other schools going to NAHBS, we are a little bit different in that all of our knowledge has been gained through our own research and experience, not a textbook, class, or professor,” says Fedor.
If you’re headed to NAHBS this year, be sure to stop by the New Builders Tables and show your support for the student framebuilders from Cal Poly!
Check out bikes, stories, and photos from past years of NAHBS, and read the rest of our preview articles here.Tweet Print
The North American Handmade Bicycle Show is an annual gathering of handmade bicycle frame builders that was started in 2005. Each year, the show changes location in order to give different builders who might not have the opportunity or resources to travel far a chance to exhibit their work.
This year’s event will take place in Salt Lake City, Utah March 10-12.
While Maurice was taking a look back to NAHBS 2008, I took a look ahead, gathering information on some of the newer up-and-coming builders that will be at the show.
This year, there is a stronger international contingent of exhibitors than ever before. Here, I take a brief look at two framebuilders from outside of North America who will be showing their work at New Builders Tables this year—Cio Bikes out of Australia and TORESVELO out of Russia, an up-and-coming place for handmade bicycle making.
Cio Bikes, out of Brisbane, Australia, was formed just last year, but their story begins in 2010. At the time, Nick Flutter, designer and one of three owners of Cio, was visiting Barcelona and worrying about climate change and the environment. During his travels, he became interested in bicycles as an efficient, sustainable, and environmentally-friendly method of transportation.
Upon return to Australia, he built his first prototype, and it ended up being “a great bike to ride.” He built a couple more prototypes in 2011, which have been extensively used as daily commuter bikes ever since.
Nick is an architect by trade, and has experience working on large building projects, including carbon fiber boats, as well as digital design and rapid prototyping. His material of choice for bike frames is a unique blend of carbon and wood, resulting in an aesthetically-pleasing and functional layup of two complementary materials. The carbon provides stiffness and strength, while the wood offers vibration-dampening properties.
Each frame consists of an outer shell, cut from a CNC router out of White Ash, and a thin carbon skin that is laminated to the inside of the wood. A clear coating protects the frame while displaying the timber’s natural grains.
In 2015, two partners joined him in the venture to create production model of the frame, and now, two different models are available for purchase. The Pass is a road frameset and the Loop is designed for track. He’s also working on a cruiser bike called the Park. While standard sizing is offered online, he also offers custom framebuilding services.
Anton Gorbunov of Astrakhan, Russia, fell in love with mountain biking about ten years ago, and then with road riding a few years later. In 2011, he decided that he wanted to build a bicycle. While he lacked the knowledge, tools, and resources, he didn’t let those obstacles stop him. He began experimenting in his garage with a welding machine, vice, and a few metal files. His first aluminum frame “was ugly and heavy,” so over the course of the next few months, he built 5 more frames just for practice and eventually a fixed gear bike that he actually rode.
“It was a great feeling to ride on bikes that I built by hand,” Anton says.
In an effort to gain more knowledge, he turned to YouTube and the Internet, spending hours after his day job researching techniques and trying them out in his workshop. He saved up money to buy a jig, and he learned how to work with steel, his preferred framebuilding material. His first big project was his personal road bike, featuring bi-laminate fillet brazing construction and full internal cable routing.
The TORESVELO name was born in 2014, and in the years since, he’s been growing his custom frame building business. While building bicycles still isn’t his full time job, he’s moving in that direction, and it’s looking promising. He is open to building any kind of bike, and wants to eventually create some production models in addition to his custom projects.
Anton is especially proud of the small details that go into every frame he makes, and the passion behind his craft.
Both of these builders can be found in person at NAHBS at New Builder Table #7.
Stay tuned for more preview coverage in the coming weeks, and live coverage at the show the weekend of March 10-12. Check out coverage from previous years here. #NAHBSstokeTweet Print
NAHBS lucky #13 is coming soon! March 10th to 12th in beautiful Salt Lake City. As usual, Bicycle Times will be there enjoying some of the best company there is to be enjoyed. And looking at bikes.
Which got me reminiscing about all the NAHBS shows I have been to (8 out of the last 9 years, having missed Charlotte)
My first was Portland. The fourth NAHBS ever, growing rapidly, people starting to catch on. I had already seem all the bikeporn galleries on all the websites and wanted to shoot for something else. So I took photos of many of the people I appreciate around the show that year. And come to think of it the gallery was not that popular. People really do just want to look at bikes.
Or do They? Let’s see if anyone clicks here.
Anyhoo, here’s my photos from 2008 NAHBS Portland. We sure had a great time that year.
I’ve got mugs, mostly old white guys, but some formerly new women builders for sure! Well, one anyway.
