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This post was written by Rich
This year I had the good fortune to find The North American Handmade Bicycle Show right in my backyard. The ninety-minute drive was easy on a sunny Saturday, and getting my little brother to join me made it even better. We’ve been riding together, as often as two busy fathers that live in different cities can, for many years. Ben also owns a wood bike and recently did a boutique steel build from a Columbus, Ohio shop. I knew his knowledge would come in handy, I just wish he had warned me about the obnoxious green pants he planned on wearing!
Being my first NAHBS I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I would now characterize it somewhere between an insider trade show, and “Cavalcade of Customs”, to borrow from the car world. There were to be fair, many bikes that you can buy today, but there were many that were more “concept” or “project” bikes, and those were the ones I was most excited to see.
When we first walked in there were a variety of very small builders, just trying to get off the ground and get some attention. We spoke to Max Samuelson of Woody Bicycles (www.woodybicycles.biz) and learned about his experience of building wood boats that led to building wood bicycles. The finish of the wood he used seemed to remind me of driftwood, which was a perfect fit for nautical background he was coming from. Max saw people riding around the community on bikes that were falling apart and thought he could come up with something special that would last and last.
The other large theme aside from wood was what is known as a “fat bike”. These are bikes with humongous tires that glide across sand, snow or other loose ground cover. If you haven’t seen one yet, you will. I have yet to ride one and would have a tough time justifying the cost of acquiring one with relatively mild winters (and lack of sand!) in Cincinnati. Here is build from one of the largest displays at the show, Boo Bicycles (www.boobicycles.com); this is actually a special design one Boo employee built for their girlfriend. It incorporates both bamboo and fat tires.
There was international representation also, Futaka Precision Machinery brought their Samurai. We spoke at length to their representative and I comprehended a lot of what he was telling me, although it seemed to be passing through me as a voice kept whispering in Beavis & Butthead tones “this is cool, he, he, he”. For a mere $17,000 it could have been mine!
There were so many drool-worthy rides that I couldn’t possibly be fair to them all. We even discovered a builder from our own city, Max Lundbeck (www.lundbeckcycles.com) builds about a dozen steel bikes a year. The two bikes he had with him were impeccably crafted. There were vendors marketing to the builders – steel suppliers, decal manufacturers, tire manufacturers, and drivetrain companies. One of them is sharing glasses of Maker’s Mark with dorky guys wearing media badges, thanks again! I’m sure that was just to showcase a product from the host state, right? Ben peppered the Columbus and Reynolds reps with questions about steel tubes, I’m not sure he even knew what he was asking, but it gave me time to get seconds of Maker’s, win! As you would expect there were a few t-shirt booths, this design being my fave of the day.
Here are a few more pictures of unique, one-of-a-kinds, fat bikes, and even an electric bike I think Fonzie would be proud to ride:
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Next year NAHBS will be hitting the left coast, Sacramento. If you get a chance to go, do it. You will likely never see many of the bikes at the show anywhere else, especially all not under one roof. While we have the Treks, Giants, and Specialized of the world to bring affordable technology to the masses, seeing the labors of love that are presented here is very special. I know it’s hard for the “big boys” of cycling to be profitable, I can’t fathom how many of the people I met, whose passion for bicycles oozes from them even support themselves with the scale they build on.