I'm recently back from the North American Handmade Bicycle Show. It's the third time I've attended this gathering of artisan framebuilders - first Portland, then Sacramento and now Denver, Colorado.
This is by no means any attempt at a comprehensive show report - Big Dummy Daddy
has done a great job at that. Instead, these are just a few of my favourite bikes, drawn from the many, many on show. Cargo bikes, randonneurs, time trial machines, gravel grinders, fixies... All crafted with unmistakeable obsession and bike love. I've written a more in depth mountain biking viewpoint for Singletrack
in the UK, which should be up on their website soon.
Following NAHBS has given me the opportunity to skip around the US. As metropolises go, I felt an immediate connection with Denver. Although just a fleeting visit, it's potential as a liveable, car-free city is clear to see. I look forward to returning when the snow melts for a more thorough exploration of its bike paths, perhaps when its bike sharing
program is back up and running in the spring.
Purposeful bikes don't come much more elegant than this. If I was to attempt Australia's Canning Stock Route - involving 30 days of and up to four days of water hauling - this would be the machine I'd choose. As it is, Scott, of Porcelain Rocket, is undertaking just such a journey this summer. And this is his bike... A Rick Hunter built fat longtail - with custom bags, of course.
The supercrown-style fork gulps down 3.8in tyres of more. Both front and rear hubs use 170mm spacing, making for a universal wheelset - just in case. The upside down Chris King headset cup is Hunter's trademark finishing touch.
I was also taken by Rob English's slealth black, separable bikepacking steed. A Shimano hub provides the gears, along with a Gates carbon belt drive. I'm not into aero man myself, but if I was, this is the way I'd like them. A gently curved front rack, mounted to the upturned headset, cups a roll bag. Two water bottle/Anything cages are afixed to each fork leg, à la Joe Cruz. The bike was built for a British rider planning to race the Divide, who sewed the bags under the aptly named Black Rainbow Project.
Curtis Inglis picked up Best Mountain Bike for this clasic triple. Like several bikes on show, drawn around Surly's 29+ wheels - the voluminous 29x3in Knards. Building it non-suspension corrected means the fork's less gappy than that of the Krampus.
The hollow yoke is made by Paragon Machineworks, providing breathing space for this new size of tyre.
Del Norte based Andy Peirce's swoopy-tubed tandem. A truss-style fork, custom ti seat posts/stems and clearance for Knard tyres complete the look, while a 36 hole Rohloff hub provides the drivetrain. Lots of scope for framebags too... It didn't pick up best Newcomer award, but we all felt it was certainly one of the highlights of the show.
Bending ovalised, butted tubing this long is a remarkable feat in itself...
Although my riding style probably wouldn't do it justice, I'm sure I'd have enjoyed trying out this stout, 140mm hardcore hardtail from Engin Cycles, of Philadelphia. Apparently it was designed with rocks and roots in mind, just as its 50mm stem, wide bars, dropper post and slack head angle would suggest.
Pretty dropouts. 650bs - the tweener wheelset that graced many of the mountain bikes at the show - should keep things lively too.
I've long admired the ti fanciness that characterises Black Sheep Bikes. Their aesthetic creativity, however, seems in no way in place of engineering knowhow. This full suspension fat bike is still in the prototype stages – built around a 5lb frame, eventual weight should be close to 32lbs.
As if the passive suspension from 5-10psi fat tyres wasn't enough, there's a 90mm Fox shock within its suspension linkage and a flex plate at the stays – catering for both small chatter and big hits.
I'm a big fan of the Craig Calfee's African-based Bamboosero project, which I wrote about on the Worldwide Cycling Atlas site. Unlike many of the show bikes, it's a bike built with utility in mind over aesthetics, with a NuVinci hub, an inexpensive BMX crankset, a cheap fat fork and affordable Vee Rubber fat tyres. Although costing has yet to be finalised, it's hoped that a rent-to-own program will ensure it's a viable proposition for those it's aimed at, subsidised by grassroots tourism-based projects.
Nick and I have talked about trying to get hold of this Calfee kit and having a crack at building one... Two kits are planned – a basic one for up to $150 and a more advanced one for around $400. The likes of dropouts, bottom bracket shell and headset cups are included, leaving you the task of chopping down some wood or bamboo.
And, just to remind you that these bikes aren't solely to be ogled and coveted, here's Scott dirtying up his Hunter in Santa Fe...
Camera: Canon 5dMk2 with 24-105mm f/4 and 70-200mm lenses.
Thanks to Dave of Mellow Velo for the ride up, and Scott and Nick for deftly driving us back mid storm...