And I’m happy to say that most of these peeps still look pretty good after 9 years. That’s what riding bikes will get you. Enjoy, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Best Road Frame: Bruce Gordon
Best Off-Road Frame: Engin
Best Track Frame: RetroTech
Best Tandem Frame: Craig Calfee
Best Titanium Frame: Black Sheep
Best Carbon Fiber Frame: Nick Crumpton
Best Lugged Frame: Bruce Gordon
Best TIG Welded Frame: Mike DeSalvo
Best Fillet Brazed Frame: Dave Kirk
Best City Bike: James Ahearne
Best New Builder: Courage
Best Paint: Brian Baylis
Best of Show: Naked
People’s Choice: Naked
President’s Award for Excellence: Naked
All of the handmade, drool-worthy bicycles are back for another year when the North American Handmade Bicycle Show drops the curtain at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City March 10th through the 12th. In its 13th year, NAHBS is the show to attend if you want to look at (and maybe even touch) some of the finest, most painstakingly-crafted bicycles and components. Road bikes, fixies, mountain bikes, cruisers, grocery-getters, track bikes and gravel rigs…they’re all on display.
“With a rich history dating back to 1829, NAHBS aims to be a meeting point for frame builders and anyone who has a curiosity for rich culture and exquisite attention to detail. Think of it as a community of bike brands and cycling enthusiasts coming together to swap ideas and showcase their talent.
Whether you know the ins and outs of the handmade bike community or you just like to be immersed in sharing of ideas and artwork, NAHBS is truly a one-of-a-kind experience.”
Public tickets just went on sale, and you and grab yours by hitting this link.
But before you do that, you might want to check out the official NAHBS teaser video. It’s a super-quick clip, but it’ll definitely get you anxious for some handmade goodness.
We’ve got plenty of past NAHBS coverage here on the site. Click here for a big list of all of our articles, galleries and more from over the years.
Will you be attending NAHBS this year? Let us know in the comments section!Tweet Print
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.
We’ve got lots of goodness lurking in our memory cards, here is the first taste.
Rick Hunter – Rick Hunter Cycles
“Can he build it? Yes he can” award
Rick Hunter had perhaps the booth with the biggest variety of bikes at the show. Drop bars, mountian bikes, 26plus swampers, etc.. It was this cargo bike that really got my attention. It is an odd, but functional, marriage of a long john and a long tail. The custom bags are by Randi Jo Fabrications. Everywhere I looked, there was interesting detail, or well-thought-out design. The singlespeed front wheel can be swapped for the rear in case of a cassette body failure, chain tension is provided by an linkage and wingnut under the bottom bracket. The components are an interesting mix of old and new, with Suntour friction shifters and derailleurs , Paul’s Klamper brakes and a Surly crank. The live-edge wood was pretty swank. More info: Hunter Cycles
Ben Farver – Argonaut
“Laser focus” award
Argonaut makes road bikes with just a few obvious options. Standard seatpost or seat mast. Rim brakes or disc. That’s about it. Select from those options and Argonaut will take it from there. Utilizing customer’s proportions and power numbers, Ben Farver decides on custom geometry, tubing diameter and carbon lay-up making for one of the most truly custom bikes you can buy. For going fast on the road, there really might be anything else out there quite like this.
I’m guessing there isn’t much overlap between the average Bicycle Times reader and the average Argonaut customer, but talking to Ben made me want to ride one. More info: Argonaut Cycles
Danielle Schön – SCHÖN STUDIO
“MMMM, Dönuts” award
Danielle Schön and Schön Studio make more than bikes, in fact are a full service fab shop in Toronto, Canada. Schön has a table in the new builders isle, and this bike was hard to miss. Handcut lugs, stainless tubing and an inset head badge were obviously made with love. The top-cap revealed the bike’s donut theme. The 1.5″ tapered steerer tube is not a thing in cast fork crowns, so Schön made one. Not an easy task. More info: Schön Studio
Bruce Gordon and Paul Sadoff – Schnozola
“Aren’t these guys busy enough” award
Gordon and Sadoff have been building bike for years. Like a Jewish, bike-building Voltron, they recently joined forces to create Schnozola. All Schnozolas will share two things in common: all will be painted red, and all will be built around Gordon’s Rock and Road tires (700c or 650b). There will be a few different models to choose from, including this “Grinduro steel racer”, which is set up for bikepacking in these pictures. More info: Bruce Gordon Cycles or Rock Lobster Cycles
Aaron Barcheck – Mosaic Bespoke Bicycles
“A flask and two small bottles of Bulleit won’t buy you an award” award
Unlike most custom bike builders, Mosaic works with about 30 dealers in the U.S. and abroad to provide hands-on fit service and a local contact for service. Building in both steel and titanium, Mosaic offers a 6-week turn around, something that is exceedingly rare in the custom bike world. The Ti road bike I shot was a showcase of modern standards (T47 bb, flat mount disc brakes) and classy finish. I’m glad I took this one outside, the bead-blasted logos are somehow both sharp and soft at the same time in the daylight. More info: Mosaic Cycles
More to bikes and bike stuff and bike people to come. Stay tuned for part 2.
Being around the industry as long as I have I know a lot of people, many of whom congregate once a year in a different location to look at the fashionshow we call The North American Handmade Bicycle Show. Where artisan framebuilders show off their latest and greatest creations, which are judged and given giant plastic bowling trophies. Fun fun fun with my favorite people. While totally distracted the whole time, talking to old friends and new,I did manage to get a few random shots off which I will now share with you.
See what I mean? First guy I run into walking in the door is this guy. Ted Wojcik, who I have not seen in maybe 20 years. He’s been makin bikes closer to 30. Might have been the first custom builder to work with Dirt Rag. Now he’s working with Fiefield to bring out some E-bikes.
This happens a lot. Makes it hard to look at bikes sometimes, but thankfully I like people better than bikes. Geoffrey Halaburt is everywhere, we shake hands quite often. He’s here representing maybe the nicest guy in the world, Steve Potts, who I did not get a photo of because we were busy talking about life and family.
Then there’s this guy. Contrary to popular belief, and the sentiment of this photo, I do have a lot of respect for Zap despite him having bigger holes in his ears than I do. As you can see, the feeling is mutual.
OK, Bikes. Black Sheep brought some amazing creations as usual, and while awesome, I couldn’t help but just zoom in on this rad head badge by Jen Green.
Another cool Titanium purveyor is Moonmen. I was fortunate enough to ride with these guys and try these bars, they fell right into my hands and I want to get a hold of a pair for myself.
Back to humans. Here’s the boss of the show, Don Walker. I don’t care what anyone says about Don, I have a metric ass-ton of respect for him and what he’s done for our community. Be thankful.
Sometimes bike porn comes in the ogling of a bare frame. Here Jeff Archer of MOMBAT checks out the work of DiNucci Cycle’s best lugs winning frame. Perfection!
Another one of my favorite people, Erik Noren of Peacock Groove. Note that Shimano provided a bunch of their STePS electric drivetrains for builders to have at it. Each found a different way to attach the STePS unit to the frame.
Here’s another example from Sycip.
Yes, there were many E-bikes, and many fatbikes. On the other side of the spectrum was this carbon fiber something. The Signorina from Abbott Cycles takes the objectification of women to a new level. Definetly sucks that this is how women are represented here. Especially since this object was one of about 10 women I saw at the whole show.
Subtle. Which leads me to this human down the aisle. Look! A living! Female! Framebuilder! Yes, they do exist. Her name is Julie Ann Pedalino and she’s from Lenexa, Kansas and she’s just getting started in this building thing and I’d sure like to see a lot more real women at shows like this and less old boy network. Fer sure (Ok there was Cayley Baird at The Rille booth and Karen Brooks journalizing and Anna Schwinn and Kristen Legan but I am not going to run out of fingers any time soon).
Here’s something from Rody over at Groovy Cycle Works. Another one of his bikes won best of show, but I am all about funk, so take a look at this.
Ok, so here’s one more gift. For Sarah Prater’s wedding. This Shamrock Cycles cross bike was hand painted by Kate Oberreich with 585 individual paper airplanes representing the 585 days of Sarah and Josh’s courtship. Now if that ain’t love.
Well that’s all I have for today, hope you got some enjoyment looking here. There’s plenty of bike porn out the on the web, so feel free to look some up. NAHBS was awesome as usual, it really is the best this bike business has, and I’m glad I was there. Next year, Sacramento, CA! Oh wait, I have one more geezer pic….
We were somewhere over Iowa when the bourbon kicked in. Dammit, AAmerican, is Jack Daniels the best you’ve got? Wait, that’s not even bourbon. I’ll assume Louaville has better. But then I started to see the patterns on the ground as the sun set over the vast midwest. Is it just the whiskey or is something else kicking in?
Loueeeville here I come. Bikes and good Kentucky bourbon. After a good nights rest I managed to negotiate my borrowed Tern folding bike over the frozen, rutted trail to the convention center. It would have flown completely free but my “Silver” status with what used to be my airline had been removed. Still, the Tern flew in the samsonite for a mere $25.
Wandering in, I found myself drawn magneticly and immediately to the judging area. I had judged before, enjoying the company of people like Patrick Brady, Nick Legan, and Jeff Archer, No one had asked me to judge in advance, this year or any other, but I stopped by to say hi and see what was up. It’s a TRAP!
“Wanna help with the mountain bike judging?” Patrick says, as he reeeeels in another fish in the name of Maurice J Tierney. Ummm, ahhhh, ok. Trapped. I had promised myself not to get involved, yet another addiction kicks in and I start going off right away, injecting what I can into the proceedings.
Thing is, I really like to get into people’s heads sometimes. Only days earlier I had volunteered to review my friend Zo’s photographic portfolio. I got me a four-year degree in fine art photography and if there’s one thing I learned it is how to expose the weakness in a batch of photos and bring out the best of the bunch. This talent is useful for bikes as well.
So How does one judge a bicycle show? I already have enough people mad at me for speaking my mind-truth in public. Maybe it is the bourbon, or maybe I just don’t give a shit. Or maybe it’s just the battle to keep it real.
So let me share a bit of my personal criteria, which should not to be cornfused with anyone else’s idea of judging, or any actual written rule book. First of all, builders, you’ve got to have your craft down. No mistakes. Perfect construction, paint and build. Then you can pursue the art of the handcrafted bicycle. So unless you’re in a bare-frame category you better bring a complete bike.
If the pedals are missing that is one thing but everything else better be there. And make sure the pedals are all the way screwed in and the headset is not loose or you will see me motioning with a neck-slicing hand across the throat indicating you are out of the running (No you don’t get a pass for bad weather). You’re product better be tight. One really amazing favorite builder lost points for a missing cable. Although the bike’s owner never bothered with it, I felt it needed to be there for show purposes to complete the deal.
After all that weeded out I get to look at the art. What has the builder done to rise above and really create something I’ve never seen before? Some judges are more interested in the bike they’d like to take home and ride. My winner needs to be that and more. There’s where I find my winner.
Bottom line? One guy in the aisle stated that you can’t judge personal preference. True, it is a beauty contest. But I can assure you of one thing, we judges work real hard to honor the best of the best, and they deserve it.
2015 NAHBS award winners
- Best TIG-welded frame: Eriksen Cycles (Honorable Mention: Holland Cycles)
- Best Cyclocross bike: No. 22
- Best Mountain bike: Retrotec Fat Bike (Honorable Mentions: Mooman and Funk)
- Best Road bike: Repete
- Best Tandem: Black Sheep
- Best City bike: Brodie
- Best Experimental bike: Sycip
- Best Finish: Shamrock Cycles (Honorable Mention: Peacock Groove)
- Best Artisan: Cykelmageren
- Best Lugs: DiNucci
- Best Carbon Lay-up: Alchemy
- Best Campagnolo equipped bike: Sarto
- People’s Choice: Mars Cycles
- Best New Builder: Love Baum
- President’s Choice: Ron Sutphin
- Best in Show: Groovy Cycleworks
By Marie Autrey
When I stepped through the exhibit hall doorway, I knew the world had changed.
I have a recurring dream in which I’m driving the interstate or walking to the mailbox, when a meteorite rips the sky in half like a broken zipper. I feel the shock wave and watch the smoke rising from the crater where a city used to stand, and say to myself that things won’t ever be the same.
Sometimes it happens in real life. When, after a hard crash, I tried to stand and discovered that one leg didn’t reach the ground. When Mom’s doctor said that he’d done all he could. There’s no blast or ash cloud like the dream, but I know just as certainly that the past has passed and things will be different from now on.
The 2014 show was my fifth North American Handmade Bicycle Show. That’s Indy, Richmond, Austin, Sacramento, and Charlotte. (No Denver; see above, about crashing and legs.) I always get an early start, hitting the show as soon as the doors open, buttonholing the exhibitors while they set up, chatting before potential customers clog the aisles. There’s always a sense of excitement in the air. It’s like at a concert when the band is taking the stage. What’s coming may be pure rock and roll energy, or it might be a mish-mash of muffed lyrics and tangled chords. What fills the air is risk—Wallenda placing his foot onto the high wire.
If you know cycling, you know the story of NAHBS: how track bike specialist Don Walker assembled a couple of dozen of his lug-brazin’ buddies to show off their work in Houston in 2005. Apparently the idea struck a chord with cycling’s psyche, because as it roved from town to town in succeeding years, the exhibitor list doubled and doubled again, and the lines of visitors circled the block.
Well, that’s how it used to be. Attendance peaked in Sacramento in 2012, when a bright sunny weekend in a city two hours from San Francisco swelled the convention center to bursting. The momentum broke the next year in Denver, when a snowstorm sent visitors running for home. Emerging shows in Seattle, Philly, and San Francisco siphoned off exhibitors. This year’s NAHBS felt more like a trade show, with manufacturers and vendors—companies with the budget to buy a double booth and commission frames to show off their gear—outnumbering custom frame shops.Tweet Print